Wild Damaan

Nature photography & Poetry by Syed Abid Hussain

A look at the wild places, people and flora and fauna of Damaan through the eye of a camera and poetry.

 

 A Painted Lady looks for camouflage cover on the ground

Grief

A night heron croaks overhead

as dusk falls over the river country.

A still lone figure stands on the bank,

his eyes are fixed on the fading

clump of shishum across the river.

 

In the gathering grays of evening,

the last stray notes of a skylark,

flickers of kehals lamps on the riverboats,

and splashes of racing water at his feet,

how many rivers must a man cross?

 

Breast cancer and death in the family,

why crepuscular colors mourn the loss of day?

He watches treacherous turbid waters

with autumn eyes, his grief becomes the river. 

 I photographed this Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) in February,2014 near the western bank of river Indus

A Pebble

The liquid embrace
of the Indus has polished it
over centuries of romance.
Only the beholder can
appreciate the years it took
to achieve the perfect erotic curve.

An Indian Robin which I photographed at Govt.College No.1, D.I.Khan in March 2012

Imaginings


After weeks of silence,
I can simply imagine you while
sitting in the shade of bougainvillea
as an Indian robin struts before its mate
near the braided stem of jasmine.

It started raining later in the day,
clouds hung low like the dripping
branches of desert pine and rain
bubbled in the puddles fast.

I sat dreaming about you in the pouring
rain and trees on the far side disappeared
in the haze like all imaginary things.

First Winter Rain  (In two parts)

                        I

Early December’s low, slaty

clouds descend in fine drizzle

as across the green fields trees

disappear in diaphanous haze.

A raindrop on the tip of acacia

thorn, bulges, quivers and falls

on a dusty blade of grass

which feels it run to its roots

absorbing slow winter rain

as it pitter-patters over all.

A subtle melancholy lingers

in the dismal air as winter

walks  with cold footfalls

over thicket and grass.

                        

II

 Placid rain of concentric circles

in puddles, on pavements,

soaks birds in trees and juveniles

 in jeopardy go hungry as bad

weather continues unabated, taking

its toll. First winter rain, I do care

more for birds than trees washed

 green and I, warm in my clothing,

stand lost at the edge of foggy

 fields, feeling and assimilating

the sad contrasts nature displays

in joys and sufferings  of a man who

loves to stroll when the first rains fall.

 A slow steady downpour in February 2009 which is typical of winter here at Dera Ismail Khan in N.W.F.P.

  

A Lone Acacia

 Sandy country gently sweeps

to the old river flowing in the distance

under the lone gaze of a stunted acacia

barely holding the alluvial soil.

 

Egrets, paddy birds and kingfishers

feed in the stinking pools left behind by

the shrunk giant as dusk settles over the land.

 

Life is the fading margins of the turbid

waters darkening on a moonless nightfall  

while ancient constellations swirl slow in the black.

 

I photographed this Cattle Egret in breeding plumage in August,2014 near my home.

 

 This lone acacia on the right bank of the river Indus was the source of inspiration for the above poem.

Autumn on the River

 

Rows of blooming acacias

on the lone, long finger of the river spur

that curls away into the haze.

 

A flock of camels

from the Afghan Hills is busy browsing,

their pungent smell is still strong

in the early November morning.

Hot on their heels is the turbaned driver

and the panting Russian Sheep dogs—

Powinda tribes are back, it is autumn.

 

Away to the east the fishermen

have cast their nets— stray, aching chords

of a folk song—the river has already receded,

leaving behind pools teeming with fish

and white-green patches of water snowflakes.

 

Among the resounding calls of black-winged stilts,

the tufts of kans grass rise mist-like in the distance,

the faded blue bottom of an upturned boat, a gypsy

woman collects firewood under an ascending column

of smoke as autumn sings over the dull green of river.

 Camels of Powinda nomades are browsing blooming acacias on the river spur

 The dusk over the river country, 2008

                                                                                                                              The Riverside

 

In a ripening sea of wheat,

songs of pied bush chats,

and the resident larks. Along

the sandy banks the river falls

but not the wanted rains.

 

Under the sun’s constant toil

the gentle sweep of alluvial land

is hugged by fields of summer vegetables,

occasional acacias and Kans grass.

 

Deep quietude of dusk,

the limp nets of a quail hunter,

the frantic runs of a pointer

and the scanning old eyes

as quails get ensnared in spring’s

enticing scents and mating calls.

 

Transported I sit, watch

the sky converging on horizons

inked by the night’s gradual fall.

I don’t dread this pall, love the river

as it spurns the margins, widening,

wild, runs free like my thoughts.

 

 

(I photographed this Pied Bush Chat in February 2014 near the western bank of the river Indus in D.I.Khan)

The Enduring Hour

Time is impeccable, passes,

a last breath lost

in the heat of April.

 

How beautiful it is

to be with her like these

butterflies in green

whose inaudible flutter

stirs his heart,

pumping pleasure through his veins.

 

The dissolved hour—

he walks the street, thinking,

how long will it stay here?

 

I photographed this pair of Common Mynahs in 2012 at D.I.Khan while the poem's setting is that of Govt. College Tank

A Pair of Common Mynahs

As April turned to May

the echoing calls

of all familiar birds

and the unfamiliar calls

of vagrant too,

are now in-mixed

with breeding pairs’

perpetual search for food.

 

A pair of Common Mynahs

comes in turn by turn

through the broken window-pane

to feed their chicks

in the discarded old cupboard

of Botany Department’s deserted lab.

 

I sit and watch

as the hesitant pair

learns to trust an unwanted face.

 

Days quickly fade into each other

and then the dusty floor below is

all littered with plucked

bloody feathers, scratches, drags,

signs of a desperate struggle.

The nimble, soft footprints

Of a mongoose, the sweep of his tail,

I glean a tragedy from the scene,

leave in silence.

Thinking this cycle will never end.

It is but natural.

 

Nostalgia


March, what is it that goes green

with budding  mulberry and shishum?

Tree pie’s raucous call from a jamun

and a breeze that trips in precocious

spring remind me of what has left

with the early morning mist.

 

On this brilliant day new born

leaves glisten in lukewarm rays.

None is aware of the vacuum I try to fill

in vain with a sad rush of memories

of the one whose touch was subtler

than the blinking silver in the wind.

 

Years lie packed in the rings and bring

back what has passed ages hence and you’ll

always be felt in the fragrance of first flowers

 I photographed this Treepie in Shah Sahib's graveyard in late January, 2014

 

(I photographed this beautiful male Purple Sunbird in the Indian Coral tree at Govt. Degree College No.1, D. I. Khan)

 

 The Song of the Purple Sunbird


 I hear him from afar

as I enter his world,

the joyous song

of the purple sunbird.

 

His lively presence

for his mate and me,

is as ever welcome

as the first young leaf

of early spring days

in playful sun rays

learns to grow

in a balmy breeze.

 

He sings as he roams

from tree to tree,

his amorous song

with an enviable ease.

 

Hoping up and down,

he flies in hot pursuit

of his olive green mate

among flowers and fruit.

 

Top of the tree,

he is at the top of the world,

without his song and mate,

it all seems absurd.

 

In pendulous little nest

of cobwebs and hay,

he lives with his mate

brooding eggs as May

brings chicks to this world

of light and shade.

 

Songs everywhere

as parents search the glade

for larvae and insects

as the day slowly fades.

 

The night gradually falls

while parents in the nest

gather chicks under wings

as the sleep gently calls

and they dream in peace.

 

Shot this lovely olive green female of the Purple Sunbird at Government Degree College No.1, D.I.Khan in April 2014

 

September


 

September, wagtails are back,

feeding in slanting shadows

unafraid. In the midst of woes

besieging me now, they

remind me summer ‘s gone,

for the breeze rattles  jaman

leaves around  on the ground

in the early morning sunshine.

 

Molting Juveniles follow parents

from branch to branch with awkward,

cheeping calls, ready to be set adrift

 in the winds waiting in the wings.

 

No matter how lost I am to self,

pied wagtails tell the old tale

of changing seasons, of shortening

days, of growing old, of the will

to see the green of nature

beyond a dying year facing fall. 

 

 Photographed this pied wagtail in Mid-January,2014.

Remembrance


It was neither the breeze,

the flitting peacock pansy

nor the demoiselle cranes resting

 in a field that reminded me of you.

But the horizon

which lay bare like your back.

 

I took shot of this beautiful Peacock Pansy in July 2013 in a clover field near my home. 

 

 

Visions


A red wattled lapwing, standing on one leg,

beak in back feathers, dozes under the shade

of green acacias, in the midday heat of April sun.

Up in the canopy, a squirrel’s incessant mating

chatter distracts, but nature’s songs shun monotony.

 

When I am with nature, I can envision you

in all the greens of spring as a male purple sunbird

chases his olive mate from branch to branch.

 

If you but spend a few moments with me,

where the lapwing drifts in and out

of vigilance in the dappled shade, you’ll see

flowers reflected in my eyes and you’ll be lost.

 

(2005)

 

Photographed this lovely Red-wattled Lapwing this January(2014) in the clover fields.

 

 

Rosy Starlings

In early July

they come in clouds—loquacious birds—

and shower down on pipal and banyan.

The lawns of the college echo

with their intense clicking calls.

When satiated, they look

for shade to rest under the hot monsoon sun.

In a constant flurry of restless wings,

they seem to be behind every leaf

and the males, with their black plumes

spread out, sing in pleasant notes.

Rosy flashes in multifarious green

when a gun suddenly crackles,

with a  loud flutter the birds rise into the midday air,

some come swirling down awkwardly in disbelief

and pain. Legs pointing to green boughs above,

the dream of a winter sojourn  in India dies  

in their tiny hearts as red trickles to grass below.

 Photographed this beautiful Rosy Starling at Govt. Degree College No.1, D.I.Khan one summer afternoon.

 

Photographed this beautiful male Koel in early February,2014 at Govt. Degree College No.1, D.I.Khan

New Life


 Black Drongo’s dark silhouette,

hungry chicks, precocious summer—

I dream about you.

 

Through the open window

the sun-drenched mass of green foliage

casts dappled shades, brims with songs

and new life—

you are three months pregnant.

 

This is a recent photo of this Black Drongo which I took at the college on a hot summer afternoon.

 

It Goes Green Again


March—the silk cotton trees are in flower,

black kites breed in tall shishums, 

the furtive koel is silent, her mate waits

for his turn  and already the bulbuls sing

 amorously all around  at the college campus.

I am in my office with a mound of pending files,

what drifts in through the window with the breeze,

is pleasing to the ear, its hour will come.

 

Late afternoon shadows slowly descend

to the lawns turning green again,

flowering daisies and larkspurs are mixed

with the occasional yellow of prickly sow thistle.

 

The campus lies deserted, an Indian palm squirrel

sits nibbling a date in Chinese fan palm. I stand,

still a bit stiff, watch a treepie fly off to a distant jaman.

The coolness of fresh green in my tired eyes

and your memories, Akhtar—they have planted

a cactus on your grave, how symbolic of life!    

A laughing dove calls from a budding mulberry

as the sunlight touches the tops of eucalyptuses.

I miss your smile and the cigarette butt

 which stayed in your fingers till the very end —odd companion.

The spring flowers bloom differently this year. 

 

(On the sad demise of my only true friend Akhtar Zaman Khattak of Tarhka Koai, Karak)

 

This Black Kite sitting on top of a Silk Cotton tree was shot in March,2012 at my college.

 

This is Northern Palm Squirrel, photographed at the same college on an overcast day in February,2012

 Beautiful orange yellow flowers of Silk Cotton tree, photo was taken at my college in March, 2012

 

The Way Things Are Here


June heat is thirsty for moisture, licks my breath

away as I walk in the sun over struggling grasses.

 

Red wattled lapwing shades her eggs in the stubble field,

wets them with her breast feathers off and on

as crows with open beaks, sit languid in an old acacia.

I love Damaan with its baked and furrowed plains,

how like the century old face of a villager’s granny,

they hide many harsh summers in every contour,

in the twisted rings of every gnarled tree, in dried out stalks.

The high bank of a parched water channel is riddled  

with the nesting holes of little green bee eaters, their mild

whistles echo through the ravine under a heat struck sky.

 

On the verandah, the breeze through bougainvillea is not

that hot as my dog pants in slow rhythms, tongue lolling out

and the sparrows chirp drowsily all day. Over the pages of

a naturalist’s book, I dip in and out of reality and dreams;

in this same verandah your fragrance still defies summer’s

heat as I see flowers in the pages of my book and smile.

 

I photographed this Little Green Bee-eater near my home in May,2014

 

Relief

 

Pollinated bees hover

from flower to flower

every hour in multifarious green.

 

From a shisham the persistent call

of a little brown dove weaves

a pattern in intoxicated air,

coloured by roses, marigolds and dahlias,

relieves me of my many woes.

 

March lies bright on land

in thriving mushrooms of memories.

I think of home and chugging spring clouds,

for life never loses its charms

even if I am down and the town

cowers in fear of hired assassins.

 

Photographed this male Little Brown Dove also called laughing Dove in April,2014 at Govt.College No.1 

 

The Meeting

 


Still silhouettes

of tooth brush trees

under a fat crescent moon

of a late, late October.

Away at the edge

of white clover fields

a bonfire and joyful screams of boys.

Over the treeline spreads

a thin diaphanous layer

of smoke and dust, portends

days of dry weather ahead.

Down on the road a young man

passes on a bicycle,

sings with an aching chord—

riveted I stand. Tomorrow

I’ll visit my father

in Shah Sahib’s graveyard

and apologize for my absence.

 

These toothbrush trees are growing in the graveyard of Syed Munawar Shah, photo was taken in May,2014

 

Photographed this white clover field near my home in May,2014