A Painted Lady looks for camouflage cover on the ground
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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?
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Photographed this lovely Red-wattled Lapwing this January(2014) in the clover fields.
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
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.
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
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
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
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