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A Serendipitous Stop in Karnataka Near Nandi Hills

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Keeping Our Eyes Open to the Wonders of the World

At times, we look around us, and everything moving or even inanimate strikes us as beautiful. Travel, for sure, helps me appreciate the new and the old. But it also opens my eyes to things I might have ignored otherwise.

Though I lived for years in Bangalore city in the Southern state of Karnataka in India, I either never crossed the area I was recently passing while on the way from Tumkur town to the foothills of Nandi Hills, or, I didn’t see what I saw that day. I have been to Nandi Hills a couple of times and also to Skandagiri Hills, a sister hill of Nandi, for a night trek with friends years ago. The routes must have been different then. But I am assured that the lake or stream I stopped at while en route to Nandi Hills this time might not have attracted me a few years ago.

Not that I had anything against nature. Quite the opposite. Always noticing my mother gazing at birds and all kinds of flora and fauna, I consider it not only my responsibility but my right to be as curious and as intrusive as she is in the lives of all living beings who might commit the mistake of fluttering in her garden even once. One explanation is that I may have been in the backseat or the passenger seat of the car, and by the time an awe would have left my mouth, the driver would have accelerated past the pond that this post is about. This time, I was at the wheel (hurray) and as soon as the dry ghostly trees rooted in the reservoir started appearing on the left, I paused.

ghost like dry trees in a reservoir, pool, stream near nandi hills karnataka

What is this, I exclaimed to my partner. We were heading to a resort in the foothills of Nandi Hills for the wedding of one of his friends. He, obviously, didn’t like my enthusiasm. Priyanka going awe or wow or mouth open and no words are all scenarios that cost him dear time. And he didn’t have time, not then.

But I wasn’t in control anymore. The wonder for this world that lingers inside me all the time had started throbbing. And how could it not? Look what was in front of me.

further ahead was the road, nandi hills, karnataka
further ahead was the road
this beautiful tree and old temple karnataka state india
on my right was this beautiful tree and old temple.
reservoir pond karnataka
on my left was this.

I wasn’t sure if it was a lake, a swamp, a pond, a stream, or the backwaters of some river that was hidden from me. I just knew that the landscape extended up to where I could see.

landscape of dry trees and water
the landscape
lotuses in the water stream
of course there were lotuses too.

I was already pretty lost when I saw something move. A bird, for sure. But which one was it?

oriental darter almost camouflaged in the water
It sat there almost camouflaged. As we were in mid-December, I had a hint that we might be looking at a migratory bird. Someone who has come to India from far, far away.

This is a picture that I took with my Nikon for I had to take out the camera to be able to zoom in and identify the bird. Some memory muscle jumped in and told me I was looking at an oriental darter. I wasn’t sure though.

For the next ten minutes, my partner and I were watching her preen and sunbathe. Though she kept an eye on us, she neither left her spot nor did she stopped preening herself.

oriental darter just sunbathing on a branch of a mangrove in a water reservoir
Isn’t she beautiful? This large majestic bird was right in front of us, and people were passing by as if nothing was unusual. And all I could think was: Such an amazing creature lives here, right amidst all of us! I didn’t have to do anything to find her. I just opened my eyes and there she was.
oriental darter close up

Only now do I know that oriental darters are native to India. Yet, how many do we see every day? They are a Near Threatened species, given the pollution, drainage of wetlands, and their hunting and collection of eggs and nestlings.

her greys and browns were matching the grey of the rippling water and the brown of the dry branches
her greys and browns were matching the grey of the rippling water and the brown of the dry branches

We looked and looked and there was ample to see.

with her neck raised, the oriental darter, karnataka south india
now her neck is raised and she seems a bit more alarmed. Her wings were shining and she was the most beautiful thing I saw that day.

She turned her neck round and round. Preened this and that. Looked here and there, while watching us from the corner of her eyes. My partner was now getting impatient.

But then someone else welcomed us too.

coot foraging around the waters of Karnataka
A coot foraging around the waters. I had taken it for a moorhen. Both roam around shallow vegetated lakes. But my research tells me she is a coot. 
and then the coot was out on the ground
and then the coot was out on the ground
and then the coot was swimming
and then the coot was swimming

I like saying coot. Also, my partner was simmering.

Just when we thought of leaving, some shepherds showed up.

sheep grazing near the vegetated lake
the shepherds, as thin as the sticks they were carrying, were right behind our car
the shepherds, as thin as the sticks they were carrying, are right behind our car in this picture

I didn’t zoom in on the sheep, worried that the shepherds might not like my intrusion. I find it hard to make the choice between taking pictures or letting the scene go. Sometimes people get nervous seeing a camera pointed anywhere in their direction. And I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.

When the shepherds left, I went back to admiring the landscape.

dry ash brown trees clustered so tightly together that not even an inch of space is visible through the gap
dry ash-brown trees were clustered together so tightly that not even an inch of space was visible through the gap
standing in different shapes and bends, are they trees or friends
standing in different shapes and bends, are they trees or friends
the oriental darter was still at it
the oriental darter was still at it
there were other birds too, a bit lost in the view
there were other birds too, a bit lost in the view
the road ahead karnataka
the road ahead
the beautiful temple

I, too, took a final glimpse of the road and the temple and set upon the rest of my journey. My eyes had seen enough and my heart was full. I was thankful for the unexpected surprise.

Sometimes wisdom is in to take as much as the universe is handing out at the moment and then not think of the ifs and buts. Had I seen that lake before? Would I have stopped there in the past? What matters is the now. I had seen it all now and that was enough. The journey, quite literally, is bound to take one through the way. Now it is up to me to keep my eyes closed or open.

How often do you stop on the road? Has travel made you more conscious of your surroundings too?

what an oriental beauty
What an oriental beauty!


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