Thursday, April 1, 2021

A is for Alex and the Bees #AtoZChallenge

"Before beginning to study the sacred texts and constantly singing the sutras, the student should learn to read the love letters sent by the snow, the wind and the rain."

-IKKYU, Zen Master 

Quote borrowed from  'The Book of Ichigo Ichie'

Dear Readers,

For the first post of this challenge, I'm sharing a snippet from my travel memoir of Maunda, a remote village in Uttarakhand, northern India. The motorable road that goes to Maunda ends there. It goes no further. 

I hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Arti.

The morning sun sparkled across the slices of blue sky wedged between tall deodars and broad cedars as Alex, Apu and I explored the village and its outskirts with Pradhanji, the village chief, along with a couple of other villagers one day in mid-May in 2019. 

Every leaf, petal, fruit and tree that grew on the path was explored by us (the visitors) and explained by the villagers. If a shrub or tree wasn't used for food, it had medicinal or cosmetic uses. This was Alex's first time in Maunda. Apu and I had been to the village the previous year. After a couple of hours, Pradhanji invited us to his house for tea.

After the downstairs had been looked at and commented upon, Pradhanji climbed the stairs ahead of us and issued a request for tea for everyone in the general direction of the kitchen while beckoning the three of us to follow him upstairs to sit in his sitting room-with-a-view.

It’s a small L shaped room on the first floor with huge Garhwali style windows peering over the valley below. A few plastic chairs and wooden benches are placed perfectly to enjoy the verdant views.

Apu chose to snuggle up on a chair by the window. Alex sat by the door we had entered the room through and I sat opposite Alex, a foot or so away from Apu, facing the door, the back of my chair resting against the wall with a tiny hole. The hole in the wall was approximately an inch and a half in diameter with a broken and blackened circumference.

As soon as I settled into my chair, a bee, a honey bee, buzzed past me, hovered over Apu for a little while before deciding to fly out of the room.

Alex’s eyes watched the bee and widened with surprise.

Before the first bee reached the edge of the window sill, another bee appeared before me, buzzed, took a few curious circles around my hand holding my cup of tea and then followed the first bee’s route out of the window, flying past Apu.

Alex’s eyes were screaming silently by now. His fingers tightened their hold on his teacup.

Apu looked up at me. I smiled.

The trickle of bees had swollen into a steady stream by now. They were busy flying in single file out of the opening in the wall behind me and making a bee-line for the window.

Alex couldn’t hold it in any longer, “Bees! Honey bees!” he stated the obvious with barely hidden disbelief.

“They’re harmless.” Apu mentioned and went back to her day dreaming. She continued to gaze out of the window.

I was enjoying the look on Alex’s face, so I smiled to show him that all was well: he could chill. We had the same look on our faces last year when we'd seen the bees in this room for the first time. I'm not sure our assurances convinced him. Being a gentle soul, he continued to sip his tea but his eyes kept following each bee’s flight keenly. 

Arre Alex Ji, these bees have lived here for as long as I’ve lived here.” said Pradhanji. “My father discovered this hive when we first started making a few changes to this part of the house--almost fifty years ago. He decided to let the hive be. We’ve all grown used to each other. We don’t bother them and they don’t trouble us.”

Just then, Pradhanji’s little grandson crawled into the room from the door next to Alex. Three bees were buzzing over his head like a noisy halo.

Alex smiled. I could see his eyes were taking in the miracle of symbiosis.

The little one gurgled and crawled eagerly to his grandfather who picked him up, kissed him and set him down again to continue with his crawling.

“What about the honey? Don’t you harvest it?” Alex asked.

“What they make is for them. That’s their food. We get our honey from the hives we farm.” stated Pradhanji.

For the rest of the afternoon, we sat in Pradhanji’s L-shaped sitting room looking out of the sky blue windows that framed mighty deodars and oaks standing tall and proud--all the way into the horizon--as far as the eye could see.

The little one crawled through the chairs’ legs, our legs, while bees buzzed around him like wound up toys.

Shangri-La is alive and well in a village in Uttarakhand where men let bees live in hives built inside houses because their ancient instincts show them how intricately bees and humans are bound together. That day, I was left wondering if they really need roads to open up their minds or  modern technology to teach them how to live and let live. 

But, who am I? I'm a traveller who appears once a year at their doorstep. It's the youth and the elders of this village who'll have to decide how to balance the modern with the ancient; how to learn to keep up with the times without unlearning the songs of the wind, the snow, the bees and the mountains.

(Pradhanji's house in Maunda)

The village of Maunda, Uttarakhand

*****

Have you ever come by a moment of symbiosis such as this?  
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

In case you'd like to read the post from last year's challenge, here is the link:

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

31 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    So glad to have you back, Arti, bringing your joy of the world stories to share with us! I have both seen and experienced such 'symbiosis' - nature surely nurtures if we can just keep our hands to ourselves! YAM xx

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    1. So true Yamini. Cheers for the welcome:)

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  2. Just today as I was chatting with a dear friend in Dubai, she narrated a similar story of her little one reacting to a friendly moth that self invited to their cozy modern home. “Urban disaster” is what someone I know will call this! How familiar surroundings comforts us & makes us indifferent too! How the unfamiliarity can haunt someone at the same time! Beautifully written as always. Your writing, photography all inspires me to travel at the same time easily transports me to these locations, as we traveled together!

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    1. Thank you Vidya.
      The reason I chose to share my travel photos and memories is because of all these restrictions. I'm happy you are enjoying the visits:)

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  3. Well they have definitely found the balance-unlike most of us who have skewed it as we fall prey to our greed.
    Good one Arti..

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    1. Cheers Arti.
      The struggle to find that balance is universal.

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  4. This story is as sweet as honey from the beehive. I remember this one (hint: TWDH sub) and loved reading it again today. You bring joy with your words. It makes the heart light and happy.

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    1. I knew you'd recall:)
      I hope to find a permanent home for these memoirs, fingers crossed--soon.

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  5. What a lovely blog post, Arti! I enjoyed your descriptions about the bees and the way in which people live in harmony with nature. Kudos!

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  6. Stories of nature and our symbiotic relationship with it are always very engaging and interesting!

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  7. You really brought the scene to life, delightful. Good to see you again Arti.

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  8. What a perfect anecdote with a perfect message of live and let live. The real way to live life can only be learnt from such travel stories I guess. And yeah by the way, I am Shit scared of bees myself after being stung by one in my teens... And you guessed it right... The beehive was right outside my study room and one of us definitely must have encroached into the other's space!

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    1. Ouch! and Ouch! again.
      Thank you for sharing dear Ira.

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  9. How lovely my dear Arti. I love the stories you tell and the way you tell them. I find this symbiosis had to believe, as like Ellora I was stung by a bee as a kid, long ago while playing tennis(someone had disrupted a Hive in a neighbouring alley).
    I still run out of the room if a bee enters. But, I love how you have put forth this possibility and one day if I find myself in that village, I might sit wide eyed and drink my tea.

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    1. I can promise you Namratha that Pradhanji's smile will melt away worries you may have and you'd be left sipping that cahi without bee-ing doubtful:)

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  10. Braver than me with all those bees flying about! Good story and the pictures look amazing. Would be a wonderful place to visit.
    https://iainkellywriting.com/2021/04/01/the-state-trilogy-a-z-guide-a/

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    1. It is a fabulous place to visit Iain. Thank you for stopping by.

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  11. What a lovely story. I was intrigued by the title and drawn to your post . Since I can’t travel, I will journey along with you for the next 26 days .
    https://mumbaionahigh.wordpress.com/2021/04/02/banging-pots-to-appreciate-health-workers/

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    1. Lovely. I'm always happy to bump into fellow travellers. And as we are all under travel restrictions, this will be a good way to explore:)

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  12. Wow! Lovely story! And beautiful photos. It is good to know places like that exist :)

    The Multicolored Diary

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  13. My bee-loving heart is enchanted by this story. How I would love a home portal allowing easy bee access. And what I would do to have a bee halo! Once again, your story and your photos have captivated me.

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  14. I love the idea of being at peace with nature to the point where you let the bees just be. I'm deathly allergic to bees so I'm not sure I'd be able to stay relaxed even with harmless honey bees but I do appreciate the sentiment. Weekends In Maine

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    1. I understand your sentiment Karen:)
      Thank you for visiting.

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  15. As a child I loved watching centipedes for hours together, I never felt yeek about them . I loved lying down on my grandma mud floor and watch them move around...
    Beautiful read Mazaa ayaa❤️

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    1. And I love watching them too:) The E post today is about them (somewhat). Thanks for reading Sahitya. xx

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  16. Such a simple anecdote....such an extraordinary message!

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