October 20, 2009

Bowling for water

Walking to the Bee Falls in Pachmarhi, our excellent guide Shoaib (known to all as Sahib) Khan stopped every now and then to explain or show us some little natural delight.

First was an insectivorous plant -- he referred to it as drosera, or the sundew plant. I'm not even sure how he saw this thing -- it was no more than a pale red smudge on the side of a moss-encrusted rock we were passing, small enough to fit three times over in the space of a thumbnail. But he stopped us, reached across to the rock and pulled off one of the plant's little leaves, two millimetres across. In the light of the evening sun, tiny hairs on the leaf glistened; when he put his finger to it and gently drew it away, threads of some sticky liquid went with the finger, like a tiny shiny instant cobweb. The hairs and this "enzyme" -- what Sahib called the liquid -- trap any unsuspecting insect that happens to alight on the little red leaf, and slowly the leaf coils in and around the struggling insect, and life is leached out of it.

I wouldn't want to be a little insect in these parts.

Later, he plucked a sprig and asked us to smell it. Mint. "I planted these," he said proudly. And now that he had pointed them out, I saw mint sprigs all around us, a lighter, brighter green than the surrounding grass and moss.

Next, Sahib told us that the bedrock in and around Pachmarhi is very porous, in some ways like a sponge. It's why rainwater gets absorbed into the earth, it's why it remains such a lush area, and it's why streams often seem to emerge from the rock itself. To demonstrate, he picked up a red stone about the size of his palm, then rotated his arm as if he was bowling, only bowling like one of the mystery bowlers in the film "Lagaan", whirling his arm around and around, like he was winding himself up. Then he showed us the stone. It was noticeably more moist than when he picked it up. The bowling simulation had forced the moisture to the surface.

For the rest of our stay in Pachmarhi, our daughter periodically whirled her arm about. Never mind that her little palm contained no stone. Porous or otherwise.


Ugich Konitari said...

Maybe we need to send bowlers to the Moon, in the next Chandrayan. No need for any bombing. And good employment for those rejected by IPL.
Is NASA listening....?

Anonymous said...

Pachmarhi..is this up in the Himalayas?

Dilip D'Souza said...

UK, there's a thought!

Anon: no, Pachmarhi is in MP, about 3 hours southeast of Bhopal by road. MP's only hill-station.