Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Magic Faraway Institute

Horn OK Please: Indian Institute of Science

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is like a fairy tale and the months I’ve spent here are some of my happiest. Its four hundred and fifty acre campus is full of surprises (I’ll get to them soon). Many of the department buildings are tucked away between a dense thicket of trees and some look like old colonial houses. The older buildings have quaint olive green doors and windows which made me fall in love with them instantly.

What strikes you very quickly in IISc, after thinking “Huge!” and “So pretty!” and “THE TREES!” is that it takes eons to get anywhere.  It takes especially long if you, like me, tend to stop every now and then to ogle at some pretty thing you had not noticed before. Because, you see, IISc is a magical place. It is just the sort of place where you would expect the trees to wake up from their slumber at night and roam about the place. 

There are trees everywhere, sometimes vast stretches of land of just trees. Like the Enchanted Forest (my Anne-of-Green-Gables name for it) - a huge swathe of land with rows and rows of towering trees. And what is beautiful about this place, is that the leaves are not swept away. They crunch deliciously underfoot and turn every shade of yellow and brown there is. Because of the distances, almost everyone owns a cycle, adding to the charm of the campus. I used to be a teeny bit paranoid about riding anywhere that was not completely empty and I would wobble as I rode whenever a car drove past or I had to cycle between crowds of people, but a month in IISc took care of that. I even tried riding without any hands on the bar and have a silly grin on my face every time I do it.

It is only in IISc where a snake crossing the road will not cause too much of a flutter. That said, snakes also go into departments and residential houses and create quite a stir because some snakes in the campus are venomous. Our lab often gets ‘snake calls’ and I was thrilled to bits to be around when this happened. Someone or the other from the lab takes with them a snake bag to rescue the snake and let it out some distance away from the department. Unfortunately, on both times this happened the snake seemed to be on a tight itinerary and didn’t wait for us to arrive. Even so, I could not stop grinning when we cycled up winding paths and appeared at the Director’s house one morning after receiving a snake call. The house had a sprawling, wild garden and the owner recounted to us how a five-foot long snake climbed on to the house from a mango tree.

Two favourite haunts of mine are the Bird Rock and Jubilee Park. One afternoon, we sat on a large rock surrounded by trees and golden grasses taller than us. At around 3pm, a loud party of birds descended on the rock. There were red-vented bulbuls, munias, babblers, prinias, oriental-magpie robins and paradise flycatchers. We watched them agape. There is a tiny watering hole on the rocks where they took turns (or so it seemed) to bathe in and the water glittered in the afternoon sunlight, as they splashed about.

A mud path leads from the Bird Rock to Jubilee Park. The first time I visited Jubilee Park, I could not believe my eyes. We were the only people in it and there were tall grasses and golden wattle trees and gulmohars and frangipani trees as far as the eye could see. Some stone steps lead down to a pond in Jubilee Park. Sitting at the bottom step, we watch the resident paradise-flycatchers catch insects and a furtive pond heron skulk near the water’s edge. On some afternoons, the minute we enter the park, we are greeted by a deafening chorus of the frogs in the pond.

I discover new things I like about IISc every day. Playing ball with Limpet in the Enchanted Forest as the light fades, climbing trees, exploring new places, ambling along tree-lined roads, sitting in the boughs of a huge banyan tree and watching birds and squirrels eating fruits, hearing the sharp ‘keeeee’ of a slender loris in the evenings, chancing upon some breathtakingly beautiful seed-pods.

Photo by Limpet

1 comment:

  1. Blogging is the new poetry. I find it wonderful and amazing in many ways.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...