#Photo Essay


Barn Swallows. Nalsarovar. Gujarat. 2016

We took a boat ride across one of the largest inland lakes in Gujarat and perhaps in India. Nalsarovar is a 120 sq.km. lake that is located in an arid, burnt landscape in central Gujarat. The landscape is harsh and dotted with thorny acacia trees. A dominant species is the foreign and invasive Prosopis juliflora, also known locally as gando baval.  Its characteristic black stem gives the observer a feeling that it is burnt bare, exacerbating the feeling of parchedness. The earth itself is bereft of any vegetation. The grasses grow green for a short period of 50 days in a year, when the benevolent rains, the monsoons shower their furious love. For that short intermission, the land becomes flooded and nature, which is usually unhurried and labored, acts with remarkable celerity. The shoots come forth from the hard ground, making us wonder how something this bare could hide the wealth of life in its bony depths. The shoots turn into plants, which soon flower and bear seeds – all in a matter of 60 days. After which, death and destruction envelops the entire landscape. Nature retreats into her summer hibernation.

In this midst of such a retreat, in late November, just as the icy winds from the north west start to sweep down the Indian subcontinent we took a boat ride into Nalsarovar. Words seem too frail and grossly inadequate to describe the tranquil beauty of the vast ocean. It stretches into vast expanse and makes us wonder why we worry so much about everything that is inconsequential and overlook all that is small , yet profound around us. Nature is one such thing that can arrest the mind and bring us back home.

Nature is one such thing that can arrest the mind and bring us back home

As we paddled through the reservoir, we saw plenty of water-fowl – geese, terns, gulls, cormorants, ducks of all kind, herons and egrets. There was also the occasional predator – an osprey, an eagle and the ubiquitous black kite. It was as we were boating towards the shallow part of the lake that I noticed a water weed. It was almost bamboo like and was growing in 3 feet of water. Resting on its branches were a couple of barn swallows. A highly unusual sight – for swallows are usually seen hovering in mid air. They are extremely difficult to view, let alone photography by any decent measure. But here were pair – perhaps a few more, but my memory fails me – resting in the evening 3’o clock wintery sun. I had my 200mm lens and was pretty sure that I could get a decent snap. I did not want to miss them and started shooting from afar, lest my quarry escapes. I was mistaken. We got closer and closer and they remain still as stone. At one point we were no more than 8 feet away, and yet they were blissful sitting on their perch. Perhaps, acquainted with humans, they were certainly not wary of us. This gave me a perfect opportunity to click the above picture.


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