Since childhood I have memories of many Banyan trees. Among these many are some which are really really big and are known as Akshya vat. Vat is Hindi of Banyan. It is commonly known as Bargad.

The first Banyan tree of importance in my memory is one in Company Bagh of Kanpur. Kanpur is the city of my growing up days and the Company bagh there on the Mall road at that time used to be very different than what it is now. It was very dense and we never used to venture inside it beyond that historic well, which was a memorial to large number of unknown freedom fighters. We used to watch this big Banyan tree from outside the boundary wall . If my memory serves me correctly, even in bright summer days we could see dark room kind of spaces between the pillared stems/ roots of the tree.

The second Big Banyan I saw is the famous Great Banyan Tree in Indian Botanical Garden, Howrah. The botanical garden is also commonly known as Botanical garden of Kolkata or Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden. This botanical garden has many attractions but presently we will limit ourselves to the Banyan tree only. This Banyan tree is said to be more than 250 years old. Though no specific date can be successfully attributed to it’s origin but its reference can be found in writings of early nineteenth century. As the tree is in premises of one of the premier institute  where various kinds of botanical researches take place, all the factual information regarding it are available. The great Banyan tree has survived two major cyclones of 1864 and 67.

This single tree in itself is like a small forest. While walking on the wide road towards the tree, from a distance you find it hard to believe that there stands a single tree. It covers an area of about 1.6 hectares.We were told that the main trunk of the tree does not exist now. It was infected with some kind of fungus and to save the tree it was removed . However the giant tree still stand there supported by thousands of  aerial roots turning into subsidiary stems. Proper care is being taken care of  the aerial roots going down properly into the earth so that the huge, magnificent tree can be preserved for posterity.  A brick wall of small height was erected to mark the increasing area gradually being covered by the tree.

 

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The Big Banyan tree in the Botanical Garden At Kolkata– as we saw it from the road leading to it.

 

Few more shots of the trees . It really felt like walking through a forest.

 

And the third Banyan tree which I recently found out still stands in obscurity. Local people are aware of it but it is not being preserved and being taken care of properly by any concerned authority.The huge tree stands surrounded by many mango orchards from all sides. The mango orchards are owned by different individuals. If the tree is given freedom to grow it might cover areas of those orchards. Still local people rever and worship it. As the religious activities are gradually picking up around it, unplanned construction in between its area is increasing which definitely restrict it’s growing with abundance and mar it’s natural beauty too.  Various signs forbidding to put names on its branches have been put there but still almost every stem of the huge magnificent tree bleeds with engraved names.  despite these few saddening facts the Akshya Vat is a magnificent sight to behold.

This Akshay Vat is about 30 kilometers from the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India. The tree is in Manjhi village of Mall Block. The Pujari residing near the tree told us that the tree is said to be about 200 years old. Though there is no authenticated proof of that but believe me the vestibules between the prop roots turned into stems, far and wide stretched arms of the tree and the reigning silence take you to the times bygone.

In the center of the tree is a very thick cluster of many trunks. Many branches are sloping outward in all the directions and are in turn supported by entwined prop roots gradually thickening into new trunks. lovely passages and arched vestibules are formed by tapering branches and multitudes of trunks. Overhead stretches the thick canopy . It is a bright, sunny January day but this part talks in shadowed whispers. Big, thick trunked mango trees standing all around Akshay Vat in meticulously lines somehow reminded me of lines in prayer grounds. A villager  cycled away on the dusty road behind the tree, two boys sauntered in  the mango orchard, a bird called somewhere and the sentient atmosphere seeps deep down me.

The magnificent tree standing rapt in all around quiet, aerial roots hanging and once in a while few of them moving slightly with the wind felt like a wise old sage  with long beard lost in deep meditation. As I moved under it and looked upward , the green overhead canopy of leaves felt like showering blessings, keeping evils away.

 

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A panoramic view of Akshay vat of Manjhi village, Lucknow

 

All pictures@ Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This time let us travel back to our childhood. I literally did that while visiting this village in north India. Candy floss, cotton candy, fairy floss, by whatever name you call it, still invokes the feelings of wonder in children. At least it certainly was doing so in that village. Just look at the face of this girl, her expressions says it all. The joy of watching the sugar turning into a fluffy ball, the expectation of a magic to unfold is so apparent.


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My memories from my childhood brings back a bit fading image of a thin man with a box of transparent glass hanging from a wide belt on his shoulder. Ah, those glistening balls of baby pink and lemon yellow. No stick was attached to them and as the man walked on the street the box shook a bit with his movement and so did flicker the shining of the balls. More than the taste, holding that fluffy feather weight ball on palm and watching it sparkling in sunlight transported me to joyland. At that time perhaps the machine of turning sugar into the fluffy ball had not been devised or may be those were the times when everything was not so bare and open hence the feeling of wonder was intact.

I found this candyman with his machine on a hand cart, preparing the floss infront of children.And the best part was that feeling of wonder ,of magic unfolding has not lessened with the time.

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the sugar in the container about to be turned into floss

 

 

 

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And..HOW? is writ large on those innocent faces…

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Uff! wait is too much,

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finally the joy of holding it in hands…

As I grow older I really feel that the joys, that childhood has given me are the best ones.

I will love to end this post by a quote by Elizabeth Lawrence–

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

So relish and enjoy the child within you. A very happy new year to you. This one is my first post of 2019 here.

All pictures by Sunder Iyer

Present day Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illions was  home of Colonel Robert R. McCornick upto 1955.Colonel left his about 500 acre estate to community.  The estate now popularly known as Catigny park has many wonderful things and activities to offer. Another very important thing which colonel gave to community is Chacago Tribune. He was the owner and publisher of the esteemed news paper.

A big area is covered with beautiful bright gardens. It is not just a pleasing sight to eyes to walk through rainbow lanes of diverse species of flowers and plants but the interested ones can learn a lot about these while visiting there. Crystal clear water bodies in between these grassy , flowery areas add to the beauty of the park.

 

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The flower is
the stem’s cry of beauty
to the universe.
-Vassilis Comporozos

 

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“To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.”
-William Blake

I could go on talking about beauty of flowers there for a very long time, such was the wide variety blooming there.

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Here is just a glimpse of rainbow fields….. just to ignite your imagination.

There are tall, elegant trees all around grassy lawns and then there are dense almost forest like areas.

 

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The water body

 

The home of colonel stands in the park and a conducted tour inside the building is carried out. We did not have much spare time in our hands hence we had to forego that tour but we had a talk with guides sitting outside the building. They informed us that it takes almost forty five minutes to an hour to complete the entire tour. I am sure the tour must have been very informative and enlightening . The house was built by colonel’s grandfather Joseph Medill. the estate was earlier known as Red Oak Farm but later on was renamed as Cantigny by Colonel and his wife in memory of the French Village where Colonel served with First Division during World War First.

 

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Just a small portion of Meccornick house

Another very important part of this park is the First Division Museum. The museum takes one to the pages of history of the U.S. army’s 1st Infantry Division. Many stories of soldiers are displayed through sounds and sights. I loved the way families, from very young kids, youngsters to old people were engrossed in front of various big screens eager to learn the journey of their nations through conflicts. I always feel soldiers of every country should be remembered by the countrymen. They definitely are nation’s pride.

 

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Reception area of the museum

Outside the museum is tank park. Many tanks are displayed there.

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No amount of words can capture the beauty of nature, the legacy, the history displayed there. I am pretty sure just a single visit too would prove inadequate to imbibe all the information displayed and churned out there by various means. Cantegny park is a monument of the contribution of a person to the nation and to it’s countrymen.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

Our plan to catch hold of rising sun at Michigan lake was finalised during preceding evening. we four got up, freshened up and drove towards lake well before the announced time of sunrise on the day. I have always felt that the magic of watching a rising sun has it’s full impact if you start waiting for it in the darkness. The gaze fixed at east, slow descent of dawn, gradual spreading of light, changing of colours and the anticipation, all these combine together to make the experience sublime and uplifting.

Drive to North Avenue beach was pleasant. It was still dark . The road slipped smoothly under the wheels and the slight nip in the early morning air pepped up our eagerness to witness the majestic show  of sun stepping into the scene.

When we reached the beach, it was still translucent dark and the beach was almost deserted. one or two photographers carrying their kit, tripod walked on that concrete platform on which stood a small light house. This concrete strip runs midst waters. As there was hardly any human presence on the beach, ducks and other birds walked freely on the sand. It appeared they had been fun frolicking there for quite some time as the sand bed was full of their paw marks making it look like a painted carpet.

 

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The out lines of sky scrapers on city side gradually started emerging .  lights twinkled like gems while  the perfect moon with all it’s calm dignity as if stopped there behind the building to say it’s goodbye for the day.

on the other side we were waiting for the magical splendor of nature to unfold.

 

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The stage was getting ready for the  majestic appearance.Small blue waves lapped rhythmically.  It was mesmerizing to watch an unseen brush gradually paint the horizon  with soft silky hues– such lovely shades of pink, blue and yellow. While the light eased its way with gradual progression some feathery blue clouds floated as if in a blissful state. There were number of people on the beach but each one was wrapped in one’s own quietude. Watching the sky , I felt tranquil and serene within.  This always happens while waiting and watching the sun gracing the east sky.  Calm descends  slowly percolating down to the very core of soul.

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And then sun rose it’s head above the waters. It’s arrival coloured the sky pink and orange. The blues and yellows receded back. even the waves started blushing pink. as if all the elements around joined hands to be one with one another. How pacifying the thought was! we could see that lone, tiny boat on the other end of waters slowly inching towards the rising sun. None of us talked about it but all of us waited with batted breath to touch the boat the sun point before the sun rose high above the water rim. We all silently prayed to the boatman to be successful in his attempt. no prayers were not said loudly but the positive vibration of pious thoughts could be smelled in the air.

In the mean time a young couple had arrived and sat on the platform facing east, girl’s head softly anchored on boys shoulder while her traces flew slowly in the morning breeze. What a lovely picture they presented…. secure in each others company waiting for light to illuminate the world. I silently prayed for all their dreams to come true.

 

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And then came a group of youngsters riding on their bicycles. They parked their bicycles on the cemented strip and suddenly the air was filled with their lively chatters  and laughter. Sun too leapt to revel in their enthusiasm. Or was it blessing them to reach higher.

 

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as the cool sky of early morning was flushed with the magnificent hues of orange, crimson, rose and apple, we all there perhaps lived our most enchanting moments of the day  and got ready to walk in the agenda of the day with more calm and confidence.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summers are here and people are out in open to have their time out with nature. It is vacation times for students. Time of the year when mostly sky is bright blue with white fluffy clouds floating from this end to that end. Green forests with their comforting shades and soft light welcome one to their depths. Rivers, streams and brooks flow freely gurgling, murmuring. Water falls cascade down full of gaiety.

Every where vehicles with boats, cycles tied on their back can be seen running towards one or another destination.

That day we were near Mohican river in Loudonville area. Banks of Mohican river were buzzing with activities. As our vehicle took a turn from Landoll’s Mohican castle we could see people down there on the banks of stream. Lower boughs of trees from both the sides of stream bowed down trying to tickle the water and the naughty waves with spritely gait moved away filling the surroundings with their twinkling laughter.

 

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We moved further …..

About 32 miles of Mohican river is officially designated as Ohio state scenic river. It winds through Knox, Ashland, Holms and Coshocton counties. Scenic rivers retain most of their natural characteristics and atleast 25 percent of their riparian corridors should run through the forest covers. This area in Loudonville is known as the most popular camping and canoe destination of Ohio.

 

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Walking on clear, cool water was relaxing. At many places small rocks were lodged firmly on water bed. Some rested on them absorbing nature’s sound and scenes while children played and jumped from one to another. Some sat relaxing on the benches on the banks under the shade of tall, majestic trees while others were busy at barbeques. The wooden bridge at a distance joined one bank to another. View of the river from the bridge is beautiful. Absorbing everything heart filled with warmth and peace.

 

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This little girl with her parents was enjoying her water sojourn a lot. Her joy and laughter filled our hearts too with happiness.

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covered wooden bridge on the river

Stopped at  Mohican Little brown inn for some time. A cycle track and biking track runs in front of the inn. The open space in front of motel allows the winds to run freely. Children were cycling in the track. Near it is an Amish furniture shop. It being Sunday, the shop was closed but many furniture pieces were lying there in open. Beautiful pieces with lovely colours and smooth finishing. Amish people are known to adhere to their traditional way of living. Their home-made jam, ham and cheese are said to be delicious. However, we missed having a taste of that as the store was closed.

 

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The log cabin of the motel and the Amish furniture shop .

 

 

 

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Two pieces of the furniture, just a glimpse of craftsmanship.

On the way we stopped at Mohican state park gorge overlook. From the stone deck we had an awesome view of about 330 feet deep valley and hills beyond. In fact at that time of the year those hills beyond look like a dense green impenetrable wall of trees. In the valley down too the trees are so dense that one can see just the simmering green. Except that lone branch hovering on the valley from this side on which a bird sat, I was not able to make out distinct shapes of trees. But the view was overwhelming.

 

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The tree  near the stone stand facing the gorge.

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way to gorge.

We also spent some time near an area designated for RVs carrying the horse carriers along with them. Few recreational vehicles were parked there. Horses were being taken out, massaged and being freshened up. Families were under preparation to settle down. Children were playing around while others were harnessing the horses. Fun and recreation areas were designated. For boating, tubing and kayaking and canoeing near the rivers, for cycling and biking well laid tracks and for gauging the wilderness from horse back another patch .

Saw few Amish families travelling in theirs Bagghis, the traditional horse driven coach. This community tries to avoid the use of engine driven vehicles

 

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Our last destination of the day was Pleasant hill Lake Marina. Pleasant hill has an 850 acre unlimited horse power lake surrounded by 1350 land with lush green fields, forest.

Pleasant hill lake is situated in the heart of Mohican county just outside the village Perrisville, Ohio. Variety of outdoor recreational activities fishing, boating, water skiing.

Pleasant boat marina offers waverunners, ski, pontoon, fishing and paddle boats.

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A view from boat of the lush green area surrounding area of peasant lake….

 

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Fishing in solitude

 

US_227w The dense forests appear to harbour untold secrets, inviting one to go deep to unravel the mystries, the sole contemplator stands lost in his own world and then there are those adventurers running over the length and width of waters as if to be one with nature.

 

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It was amazing to watch those little kids on tube tied to the rushing, speeding boat. What thrill they were feeling… they sat there unperturbed through all jumps and turns of tube…. their hearts were full of trust on their parents and with all their innocence they perhaps thought ..nothing can go wrong… God always is there with such unwavering faith.    I thought so while watching them from our boat.

 

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The River… It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together!

Kenneth Grahame

 

US_234wI have a very special relationship with river. It flows inside me.

 

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Adventure is worthwhile in itself.

 

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An outing is perfect when you are with your own people, your group.

 

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And the ended with memories to cherish, moments to treasure.

All the pictures by sunder iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landoll’s Mohican castle in Loudonville, Ohio, at first glance looks like a picture out of fairy tales book. Standing in deep salubrious woods the wooden castle with it’s many spires, balconies and stairs is enchanting.

 

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starry pinks and purples gives welcome smiles when heights entice with arms outstretched

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and far off horizons descend in my eyes

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As I climbed the winding stairs which were getting narrowed with rise of every storey my expectation of the view from the top was rising and the view, the feel, was worth every step. The tall, stately trees came closer. Leaves started whispering to share the secrets. The stillness of the moment percolated deep down in heart.

 

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While climbing the stairs never look back. The vision has to be followed by venture.

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And then the vision turns into reality. on the topmost balcony……

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Another view from the top…

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Artistically laid down path around the castle…..

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Besides suits in castle there are separate cottages too. Set in green spread surrounded by trees and adorned with baskets of colourful flowers the entire area is a beautiful place to unwind and relax.

 

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The Copper Mug Bar and Grille in the vicinity of castle provides awesome dining facility. Both indoor and outdoor facility is available.

 

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outside dining space of restraunt

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every flower is a miracle and watching that miracle unfolding make you bloom inside.

All the pics@Sunder Iyer

 

Our car turned away from the main road and entered Griggs Reservoir Park area. Drive through main road too was very pleasant as it was the green season and nature on both the sides of road was fresh and sparkling. However drive through park area was much more pleasant. Scioto river flew side by side through out the length of the drive. though between Scioto and road long stretch of green plants bushes and grass ran along yet the the glimpses of rippling river were soothing and uplifting.

Scioto river flows through Columbus, Ohio, here it collects it’s longest tributary Olentangy river and meets Ohio river at Portsmouth.

 

 

 

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we parked our car near one of the shelters. there are many shelters in park, some facing river while others are scattered midst greenery on the other side of the drive way. Griggs reservoir park in Columbus is an ideal place for picnics with friends and families, for spending quiet me time in the company of rustling leaves, whispering woods while river goes on humming in the background.

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the shelter gives an unobstructed view of river and it’s other bank lined with dense rows of trees. boating can be enjoyed in Scioto here.

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It was evening time. the golden orb rested on the tips of trees on other bank. the sparking blue waters slowly turned into golden yellow. the group of ducks floated calmly, as if in a prayer mode. the serenity of the scene percolated deep down within soul.

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After their final goodbye to the day ducks walked away to their resting areas. it was a heartening sight to watch them crossing the road with confidant and firm steps . they knew in their heart that they are safe while crossing the road after all pedestrian is the king of the road.

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the park has designated disc golf course but as there were not many visitors there at that time we enjoyed our few flings on disc throw right on the drive way.

 

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This is the disc Golf course area. professionals play here.

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one step at a time is good walking

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without words we share a lot.

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There is always a relief away from the maddening crowd.

The park has driving, biking trails but walking on those paths is such a joy that you never think of finding an exit.

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This is the area near dam. one can go down right upto there and sit listening to the harmonious symphonies of water and leaves.

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The magnificent Griggs dam.

During our two three visits there we enjoyed the different moods of the place. That is the beauty of nature. Every day you notice some new flower, a new plant and then the magical sunlight paints the woods in different shades on different days and hours.

All the pictures @ Sunder Iyer.