The winter full moon rises over the deodar and juniper hill. I can see it from my kitchen window, while I heat up dinner at the unearthly hour of 6 pm. (In the hills, we eat early and then settle down with our hot-water bottles and knitting/laptop/book/TV remote and spend some good hours till bedtime.)
The moonlight floods the road, the field and the forest with a million tube-lights. Every passing night has the moon rising later, the moonlight getting brighter and the forest waking up to celebrate these moonlit nights.
In the summer, the shorter nights are punctuated by the sound of merry-making tourists driving past, searching for hotel rooms and misplacing the volume control knob of their car stereo.
Winter nights are long and quiet and though I am snug in my warm bed, the sounds of the forest know how to intrude into my dreams. This month, with our little Biskit giving us challenging nights, I wake up to her soft sighs or her need to go out. Deep sleep is a difficult commodity with an ailing dog, but the moonlit forest has provided me with many a memorable experience.
Howling jackals, deep in the forest, bring out the ancient genes in our gang of 5 street dogs. A doggy chorus takes over from the jackals and the song moves from one village to the other village, one valley to another. The jackals, in the meantime, take their howls to the next moonlit patch, or are silenced by a prowling big cat.
The Big Cat, “Baagh” in local lingo, refers to the leopard. We have sighted the large yellow cat on a few nights, slinking across this path and vanishing into the forest behind our apartments. There is the smaller black leopard, which attacks goats and dogs during the evening hours. I have yet to see this one, though I have heard the yelp from a surprised goat and seen the kill too.
Night sightings are the norm, so you can imagine the edgy feeling of escorting Biskit to the field, complete silence all around, frost falling like rain in slow motion, stars glittering overhead like diamond lanterns and that feeling of being watched from the forest shadows. Not recommended for the weak hearted.
And then, last night, we had a very unique visitor at 2 am. A beautiful, big kite, quite like the beauty here, hurled itself on our front door. It was injured and confused….the bright lights of the building may have beckoned to that bird in pain. The same gang of 5 street dogs went berserk. Frightened out of their wits, barking and bolting across stairs and passages, they woke up everyone in the building. The kite managed to balance itself atop a car and then, with that grace and majesty which these mighty birds possess, flew off to its perch amidst the pine trees, leaving a few feathers and some breathless stories with the guard.
A new day is dawning just now…the orange clouds puff across the grey-blue denim sky. The filigree of tree tops is clearer with every passing minute. Our street dog gang, after barking the entire night, is giving the final chase to passing cars and marathon runners.
My cup of tea is brewing, and that, my dear reader, signals the end of this post and the beginning of my day.