Greetings from Ashoka University, India!
A couple weeks ago, I headed for a solo trip to Munsiyari, a small town in interior Uttarakhand, India. I spent my 4 days there in a small homestay bordering the Himalayan jungle. Every morning I headed into the forest with my bag packed with lunch, binoculars, notebooks, a camera and a water bottle. I’d spend the entire day under the trees, returning only once the sun dipped behind the mountains.
I was struck by the magnificent vegetation of the lower Himalayas. It is so unlike the Western Ghats' rainforests or the Deccan scrubland; these lands were spiked with large conifers that stood like thousands of undecorated Christmas trees. Their leaves were needle-like, and they had sparse vegetation under them. Interspersed among them were flashes of pink as the rhododendrons started to bloom. It is a little early for them to flower, a testament to the tell-tale effects of climate change.
The birds of the Himalayas were like the ones I know from down south but with deliberate mistakes. Bulbuls without colour, tits with colour, vultures bigger and higher. I encountered several new species, like Eurasian Jays, Lammergeiers and Khaleej pheasants. Half my nights were spent flipping through my field guide as I looked for the various new birds
It is funny how a non-native environment can change you. I am not a tea person as I don’t like the flavour (being an Indian, that’s saying something!) But in the toe-curling cold of the Himalayas, chai is the elixir of the hills. This hot drink fills you up with a buzz without which you can’t brave the frigid temperatures. I had some tea with some locals who were kind enough to offer me a glass when I passed them by.
Being alone in the jungle brings out a side of me that few see. I am both calm and excited at the same time. I am extraordinarily silent and yet bursting with things to say. I can sit for hours under a tree or trek for hours without realising it.
This was a much-needed trip for me. The last few weeks of college have been incredibly taxing. There are only so many assignments and deadlines I can take. It had been almost 2 months since I’d visited a wild space. I could tell how antsy it made me feel. I needed to breathe the jungle air again. I needed those smells, those sights, those silences.
(I had several thrilling experiences in the jungle, but I’ll refrain from writing about them now. I’m saving those for a big project I’m working on; stay tuned for that!)
I’ve often said that I can’t find the right words to describe the idyllic solitude I get in the jungle, but that is probably because there are none. It needs to be experienced.
When you can, head out into nature with no device that tethers you to the internet. Take a notebook and jot down your emotions and observations. You might just discover a part of yourself you didn’t know existed.
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This Week’s Links
How to Write Your First Book with Ali Abdaal: This conversation with Youtuber Ali Abdaal and writer David Perell (founder of Write of Passage) dives into some of the challenges of writing your first book. Some interesting takeaways…
Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story: Have you ever wondered why some stories just click while others fall flat? This TED talk explores that question…
How movies teach manhood | Colin Stokes: The title says it all…
This is a screenshot of an Instagram story put up by Caperture, the photography society here at Ashoka University. I held a workshop on Black and White photography for them a few days ago which went extremely well. I am considering opening up to a broader audience about my work.
Follow me on Instagram. I post my photography and art there as regularly as I can.
“You’re an idiot—but you’re our kind of idiot” - Markus Zusak in The Book Thief
Have a creative, energetic and inspiring week!
If you’re new, welcome to The Owlet! My name is Ishan Shanavas, and I am an Artist, Photographer, Writer and Student of the Natural World.
Here I talk about my work, along with curating the most interesting ideas on the internet. I confine them to topics like Nature, Culture, Photography, and Art but often fall prey to other genres.
I would greatly appreciate it if you shared my newsletter and work with your friends. It really helps me out :)
Ishan in the wild. Perfection.
I've been looking forward to this issue, with all your teasers photos on Instagram!
You tell such a wonderful story - in words as well as pictures. And you discuss the diversity of India - geography, flora, fauna, food.