Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Crash Of Rhino,A Flock Of Flamingos!

Ever since we first moved to Nairobi,I have been eagerly waiting for relatives and friends to visit us!The city is so green and beautiful that one feels compelled to share it's scenic vistas with all and sundry!My wish came true  when my sister in law and nephew announced that they had bought their tickets!A school friend of mine and her daughter joined them as well and excitement ran sky high in our house at the prospect of so many visitors.The guest room was scrubbed,rubbed and dusted,it's cupboards aired,every nook and cranny was swept clean,the entire house was given a once over,so much so that when my daughter came home from school one day,she declared that she thought she had walked into the wrong house!
Well organized,methodical,typical Linda Goodman Capricorn that I am,I drew up lists of places to see,things to do,stuff to buy!I wanted to ensure that our guests did not miss out on anything and tried to cram in as much as I could in the limited time that they had.Since the children had school,we could plan out of town visits only on the week ends.And so the first Sunday after their arrival saw us heading towards Lake Nakuru in a hired safari vehicle.
The Great Rift Valley has ensured that Kenya has been gifted with beautiful natural salt water lakes.And where there is water there is life,where there are fish in the water there are birds and they were the ones we were eager to see.We passed Lake Naivasha,then Lake Elementaita and finally touched Nakuru town which borders Lake Nakuru,on the banks of which lies the Nakuru Game Park.Park entrance fees for East Africa residents are different from those of tourists and as we segregated ourselves while paying,our guests were amused to be termed as 'foreigners'!
Then we entered the park with our fingers tightly crossed as we hoped we would be able to view the white rhino that this game park is famous for.Unlike the Maasai Mara which is a Savanna grassland,this park has a dense growth of trees resembling an equatorial rain forest,most of them Acacias.So animal spotting which is so easy in the Mara becomes a bit of a challenge here!Well,we prayed for a rhino,we got a crash of them!We came across six of them fast asleep under a tree right beside the track!They were snuggled against each other, oblivious to the world,as sunlight dappled their leathery skin and tiny birds pecked off insects from their crevices!We gazed in wonder as rhino usually shy away and prefer to stay off the beaten track.We had had a very distant glimpse of one while on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and my daughter had seen one in the Mara but we had not been that lucky!Half an hour later,my friend who had wished aloud to see a standing rhino got her wish as we saw not one but two of them,munching the lush grass hungrily some distance away from the car track.!Then she said she wanted to see a standing rhino,up close and personal and I had to remind her that this was not a zoo!But that desire was fulfilled as well when one came within nose,sorry,horn rubbing distance of the car!Was this our lucky day or what?!
Quote.When Alice goes to Wonderland,the Flamingos hide,I understand!Unquote.Well,Alice used them as a mallet for a game of croquet,but though we had no such intentions,only a handful of flamingos made an appearance at the lake,as this is the time when they have actually migrated from here!So though Lake Nakuru is famous for turning pink with flamingos covering it's surface,we had to content ourselves with the hundreds of snow white pelicans that thronged it's shores.I was thrilled since I have a special affinity for pelicans,my first pull along toy being a perky pelican!Years later,worn and old though it was,my daughter played with it as well and so she was delighted with the majestic pelicans too!
A lovely lunch,Indian to boot,at the Sarova resort in the middle of the park where we were surrounded by the most gloriously coloured nesting birds and flowers that looked as if each one had been personally painted by the Creator,a hot cup of postprandial coffee and we were ready to leave for Nairobi though,of course,reluctantly.A more serene place than Nakuru I have yet to see,a place where a person can just be!





Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Sound Of Music!

A few months ago when I was at the children's school,(I am usually found there,either in the library or volunteering wherever help is needed!),I happened to see colourful posters put up everywhere.They were announcing auditions for the cast and crew for a play based on the beloved musical 'The Sound Of Music'. I was terribly excited and urged my daughter to go for the audition.After all she had won a 'best actress' award at a summer camp in Pune a few years ago!And since I put up with her histrionics on a daily basis ,I know first hand how good she is!
She was not convinced and she said the von Trapp children were blonde!I was equally insistent that no where was it written that they had to continue to be blonde,the school certainly did not say so and there was no harm in trying!But she was adamant in her refusal and so I had to be content with waiting for the play to be showcased,instead of being a 'Drama Mamma'.That's how mothers of cast and crew are termed here!
Finally the sale of the tickets for the play was announced and I managed to secure four precious tickets!For those of us who grew up in the Pune of the sixties,seventies,eighties and nineties,the 1965 movie'The Sound Of Music'starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer,was an integral part of our lives!My earliest memories are of watching this movie with my mother and sister at one of Pune's oldest cinema halls.This,of course,was ages before the advent of multiplexes.All schools offering a propah British education also ensured that the songs from this movie formed the core of our music education.So we always had each song right at the tips of our tongues and a cassette to sing along with or just listen to!Compact discs,of course were not even invented then!
Our mothers never had to entertain us at any family reunion as all of us cousins used to commandeer a room for ourselves and immediately start enacting our favourite scenes from the movie!A basket with a handle was brought out,a satchel was unearthed from somewhere,a dusty carpet bag found,and there was cut throat competition for the role of Maria!Finally we had to take turns to be her.We used to wish hard that our mothers would,one day,make dresses out of the same curtain cloth for all of us!In fact when the school mailed us asking for props to be used in the play,I regretted not being in India!I,single handed,could have supplied all of them,old bicycle included!Fortunately,I have not accumulated that much junk in Nairobi yet!
Though I have watched the movie umpteen number of times,(my mother recently bought us the DVD the minute it was released in the market),I had never seen the play!Ironically it was the play by Rodgers and Hammerstein based on Maria von Trapp's book,that became a hit first!So I was very eager for this new experience and it surpassed my wildest expectations!I could not believe we were watching school children!They were amazing and the entire effort was so well coordinated that,patriotic Indian and as true to my beautiful blue passport that I am,I realized why Hollywood is so many many notches above Bollywood!The live orchestra,which consisted of children playing all the instruments made each note come alive.Every change of scene ensured that they played the music of the song that had been sung in the previous scene!They were so good that I could not believe if I was watching the play or the movie!All those familiar dialogues were effortlessly spouted,the curtain cloth dresses were enchanting and the music and drama department had cast each student so perfectly that there was no jarring note anywhere,pun intended,since all those high pitched songs were sung live for us!The art department had painted the scenes so well that it was easy to imagine we were in an Austrian villa of the Second World War era!It was a treat,indeed!I cannot even begin to fathom the hours and hours of practice the children and the staff had put in.
By the time the von Trapps fled Austria,I am sure there wasn't a dry eye in the jam packed hall.They deserved every bit of the standing ovation they got!The hills in Nairobi were alive with the sound of music that night and I hope these songs are sung for the next thousand years. The movie and now the play remains at the top of my list of a 'few of my favourite things'!

From My Desk: Tales Out Of School

                                               My Alma Mater, St.Helena's School, Pune. As we went back and forth on the Core ...