A trip to see the Yamuna River as it flows by Delhi. A mighty, arterial life-giver flowing past some of the most amazing places in the world. At Delhi in the monsoon season it is wide and green, lush floating vegetation along its marshy banks, in the dry season it is a thin, brown, strip oozing between drying mud flats. A failed mission, all approaches are fenced off, five meter high, double mesh, busy highways well policed against stopping, the road leads over a low dam, more a huge sluice, no turning, no place to stop. Out of Delhi, into the new high-rise pit of Noida, shopping malls, theme parks, no charm, a mass of building sites and highways. Trapped on highways, no place to turn around or escape, suddenly a sign, Botanical Gardens, right by the side, a quick veer across traffic to land outside gates, shut and with guards. A little sign language and a guard points to just leave car right there outside the gates, by the side of the busy road, and come in, sign the entry book and another pointing guard gesticulates to just walk anywhere. A little well kept lawn, tended by squatting women, babies on sheets in the shade, each woman tugging at tufts and weeds by hand, around the corner the vista opens up to flat fields stretching out. Beginning with wetlands, then quickly changing to dry plain, one side, plantations of young trees, plants in rows, the other side a wasteland, separated by a thin tarmacked strip, a black line, heat-hazing into the distance, no shade, just relentless sun and greenery. Kempt or wild, either side of a slow roasting walk, a path beckons into the waste ground, almost over grown. As feet pad sandy soil, legs brushing aside grasses and millets, the ground comes alive, thousands of ticking, jumping crickets, grasshoppers, almost invisible, swish a miraging cloud of every step. Bushes, flowering, butterflies, a myriad of colours, pale, bright yellow, multi-coloured, iridescent, chasing in flight, settling to suck ample nectar, huge dragonflies arch in flight, newly hatched damselflies settle to dry and swell wings in the sun, cranes step tentatively through shallow ponds, beady yellow eyes on prey,
Cactus bloom in thorny isolation, solitary, as though spiny armour wards off other plants too, warning bleeps in trees as birds announce a visitor to the wilds. Thick lines of ants, deep-dark black, an inch long, march relentlessly, one way empty handed, the other laden with cut leaves or insects born above their heads like trophies, carried into wide holes to share their spoils.
The wilds, definitely the better path to take, now only the long, slow walk back to below searing sun, to contemplate, it’s no hardship surrounded by nature. To guarded gates, a super-heated car and the wildness of manic traffic.