Tag Archives: nature

Ode to imperfection

I sit down every morning here in Kalimpong and look at this tree through the cracked window pane. I call it my tree.

Its leaves are gone, there’s a sickness on its bark, all over, yet it continues to stand there, welcoming birds looking for a place to sit and chat and ponder on life for a while.

Ode to imperfection

It must be old, this tree, I don’t know how many years, but it’s probably been through a lot, seen a lot. Some might see imperfection when they look at this old, sick and still stubbornly standing tree. I see beauty, life as it is.

Some might hear the music I’ve composed, inspired by this tree, and find my musical skills wanting. Imperfect. Amateurish even. But that’s okay. There’s no need to seek approval, and no need to reject disdain. 

Because, like this tree, like my music, my life is imperfect. Sometimes two steps forward and three steps back. Sometimes only forward, sometimes only backward. Sometimes in circles and sometimes, stationary. That’s life, right? Who said there has to be a schedule and a checklist for how life should evolve. 

My friend the tree stands there every morning, every day. Rain or shine, it’s there to welcome me. Whether I wake up early or whether I wake up late, I sit by the cracked window pane with a cup of warm water in my hand. Neither of us feels the need to say much out loud. This, too is life, no? Some days we bloom, some days we are quiet, some days we remain in relative stillness, standing on a hill, overlooking the ground below, looking up to the sky above.

I’ll be leaving Kalimpong soon, continuing on the journey of life. I’m sure there’ll be other trees, other creatures, other beings I’ll meet. I’ll take my friend’s energy with me…an ode to imperfection…what more could I ask of life, what more could I ask of life.

© 2021 Marlon de Souza

O traveler, whither goest thou? What is the nature of your journey?

O traveler, whither goest thou? What is the nature of your journey? What is the journey of your nature?Most days, all that life needs from us, and all we need from life is to observe and appreciate the perfection surrounding us, without trying to improve it.

It is our responsibility to not meddle with that which is already perfect.

And it is our birthright to appreciate the quiet, profoundly healing and empowering gift of that responsibility.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.


It’s 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) on a sweltering Friday afternoon. Mumbai in May is more intense and humid than any other time of year. The monsoon next month will bring much needed relief. Even the birds in the trees seem to be saying so.

I’m early for my physiotherapy appointment – after years of sitting behind a desk for a living, I’ve recently exuberantly embraced a rather intense level of physical activity. My body is not fond of the enthusiastic embrace. “No thanks, buddy. What’s the hurry?” my body’s been telling me. “After being sedentary for so long, how about we ramp things up a little bit slowly, yes? Then we can get intense, okay?” But I didn’t pay much attention.

After a couple of months of sending fairly clear and polite signals, my body says, “That’s it! Enough.” And with all the clarity in the world, it pulls the slow the f*** down lever. It usually wins this exchange. I’d like to continue to be in a healthy relationship with my body for a long, long time. Rest of my life is what I’m thinking. So, here I am at the front door of the physiotherapy department at Holy Family Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai.

Just outside the front door, a dog is taking shelter in the shade provided by an overhanging construction canopy. I’ve seen this dog before on the hospital grounds – in the evenings, I’ve seen it hanging out in the parking lot. During the day, it takes refuge from the heat under a canopy like this, or below the trees near the main gate. It’s calmly asleep amidst the noise and bustle from the hospital grounds. Feet kicking slowly in a dream, peacefully asleep.

Unlike me, this dog will not be going through those doors for a physiotherapy session – it has already learned to listen to its body when it speaks. But I don’t feel hopeless. I’m actually feeling quite fortunate – here’s this dog showing me how to be long after I’ll be done with physiotherapy. It’s a very good day.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

The Monsoon in Kerala – at 6,000 feet

At a height of nearly 6,000 feet, the monsoon in Munnar, a verdant hill station covered with tea plantations and coconut palms in Kerala, South India feels more intense than the rain at sea level in Kochi. The monsoon here owns the sky and the earth without permission or apologies. No thunder, no lightning this afternoon, just a trickle for a minute and then the sky opens up. And then some more. And then, even more. Until it stops. And then resumes.

Now, there’s no place to go around and be a tourist. The choices are limited to simple ones…sit like a cat in the window, howl like a dog at the rain, read a book, sleep, or stare into the misty rain until my vision gets as blurry as the heavy, foggy mist that fills the skies for a long, long, long way. One way or the other, respect is demanded by the rain gods.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Project Good Earth in Kerala

Nature put on an early display of the monsoon in the middle of the night. Pouring rain, thunder claps, the skies opened up in the dark.

Morning arrived, and with it, nature’s soothing alarm clock. Project Good Earth, well known to the Ancients, continues to deliver its promise of nurturing nature.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

A walk interrupted

I was returning from a walk with my dog and along the way, I noticed a crowd on the other side of the street. Many smartphones were visible, and it became apparent to me that something was going on on the sidewalk that was being filmed. From across the street, it was hard to tell what that was. At a distance from the crowd, a flock of pigeons descended to eat rice thrown on the sidewalk. From where I was, I saw what appeared to be a wild animal in distress, surrounded by curious onlookers. It seemed to me quite callous that the crowd was doing nothing to relieve the animal’s distress, but instead filming it for its apparent novelty value. I hurried across the street with my dog to see what I could do to help the animal.
In the middle of the sidewalk was a hawk, unmoving, its legs apparently stuck on a blackish block beneath. Was this someone’s idea of sport, I wondered. Then the block moved – it wasn’t a block, but a pigeon that the hawk was holding in its talons. The pigeon was still alive and struggling to escape, but the hawk kept it down. I was struck by the beauty of nature on its own. As people drew closer to film this, the hawk, holding on to the pigeon, flew up just enough to clear and land on the other side of a fence bordering the sidewalk. The crowd closed in on the fence to look at the spectacle. I stayed where I was because I did not want to violate the hawk’s space. I noticed my ego giving itself a pat on the back for my apparent compassion: unlike the others there, I’m respecting the hawk’s space. Perhaps the more respectful thing to do would be to leave so that there was one less person interrupting the hawk from completing what it needed to do with the pigeon.
The hawk looked alarmed and on alert. It appeared to be torn between trying to restrain the still alive pigeon and guarding its prey from the curious, but perhaps, from its perspective, threatening crowd. A teenager called to her boyfriend to come watch because the hawk was killing the poor bird. Further up on the sidewalk, the flock of pigeons seemed undisturbed from the events here and continued with their periodic descent and ascent, as they followed a man anointing the ground with rice. The pigeon in the hawk’s grasp struggled again, causing the hawk to adjust its balance and turn around. That was my cue to leave. The longer the crowd is here, including me, the longer the hawk will be guarding its prey instead of tearing its flesh and putting an end to the struggle. I realized that a scene such as this is fascinating because, much like the other gawkers and observers in the crowd, I too, am a creature of the city. Maybe if I lived in the country, nature in its undistilled form would not be so shockingly beautiful in a compelling way, and instead beautiful without the allure of novelty. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know what happened to the hawk or the pigeon.
On my way home with my dog and my thoughts, I was reminded of an incident a few years ago, when my dog caught a squirrel and proceeded to shake it vigorously in her mouth, but interrupted by my shouts to stop, relented for a few seconds to look up, just long enough for the shocked but still alive squirrel to jump out of her mouth and run up the nearest tree. I don’t know what happened to that squirrel, but my dog was very confused by what I did.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

A stirring in the park

The other night, I was walking with my dog in the park, she was ahead, sniffing here, peeing there, while I ambled along. It was a somewhat clear night, with not much of a moon looking down on us. To my right, across from the now darkened pond with the ducks asleep, I heard a cricket’s song – a song I’d not heard for some time now, though I had heard it many times in that park in seasons past. Crickets have always interested me, from when I was a young boy in Bombay, listening to them chirping outside my bedroom window on many a darkened night, their songs keeping me company as I looked out at the sky and stars from my bed. I stopped to see where the song was coming from. I peered into the dewy leaves and twigs on the damp earth in the park, by an old tree whose birds, squirrels and raccoons were now hidden. The cricket too did not want to be seen. The singing continued, and as I kept looking, I saw a stirring beneath a leaf, a very slow turn of a brownish green leaf below the street lamp, a slow rustling, and the leaf moved just enough for me to notice, and then the movement stopped. At the near end of the leaf, I saw something move, an earthworm gliding along very slowly, taking its time, moving the leaf just a little bit as it made its way forward. A few feet away, I heard and then saw another rustling, another leaf moving, maybe it was another earthworm, but this one I could not see – all I saw was the leaf turn silently in the night, the slightest roll, and then it fell, like the last breath of a moment that was gone as soon as I noticed it.
In the stillness, I once again became aware of the cricket’s song and saw I was no longer looking for it. It had called me to listen, and watch the play unfold, its fellow dwellers, the earthworms, the leaves, the old tree with its now silent residents, an unseen musician heralding a quiet opera, stopping time and its rapid, unceasing pace just long enough that night.
A few breaths later, I stood up, saw my dog a few feet away, waiting for me. I left my friends the cricket and the earthworms, the leaves and twigs, and their stage, carrying their music and dance in my heart.

© 2012 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.