Ashish never knew what was coming on our way back to Mumbai from Velas. Of nowhere 20 odd strangers no more, were celebrating his birthday with cakes and songs.
But this was a birthday of a different kind. The tour to Velas leads to it unlike his other birthdays, one that he won’t forget very soon. Eco-tours of small steps offer best weekend getaways near Mumbai.
Who can forget when life dances in bursts of births, threadbare of half a birth and the memories of tragic deaths of past.
When we came back on Saturday evening to watch the endangered Olive ridleys, tug and turtle out of their eggs, all of us were left hanging with that one baby who was stuck half in the shell. She was waiting patiently, and so were the Volunteers of Sa.Ni.Mi * – the midwive’s of these births. Men and women who have eased the pain of lakhs of these Intelligent lives, escorting them to the safety of laps of the Arabian sea.
But life happens at its own pace, and the sweetest and hottest poha’s are often the one’s that we get after a patience of whole ride of night into the Konkan land. Velas being the only beach in the near vicinity that called these female adults back home to their birthplace, from across the world waters, gave it a sense of sacred homecoming. Of that which cannot be forgotten by the bodies of animals and humans. Of intelligence that goes beyond thoughts and memories.
This is what Eco tours does for the small steppers. It takes us humans back into the questions of life that matter more than just touristy outings. What IS it that reminded those 11 babies, born facing in 11 different directions that morning and buried amongst another 100 eggs, that their home was the vast sea calling them home. What IS it that makes these eggs hard enough to not break buried under sands walked on by animals and humans alike, but soft enough to be poked in by a finger.
And what IS it about us, that we flock maddened early mornings and left our play to go back in evenings, just to see them take their first baby steps towards the mother nature. And what comes over us, that feeling of taking care not to walk in the seas once the babies enter them. That sense of tiptoed parenting, making sure we don’t accidentally hurt their first steps in this new world.
What is That which tells the mother where the tides end, and how to make the nesting borough in sands almost invisible. And what in this world makes a thousand people gape at the baskets held by volunteers, with newly born babies peering out and looking in our eyes. New sunshine. A fresh life bubbling out of those tiny faces.
Dazed by the enormity of life’s love, we moved onto the Bankot fort on Saturday afternoon. A newly found cannon greeted us up there. A fort unconquered, unblemished and passed on caringly from one ruler onto another. We stared at the Arabian sea lapping in front and peeped down on the Savitri river that mingled and mixed with the seas from right of the fort. Sangam. A union of two forms of the same water. A smaller one, entering and dissolving into the embrace of the bigger one. A death of a finite to merge into the infinite. Another homecoming.
The Samadhi of Sir Arthur Mallet’s wife and daughter, who came along with 16 sailors all across the sea, only to drown in the river beside the fort, stood testimony to the dance of life’s other extreme.
Things like these overwhelm mere mortals. And then devotion calls us into homes of men, temples of god.
After a day and half spent in warm homestays, enjoying the gracious village meals under coconut trees and simple homely facilities, we left for harihareshwar mandir on Sunday afternoon. The Bus we took with us had to be ferried and like kids playing in her lap the mother river carried it across. There are many places to visit in Konkan, but velas turtle festival is a unique experience. It’s a least explored Konkan beauty.
We bowed down and thanked lord Shiva, the creator and destroyer, for giving us a glimpse into his dance of life and death. Humbled we made our way back to Mumbai by 10 in the night.
18 people, stacked and stuffed in last 2 seats of the bus, listening and shuddering to stories of ghosts from our event lead, Prashant. Had I not warned you of this beforehand?
Velas turtle festival schedule is not on any fixed day of the year. Villagers decide the date and communicate it to the visitors. Please check velas turtle festival 2018 dates here.
Sa.Ni.Mi * : Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra is Nature conservation NGO.
Blog By: Dattaprasad