Friday, May 19, 2017

Close encounter with hungry lions at Lal Sohanra National Park

We often see hosts on Discovery, Animal World or National Geographic channels confronting wild and deadly animals - sometimes even to the extent of risking their lives. But they generally remain safe as all safeguards are taken by the team filming the event and guards at right nearby to prevent an ugly situation.

But what do you call an adventure, closing on to a group of hungry lions completely unprepared at very close quarters? Madness of course, but such adventures have their own charm and life time memories.. And this is exactly what I did and while I still enjoy my adventure, I sometimes think what if the lioness sitting close to me had jumped and got hold of me - well if she had, I would not have been writing this post today.

Lal Sohanra is a man made jungle spread over thousands of acres 35 kilometres east of Bahawalpur district of Punjab province of Pakistan and is considered to be the largest national parks of south Asia. UNESCO has declared Lal Sohanra national park as a Biosphere Reserve. Beside breeding rare back bucks and Neil Guy, the park also has an enclosed area where a lion and his four lionesses roam freely.

As per Wikipedia, there is a large variety of wild life that include wildcats, jackals, rabbits and bustards. The park is littered with a large number of reptiles like monitor lizard, Russell's viper, Indian cobra, saw-scaled viper, wolf snake, John's sand boa, and spiny-tailed lizard. As for birds, there are over 150 species of birds including the largely extinct houbara bustard, griffin vulture, crested honey buzzard, marsh harrier, hen harrier, laggard falcon, peregrine falcon, kestrel, Eurasian sparrow hawk, Egyptian vulture, lark, shrike, wheat-ear, and barn owl. Lake Patisar, a large body of water in the center of the park, is ideal for bird watching. In mid-winter, the lake is regularly home to between 10,000 and 30,000 ducks and common coot.

Now coming back to the lions and my adventure. While visiting the park, we saw a pride of a lion and four lionesses resting some distance away from the dirt track we were riding. Finding this a lifetime opportunity as tourists find during lion safari in the African jungles, I stopped the car and came out and asked my family to follow the suit, who reluctantly also came out. Now there we were standing some 30 feet from the nearest lioness as can be seen in the photo above. I took a snap and asked one family member to take my photo with the lions in the background.

Perhaps the photographer panicked and shoot a photo with nothing in it. And during this time I had my back towards the lioness who could have easily jumped and grabbed me - luckily she did not and we hurriedly got in the car and slowly moved on. I can still feel those gazing pale eyes of the big cat who spared me for God knows why.Unknown to us, it was almost the meal time of the lions and soon we saw a truck coming with fresh meat pieces and threw in front of the lions.

That was my adventure that nearly cost me my life - and ain't gonna take such adventure ever..Would you ever?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goodbye Switzerland

It has been a while that I last wrote about my Schengen Travelogue and could not continue writing about the rest of the countries and places I visited during my memorable travel a few years ago. In my last post, I wrote about the Zürich Film Festival which was our last destination in Switzerland before saying good bye to my childhood dream country and travel to Italy.

After two days in Switzerland, though we should have stayed a month there and I wished I could had it not been for the exams of my son studying in Germany to whom we had gone visiting, we left our motel in Lichtensteig, a small town some 57 kilometers due east of Zürich early morning and set our course to Italy - our next destination.
We got up early morning with a bright sunshine, falling on the contours of lush green hilly landscape, and packed up all set to leave, though really not wanting to. Before we moved out of the motel, I drank the last cup of hot fuming Swiss coffee while sitting in the motel balcony feeling the cool scented breeze and thanking the Allah Almighty for having afforded me to come and visit Switzerland - a heaven on earth indeed.

 My wife and boys posing  just outside our motel

 Filling up for Italy

 Spectacular view of Lake Zürich
 Lake Zürich behind, we preserving our presence for forever
 Don't hit the cows !!
The family selfie before we moved on to find the spectacular view of the Uri Lake to our right. I wish we had time to go down and had the ride in the steamer which we could spot from the above.

Uri Lake with its ocean blue and green hues was a spectacular scene watching it almost from the above. We could sail boats, motor boats wading through its blue waters while big steamers also sailed bye us and we could see tourists enjoying their sail - something of a life time remembrance. 

The photo below with sun rays peeing between the two mountain crest simply spellbound me. The photo did not come out as it was there right in front of me but is imprinted on my memory - something that can be described in words.

Skirting the mountain peaks obscured by clouds, we finally started to descend on our way to Italy. Those who have traveled by road from Switzerland to Italy would know a stark difference between the landscape of both countries. While Swiss landscape was lush green, captivating and refreshing, the plains leading to Italy were devoid of vegetation and landscape to enjoy. From then on to Milan, our next three-days stop in Italy was straight drive - looking front only.
 We entered Milan or Milano as they call in Italian with refreshing memories of Switzerland and looked forward to Italian hospitality, music and dances. 

But passing through Switzerland was not over yet - upon return from Italy, we again passed through Switzerland and Austria, though briefly on our way back to Germany. I will write about Italy in my coming few posts and going back -so don't go away !!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spectacular Eiffel Tower by night

In my previous post on the Paris night boat ride, we had embarked upon our boat ride while the Eiffel Tower's lights were just being started to put on. But when we reached back, I could see the Eiffel Tower in its full bloom of lights as can be seen in the following shot that I took from the boat.

And then when we disembarked, it was all fun to watch the lights glittering through the entire height of the tower with flocks of tourists standing and enjoying their last glimpse of the day of this mighty tower. For me it was the last glimpse as we had other plans for the remaining days left in Paris.

Scroll down for more photos and two video clips of the illuminated Eiffel Tower:

Screen shot from the video I made of the illuminations on the Eiffel

And then it was time to go and we had to bid farewell to Eiffel Tower for good - but may not be forever as anyone who comes to Paris once, falls in love with it and always come back. And the following photos was the last of the Eiffel Tower which I shot.

Interestingly, it was almost the same place where I had my maiden shot of the Eiffel Tower early in the morning as can be seen below:

I also made two videos of the illumination of the Eiffel Tower. The following clip was made from the boat when nearing the Eiffel Tower:

So, it is goodbye Eiffel Tower for now - who knows when we meet again!!

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Pakistan beat West Indies in WI for the first time - winning test series 2-1

It was a great day for the visiting Pakistan cricket team to the Caribbean when they beat the hosts by 101 runs on the fifth day of the third test match - thus sealing a historic victory over WI, something not done by Pakistan before.

The third and last test match was also the last test match of Pakistan skipper Misbah ul Haq and batsman Younis Khan, who completed his 10,000 runs during the series.

Roston Chase of the WI was declared man of the match award for his brilliant 155 in the first innings and 101 in the second. Yasir Shah was the luck bowler who took the last WI wicket to finish the series in Pakistan's favour.

Final scores: Pakistan 376 (Azhar 127, Misbah 59, Chase 4-103) and 174 for 8 dec (Yasir 38*, Younis 35, Joseph 3-53) beat West Indies 247 (Chase 69, Abbas 5-46, Yasir 3-126) and 202 (Chase 101*, Yasir 5-92, Hasan 3-33)

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Are you lonesome tonight?

'Are you lonesome tonight?' - this was Elvis Presley’s famous hit song released in 1975 – when I was just 20 years old, a year after leaving my teen barriers. But at that time, I did not really understand the meaning of being lonesome. But now I have started to.

Many people consider them lonely when they find no one around and often lament to be all alone – and many dread to be in this state at any stage of their lives. This is specially true for people who are aging and their children are moving away to settle in their lives. I too am not far from this stage of become lonesome.

But is this the very worst thing one contemplates? Well not really, as there can be a worst scenario still!!

The worst scenario of feeling loneliness is the one when despite being surrounded by people; you get a feeling that you are still alone. Or the people around you make you feel that you are all alone despite their presence around you. In fact this scenario is killing – you want to talk to them, but you are ignored, not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

As you age, you will experience this phenomenon more severely, painfully and lamentably – are you prepared for this? 

You may now listen to the song, specially if it is a dark night with raining and clouds thundering and lightening flashing - and you are feeling lonesome:

Photo: Pixabay | Video: Musicislifee01
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Honour of Working with Sadequain - the legendary Muralist and Calligrapher

In one of my earlier posts on legendary artist, calligrapher and muralist Sadequain, I mentioned how one of my elder brothers Zaffar Hameed Bhatti got to know Sadequain and how a professional relationship between the two developed that lasted till the death of Sadequain.

Just to recap the first meeting between my brother Zaffar and Sadequain, this is how it happened. In early 70s, Sadequain was working in the Lahore Museum and Jinnag Garden on a number of life size murals for the Lahore Museum. As it happened one day that my brother who was then studying in the Government College was standing on the bus stop opposite Lahore Museum, when he spotting Sadequain strolling on the footpath and taking a dose of the fresh air after working for long hours inside the museum.

Seeing a golden opportunity, my brother rushed to the nearby paper market, bought an autograph book and a pen and rushed to Sadequain for an autograph. And from the a long association started between the two and my brother would spend endless hours with Sadequain and helping him finish his many paintings and calligraphies.
The initial days of association
Later my brother got a job in the Pakistan Ordnance Factories and moved to Wah. But the communication between him and Sadequain never broke. In those days, Sadequain was busy in his new project for murals for Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad and needed my brother to finish his huge work. For this, he requested the chairman POF to spare my brother for a month to help him in his project. The chairman duly obliged Sadequain and sent my brother to Lahore. In those days Sadequain had his abode in the Jinnah Gardens' Montgomery Hall.
Here the two worked day and night to complete the project. Here it may be mentioned that the help provided to Sadequain was purely voluntary and no monetary gains expected. The mere working with a legendary artist was more than any worldly gains.

One day while brother was standing on a raised pedestal working on a huge mural, his head hit the fans overhead. Sadequain who had just happened to saw the incident, immediately called my brother down and asked the administration to remove the blades of all fans lest a fatal incident may occur. Thereafter, my brother worked on the murals without any threat from overhead fans (as can be seen in the photo above).

Sadequain was down to earth a simple soul, that is why he always called him Faqir Sadequain, the humble Sadequain. Devoid of any pride and lust for appreciation, he would sit on floor and even entertained no matter who was visiting him on the same floor next to him. And there was no sumptuous hospitality except for a few biscuits and a cup of tea.
On my brother's request Sadequain also visited Wah, something very unusual as he never went out to a outstation place on someone's personal request. But for my brother, the relation of a mentor and  student was very dear to Sadequain and he willingly consented to accompany my brother to Wah. There a special evening was celebrated at the Officers Club and he dished out his hand written sketches and calligraphies to those present. Luckily, I was also there on that day on weekend from the Pakistan Military Academy where I was undergoing training as a cadet.
After the removal of fan blades, my brother could freely work while standing on high tables
 Tea time between work 
The one month leave soon expired but the work had not and my brother had to stay a few more days. In order to compensate him for the over stayed leave, Sadequain wrote a handwritten letter, something he seldom did, to the chairman POF, apologizing my brother over one month and appreciating his efforts in completion of his project. The letter in itself is a tribute by a great artist to my brother's hard work - something that is cherished by all of us a great treasure of all times.

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