Who will drop loving kisses
On the cheeks of motherless children?
Who will hug them, tease them, scold them,
Tickle them, cuddle them, laugh with them?
Children need food and sleep…
And so much more, to thrive.
I sing two little children to sleep.
Tears fall from my eyes as I think
Of every child without parents in this world.
The refugees, the orphans, the lost children….
Surely the greatest cruelty in our world
Is to let children live…. without love.
Who will drop loving kisses
As I begin to write this, my mind wanders in several directions. One, the wonderful writing of “ixedoc”, Dr Arunachalam Kumar, each of whose vignettes I look forward to reading.
Another: the increasing difficulty of going birding or “naturing” in terms of the hassle it is to drive back home.
Yet another: The increasing difficulty of access to our wildlife areas.
But I will not digress (the digress being the female of the diger) and will write about one area, off Kanakapura Road, where the wilderness of the Bannerghatta scrub jungle awaits us,and where access is relatively easy.
The Valley, as the area where the Valley School is situated, is a place where the forest leads the nature lover into both open grassland and shaded woods.And recently, bird sightings there have been of the unusual variety. My friend Chandu sighted an Ultramarine Flycatcher when he took the children of Aarohi School there for the HSBC Bird Race (in the space of two visits, we were able to sight a Racket-tailed Drongo, and on Sunday (5th Feb 2017) we were able to sight a Brown Wood Owl (Yogesh Badri’s photo of it is
…he quickly followed the bird as it flew, and got the shot)
All these “unusuals” lead to a lot of interest in a birding destination….but the true value of a birding “hotspot” lies,for avid birders, not only in the unusual, but also the usual.(MBK made this very valid point when spoke on the occasion of the 2016 Bird Race.)
What would one see,if one went, say, in the middle of summer? Would we be looking at the butterflies instead, or would we still see enough birds to hold our interest, and make an enjoyable morning of our outing? We may be more used to the burbling call of the Joker-cheek-patch Red-whiskered Bulbul, or the trill of the Small Green Bee-eaters, but they are no less beautiful than the rarely-sighted birds. Watching a Tailorbird bringing in nesting
material, or enjoying the way a Brahminy Kite soars and dips along the wind currents is as appealing as the sudden and unexpected thrill of a “rare” sighting…and on the days when the latter does not happen, the “usual” is what keeps us going back for more (the English word, not the Hindi one, though “mor” is also a bird frequently found at the Valley).
As the winter mornings warm up, the thought of the long trudge back through the path where there are only the two banyan trees to give shade until we come back to the School main gate…
may be daunting,but it’s the “usual gang of suspects” that take us through to the bamboo thicket and beyond.
Here’s a happy White-cheeked Barbet, secure in its nest, smiling at us!
Contrasting, in my mind, the tennis match that happened between two men, recently in Australia, and the US Presidential election process over the past year.
One was played fairly, by the rules, both parties were excellent at what they did,and would bring lustre to the title they won. There were no personal attacks, no smears, the process of winning the title was completely transparent.
Just love the lyrics of a jewellery ad, which is something I never thought I’d say!
The visuals are coy and cloying, but the words…lyrics…are:
விண்ணில் மின்னும் தாரையை என்னில் கண்டேனே !
தங்கம் என்னை தீண்டிட காதல் கொண்டேனே!
இரு கையில் வளையல் குலுங்க…
காதோரம் காதலன் சிணுங்க…
நெஞ்சத்தில் தஞ்சம் கொண்டாய்…!
(I found a star of the sky in myself/As gold touched me, I found love/ With bangles clinking on both wrists/ My lover whispering in my ear/You found a refuge in my heart…)
In front of the waving grasses in an urban park
Facing the calm waters
Lies a small brick, upon the ground,
That carries your name.
O dear one, my firstborn’s firstborn,
You went away before you even came into this world.
Souls of great ones, our scriptures say,
Do not have long to spend on this earth.
Coccooned within your mother,
You had very little time.
But you were here long enough
For us to love, remember, and cherish you.
You remind us how every live birth,
Every normal child,
Is nothing short of several miracles.
You were a lightning flash that touched our lives;
But,like lighnting, you had great power
To open our eyes to the fragility of life.
Your home in our hearts is eternal,
As is that of every being whose lifespan is small.
We often lament about our children using tablets and X-boxes all the time…but I find, often that even our urban children are quite in touch with the traditional games of childhood.
Today, when I went to Kaikondrahalli lake, I found this pile of flat stones, with a young girl piling them up carefully.
I knew that a game of
was in progress, and waited a bit while the girls surrounded the pile of stones and began their game.
The game involves a ball and a pile of flat stones, generally played between two teams in a large outdoor area. A member of one team (the seekers) throws a tennis ball at a pile of stones to knock them over. The seekers then try to restore the pile of stones while the opposing team (the hitters) throws the ball at them. If the ball touches a seeker, she is out and her team continues without her. A seeker can always safeguard herself by touching an opposite team member before the ball hits her.
There are some other rules that may be added in different regions of the country.
So here, to please all of us, is the scene of children (the girls were dressed to the nines for an event at their school, which is adjacent to the kere) playing a traditional game which does not need electricity, and which is one that their parents and grandparents have probably played!
Just four of us: Jayashree, Padma, Ramaswamy and I…went to
for some evening birding, and to see the critically endangered
at the betta.
On the way, we saw three Spotted Owlets in a tree.
The beautiful rocky outcrops welcomed us in the evening sunlight.
Usually, the gates to the hill are closed, but on this day, they were open, and I clicked several cars coming down after the passengers had visited the rAmA temple at the top.
We saw a couple of
and we were also able to locate their nest.
and then I saw this
perched high on the edge of the cliff.
It then treated us to a flight display as well:
Muniyappa, a young boy from the nearby settlement, came to join us. He was quite good at spotting birds, too.
Jai lent him her binoculuars.
Finally, a lone
came out on to the ledge and preened itself, delighting all of us.
The sun sank behind the hills on the opposite side,
and I captured Jai against the moon and Venus.
We stopped at Bidadi for
on the way home, and though Jai had to do some marathon driving through the choked highway, we returned home content with our evening’s birding!
Pics on my FB album
I look at my daily calendar,
And feel a sense of closure
When I see that there just two leaves left
To tear off, with the passage
Of each day.
It then occurs to me
That it’s only we humans
Who seem to thus divide Time
Into compartments, and mark
Endings and beginnings.
Time flows continuously in Nature:
The days, nights, weeks and seasons
Follow each other at the same pace.
If I can let go of my need
To compartmentalize Time,
I need not think of what’s ending
And what’s beginning.
Taking stock of my life
At regular intervals
Is not a bad thing to do.
So yes, I will tear off the two leaves
Left on my daily calendar.
I will hang up a new one,
And watch the progress of the new year:
See it slip past, day by day,
Much as the old one went,
And the ones before that.
On Christmas Day, I went to the 4th Sunday outing of BngBirds, which I had organized this month at Hoskote Lake. It was foggy, and I got some mist-erious shots:
Amongst other things, I noticed this godman getting ready for his day, donning the accoutrements of his trade (sorry, religion seems to be as much a profession these days as any other more-usual one!)
He had an assistant, who did not seem to need as much adornment as he did.
I asked them if I could take photographs, and he and his assistant nodded and carried on with their makeup. Everything…the “rudrAksha” beads, the “vibhUti”, the “sindUr”…was being applied carefully.
I got a strange, half-suspicious look when they realized I was taking more than one photograph! So I stopped and went on my way.
What are the lives of these people like, and how do they eke a living? I will never know…we live in the same city, but on different planets!
Here’s the stunning-looking
which, in the gathering dusk of a winter evening, certainly lived up to its name.
The scientific name of this plant is Etlingera elatior, which, frankly, I am never going to remember, so I’m putting it down here. This is a star attraction on the campus of
where I’d gone to conduct a birding/nature “walk-talk” for the faculty and their families.
The showy pink flowers are used in decorative arrangements, but the plant is also used in several cuisines. In North Sumatra (especially in Karo tribe), the flower buds are used for a stewed fish is called Arsik ikan mas (Andaliman/Szechuan pepper-spiced carp). In Bali, people use the white part of the bottom trunk for cooking a chilli sauce called “Sambal Bongkot”, and use the flower buds to make a chilli sauce called “Sambal Kecicang”. In Thailand, it is eaten in a kind of Thai salad preparation.
The plant, says the wiki entry, has the highest antioxidant and antibacterial properties amongst the five species of Etlingera.
Well, I didn’t feel the need to eat this beautiful flower…I was content to photograph it and capture its beauty.