Archive for March, 2006

My travels in India…

March 31, 2006
States visited in India

Brought to you by pratibha75, quizling and teemus.
Which states in India have you been to?

With thanks to usha123…I have never been to the North East…too little time to do all the travelling I want! First, I thought the world was vast, then I thought India was a universe by itself…now this is the way I feel about Karnataka! I have been fortunate to be able to travel all over the world, both to touristy places as well as little-known countries like Leichstenstein…but there’s so much more to see out there!

Age…

March 31, 2006

In the play “Chapter 2″ by Neil Simon, which I watched at Ranga Shankara yesterday, a woman character says,” First I am called good-looking, then I am described as interesting with character, and so it goes until I am finally called, ‘interesting for my age’!”

Ah, how I can identify with that! I do not like to think of myself as “old” as I think I am physically active and mentally so too, and willing to learn all the time, and I think the end of the learning process is what turns someone old….but no matter how *I* look at myself, the world around me, in India, persists in thinking of me, and referring to me, as old. At the naturalist course, I felt about a hundred when I was told how it heartens people’s minds when people of *MY* age take up such courses…I was asked to hand out the certificates in honour of my age(not because I had done a good job of learning!)…ooh, my bones creaked, and my teeth were falling out ready to get the dentures in! It was intended as a compliment, but….! Are people my age really so rare in such courses? Do all people my age really stop the learning process? I think there must be PLENTY of people out there who are even more active than I am….

Abroad, people of 50 are NOT considered old at all, so I feel much more comfortable there. Everyone is expected to live a full life of their own, and lives are not considered finished when your children have left home. Here, I am constantly being told how good I am in various aspects, all with the rider, “for your age”….

And the perception of age varies even here. My maid said she had to rush home to take care of her mother. When asked why, she replied, “Well, she is quite old, she has already crossed 40…” Sigh!

One of the nicest compliments I got was from two young men who told me, “We can’t call you Aunty as we don’t feel you have the kind of stultified image we associate with that word, so we are going to call you by name.” So their calling me by name I don’t think of as lack of respect..I belong to a mindset which thinks of “Aunty” and “Mami” as descriptive of people with a limited outlook on life and I am very American, I think, in preferring to be called by name.

Given that, I am also now friends with many youngsters who have known me first through my child…to these people, “Aunty” comes naturally and it doesn’t stick in my craw, either. That’s why my LJ identity is Deponti…I am an Italian person who has Aunty built into her name…. de Ponti!

…But when the ancient crone that is my plumber comes along and calls me “Aunty”….#$@$##&%!!!!!!

Want to see a habitat photo?

March 29, 2006

http://amoghavarsha.net/photography/ooty_25-03-06/tn/IMG_8208.jpg.html

thanks a lot, amoghavarsha, for the Forestia Guardia species’ friendship dance ritual photo…you call it a habitat photo, I call it a behaviour photo!

Religion…

March 29, 2006

I am very interested in the fact that someone I met recently says he practices Buddhism. Most of us just “go with the flow” and stick to the religion we have been brought up with; very few of us think deeply enough and introspect our basic values and change our religion. When someone changes hes religion, you do wonder….Was there any major experience that made this change? Or was it just analysis and reflection which led to it? I actually find that Buddhism and Hinduism have so much in common that one can, I feel, be both at the same time. (BTW I studied Philosophy for my degree–today it would be called an “elective”– and constantly am analysing how religion has the ability to foster both peace and hatred amongst people. In this sense, my studies have been useful to me throughout my life.)

I am now at the point where I wonder if religion today is relevant at all, or just a cloak of social and personal habits that one assumes at birth and which gets one through life….it seems to be the source of so much strife and war that I wonder if we could do away with it…religion seems to be something which people turn to only in times of emotional need, and gods are reduced to a kind of government employee…I’ll insert a thankfulness advertisement for you/sacrifice an animal for you/make a silver or gold ornament for You if You let me have this….people tell you to go this or that particular temple because “S/He grants any wish that you make!” Should religion become a kind of bargaining counter? Does God really grant you your wish if you wish hard enough or make penance–or is lifem with its joys and sorrows, ease and difficulties, predestined?

Sher-0-Shaayari

March 28, 2006

Tumko dekha…..to yeh khayal aaya
tumko dekha….to yeh khayal aaya
paaglon ke stock mein naya maal aaya!
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Idhar khuda hai, udar khuda hai,
jidar dekho udar khuda hai,
idhar-udhar bus khuda hi khuda hai
jidhar nahi khuda hai….udhar kal khudega!
======================================
The night is dark, the moon is high,
I stop my car, you ask why?
I come close to you, you feel shy,
I whisper those three magical words….
Hye La, Puncture!!!
====================================
Tumsa koi dusara jameen par hua
to rab se sikayat hogi….
Ek to jhela nahi jata
dusra aa gaya to kya halat hogi!!!
======================================
koi pathar se na maare mere dewaane ko……..
koi pathar se na maare mere dewaane ko……..
koi pathar se na maare mere dewaane ko……..
abe aage bh i to bol……………
nuclear power ka jamaana hai, bomb se udaa do saale o……………….
======================================
tuhaar chehraa moti samaan ..
tuhaar chehraa moti samaan…
moti hamaar kutte ka naam!!
==========================================================
Durakht ke paymane pe chilman E husn ka furkat se
sharmana…
Durakht ke paymane pe chilman E husn ka furkat se
sharmana…
Ye line samajh me aaye to mujhe zaroor batana!!
===========================================================
tere dwaar pe sanam hazar baar aayenge,
tere dwaar pe sanam hazar baar aayenge…..
ghanti bajayenge aur bhaag jayenge !!
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He: Janeman, is dil mein chali aao
She: Sandal nikaloon kya!
He: Pagli, ye mandir nahi hai, aise hi aajao…
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Jis waqt khuda ne tumhe banaya hoga,
ek saroor sa uske dil pe chaya hoga…
ehle socha hoga tujhe jannat mein rakh lun..
hir usse zoo ka khayal aaya hoga!!!
===========================================================
Mein Tumhare Liye Sab Kuch Karta..
agar Mujhe Kaam Tha……
Mein Tumhare Liye Doob Ke Marta…
agar Mujhe Zukham Tha !
===========================================================
Mere marne ke baad, mere doston,
yu aansoo na bahana,
Agar meri yaad aaye to,
seedhey upar chale aana!!
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Unki gali se guzre..ajeeb ittefaq tha
Unki gali se guzre..ajeeb ittefaq tha
Unho ne phool phenka..gamlaa bhi saath tha!!
==========================================================
Kyon apni kabar khood-hi khod raha hai Galib…
Kyon apni kabar khood-hi khod raha hai Galib…
La, phawda mujhe de!!
==========================================================
Tumko dekha to ek khyal aaya
Tumko dekha to ek khyal aaya
Tumhari saheli ko dekha to doosra khyal aaya!!
===========================================================
Kehte hain ki ISHQ main neend ud jaati hai
Koi humse bhi ishq kare
Khambhaqat neend bahut aati hai!!

Naturalists’ Training Course by JLR…

March 28, 2006

I have always believed that no matter what one’s interest is, it will be better to be taught the techniques by a seasoned professional. Having had a deep interest in wildlife for almost all my life, I have found that in Bangalore, it is relatively easy to get away to the wilderness even for a short weekend, and come back to the concrete jungle recharged by the sights of sounds of Mother Nature.

I had wanted to take the Naturalists’ Training Programme for a long time now,and kalyan emailed me the details of the course being offered at Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ Bannerghatta National Park property, on March 24th to 26th, I was very keen, and even though two of our group of four–Mohan,and Amogh, both of whom had to work on the first day– could not make it, decided to join. My friend Sanath Reddy, too, decided to register with me, and the two of us quite literally bumped our way over Bannerghatta Road and the diversion into what was little more than a cart-track, and reached Bannerghatta National Park at last.

We found a group gathered at the JLR resort; a total of 13 of us were registered for the course. Karthik the Chief Naturalist of JLR, used an innovative way of breaking the ice….he asked each of us to take the name of an animal or bird that shared the initial of our name, and then paired us off for five minutes to find out about each other…and then asked each of us to introduce his or her partner. This resulted in our getting to know everyone much better than we would have otherwise! The list of people, according to this method of nomenclature (not Linnaeus but Karthik!) was, in the alphabetical order of our names(not the animals!):

“Bison” Bishweshwar
“Cheetah” Chengappa
“Chital” Chirdeep
“Dabchick” Deepa
“Junglefowl” Joe
“Mynah” Manjunath
“Nightjar” Nahar
“Parakeet” Praveen
“Rat” Raghava
“Sunbird” Sadvi
“Sparrow” Sainath
“Sandpiper” Sanath
“Sparrowhawk” Shivappa
“Shikra” Surendra

Amidst laughter, we settled down to the first session with Karthik, who introduced himself too…a versatile person, who has combined a long stint with WWF with a flair for photography and writing too, whose lifelong passion for wildlife and, in particular, birding, has had him giving these kind of courses for a long time now. He told us that since earlier course feedback had indicated a strong bias for birds, the course would concentrate on this field though we would briefly touch on mammals and the insect world.

He gave us a brief introduction to JLR and what they have been doing, and how they want to spread awareness of wildlife to everyone through these courses to train naturalists. Though there were several of us who were professional naturalists, the course would be equally useful to those of us who wanted to BE naturalists rather than work as naturalists; a better knowledge of how to spot wildlife and how to document our sightings would be beneficial to all of us. He then took us through an overview of the immense biodiversity that exists both in India, and in Karnataka.

He opened the session on birding with a quote from David Attenborough: that with humans sharing many of the attributes that we find in birds, and because of their paradoxical ability to both inhabit our everyday city world and to disappear, “with a clap of our hands”, to their own world in the air and the trees, they are studied much more by human beings than other groups of animals. He talked of the sad state of affairs that exist in our education, where theory is all, and there is no practical introduction to the fascinating pursuit of bird-watching.

For the post-lunch session,he went on to elucidate many aspects of bird-watching,including how to identify birds by their shape and posture. Then we streamed out into the forest area, for our first nature trail. I cannot talk about the others, but I am a newcomer to bird-watching in this way, and it took me a while to get into the swing of it…and I was always a little diffident about whether I was right in my bird-spotting or not! But Karthik put us at our ease and told us that it was important to first sight the bird and then observe it as well as we could and then use the bird-books to identify it. He helped us in going to the right sections of the book and encouraged us to speak up about the identification, instead of doing the identification himself and preventing us from thinking for ourselves. This certainly made us more self-reliant in trying to spot the birds and get their names. We came trailing home through the dusk, well content with what we had learnt, and walked into the gates of the resort after having another look at the nilgai and spotted deer which were browsing at the edge of the lake nearby.

Karthik then introduced us to Mr Sadanand, an eminent botanist from Mysore, who held us spellbound with his account of how plants and trees behave in such a way that it is difficult not to ascribe intelligence to them. He talked of how human history and civilization have been shaped by plants…it was the domestication of some plants that changed Man from a hunter/gatherer to a settler. Without wood, grain and fibre, perhaps civilization would not have been as we know it today. After a fascinating lecture, Mr Sadanand promised to take us on a nature trail on the morrow where he would point out interesting plants and trees.

By this time, camaraderie had firmly set in and we all chattered like magpies as we went into dinner. The discovery, by some students who were looking out of one of the windows of the lecture-hall , of a purple sunbird’s nest in the bamboo adjacent to it, gave us a project for the morrow, of capturing the sunbird family on film.

Early the next morning, we had tea/coffee and Marie biscuits, which was shared by the resident peacock,( whom I dubbed Mayur Marie to go with our group) and a session of affectionate antler-butting by the resident stag, we set off on the nature trail again. The weather was really lovely and Karthik gave us the first rule of wildlife-watching– eyes and ears open, mouth shut. Of course, in the course of asking questions and exclaiming over the sights and sounds, we really didn’t keep to this rule strictly; but Karthik forgave us our trespasses in view of our beginners’ status and our enthusiasm! Mr Sadanand came along with us and opened our eyes to the world of medicinal and commercially-valuable herbs and small plants as well. For the first time, I saw what a sarasaparilla vine looked like and saw epiphytes and parasites which inhabit the plant world around us. We learnt amazing facts about symbiosis and how a huge Ficus tree and a tiny wasp needed each other to propogate themselves. We also did a stint of bird-watching…I cannot forget the breathtaking sight of a tree full of Rosy Starlings, and two Great Horned Owls sitting near each other on a rock the previous evening….

Post-breakfast, we discussed all that we had seen and learnt, and then we had a session on Bird Behaviour. Body Care Behaviour, Social Displays, and Feeding Behaviour…a lot of what we commonly see, and a lot that we don’t usually observe, was talked about, with the help of really excellent slides. The hours just flew by!

Post lunch was our introduction to mammals, and we learnt of the grim picture that wildlife conservation presents today, with wildlife habitat shrinking alarmingly, and humans taking over more and more space. Karthik discussed the endangered mammals, and mentioned how it was critical to ensure that species did not disappear due to negligence and apathy. We then went on the van safari to see the carnivores and the herbivores, and though we were seeing animals which are so used to humans that one can really not call them wild, it was still fascinating. As we left for the safari, we watched two gaur locking their horns in combat. In fact, it seemed to be our day for watching conflict, for on the bear safari, two sloth bears were wrestling with each other; whether in earnest or in play, we could not tell. As we went through the carnivore area, two lioness and three lion cubs literally ambled up to take a look at us in our van…they would retreat if the van reversed, and run behind us as we moved forward! Who were the observers, and who were the observed? Roles seemed to be reversed!

Alas for us, the surging generator power had blown the lamp on the slide projector, so Karthik spread out some of the superb photographs he and his wife had taken over the years, and an animated discussion ensued that evening. Another session of bird-watching had me feel that maybe after all, I WAS developing the knack of this….! A superb sunset had some of us concentrating on that and some of us snapping the birds we saw.

On Sunday morning, we went off for our last nature trail of the course, and Karthik taught us some more about bird recognition and watching their behaviour and habitat as well. We came back for a lecture on Urban Wildlife….not as much of an oxymoron as one would think, for there is a world of wildlife around us even in the city, whether it is insects and butterflies or the birds that share our urban space with us.

We then had a discussion of why it was necessary that each of us turns proactive in trying to conserve wildlife; there is so much apathy, or downright anti-wildlife thinking in India that every bit counts. We have to spread the awareness that we are one amongs the many denizens on this planet, and the loss of one might endanger us all.

Karthik wound up the course with an excellent feedback session. Every participant had to speak up and say what s/he liked, and did not like, about the course…this made us all analyse our time there and articulate what we felt. Several of us stressed the need to involve children, and many valid suggestions were made. We were all unanimous in our appreciation of all that Karthik had done to open our eyes to wildlife in a way that we were not aware of before.

Having become quite good friends by this time, enough to have a lot of legs pulled and a variety of jokes cracked, we parted with expressions of goodwill; and I have started an egroup which everyone (not just our batch) who has gone through this course can join. This will ensure that we do not lose touch, and that hopefully, we will go out and make some difference to the wildlife conservation effort in our city, our state, and our country.

Thank you, Karthik and JLR, for a great opportunity to see ourselves in the perspective of all life that we share this fragile planet with! We look forward to the next level course!

sainath has put up a gallery of photographs on Flickr, and the URL is:

http://flickr.com/photos/svellal/tags/bannerghatta/

and

http://flickr.com/photos/svellal/tags/bannerghatta/page2/

Rhinos…

March 21, 2006

Amoghavarsha came over and I had a look at his photos of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh..some of them are very good indeed, especially considering the fact that the light was pretty low. Amazingly, the rhinos actually look peaceful and happy and not at all the short-tempered brutes that they usually look like (and certainly the rhinos I have seen in Zoos do NOT look peaceful at all.) I never knew that rhinos actually had different expressions on their faces!

Planning to take the naturalist course run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts over this weekend, but to me some of the fun has gone out of it as both my spouse and Amogh may not be able to take it. Oh well, Sanath and I should meet enough interesting people and interesting animals/birds during the 3 days of the course…watch this space! This is the first residential course I am going to be taking in a very long time; and I can’t remember the last time I share a room, let alone a tent, with anyone except my spouse…I am still wondering whether I should wait for the next course, or do it now, as Nike asks us to do!
While on the subject of rhinos…it was very ironic that after avidly going all the way to see the rhino, Amogh should have returned with rhinoallergy, which is a cold!…The root word, “rhino”, is of course, “referring to the nose” (which is of course how the rhinoceros got its name, from its “pointed nose”….)

Landmark Spotting…

March 20, 2006

One of the aspects of air travel that I have never stopped enjoying, is being able to spot landmarks of cities from the air, as we land or take off. After decades of flying, I still feel thrilled if I am able to spot buildings, lakes, or other major sights from the aircraft.

Alas, most airlines make it a point of telling you which seats are the best from the point of view of smoking,movie-watching, pinching the stewardess, and so on…but no one tells you whether it would be better to sit on the right-hand side or the left-hand side of an aircraft to see the sights your aircraft is flying over. So nowadays, I first find out if the flight is going full, in which case, of course, I take the seat allotted to me and hope for the best…but if it isn’t, I always ask the stewardess when boarding, if she could find out from the pilot which would be the best side to sit on. As the weather dictates which way the aircraft will take off, the pilot is often able to give me this information. This has, over the years, ensured in some memorable sights during take-offs and landings.

I remember one beautifully clear day when the pilot did a complete circuit of Manhattan Island after taking off from JFK, at such a low altitude that I could even spot the Chrysler Building, the Lincoln Center and the Empire State, apart from the proudly-standing Twin Towers….little did I know that the skyline would change within a year of my leaving New York on that visit.

I took a flight from Chennai via Tiruchirapalli and Thiruvananthapuram to Colombo….on each stage I asked the pilot where I should sit, and got to see, as a result, the beautiful Rock Temple of Tiruchi, the squat Gopuram of the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, and then the Galle Sea Face and its beautiful hotels as we glided in to land at Colombo!

This piece was prompted by the flight to Pune I took a few days ago. As we rose into the air, the pilot did practically a “Bangalore Darshan” circuit of the city…there was Vidhan Soudha, the Utility Building, the Ulsoor Lake, the TV Tower….I had my “paisa vasool” for the flight in the first ten minutes!

Even on long night-flights, I love looking at the map the airline provides, and speculating about the cities we must be flying over. And indeed, sometimes, the sight of the Alps, the Grand Canyon, or the Great Arabian Desert called the Rub-al-Khali (the Empty Quarter) in the evening or the early morning light rewards my sleeplessness…..frustration, for me, is sitting in the left-hand side when the pilot announces, “Those of you who are sitting in the right-hand side…we are passing over X landmark”, or vice-versa!

Having a daughter living in St Louis, I always like to see the Gateway Arch both on my way in and out.., and make sure that I am sitting where I can see it. It is a most inspring construction and the sight of it never fails to thrill me.

On one such flight, I had a little girl sitting at the window in front of me…I pointed out the Arch to her and was delighted that I could share my joy with someone else. I was very tickled when the little girl’s mother turned to me and said, “You must have been living in St Louis for much longer than I have, to be able to spot the Arch like that…. and it’s nice to see you taking such pride in spotting your landmarks from the air!” I told her I was the visitor, and she the resident!

…So, whenver you take a flight, do take the time to ask the pilot if you can sit so that you can see the wonders that Man and Nature have created on the earth below you. The sights out of the window are more than compensation for the struggle to get into the aisle (or to the toilet) during the flight!

Vignettes of trip to Pune

March 19, 2006

1. Booking on SpiceJet is so easy on the Net..and the cost is just about half that of Jet Airways. I am impressed with the clean aircraft (esp toilets!) and the on-time record. Long live healthy competition, without which we would be paying for overpriced bad service on unfriendly Indian Airlines!

2. I still LOVE looking at cities from the air. By chance I got a window seat which gave me a grandstand view of central Bangalore as we took off. The pilot actually did a circuit over Richmond Town/Cubbon Park and I could spot Vidhan Soudha, Chinnaswamy Stadium, Ulsoor Lake, and so on….it was paisa vasool in the first ten minutes of the flight! The return flight the next day was just as good, as I saw the same sight basking in the late evening sunshine….ah, Bangalore, I will always love you.

3.When we landed in Pune I rejoiced in the sight of all the fighter aircraft that share the airport with the civilian craft…just as I got out, a Sukhoi was taking off. I had no hurry…I waited on the tarmac, watched the powerful jet scream into the sky, and walked in the terminal building smiling….

4. Bhosle Nagar is a lovely, green area of Pune. Went for an evening walk on the ridge in the VAMNICOM (institute of Co Operative Management)…and watched several bulbuls, hoopoes, a kingfisher, and two eagles…and a beautiful sunset, too.

5. Friends….we met for drinks and went on to dinner (the restaurant was nice but the food wasn’t…the Dhaba at the Pride Hotel, Best Western ,which I hereby rename the Worst Western.) we had a very nice time. Friends are the greatest treasure on earth.

6. Went to see an authentic Paithani saree…the fact that each stitch is woven without even a card is amazing. My friend has ordered a saree which costs 24 thousand rupees and will take 9 months to make. …But I don’t know if this craftsmanship is actually worth it. If I were to buy a saree like that, Murphy’s Law would mandate that I spilt haldi or coffee (or both) on it the first time I wore it….

7. Koregaon Park is another area of Pune that I really like. The Ashram people have made a beautiful park out of a waste-carrying canal.

8. Lovely flight back…got 3 seats to myself and enjoyed a nice nap for almost all of the hour that the flight takes (who wants those 2 biscuits that SpiceJet gives us?) Enjoyed the auto ride down the Indira-Nagar Koramangala Ring road very much indeed.

Life is full of great moments…if you have health and a healthy bank balance, it can be just wonderful!

Ms Murphy…

March 16, 2006

That’s me….I wanted to send the URL of a middle of mine (about ribbons, see my earlier posts) published in the Deccan Herald to family members. So I clicked on the URL, which is

http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/mar102006/editpage152843200639.asp

Click on it and you’ll find the title of my middle…and below it, an article, incomplete at that, about “a fellow septuagenarian” who ordered a solar heater with a loan…

Have just written to the person in charge of “Right in the Middle” to correct this…will look at it again next week.