Archive for February, 2009

Scientific names are necessary, but…

February 27, 2009

If you heard something being called “Ourapteryx clara, Geometridae”, would you ever associate it with this ?

Such a beauty, with an Orrible name….

I will never be a botanist, zoologist, lepidopterist, or any other ist. I would call that the star moth and enjoy its beauty…

Well, I realize others need to have a unique name to id it by, but that’s NOT what I would like to call it!

Here’s another image from my INW friend Kiran Srivastava:

Turahalli, 220209

February 26, 2009

Sometimes the birds co-operate, sometimes they don’t…the trip that we took to Turahalli cannot be termed highly productive in terms of large numbers of birds and raptors sighted…but like all trips to the wilderness, it was always enjoyable, and the company was great, too!

Let me start with this dew-bedecked flower of the wild jasmine, that smiled at us everywhere on the rocky outcrops:

the mammals, the birds, the scenes of Turahalli that day

From Shyamal

February 26, 2009

I have written, I think, about Shyamal….in a world full of serious ornithologicalstudy, he leavens his knowledge with a lot of humour. (He is still capable of a scholarly treatise with words I can hardly understand!)

Here’s a bird-list which he apparently sent the birdwatching egroup on April 1, 2000:

A chucklist of birds typically seen in April

In the woods of the Western Ghats one gets to see the
Rocket-tailed Drongo,
Laughing Thrust,
Bleak-backed woodpokers,
If you are really lucky you may get to see
Paradise Female-catcher

In the wetlands one may get to see some of the late staying
Green Sandpapers
Wood Sandpapers
Little Stunts
Kentish Pullovers
Bare-headed Geese
Pint-aled Ducks and
Black-pied tailwags

You may also get to see some of the resident
Whistling Tools and
Paid Kingfishers

In the large rivers one gets to see the
Sneak Birds fishing by sneaking up to fishes
and the Brown-headed gals with the mirrors flying along with whiskered
Sometimes one gets to see the Block-headed gals without the mirrors.

Some of the bards in danger are the Spot-billed Bellycans
Painted Strokes and Glassy-eyed Ibis.

On the open lands one sees the
Small-grin beaters,
White-bellied Manias,
and Yellow-bottled Lapwings.

My thanks to many beard-watchers for their observations used in preparing
this chicklist
notably Emby Crush, S.Supermania, Jay N. Pressured ,U.K.Hurricane, M.S.Giant
and J.H.He-man.

I just *love* this list. Each time I read, a different name sets me laughing uncontrollably!

Shyamal…thank you!

Sunrise at Turahalli…dedicated to

February 25, 2009

To cheer myself up after all that age-related morbidity…a set of pictures, capturing the sunrise at Turahalli last Sunday.

The melting, and strengthening, of colours is astonishing…


Then the sun rises:

The sun behind the peepul tree at the top of the little hillock:

And behind the rocks:

And finally, after the day is established, the wonder of the cloud patterns in the sky…

Oh…you want to see a very, very beautiful image of exactly the same shot? Go to

and see Mahesh’s shot…

Mahesh is one cameraman I have a very high regard for. He has taken the trouble to know his camera thoroughly…and is so generous about sharing the info with others, too. A trip with him is a lesson in photography each time. His composition is excellent, he elicits the best colours out of the image, and does judicious post-processing….I don’t know if he will have his work on National Geographic or win awards (I suspect not!)…but hats off to him for his photography skills! I know that if and when he reads this, he will think that I am making a big thing out of nothing!’s a great pleasure when Mahesh and Priya (she has a cooking blog!) come along on a birding trip!

Use LJ-cut? Naaaaah….

Oh…these are completely un-retouched pictures. No photoshop, no Picasa, no GIMP….as I once learnt from sainath, WYSWYG…what you see is what you get!


February 25, 2009

Though I rarely post about age-related stuff (any age)…it’s been on my mind today.

I *am* looking forward to the arrival of GB2B, and it will be great to have a brand-new persona to go with all my other ones. And if there is one place where I feel at home in, that’s my daughter’s home.

But…to stay far away from India, and actual home, for an extended period…to live, not the life I myself lead, but a different life, where it’s actually the life/lives of other people…to not do all the things I love to do here (quiz, theatre, wildlife,volutary work, and so on)…I am wondering about that. But I know I will come back, and resume my life.

Then it occurred to me, this probably happens, in a terminal, no-coming-back way, to so many elder couples, when spouses pass away, and when children are abroad. Willy nilly, they have to uproot themselves and go to live abroad, in a culture they cannot understand, in a dependent situation, with not everyone happy about the new addition to the household, who may not fit in, or pull hes weight.

Or, as increasingly happens, they have to move to an old age home, which may, on paper, be very comfortable, but which may not suit them at all, and is expensive, too.

Even if the loss of the spouse didn’t depress them enough, this would….

I remember how we asked my father in law to sell up his house and wind it all up and move to be with us, or with his other sons in the US. And I wonder if we should have let him be in his own home for a few years more…

The evening of life (well, I am not there yet, I think I am in the late afternoon!!) is a difficult time. As faculties fade, as one’s dependency increases, it’s tough for both the parent and the child to reverse roles. The child does not have the joy of taking care of the elder, as it’s not a budding new life, but a fading old one. The parent knows that the prime of life is slipping away very fast…and there is nothing to be done about it.

Sad thoughts, uncharacteristic of me!

Waiting to cheer myself up with a shot of PVC (Park View Coffee.)

The Hampi Visit 170109

February 25, 2009

The visit to Hampi was undertaken as a postscript to the Daroji visit; but it is such a huge complex, that I realized very quickly that I was not going to do much more than just scratch the surface of this World Heritage Site. So here are some of the highlights of the trip….

The detail on the monuments is so incredibly beautiful, let me start with a closeup of the Lotus Mahal:

many more pictures

I loved it!

February 24, 2009

From this post from premkudva:

“Then there is an uncle who tells us that in Cochin they enforce the seat belt rule. And how he was once stopped. And how he said that buses should also have seat belts, and that Cochin with its clogged roads [and max speed of 20 kmph as per him] doesn’t require seat belts. All this he delivers to the local constable who has stopped him, in the hope that the constable is able to abolish the seat belt rule. The constable unfortunately is unable to do any such thing. So our high moral ground uncle bribes the constable Rs 100 and drives away.”

Read the whole post if you can, I enjoyed it very much! Thanks, Prem.

About music and musical instruments…

February 24, 2009

* It is important to be able to reach the brakes on any piano.
* Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to
make a pleasant sound once the animal is removed.
* It is easy to teach anyone to play the maracas. Just grip the
neck and shake him in rhythm.
* My favorite instrument is the bassoon. It is so hard to play,
people hardly ever play it. That is why I like the bassoon best.
* I would like for you to teach me to play the cello. Would
tomorrow or Friday be best?
* The plural form of musical instrument is known as orchestra.
* Tubas are a bit too much.
* A contra-bassoon is like a bassoon, only the opposite.
* The most dangerous part about playing cymbals is near the nose.
* The flute is a skinny-shape-high-sounded instrument.
* Instrumentalist is a many-purposed word used by many
* Anyone who can read all the instrument notes at the same time
gets to be the conductor.
* The main trouble with a French horn is it’s too tangled up.
* For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every
line of flute music. You just watch.
* The concertmaster of an orchestra is always the person who sits
in the first chair of the first violins. This means that when a
person is elected concertmaster, he has to hurry up and learn
how to play a violin real good.
* Question: Is the saxophone a brass or a woodwind instrument?
Answer: Yes.
* Last month I found out how a clarinet works by taking it apart.
I both found out and got in trouble.
* A bassoon looks like nothing I have ever heard.
* Cymbals are round, metal CLANGS!
* Question: What are kettle drums called?
Answer: Kettle drums.
* When electric currents go through them, guitars start making
sounds. So would anybody.
* The double bass is also called the bass viol, string bass, and
bass fiddle. It has so many names because it is so huge.
* While trombones have tubes, trumpets prefer to wear valves.
* A trumpet is an instrument when it is not an elephant sound.
* Another name for kettle drums is timpani. Or else you can just
stick with the first name and learn it good.
* Instruments come in many sizes, shapes and orchestras.
* You should always say ‘chili’ when you mean there are two or
more cellos.
* A tuba is much larger than its name.
* A harp is a nude piano.
* My favorite composer is Opus.
* My very best liked piece of music is the Bronze Lullaby.
* Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the
Hatfields and the McCoys.
* Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long
* Morris dancing is a country survival from times when people
were happy.
* A good orchestra is always ready to play if the conductor steps
on the odium.
* Caruso was at first an Italian. Then someone heard his voice
and said he would go a long way. So that’s why he came to
* I know what a sextet is but I’m not allowed to say.
* Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.
* When a singer sings, he stirs up the air and makes it hit any
passing eardrums. But if he is good, he knows how to keep it
from hurting.
* In the last scene of Pagliacci, Canio stabs Nedda who is the one
he really loves. Pretty soon Silvio also gets stabbed, and they all
live happily ever after.
* An opera is a song of bigly size.
* Aaron Copland is one of your most famous contemporary
composers. It is unusual to be contemporary. Most
composers do not live until they are dead.
* Henry Purcell is a well known composer few people have ever
heard of.
* Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so
deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even
when everyone was calling him. I guess he could not hear so
good. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this.
* Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was
rather large.
* John Sebastian Bach died from 1750 to the present.
* A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.
* Refrain means don’t do it. A refrain in music is the part you
better not try to sing.
* Agnus Dei was a woman composer famous for her church music.

Betel leaves…

February 24, 2009

I posted a pic of betel leaves, and a comment by asakiyume set me thinking….it’s amazing how betel leaves are part of religion and spirituality, and also a symbol of licentiousness at the same time….betel leaves, along with supari, bananas and a broken coconut, are offered as “thAmboolam” during worship; but they are also associated with moral decadence, indulgence in vices (especially sexual)….a woman would only offer “pAn” or “beeda” or “thAmboolam” to a man if she were “interested” in him or married to him….can someone explain this dichotomy to me? Or is a god or goddess who is being worshipped, also offered all the marks of “lAsyam” or luxury, which explains all the decorations, offerings of fruit and flowers, and so on?

When combined with tobacco, we actually have names for pAn like “palang thOd” (break-the-bed!)…surely nothing hidden in that meaning.

Even today, after a particularly heavy meal at a wedding, I do like to have a “pAn” or a “beeda” (though not so fond of doing the smearing-of-lime on betel leaves and adding supAri and stuffing them into my mouth together!)…It’s supposed to be a digestive. The lime-areca mixture is also supposed to be very good for the teeth.

And yet, I have heard from my mother that in the old days, all respectable women were supposed to have betel-stained teeth from chewing the leaves daily, and it was a woman of easy virtue who had white, shining teeth. “veLLai palla pAru, thEvadiyA mAthiri!” was the derisive comment on white teeth, apparently!

Hmm…I am not able to reconcile all that…..

Here’s a video of a song where the “nautanki” (theatre woman) sings about her lover who chews betel, and his fine cotton kurta has red stains….

This movie is one of my favourites. An innocent villager falls in love with a woman from the touring theatre company *he refers to her respectfully as “kampni…company” throughout)…but she, and therefore he, must face the reality of her needing a wealthy “sponsor”. The village atmosphere is so authentic, and it’s very moving. It has other beautiful songs, too.

Another song about betel leaves is the famous Dev Anand song “khaikE pAn banAras wAlA”….

A Heritage Walk Down Avenue Road

February 23, 2009

For more pics, look at


One sample: