Archive for May, 2011

Spots…and stripes

May 19, 2011

No, we didn’t get that “apex of sightings” (according to the Artificial Heirarchy of Jungle Sightings, developed by wildlife tourists)…no stripes. But on two of the three safaris we went on, we spotted spots. Here’s Panthera pardus, giving us a profile pose, nonchalantly:

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However, the first leopard we sighted, was far away, and deep in the jungle:

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but yet we caught sight of it getting up and walking off:

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There were about six jeeps full of people (including the regulation Bright Red Tee Shirt Tourist) watching it:

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The second one was sighted by my friend Yashpal. This was very apt, because before the trip, he’d emailed the rest of us that he was bringing along a special lens for a “decent leopard shot”. So of course I started teasing him, asking him, “What if the leopard is not decent? These animals don’t wear clothes, you know, they go around wearing only very expensive fur coats.”

We were almost at the end of the safari when he sort of choked out, “stop”…and the leopard was climbing down a tree not very far from us. The magnificient male then sat down in the drenched foliage (something I never realized big cats do!) and waited patiently, I think, for us to move out.

After a few minutes, though, he decided he was the one to depart, and so he did….here are the shots of him in the greenery:

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Something else seemed to capture his attention:

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And off he went!

Thank goodness, no one asked us the usual question of “No tiger sightings?” …it seems that to most wildlife tourists, a safari is incomplete without sighting a tiger.

I’d posted a photograph of the leopard on INW with the comment that someone asked , “You didn’t see a tiger…did you ‘at least’ see a leopard?”

Santosh Saligram responded:

LOL, the inanity of the uneducated tourist is boundless. Still, that question is a lot better than one I was asked once when a man pulled up alongside our vehicle, which was parked somewhere in the forest on safari.

“Saw tiger?”


“How many?”


(Raising his brow and at a high pitch) “ONLY ONE?”

(Patiently) “Yes, only one.”

(Restlessly) “What about the other 23???”

(This reserve is supposed to have 24 tigers.)

Similarly, a tourist had once demanded his money be refunded because his guide “cheated him” by showing “only one” tiger and omitting the other “twenty-odd” that were “supposed to be living there”.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
You cast on tourists’ mood a general blight
If they cannot get your sight!

Here’s Mr Leo Pard giving us the “are YOU going or shall I?” look:

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“Crisis of Civilization: A Journey with Tagore”: Play Review

May 18, 2011

You can read it


How to demotivate a freelance writer

May 18, 2011

1. Suggest a rate of payment when that author starts writing for you. For five years, never increase the rate, during which time period, the cost of living has shot up incredibly. Compare the price of petrol between 2006 and now, in India…or the cost of, say, tuvar dal.

2. Tell the writer that since the magazine is in a cash crunch, no matter what she writes, she will get paid only for two full-length articles per month. Ask her to put articles in her blog, for which she will not be paid.

3. Over five years, never pay for a single photograph (unless it is a photo feature) with the logic, “We don’t pay our writers for photographs.”. This way, you get literally dozens of photographs without paying a penny. If the photographs were good enough for you to publish with the article, were they not good enough to pay for?

4. Deduct large sums as TDS from the already paltry sums earned by the writer. Give her no tax breaks at all…cut off nearly 40% of what she earned one year.

5. Take longer and longer to put accepted articles live on the magazine, and in one instance, never “publish” one write-up at all. Since you have an arrangement that the article must first appear only on your magazine, this effectively prevents the writer from getting it published elsewhere.

6. Never share the viewers’ stats with the writer. Never tell her how many people are reading her articles/blogs. Call it “confidential”. Doesn’t a writer have the right to know how many eyeballs her work is getting?

How can a magazine that I like to write for, and whose team and culture I like…and would like to continue with… do this? It’s so demotivating.

Blessed are the meek, as they shall soon stop writing altogether!

Quick trip to Chennai…

May 17, 2011

Had to go to Chennai for some Orrible Essential Paperwork and got back just now. My laptop was not able to pick up on the cable internet in Chennai.

So of course…let me turn my back on LJ for just a couple of days and all you lot will post the most incredible variety of posts….I just sort of went through the posts. and in particular….enjoyed your posts…just tooooooo tired to comment…

To go one evening to a hot, humid place, spend the next morning in a government office, and drive down through the awful, no-highway-discipline traffic in the night…is NOT my idea of fun!

Actually Chennai wasn’t as bad as I expected. But in the Govt office, I was highly tickled to see a sign painted over the door….”Bribery is against the law”. I just *loved* those ironic quotation marks!

Of course an unreasonable demand was made for “services rendered” and we toned it down…but Anna Hazare would have wept.

Meanwhile…here’s the One And Only Whoever He is (I refuse to believe that a woman would put up that sticker!) on his way through the traffic…

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Kabini: 14 and 150511

May 15, 2011

It was an incredibly eventful trip,apart from the stupendous variety of sightings and observations we had at Kabini….what events, you ask?

Sample event:

As we were all going towards the jungle in the safari Jeep, I told my friend’s grand-niece that I had been sitting in the same seat that she was sitting in (rear left) and had been bodily lifted off the jeep on an earlier visit to Kabini, fallen on the hand-hold bar and hurt my hip badly. So I told her to hold on tightly. Well…at one point, it started raining in torrents, and the jeep went over rough, hilly and muddy terrain. So..of course…she FELL out of the safari jeep, in between the rear wheel and the edge of the ditch along which we were travelling…the jeep rolled forward, and also, because of the torrential rain, she fell into thick mud…and she was not the least bit hurt. She was actually joking a few minutes later, the plucky child!

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Here’s an otter (Smooth-skinned or River Otter) which suddenly appeared on the mudbank next to our boat (there was one boat safari and two jeep safaris) that we watched for several minutes, fishing….! The last two days were full of moments like this.

Arrived home at 1 am and haven’t been able to sleep….reliving the trip with joy!

My daughter, when she was very young….

May 13, 2011

I suddenly thought of the things that delighted me when my daughter was young..

One day, she came to me crossly and said, “NOW what shall I do? You’ve already gone and married Appa.”

Once she asked me if I had paid her school feeses.

She wrote the following in some essays:

1. In school, we have a uniform. We have to wear a skirt and shit.

2. When my class went to the Zoo we had to take admission forms.

I was checking her Maths paper (she was in Class 3) and she got a preposterous answer for one sum. “You taught me how to borrow!” she said proudly. She then explained that she had borrowed…a number from the next sum!

We went to see “pathinAru vayathinilE” (“At Age 16), a Kamalahasan and Sridevi Tamizh movie, where Kamalahasan wears a kOmaNam (langOti), or loincloth. “That’s a different kind of underwear,” she announced, confidently…and loudly.

The first time she saw a hospital nurse, wearing white stockings, she came and told me in a hushed voice, “That lady has powdered her legs all over!”

Always having seen photographs of Indira Gandhi with her saree over her head, she saw a bus full of nuns with their habits, and said, “A bus full of Indira Gandhis!”

Her father had had a heart attack and had gone through several procedures, and then we moved briefly to Madurai. When she saw the board that said, “Bypass Road” (the road bypasses Madurai town and goes to Tiruchi), she asked, “Is there also an Angiogram Road?”

She wanted to play at home once, but we forced her to come with us, and took her to Chikpet. While we bargained for light fixtures and other household-related stuff, I didn’t want her in the congested shop, so she was sitting in the car in front of the shop. She started crying. “Why are you crying?” we asked her. “We brought you because wanted to spend time with you.”
“But you aren’t, that’s why I’m crying,” she replied.

My bebby…I had about 22 nicknames for her, and I still do occasionally use them…I am still only on my third nickname or so, for KTB!

Her second birth anniversary….

May 13, 2011

The photographs of KTB were sent by the other grandmother, who’s called “Nanna” and who lives in Portland, Maine. The grandparents had come over for her second birth anniversary (I had been there the previous two April 29’s!) and I enjoyed the photographs they sent…

You can see that KTB is developing into a balanced personality…

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And she enjoys reading, whether with her dad…

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Or by herself.

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She enjoys wearing Indian clothes and bangles…

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…and also a tutu and a headband, which was her uncle and aunt’s (DS’ brother and sister in law) birthday gift to her:

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Here’s her mother showing her a photograph of a ballerina on the laptop, though why the mother is looking so pained, I can’t say.

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She loves being with her Granddad :

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And it’s lovely to have a threesome photograph, under a convenient horse!

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A morning with the Spotted Owlets at Lalbagh

May 13, 2011

It was an NTP outing…. I accompanied Radha and Shreeram to Lalbagh this morning.

We did see a lot of interesting things,but I want to first share our morning tryst with One,Two, and Three…the Spotted Owlets!

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We saw One first, on the Jacaranda tree…

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Left and right, went the poses.

The Two flew into the hole in the tree-trunk (probably it is a nest)

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From there, we got several looks:


Then the two flew up to sit side by side, though, of course, one of them was mooning us:

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Then both decided to be rude:

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But they were happy together, preening each other:

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So of course, we circled round the tree to get a better view:

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They looked adorable:

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How much can one bend its head?

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Then THREE also appeared, sitting on a branch:

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We left them to themselves, very reluctantly indeed, these little feather-balls!

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More pics on Facebook,


Verse, and Re-verse

May 12, 2011

Someone whom I’ve yet to meet face-to-face, but who has impressed me with his many-faceted skills, wrote this and emailed it to me!

My (Rubber)neck Exercises While at the ‘Puter

Wide open is my office door
As working at my desk I sit
Performing some routine chore
The keyboard keys I merrily hit

Out in one of the cubicles
Jenn takes an incoming call
While idly filing her cuticles
And sipping from a latte tall

Over the monitor I peek
Stretching my neck doing so
As she continues to speak
I admire her top cut quite low

I guess it’s her boyfriend calling
Most likely about a date
I lean so much I risk falling
I hear, “Awesome!” then “Great!”

To better catch their love talk
My head from side to side I tilt
Don’t let this cause alarm or shock
My neck muscles are well built!

At call’s end she sits up straight
Her lissome physique nice ‘n taut
I rue my excess body weight
Sighing, “That Jenn sure’s hot!”

Middle age does make me sad
As the Jenns of the world float by
At least for one thing I am truly glad
To neck pain I can say, … “Good bye!”

And that inspired me to respond:

Look at the office Lothario
In the middle of his ogling scenario.
Popping eyes and open mouth
And a hefty chest that has slipped south.
“He may look at girls,” said a colleague sage;
“But the only thing that goes his age!”

Artificial Heirarchy: The Tiger Fixation

May 12, 2011

I do understand that the tiger is an icon of the Indian jungles, and it is endangered, probably critically so. It’s always been the dream of the wildlife enthusiast, and the wildlife photographer, to get a sighting, and a good photograph, of the tiger.

But the fixation with the tiger may be totally counter-productive. It creates a skewed view of the jungle in the mind of the wildlife visitor, who thinks the jungle, and all its denizens, is but a background for the tiger.

As we get more obsessed with tiger sightings and photo ops, more and more animal-unfriendly measures (such as the Tiger Show in some of the northern national parks, and leaving bait for tigers) are being resorted to by resort owners and tour operators to bring in the visitors, and the money. Unhealthy, unethical and sometimes downright dangerous practices are adopted to get that much-in-demand tiger sighting, that tiger image.

What saddens me is that this tiger-mania seems so all-pervasive. If even more experienced wildlife enthusiasts do nothing but post photographs of the tigers, are they not sending the same message to people who are just getting interested in wildlife…that only the tiger is important, nothing else is?

When we were in Kanha, there was a family in the next room. Like many other visitors, they constantly bemoaned the fact that in three days they had not seen a single tiger, and said their visit was an utter waste. Finally, I invited the children over to our room, told them I was going to take them on a “photo safari”…. and showed them the photographs of everything else but the tiger, that I had shot in the last two days. I explained about the birds, the deer, the various plants.

The next day, the parents came along and asked if they could see the photographs too. The mother told me, “We never realized how much else there is in the forest to look at, today we have enjoyed our safaris very much and are not bothered about tiger sighting.” I don’t know if they ever saw a tiger…but certainly, their visit became a fruitful one instead of being barren just because they had seen no tigers.


is an excellent article by Madhusudhan Katti…who, I think, says it much better than I do!

As more and more wildlife visitors visit the jungles, and more and more stress is laid on tiger sightings, I wonder whether we are actually pushing this animal further towards extinction. We recently had a face-off with one resort which “guaranteed” a tiger sighting to its visitors. They finally did change the wording on their website, and I do hope they are not leaving bait to ensure tiger sightings, which is,unfortunately, a widespread practice in our wildlife resorts.

Alas, I find this kind of obsession in all the wildlife fora I belong to. A tiger’s photograph gets 122 comments…the picture of a very rare butterfly…about four!

IF, as a wildlife visitor, I see a tiger…well and good. But if I don’t…there are SO many other animals and birds and trees and insects and reptiles and amphibians and algae to see, observe and learn about…that no tiger is also well and good!

Vikram Nanjappa

mentioned on his blog that once someone asked him, “Oh, you didn’t see a tiger? Did you at least spot a leopard?” This kind of artificial heirarchy that we seem to create in the natural world is ridiculous. We may term some animal as being at the “top” of the food chain. But I believe that the food chain is cyclical, not pyramidal.

The world is not human-centric just because our species is over-running every other mammalian species, and similarly, the jungle is not tiger-centric just because they are more elusive than, say, deer or mongoose….just the plant world is not lantana-centric just because it is over-running other plant species.

In fact, go through the blogs of experienced wildlifers like Vikram or


and see how often tigers are featured. Certainly Karthik has dinned this lesson into me for years now! Look at the way Vikram photographs deer, macaques, otters, and the way Karthik is able to spot drama and wonder in the smallest of living creatures. On a nature trail with Karthik, we joke that at the end of three hours we might not have moved more than a few inches…but we would still be amazed and stupefied at what we have seen!

I think it’s up to all the more experienced wildlife enthusiasts to create the awareness that Nature is important in ALL her forms and beings, and that no one animal, whether the lion or the tiger, is the lord of the jungle. The tiniest ant, scuttling along on the forest floor, is as important a part of the world of Nature, as the largest elephant which roams the jungles.

Let’s learn to observe and enjoy everything that we see in nature…and our enjoyment will be far more, and our knowledge, too, will be more holistic and we can move towards a balanced understanding of how our world is.

I am no scientist…just a layperson, and this my point of view….