Archive for July, 2011

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Livingston, New Jersey, 230711

July 23, 2011

When watching the House Sparrow, Common Grackles, and Northern Cardinals at the bird feeder on my cousin’s deck, I suddenly found a


there, too!

rbwpkr nj big 230711

Here it is, at the feeder:

wdpkr at fder rhs 230711 nj

I don’t know if it’s a he or a she, but the bird flew in repeatedly:

wdpkr at fdr  2 230711 nj

In true politician style, it sat on the fence:

wdpkr rt lkng 230711 nj

And then went to the neighbour’s tree to look for insects on the trunk:

rb wpkr in tree 230711 nj

I still don’t know, when it has such a lovely red nape and red eyes, why call it a Red-*BELLIED* Woodpecker!


Time passed…..

July 21, 2011

lilies 210711 stl

Time passes
In the sweep of the second hand
Across the face of the clock,
In the unobstrusive click of the pulsing
Of the quartz crystals
Or the electronic pulse
Of my digital watch.

The petals on the lilies
That I brought home
Detach themselves gently, and fall.
The buds slowly open, holding the promise
Of beauty, that the fading flowers have passed.

Tomorrow, I’ll be gone from here.
But the heady aroma of the lilies
And tomorrow’s buds
Will remain, and be a reminder
Of my presence in this house.

The present inexorably slips into the past.
The future slips into being,
Becoming now, instead of later.

The enjoyment of the lovely scent of the lilies
Now…now..and storing it away in my memory
Is my way of conquering Time…

Tomorrow I will see the lilies in my mind’s eye.
Today, my senses take it all in.
Tomorrow, in my mind and heart,
I’ll open these memories,
And relive them again.

I bathe myself in the running river of Time…
Each moment a fleeting caress:
Building memories, some remembered, some not.
Since I started writing this,
A few more petals have fallen….


July 21, 2011

Packing is, I find, a very idiosyncratic process. I think each of us has a different way of packing! My way is to try and get some space where I can leave my suitcases, and keep throwing things into it; and then, at a suitable time (which I keep postponing, alas) I sit down and pack it all in properly.

I was not, earlier, a very good packer; my suitcases would rather easily become “full”….but the plus was that the said suitcases were not very heavy. KM and were (are) excellent packers, but it would need a crane to lift a suitcase once they are done!

Over the years, I’ve learnt how to pack fragile things, to keep shoes at the base (spine) of the suitcase, to fill up hollow things with items of clothes, and so on…not to mention packing and repacking certain food items to prevent them from leaking all over the contents of the luggage (thankfully, a lesson I’ve not had to learn the hard way.)

I’ve learnt to keep a list by me (half my time is occupied by searching for the list!) and over the years, the list has also increased…things like laptop, power cord for laptop, camera, battery charger for camera, card reader for camera, and so on, were not there earlier! Electronic items seem to figure quite largely in hand luggage.I’ve learnt to use my computer bag as my personal handbag, on long-haul flights, along with one carry-on strolley.

The throwing away, at security, of several small scissors and, on one memorable occasion, my beloved tiny Swiss Army knife, have taught me to pack all nail clippers and scissors and safety pins in my check-in baggage. Safety pins, you ask? Yes. I was once upbraided on keeping these terrorist weapons in my carry-on baggage, and they were thrown out. Alas, I was, at the time, wearing a shawl around my head, pinned in place with two safety pins…they made it through that weird security check! Apparently I could terrorize the plane only with unused safety pins.

I’ve learnt to buy only suitcases with number locks, so that at international airport, after the security screening is done, I twirl the locks and secure my baggage against light-fingered handlers (oh yes, there are many, still!) When I am entering the US, or exiting it, I often still find a billet-doux from the TSA inside my luggage, their equivalent of “Kilroy was here”.

I’ve learnt to carry an empty water bottle along, and fill it up after the security checks, as on long flights, very often it takes the stewardesses a long time to fetch water, in cattle class. I’ve learnt to carry little snacks with me, as it’s not always possible to go to a snack bar and order something to eat in the interval between one connecting flight and another. (I remember an occasion when my daughter carried curd rice in her carry-on baggage from Portland, Maine…and when it was not allowed, she sat there in the security area, and ate it up, saying she was not going to waste such a precious thing!)

I’ve learnt that the size of luggage, and weight allowances, often depend not on strict rules, but on the discretion of the staff at the check-in counter. Sometimes harassment occurs, most often there isn’t any.

I am still extremely annoyed at some airlines charging for the second piece of luggage, and then charging by weight. Why should my 250-lb fellow-passenger be allowed the same weight of luggage as I am (110 lbs)? I am scared to write this as some airline official might be delighted to read this and spot and opportunity for even more charges!

I’ve learnt to use cabin baggage that just fits under the seat in front. On long flights, it’s often very comfortable to put my feet on the strolley, and stretch as much as I can, on the instrument of torture that an economy class passenger seat is.

here’s my take on aircraft seats in econonmy class

I’ve learnt to always buy wheeled luggage (yes, I belong to an era before it became de rigeur!) with strong handles. I’ve learnt to make friends with my luggage repair guy in Jayanagar 4th Block, and get non-wheeled strolleys “well-wheeled”! Yes, indeed I’ve become a “wheeler-dealer”…at least in terms of my luggage!

I’ve learnt to pack one change of clothes in my carry-on baggage, and a toothbrush, in case my case doesn’t arrive along with me (it’s happened several times, and thankfully, is happening less often.)

So…excuse me while I go and get stuffed…get my luggage stuffed, that is! A weekend in New York will be followed by a marathon journey to Chennai, and then back home…..hopefully, with my luggage.

Unique piece of furniture…

July 21, 2011

I’ve seen a lot of

glider rockers

and lots of porch furniture. But whenever I go to visit our friends in Columbia, Missouri, their glider-rocker porch set just stuns me afresh!

swng set 170711

The whole set…the two seats opposite each other, and the table in between…glide back and forth…it’s amazing to me that one can have (within a reasonable ambit of movement, of course!) a cup of tea or a drink, and a snack, with everything moving together!

Our friends found this unique piece somewhere in Connecticut, and I cannot suppose that it has been easy to move it around as they did, to Florida, and then to Missouri. However, that’s what they’ve done, and their beautiful home in Columbia has a lovely porch which seems to be an area exactly meant for this wonderful piece of furniture….I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I don’t think I’m likely to, either.

A visit from the police

July 20, 2011

All the residents on our block got this email from the residents’ association (or whatever it is called!) a few days ago:

“Two Officers will be in the neighborhood tomorrow 7/18 from 4-6pm to properly mark your property, assets such as flat screens laptops, desktop computers, ipads, other electronics that can be taken from your home. They will also pass out safety information to help protect us against crime. For more information contact the officers directly: Officer Michael Butler and Officer Kathy Suarez North Patrol Special Operations.”

Sure enough, at about 5pm, several police officers rang the doorbell, gave us a sheet of paper on which we could list out our valuables. They also brought a special pen with which they marked the TV, the laptops, and few other valuable items around the house. They also told us that we could make the list at our leisure and keep it ready.

As they left, I went and asked if I could photograph them, and they agreed:

police 180711 stl

How lovely to have such an interaction with the police force! Instead of the usual “us-and-them” feeling that I often get in India, here I got a feeling of committed officers, working hard for our welfare. I watched them talking to many of the neighbours, too, in the sweltering heat of the day, before they finally left. One of them was in casual clothes, one in full uniform, and the others had “POLICE” tees!

They can’t have an easy job….in a society where, especially, guns are so prevalent…so I appreciate their efforts all the more.

I emailed them the photograph, and got an immediate reply from Janice Y Bockstruck (who’s in the photo):

“Thank you for sending us a copy of the picture. It was a pleasure to
serve the community in such a positive way and meet such nice residents
as yourself who support our efforts!

“Lt. Janice Bockstruck”

Wow…I’m hoping for the day when I can email Karnataka Police, and get a quick reply like that…..but meanwhile, thank you, St.Louis Metropolitan Police Department!

Departure looms…

July 18, 2011

I know I have to go back home, and in many ways, I am looking forward to it; there is a lot of work (and life) waiting for me back home. I normally have a fairly neutral frame of mind, accepting the fact that my child, her spouse, and their child live very far away from me…and that when they lead happy lives of their own, we are both fine.

But it is the parting-after-being-together that seems to throw this equilibrium off completely. When the time comes to leave these three, why can I not preserve the same calm frame of mind, and part equably? Why must these tears spring unbidden to my eyes at odd moments? Why is this emotional umbilical cord so very strong? Why is the “grand-umbilical cord” that ties me to KTB)…even more strong? When will I ever control my heart and my emotions?

This time around, A is still having difficulties with her health, and that bothers me a lot, too. But…I know I cannot stay on indefinitely….so I must leave her to her own, hoping that she and her spouse will take care of themselves and their child, evenwhen they also have full-time careers, and other demanding voluntary jobs to do….trust that they will manage. On this thought, I will lug my suitcases out of the door….

All this lachrymosity when departure is still a few days away! I don’t know whether to smile or weep.

Oh well, going to see “Singing in the Rain” at the Muny this evening, hope I’ll feel less as if my heart has been put through a food processor…

Goldfinch, Forest Park, 170711

July 18, 2011

Early in the morning, I went off for my usual walk to Forest Park, and the weather was kind enough to allow me to wander around for two and a half hours! And one of the last things that delighted me was the sight of a beautiful litle

American Goldfinch :

gldfnch 3 170711

This looks like a female:

gldfnch 2 170711

She was flying between the Coneflowers and the Chicory weeds:

gldfnch 170711 fp

She made a delightful picture, though catching her was a tough job as she flitted about:

gldfnch  4170711

But I enjoyed the sight of her…I waited about for the male, but had no luck…and walked home finally, satisifed with just my sight of “Thangam Mami”!

gldfnch 5 170711 fp

What was incredible was that it was almost exactly (just two days earlier) to the day, in 2009, that I had taken a video of a male Goldfinch, having a bath near the Suspension Bridge in Des Peres Creek:

Car on fire

July 17, 2011

We were driving down to Columbia, Missouri, yesterday, when a huge plume of black smoke alerted us that something was wrong:

brng cr 1 stl 160711

A car was on fire; the fire truck had already arrived:

brng car 2 stl 160711

We felt that the firemen were trying to assess the situation….was there a lot of petrol in the tank? Was it worth dousing the fire, or was the car past saving?

brn car 3 stl 160711

The presence of another car next to the burning one was worrying, but we could not, obviously, stop and gawk at the scene…so on we went, wondering if the firemen would douse the other car, at least, before it, too, caught fire.

The burning car was well and truly alight (I got these photos from a quickly moving car):

brng car clsup 160711 stl

How ironic that next to it is a sign that says “Icehouse”, and promises 24 oz. cans at less than a dollar each!

I looked in the local newspaper today, but there was no news about this, so I guess this is going to be an incident about which I will never know anything more…but I am still speculating about what happened…before, and after, we were briefly at the scene.

Songs the Nations Sing

July 15, 2011

Sometimes I feel that patriotism, or its negative form, jingoism, causes a lot of strife in this world. We are , I think, now so interconnected that surely we don’t belong to just ONE country any more? I feel just as comfortable in Europe or the US or in Africa, because I do feel that people are the same everywhere…it’s just that customs may differ, and appearances. But the emotions and ties that bind us, the thoughts and ideas that move us, seem to be much the same all over the world.

However, the love of the county one was born in (or more importanly, grew up in) seems to be such a lovely thing, and nowhere have I seen a better demonstration of it than here in America, when their

National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner

is sung….

In vocal, here:

(several celebrity singers have sung can google for them)

and with instrumentals here:

The not-so-good part about the lyrics, of course, the references to war and rockets and perilous fight and bombs bursting…in this sense I love the Indian anthem, which is more exalted and which rather pragmatically describes the diversity of India.

Most public gatherings still start with the rendition, and it is moving to watch the entire audience on their feet, singing. The wonderful part is that almost every American places hes hand over hes heart as s/he sings. I cannot sing this anthem, but I am moved by the rendition each time, as I am by the love of the country that I see all around me, as the Americans sing.

Now this is definitely a practice that, I feel, should be re-introduced in India. For many years, we had

Jana Gana Mana

played at the beginning or end of plays and movies.

Here’s the version (instrumental) that used to be played (with that billowing flag!):

When did we stop the practice? I used to feel unhappy at seeing people walking and sidling their way even though the anthem was playing. Perhaps the lack of respect given to the anthem was instrumental in its rendition being stopped?

Here is one rendition:

One by various musicians, with A R Rahman:

If we truly do love and respect our country of birth and life, surely we can take three minutes to stand respectfully when the anthem is sung, and reflect on what our mother has given us. Patriotism is not only cheering the cricket team on… consists also of these moments of silent reflection, of these occasions when the person sings with the heart as well as the voice, praising the nation and revering its flag.

I wish there were now a global song…perhaps We Are The World would be a fitting World Anthem?

Here’s a rendition by some well-known singers, including the two who wrote the song

It moves me without fail. I don’t propose to go into the issues of different countries, different languages, different cultures. Each national anthem is so beautiful, and surely no one could ever choose one above all others…so I feel a global anthem would be best.I would love a global anthem that exalts what is good, without referring to strife or war or poverty, or need…. just as the Indian anthem does.


July 14, 2011

dbl rnbw 120711

Sometimes two and sometimes one…the effect of the rain and sun.

sngl rnbw stl 120711

You need the rain and the sun, too; that’s the beauty created by two!