Archive for August, 2012

The Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ Naturalists’ Training Program, 090812

August 9, 2012

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Today was the first day of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ Naturalists’ Training Program, and I went to the JLR Bannerghatta property to meet all the participants. Some were known to me, otherws were new….but I had a great time, as usual. Alas, I could not get permission to stay over, so I had to leave…but sighting a scorpion, getting a great talk on the differences between beetles and bugs, enjoying the pouring rain, laughing and talking with the others…

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The photos I took are on my FB album at

My FB album on the NTP

Very tired and sleepy now….off to ZZZ I go!

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Photos from the Yercaud trip, 220712

August 8, 2012

Mathematics, Freud, and me

August 8, 2012

Freud’s theory that bad experiences in early childhood may have a great influence on one’s attitudes in adulthood seems, certainly, to be true in my case, with many subjects. Having had very different exposures to different “subjects” in school, my attitude towards them differs greatly.

I had excellent teachers for languages. Apart from this, I was exposed to a lot of reading in English, Tamizh, Bengali and Hindi at home, too (My mother, who moved to Calcutta a couple of years after her marriage, arranged a Bengali master and learnt enough Bengali to read classics like Anando Matth in the original…and I read them this way, too, as she asked me to take Bengali as the third language at school, and taught me Tamizh at home.)

I therefore developed a great love for languages, that persists to this day. I delighted, when I moved to Bangalore, in taking language courses…German, Sanskrit, Esperanto, Japanese….and this was learning (and, alas, forgetting!) for its own sake. There was no “why” to my learning…and that, to me, is the true mark of education.

However, with other subjects, I was not so lucky…and Mathematics, especially, was my bete noire (or to put it more simply, the bane of my life).

Recently, my friend Rewati Karmakar remarked on a photo that I’d posted on Facebook, pointing out how getting exposed to concepts like the Fibonacci numbers sparked her interest in Mathematics.

I really wish I had been exposed to something like this in my childhood…I have a great aversion to mathematics as a result of the way I was exposed to the subject, never understanding the concepts. I think, now, that Maths is beautiful (like music)…but the space in my head where figures reside…seems to be blank.

I can remember odd things, like the number of the bill that I paid for in the shop…but when asked to manipulate numbers, I shy from the task, and the more my hesitancy, the more likely I am to make major mistakes. It’s a kind of vicious circle…spiralling down into avoiding Maths (I refuse to call it Math.)

I could never understand WHY a plus b had to be squared, why the equation of a hyperbola is x-squared plus y-squared is equal to zero.(That is, if I remember right.) Why could we not leave the parabolas and the hyperbolas alone, and why did we have to bother with a and b and c, all the way down to the end of the alphabet? Not understanding the concepts meant that I never developed any taste for the subject, a state of affairs that exists to this day.

In the same way, I learnt to enjoy Physics, but got to dislike Chemistry. Even in Physics, all those decimals in the “Coefficient of Linear Expansion” problems would throw me off completely! and I could never balance those chemical equations properly.

So…I think it IS important to have good teachers in one’s childhood, rather than chalk-on-blackboard “it-is-so-because-I-say-so” type of teaching, which often stultifies the child’s budding interest and inters in the mud of ignorance for ever.

Catch a child’s interest, imagination, and sense of wonder when their minds are still open and tender, and you have a love of learning that lasts for life. Fail to do this, and you have an aversion…that lasts for life.

A brush with wildlife…

August 7, 2012

I’ve known many wildlife artists, and usually I think of them as people from urban centres, who paint and exhibit in the city. Surprisingly, what was in front of my eyes for a very long time, I had not really noticed…until Sunday, when I met this wildlife artist.

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We’d gone for a drive, and at the temple where we decided we’d turn back, we stopped to look at some Hill Mynas. That was when I noticed the artist, hard at work.

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I asked him his name, and it sounded very much as if he said “Parmesh”…but his signature, in Kannada, on the hoardings, says, “Dhanush” (Bow, or actually, the Bow-wielding God, Rama.)

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Well, I started talking to him, and I admired the leopard he had just finished, and the gaur he was working on.

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Two more empty hoardings stood nearby. I asked him how long he’d been an artist, and he said, “About ten years.” He is from H D (Hegga Devana) Kote, and he says he is commissioned by the Forest Department to do the paintings of animals and other creatures that the Forest Department will display all over the forest, by the roads.

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He said he got about Rs.4500 per painting, and the cost of the materials came to about Rs.1000 or so.He uses oil paints. “But still,” he said, “With the rains,the paintings don’t last very long.”

He asked me to see the tiger painting put up a few steps down the road:

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And here is his signature at the right bottom corner:

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He says he gets work the whole year round, there are no “off-seasons” for him. It seemed a wonderful life, painting contentedly in the temple premises, not more than a few feet from the forest whose denizens he depicts…

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But I am sure that, like all professions, this too would have its ups and downs…yet, to paint for a living somehow seems very satisfying to me!

Here’s Dhanush, still engrossed in his creative work:

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These are some of the unsung heroes of our forests. I will not go past another hoarding or painting on the forest road, without looking at it carefully…and it’s good to know that the Forest Department is still encouraging artists and not going in for screen-printed hoardings. Long may the likes of Dhanush last!

Snake in the grass….

August 6, 2012

Once in a while, these phrases come alive….on Saturday, while we were watching a field of Egrets, we saw one…

It was an amazing sighting watching a snake actually moving steadily through the birds!

Colours, and the wind

August 3, 2012

wndmill 020812

We are blown about by the winds,
And the colours keep changing.
We do not know when change will happen,
Or when we will stagnate.
Let us emulate the windmill….
Let the winds of chance and fate propel us,
Accept and in that acceptance,
Mix all the colours, in circulation, to the purity of white.

No access to the forest: immediate implications for children

August 3, 2012

Two incidents have cut us off from the forests of Karnataka.

The first one, which has resulted in a ban on permission to trek/walk in the Bannerghatta Forest area, happened because of the death of a young man, Satwik Sharma, who, with his two friends, walked into the forest one weekend, and who was killed by an elephant.

The second incident was the Government of India banning safaris in all the tiger reserves, because of the critical nature of the State of the Tiger in India. All safaris, whether in the core or buffer zones, have been stopped.

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Chital Doe and Fawn, Bandipur, 040212

As a naturalist, I can see the merits of restricting entry into the forests, but I am afraid that a blanket ban like this may result in several unwanted occurrences. Regarding the access the poachers will have, and the freedom they will have to indulge in nefarious activities, when ordinary tourists cannot enter, I will not say much. Much wiser and experienced people have expressed, and will continue to express, their views on this matter.

I will talk only about children.

For some time now, I have been steadily involved in introducing children to the wonders of Nature. I have been very lucky in having Bannerghatta forest practically at my doorstep, and have taken several children to the forest. I’ve done my level best to show them the amazing things that can be observed and listened to, and I’ve also done my level best to teach them the do’s and dont’s of entering the forests.

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Hanuman Langur and baby, Bandipur, 040212

However, the ban now means that children can longer enter the forests…they can no longer see the creatures of the wild in their actual setting…never get a sense of the holistic picture…how the various flora and fauna interact to produce an ecology.

As a volunteer, I have suddenly run out of options on venues to take the children to. I am now restricted to places like Madivala Lake, Puttenahalli Lake, Valley School, and the Arikere Reserve Forest..all of which are urban venues, and in no sense of the term can I call them forests.

Even in the Zoo area, I could show the children an occasional mongoose, and give them the feel of a real forest….now, all that is at an end. If they want to see mammmals, they have to visit the Zoo.

If we are to take away (for whatever reason) the children’s right to see the world of Nature, how do we expect to generate in them, the enthusiasm to protect the jungles and their denizens? The sense of disconnect that I am already finding abundant in many children, will only become worse. We will be rearing a generation of people who have no love, no feeling, no enthusiasm for the forests, and who will not be doing anything to preserve the last bits of pristine forests that we have, or the wild creatures that we have left. Apathy is even more dangerous than wrong knowledge….and I am really afraid that the wilderness in our already overpopulated country will fall a victim to poaching and encroachment on one hand, and a don’t-care attitude from the urban public on the other.

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Elephant and calf, Bandipur, 040212

A blanket ban on anything has as many minuses and pluses, and I hope the Government of India soon makes it possible for naturalists and children to visit their own heritage, appreciate it, and come back with the determination to preserve it. Restrictions with conditions, rather than a blanket ban, would be much more practical, in terms of re-starting the revenue from wildlife tourism, while yet ensuring that our forests and wildlife do not get plundered to extinction.

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Long-billed Vulture Nestling, Ramnagara, 030212.

I’ve included the photos of several children….those of our fellow-creatures in the forests, which I would like our own children to see, love, and appreciate.

Purple and Orange

August 2, 2012

purple sunset 040712 i'day

Purple and orange
The fireball slips westwards.
Its fierce power wanes
And summer sufferers
Heave a sigh of relief.
Source of all energy on Earth;
But, at times, that can still be hard to take…
And the rest and recuperation of Night
Is needed to before the next dawn…

About two, six, eight, and a thousand legs….

August 1, 2012

I’d posted about

Weaver Ants

but here are some more interesting creatures from that morning at Arikere Reserve Forest….

There’s an old riddle, “Have you seen a house fly?”…and the answer is, “They don’t…” But here’s one:

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Can you imagine, such prismatic colour, sitting on a heap of what I will politely call fecal matter?

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Here’s a


looking away from me,

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and at me!

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This is web of


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see the wasp caught in the web.

This one’s a


(and don’t ask me what Katy did…I don’t know!)

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Here’s a


female, with her egg case:

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and the male:


You can see a female


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a male


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and an


(on its way to the US, perhaps?)

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If you thought (like I do) that those names make no sense, here’s a name that does…the


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Here’s how to photograph it:

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This one’s a


belonging to the family Fuligoridae:


This is the


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(the open wing shows a bright electric blue)



sits, well camouflaged, in the leaf clutter:

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This is the cat ( Which is what butterflyers call a caterpillar) of the


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You want the size reference?

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We asked


what this was, mimicking a tiny scorpion….he said it WAS a tiny


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We did look at beings with merely two legs, too, and amongst the human beings and the dogs I saw this


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Three more bipeds whose knowledge of butterflies and moths I esteem very highly:

Karthik, Krushnamegh Kunte, and Rohit Girotra:




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But there are, literally, millions of legs in this photo, because


means, a thousand-legged one!

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