Archive for February, 2013

Colours of life..and love…

February 26, 2013

Here are the colours of a young life, that I snapped….

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And that reminded of this beautiful song…

Here’s a friend of mine, singing it with her group:

(She’s the one on the extreme left)

I do love colour!

Chasing the devil out of the bottle

February 26, 2013

When a bottle of whisky is finished, we like to chase the devil out of the bottle.

AM makes a start which doesn’t yield good results:

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So KM tries:

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He cheats (imagine, cheating the devil!) with a little drop of whisky added, and tries, this time with satisfyingly blue results:

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So I decide to take a video of it, the last time around:

Er, you actually want to SEE the devil? Seems to be resident in the bathtub:

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The culture of outsourcing

February 25, 2013

I am trying to articulate a theory that I have…that one of the reasons we, as a nation, don’t accomplish things, is our culture of Letting Someone Else Do It. We always delegate whatever we can (and several things we should not) to others. Power seems to be equal to Not Having To Do Things Oneself. There are always Anonymous Minions to carry out our mundane tasks. (I receive requests from so many people on this mailing list to unsubscribe them or add on another email id!) We do not feel empowered unless we do not have to do things ourselves. What we forget is that if we don’t do it ourselves, the other person assigned the task of doing it, will not do it as well. This, to me, explains the shoddy, chalta-hai ulture that vitiates much of our industry and endeavours.

Several senior managers I know are prime examples of Why-should-I-do-it-myself personalities. Whether it’s booking tickets,organizing an office party, or drawing up an agreement…it’s the myrmidions who have to slog through the details. I know someone who had the task of organizing a reunion of class members, and shovelled the whole task on to a hapless ex-colleague, who did such a shoddy job of things that at the end of the reunion, several others were left to sort out various messes and pay bills.

This culture extends everywhere, in every home, too. When we visit someone, they take great offence if we try to help out in the kitchen or try to carry in the used plates to the sink. “Oh, no, no, why do you do this?” we ask. The implication is that these tasks are somehow inferior, and one should not ask a guest to do them. (But of course, a hired menial can do them.) This puts such a negative light on doing any chores oneself. My daughter brought home a friend once (they were both 8 years old) who asked me, “Why do you make the phulkas yourself? In our house we have servants to do it.” Having servants to do work is not bad…but looking down on the work as “meniaL’ is definitely a bad attitude, I feel.

Every mother-in-law who does not want her son to cook or clean dishes, but expects her daughter-in-law to do it, is surely sowing the seeds for friction, not far in the future. Every mother who trains her child, whether son or daughter, to believe that cleaning and other household chores are beneath one, is laying the foundation for a lot of unhappiness and maladjustment. But…we continue to do so. How many Indian children do I know, who routinely do their share of household chores? Very, very few.

Every housewife knows, for sure, that hiring maids (and usually underpaying them) ensures that housework is shoddily done. But it’s such a prestige issue not to do it herself, and to blame the maids for bad work. Some of the mothers and grandmothers I know won’t even go outdoors to play with the children, but will send the child with a servant. No wonder the child comes back filled with the mindless gossip it hears.

The culture extends to the servant class, too. My maid, when I was hiring her, said, “But I won’t clean toilets”. She was flabbergasted when I told her I do clean my own toilets and the toilets in my daughter’s home, too. “But how can she let you do that?” she exclaimed….the underlying tenet being that cleaning toilets is not a job that one should do. Who, then, should do it? Of course our society has had an answer for it for ages…the Lower Castes, who not only clean our filth, that we should clean ourselves…. but receive (instead of good rewards and gratitude for helping us) our scorn and our contempt. I know so many housewives who want servants to clean their toilets, but will not let them use them…and see no irony or injustice in that.

If there is department in the government, there are officers, who delegate the task (say, laying of cables) to their juniors, who send men on to the road, who oversee the actual labourers, uneducated, lowly paid, and uninterested, who do the task as quickly and badly as they can get away with.

I wish we’d find a way to let someone else have babies for us. If only we had been able to outsource the process of having babies, such shoddy children would have been produced, that our population would have been well controlled, or even become extinct, by now…

Until the day comes when we learn to do our own work…we are not going to be effective or successful. The man who lets his accountant “take care of everything” is soon going to be parted from his money.

The irony, of course, is that so much of repetitive, brainless work is outsourced to us to do, and in the grand name of “information technology”, we Indians do it! When we are paid, we don’t mind. Event management is one industry that thrives on people not wanting to do things for themselves. There are services abroad which will remember family members’ birthdays and buy gifts for them! How ridiculous can things get?

I laugh when I see swanky cars on our roads…with a hired driver driving, and getting the enjoyment of driving the car! “The traffic is so bad!” is the explanation. Yes, the traffic is bad because the uneducated, underpaid drivers are driving…and because having a driver is a Status Symbol.

Corruption also, I feel, has its roots in this culture. If I have to book a friend’s ticket, I may ask him to do it himself…but if I can boast that “I have a person who can guarantee confirmed tickets”, then I am breeding corruption…I am bribing that person to get confirmed tickets at any cost. The presence of touts at any of our government offices is a testament to our reluctance to do things ourselves. When I can book tickets for myself on the internet, corruption in the Railway booking process does go down…except for the fact that the Railways website is so shoddily designed that it’s better to book through an “agent”.

The minute I do not want to do things myself, a middleman enters the picture. Costs go up, efficiency goes down, and transparency in the transaction vanishes.

We do not accord any dignity to labour…and try to place ourselves above it. I’ve seen so many parents bemoaning the fact that their children abroad “have to mow their own lawns”. Some of them even complain that when they go to visit their children, they are “made to do housework like servants”. What an attitude! One, it implies that a servant is an inferior being; two, it seems to postulate that one’s child’s home is not one where one, too, belongs, and does one’s share of the work quite happily. Surely, taking care of one’s own grandchildren, or cooking for them, can’t be such a distasteful task? When one thinks of all work as being “beneath one”, of course, it is.

I have expanded my theory into a post, and if I were an MBA graduate, with letters after my name, I would write a book and Become Phamus. But…I think I’ll wait for someone else to do it :))))

Big Bird Day, 240213

February 25, 2013

Here’s the officialese about the Big Bird Day:

Big Bird Day is a yearly event celebrated all over the Indian subcontinent in conjunction with Delhi birders.

This year it is to be held on 24th of February – Sunday. This year’s event is the biggest, with more than 220 enlisted teams / individuals so far from all over India and even some from abroad. See the complete list of teams and sites here (let us know where you are going and we’ll put you up on

the list…click here to see it

The objective is to go out and watch birds in certain areas that are convenient to you and report your sightings at the end of the day so that it can be compiled into a cumulative list if birds seen on a single day. The more areas we can cover the more comprehensive and valuable the data becomes. Thus we want more people to cover more sites.

Anyone can take part, either as an individual or as a team. Pick a site, preferably one that is not on the list yet and bird there from dawn to dusk (or for a shorter time) on 24th Feb. By 6.00 p.m IST send an email / sms to Bikram Grewal, only stating how many species you or team has seen and the areas covered.

If you are a participating from West Bengal, communicate the same information to Kshounish Shankar Ray as well who is coordinating BBD for the state.

Later, you can email the list of birds seen by you within a few days . The cumulative list will be published later after compilation of all lists.

Let us know where you’ll be spending your Big Bird Day!

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I decided that though I was separated from my birding commuity by half the globe’s distance, I would still “paati”cipate..so I went to Forest Park on the evening of the 23rd (which was, technically, the 24th morning in India…the Bird Day had to be 24th February IST!) for nearly four hours.

The areas in Forest Park that I covered were:
Cantilever Bridge
Des Peres Creek all over the Park
Jefferson Lake
Kennedy Forest
Planetarium
Post-Dispatch Lake
Prairie Plantation
Science Museum
Spanish Pavilion
Zoo Art Museum

(That pretty much takes one to all corners of this park. I had to use the roads most of the times, as cutting across several inches of snow was not always easy, or even possible!)

My bird list for the day was:

Blackbird, Red-winged
Bobwhite,Northern
Cardinal,Northern
Chickadee,Black-capped
Crow, American
Dove, Mourning
Duck, Wood
Finch, House
Flicker,Northern
Goose, Canada
Grackle,Common
Hawk, Cooper’s
Hawk, Red-tailed
Heron,Great Blue
Jay, Blue
Junco,Dark-eyed
Killdeer
Kingfisher, Belted
Mallard
Merganser, Hooded
Mockingbird,Northern
Owl,Great Horned
Pigeon, Blue Rock
Robin,American
Sparrow, House
Sparrow, Song
Starling, European
Turkey,Wild
Vulture,Turkey
Waxwing,Cedar
Woodpecker,Downy
Woodpecker,Red-headed

The other birds were all tick-birding, but I spent some time with the Song Sparrows; here’s

my FB album about them

Here are two of the three Song Sparrows that I watched for a while:

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Four hand photography…

February 22, 2013

This family wins, hands down…

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A sister and her brother
Are joined by their mother
(Who belongs to a different land)
A father adds another
To this image of four hands!

DS asked for AM’s hand in marriage, and he’s always given a hand with the household chores, been a great handyman with mechanical repairs….I hope they always walk hand-in-hand through life, and I hope their life-tennis is full of forehand serves!

Wonderful lyrics

February 21, 2013

The lyrics:

Kuch To Log Kahenge
Of course, people will talk
Logon Ka Kaam Hai Kehna
That’s what they do…talk
Chhodo Bekaar Ki Baaton Mein
Forget it.. this useless topic
Kahin Beet Na Jaaye Raina
Might waste the entire night away
Kuch To Log Kahenge
Of course, people will talk
Logon Ka Kaam Hai Kehna
That’s what they do..talk

Kuch Reet Jagat Ki Aisi Hai
The way of the world is such
Har Ek Subah Ki Shaam Hui
That every morning has an evening
Tu Kaun Hai Tera Naam Hai Kya
“Who are you? What’s your name?” (they ask)
Seeta Bhi Yahan Badnaam Hui
Even Seeta (Rama’s wife, known for her chastity and purity) was maligned here
Phir Kyon Sansaar Ki Baaton Se
Then…why do the words of the world
Bheeg Gaye Tere Naina
Make your eyes wet?\

Kuch To Log Kahenge
Logon Ka Kaam Hai Kehna

Humko Jo Taane Dete Hain
Those who blame us
Hum Khoyen Hai Inn Rang Raliyon Mein
Saying, we are lost in these pleasures
Humne Unko Bhi Chhup Chhup Ke
We’ve seen them, too, quietly
Aate Dekha Inn Galiyon Mein
Visiting these same places
Yeh Sach Hai Jhoothi Baat Nahin
This is true, it’s not a falsehood
Tum Bolon Yeh Sach Hain Na
Tell me, is it not true?

Kuch To Log Kahenge
Logon Ka Kaam Hai Kehna

The hypocrisy of moral judgement is beautifully brought out in this song….

Once upon a flame…

February 21, 2013

Every friend who’s gone with me on the UGS (Usual Gang of Suspects) nature trails this year, has enjoyed the sight of the Pakshi Darshini (Eatery for birds)…

click here

for the short photo-feature on Citizen Matters.

Just watch this…

February 19, 2013

I didn’t get it till the very end…see if you do!

Wood Duck, Forest Park, 170213

February 18, 2013

How much wood would a Wood Duck duck
If a Wood Duck would duck wood?
I don’t know how much wood he could…
But he certainly looks good!

wood duck 170213 fp photo DSC00852.jpg

Terraces…

February 17, 2013

Terraces….I look at the houses around me in St.Louis, and this is one feature I miss…all these houses have sloping roofs, so that the occasional snow can slide off. However, in India, most houses and apartment buildings are topped by flat terraces, which have multiple uses, and which add to the rich texture of life in my country.

The first use is, of course, to harvest all that solar energy that hits the rooftop of the house. Women bring their vegetables, pickles, and fritters to be dried in the sun, and the terrace of a home is often a delight for a small child, with delicious tibits spread out on mats. Some children are also given the job of guarding these self-same tidbits against marauding crows and sparrows, with the promise of a small reward (augmented, of course, by regular samplings!)

The terrace is the place (no longer true in apartments, alas!) where the family’s washing is brought up to be dried, by free solar power. Who has not been entranced by the lines of colourful clothes billowing in the sunlight!

Terraces have always been associated with love, which often is carried on under the guise of all the activities above! Those who are caught up with the mundane details of life in the lower floors, often come up to indulge in romance….the young girl spreading out the sarees on the clotheslines often lifts up her eyes to the young man teaching his younger brother to fly a kite…

Unfortunately, the terrace in a building is quite a public space, and other people (epecially children) delight in spoiling the mood of the lovers.

Here’s a song with children playing voyeurs…” mottai maadi mottai maadi love jodi love jodi”…terrible lyrics, but the song is fun!

ThanimayilE inimai kANa mudiyumA (Can you find sweetness in loneliness?)

Many Muslim houses also keep their “kabootharkhana” (pigeon nests) on the terraces, and its beautiful to see the birds fluttering up in unison against the morning or the evening sun.

The terraces of old houses have given rise to many romances, and many songs are pictured on terraces. Here’s a beautiful song set on a terrace:

Here’s a nice cartoon about love-on-the-terrace:

terrace 220213 photo terrace.jpg

With shamiyanas constructed on them, terraces also used to make a good place for food to be served during family weddings, in the days when weddings were held at home.

I remember, so many of us together, during the Leonid showers a few years ago, or when there were lunar eclipses, gathering with chai and snacks to watch the celestial spectacles.

Even today, in an apartment building, a terrace is often a kind of common space where neighbours can meet and spend a little time together. On a terrace, one is somehow apart from, and above, the cares that oppress one down below. The perspective and the view are different, and it’s a good time to enjoy oneself, or introspect….

Given this social history of terraces, it’s a pity so many builders just put a lot of water pipes on the terraces of apartment buildings, and completely spoil what could be a great place to gather and socialize. I do love terraces, as an extension of Indian habitation.