Archive for June, 2013

The Barn Swallow Babies, Forest Park, 300613

June 30, 2013

I’d decided to go for a brisk walk. NO birding, I’d promised myself. But I knew it was a hollow promise when I slung my camera around my neck! (well, even without the camera,I’d stop for any interesting bird or other creature…I knew it.) Like an addict who’s determined to kick the addiction, I set off at a brisk pace.

For one hour, all went well. I turned my face resolutely from the Robins and the Grackles and the various Red-winged Blackbird pairs I saw. I walked up to the Prairie Area in Forest Park, and things started disintegrating as several flycatchers…Eastern Kingbirds, and Eastern Phoebes..made their appearance. I saw a Green Heron taking off, and resisted going after it to the Des Peres creek,where I knew it would go fishing. But as I walked home, along the conifers near Lindell Boulevard, I saw some Barn Swallows swooping along the grass, hawking insects. Then, I noticed one swallow going towards a little blob on one of the conifers….I stopped in my tracks, my resolve forgotten, because this was a parent, feeding a fledgling…

DSC01508

no,TWO fledglings,

DSC01512

sitting comfortably on the conifer branch, waiting for the parents to bring them food!

DSC01513

DSC01516

15 barn swlw  fp 300613

DSC01525

DSC01526

DSC01530

DSC01532

In between feedings, they’d preen:

DSC01533

But food took preference:

DSC01535

Here’s one parent…

DSC01537

Both the fledglings here…

DSC01539

Synchronized looking out for the parents!

DSC01540

Preening:

DSC01543

It was fascinating to watch the nursery meal in progress!

Both parents are visible in this image….

DSC01536

I dragged my reluctant feet off to go home, not realizing that another drama of a Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by Robins and Grackles was going to grip me at the end of the walk!

I’ve put up the photos on my FB album,

click here

to see them!

A catchy song…from start to Finnish!

June 29, 2013

here

is the Wiki about this lilting song….and here’s the video:

The video contains the lyrics and the translation, too…delightfully done.

Before the Supermoon…

June 27, 2013

DSC01118

Plenty of poets have written words
About the moon in June…
But it’s lucky that I can write
About the Supermoon !

At least I wanted to, but alas,
The clouds hid it from sight.
So I decided to post the pics I took
Of the moon, the previous night!

When I see the moon like this,
I can almost see the astronauts..
Stepping gently on lunar soil.
Even my romantic thoughts

Are so down-to-earth! (Or are they
Up-to-moon? I wonder…)
When the moon makes others think of love…
I think,”Apollo 11″…that’s my blunder!

Origami in everyday life…

June 25, 2013

One tends to think of origami as a purely art form, for children to learn….and forget the fact that it’s very useful in daily life, too. You can take a piece of cardboard, shaped thus:

DSC00121

Fold it so:

DSC00122

Fold it further, so:

DSC00123

Add two handles, and hey presto, you can carry food in it!

DSC00124

I love Bengali “tonga”s, all folding food boxes, and some beautifully folded paper cups, too! Useful origami…

Hungarian Shadow Play

June 25, 2013

I was moved watching this, and I hope you will be, too…

Varsha, Bhoomi, Prakriti

June 24, 2013

View of monsoon showers from Nandi Hills

Taken at Nandi Hills, 23 June, 2007…exactly six years ago! Right now, a storm is raging outside, here in St.Louis.

The clouds gather, and darken.
Heavy, bearing water, they scud along.
Low-hanging, in cottony shreds,
Higher up, boiling, as if
The water in them were
Hot, instead of icy cold.
The breeze stiffens, too.
Coolness, welcome after the heat,
Pervades the very air.
The trees sway in the rising wind,
And that eerie light, that presages a storm
Makes the whole scene glow.
Lightning forks down…majestic, awe-inspiring.
The thunder follows, scary claps, or distant rumbles.
The first big, fat, drops fall
And dry at once, on the hot footpath.
But more and more follow,
Until it’s a stream of water
Falling from the sky.
It sounds trite and traditional,
But the hearts of sundered lovers
Yearn to be together again.
Children, on the other hand,
Hold on to their parents
And try to swallow their fear
Of the elemental forces.
The monsoon’s begun…the wonderful, unique
“Smell-of-the-earth”, that comes with the first touch
Of rainwater, on the parched earth,
Raises emotions in our hearts,
Even as beasts and birds
Scurry for shelter, or stand patiently,
Drenched in the sustained downpour
With which Nature renews her annual promise
To her sister, the Earth.

Sunset at the Muny, STL, 170613

June 21, 2013

I went to the Muny to watch the opening night of the musical season, with “Spamalot”. It had been raining heavily all day…but as if in salute to the never-say-die spirit of the cast, the rain petered out, and we had the most amazing sunset colours, before the show began! I thought of ‘s fondness for the “sky ocean”…I was, indeed, drowning in blue and pink!

22 170613 Muny Sunset

13 170613 Muny Sunset 4

DSC01003 5 170613 Muny Sunset

DSC01026 3 Sunset Muny Forest Pk 170613

DSC01030  Sunset Muny  Forest Pk 170613

Muny dusk Forest Pk 170613

Here’s the Old Glory, on the stage:

DSC00984 flag 170613 Muny Sunset

The national anthem sounded, and I too got up and put my hand over my heart…does it matter which country it is?

american flag muny Forest Pk 170613

Walking home, I took this photo of the Bandstand in front of the Muny:

DSC01068Bandstand Muny Forest Pk 170613

And one of the Visitors’ Center:

DSC01069

PRB (Post-Retirement Blues)….

June 20, 2013

It strikes me that none of the management schools have any courses to deal with “after”….the years after one’s active career is over, the “vana prastha” that Hindu scriptures deal with. Ambition is great while it is applicable, but I find that very few people, who have been driven by their careers, can deal with life after retirement; indeed, to many of them, “retirement” seems to be synonymous with being “useless”. Shifting down the gears does not come easily, nor does finding other interests to occupy oneself with, particularly when one has not had the time to cultivate such interests in the hectic pace of one’s career.

What are your ideas on this…those of you who are all approaching the Pearly Gates of retirement (or have reached it)? I find that no one wants to be a “human being”, after decades of remaining a “human doing” (a telling phrase created by our sambandhi, James Shaffer.) “What are you doing these days?” is a question which one feels defensive about answering with, “Oh, nothing much”. One feels that the skills one has picked up during a working lifetime should continuously be put to use, and one becomes a consultant, working as hard, if not harder. The thought of retirement brings on depression even when it is not the thought of the lack of income. The loss of income, with children still to be educated in college, elderly parents or sometimes spouses to be cared for medically, can be quite a factor, in deciding to go on working at something, but I feel that this is not the primary cause of the “retirement anxiety” that so many people seem to feel.

The increase of life expectancy in our own lifetimes, and the shifting of the “old age” horizon, from the late fifties or the sixties, to the seventies or even the eighties, also, in my opinion, increases this problem. If, at sixty, one is pretty physically and mentally active (I’m not talking of just thinking so!) and can reasonably expect another decade or two of life, how on earth does one occupy all that time?

The loss of power and clout is also a major factor in the onset of retirement blues. One is used to a strong leadership role, envisioning paths that one’s organization can tread, and taking one’s colleagues along. The trappings of power are quite addictive, and the sudden loss of these perks can lead to very real withdrawal symptoms.

I’m sorry to perhaps be politically incorrect, but in my (limited) experience, women seem to deal with retirement much better than men. They seem to be able to take on other roles with relative ease (particularly when the “relative” means children who need help with the grandchildren!). For the men of your generation, who often do not take much of an active role in the household or the family, the prospect of suddenly getting into anecdotage, retailing the recollected memories of powerful positions, is not appealing at all.

Should management institutes offer courses that deal with this phase of life? I think not, as they are preparing people for active careers and ambitious goals. But then, retirement is a natural process, the aftermath of a career, so, if one needs professional training to manage one’s career, surely one could use training to manage the post-career life well, too? To make one understand that one’s self-worth is not bound by the power that came with one’s career, but is a very real entity…to teach one to avoid the “retirement traps” (ennui, a loss of self-esteem, a need to keep on working at the same pace)…all these may address a real need in our aging population.

If I were a management graduate, I would expand this into a nice book, launch it on and off the Net, give lecture tours, conduct “post-retirement adjustment” seminars, make money…and make a career out of it! Perhaps someone, or several someones, have already done it 🙂

Do let me know your thoughts…I am not widely read, and I like to listen to points of view over friendly conversations, rather than read them in books!

The Robin Nursery, Creve Coeur, 160613

June 18, 2013

They may be the most common birds here, but babies are still fascinating….

At the home of friends in Creve Coeur, a pair of American Robins have nested and there are two nestlings, with an egg yet to hatch.

They’ve nested just below the sundeck, and the parents were not worried at all about predators..or photographers. But photography was a challenge, through the gap in the wooden slats!

DSC00915

I’ve cropped out the distracting slats, in some of the photos below.

Here’s a close up of one nestling:

DSC00922

The size of those mouths, in relation to the bodies. gives an idea of the importance of food!

DSC00937

DSC00949

Here’s the parent, with a tempting morsel:

DSC00940

Alas, when I could focus on the bird, in macro mode, the babies went out of focus!

DSC00945

Such little scraps of life …

DSC00948

Even the wings are so embryonic:

DSC00951

From such fragile-looking creatures come the next generation of Robins…and since these birds are to be found in plenty, it’s obvious that they are not as fragile as they look!

Passenger aircraft from the past…

June 17, 2013

I was just musing on a few lines in a novel by Dick Francis, “Smokescreen”…”You can’t keep a good Dakota down. There were two of them …..sitting on their tail wheels and pointing their dolphin snouts hopefully to the sky.”

I remember the Dakota as being the very first aircraft I travelled in. The only airline we had then was Indian Airlines, a nice, neat logo and a navy-and-silver livery. I must have been very young, but I do remember the incline that we had to climb up after having got in at the rear of the aircraft. I think this was the Douglas DC-3 Dakota…it was only decades later that I knew the “why” of the aircraft’s name. I also vaguely remember going to Dumdum Airport (as it was then, in Kolkata) to see a Dakota aircraft belonging to the Maharaja of Darbhanga. Funny, how that memory came back to me when I thought about the Dakota, with its aerial stretching from the top of the cockpit to the tail!

The next plane I remember was the Viscount. (I am deliberately not googling for the details of all these aircraft, but writing about them from memory.) The Viscount, probably made by Vickers?…was a sleeker-looking aircraft.

Another propeller craft that I liked very much was the Fokker Friendship. With its wings over the fuselage, I travelled in it, too, many times. I do not remember destinations other than the annual visit to Madras (now Chennai) during the summer or winter vacations. I recollect that there was also a Fokker Fellowship, though I cannot recall how the aircraft looked.

As children, we would often go to the “aerodrome” just to see aircraft, in that age of innocence. Everything was accessible,behind just some aluminium fences! We would see the aircraft control tower, and be awed by the miracle of flight (which is still as miraculous to me!)

Then began the age of jet flights, and as my father moved up the corporate ladder, we made the trip to Chennai, not on the Howrah Mail or, later, the Coromandel Express, but by the Caravelle. I realize, from the spelling, that this must have been a French company… and I remember the sleek shape of the craft, with the engines by the tail instead of on the wings.

I cannot recollect when Boeing started figuring in my aircraft horizon; but I recollect my parents travelling by the 707 when it was a newly-introduced aircraft. I did follow all the models, number-wise…now we have the Dreamliner, which I suppose is the 777 🙂

I followed the slow deterioration of Indian Airlines…the rise of Air India into a world-class airline and then its rapid decline, too, as politicians got their dirty hands on the act…my father used Air India exclusively, in those heady days. As the MD of a huge British company, he travelled to London twice a year…first class! My mother, too, flew first class, often travelling with him to Europe, onwards from London. It was they who inculcated in me, my love of travel.

KM, too, was a big traveller, and I also started seeing the Airbus aircraft. I used to drop him and pick him up from every single flight, and airports were still friendly places, within fifteen minutes’ drive… On his many travels around the world, he did make a memorable trip on the Concorde, from London to New York, and his account of his experiences were the highlight of my interest in passenger aircraft, for a long time.

I remember the pride that airlines took in their craft…the Caravelles were named after rivers, I think, and the Jumbos after Himalayan peaks.I would check to see what each aircraft was called!

My younger brother had his own area of interest…any time our father travelled by a new aircraft, his questions were, “How many toilets did it have? Where were they located?”

Slowly, the glamour faded out of air travel, as the process got faster and faster in the air, and simultaneously, slower and slower on the ground. An aircraft was a marvel of engineering, a magic of science, and yet, became just an air bus, ferrying people from A to B. And yet, with shrinking seats, luggage allowances, blackout dates for frequent flier miles, and other inconveniences….I still like to look at the big aluminium bird that is about to lift me into the air and take me to a distant destination…and the marvel of flight has me in thrall once again!