Archive for July, 2013

Where did 180 days go? 280713

July 31, 2013


Prairie, Lewis and Clark State Historical Site, 270713

July 30, 2013

DSC04409 prairie hartford ill, 270713

Under the summer sun
And the fleecy clouds,
The prairie flowers bloom.
Before the day is done
There will be crowds
Of insects, fighting for room
On the blossoms, to partake
Of the nectar so sweet.
Wings help the creatures make
Quick landings with six feet.
A scene of quiet and serenity
Appears to our eyes;
But the fast-paced activity
Of the insects is seen by the wise.

Coneflowers, Bee’s Balm and other flowers on the prairie, Lewis and Clark State Historical Center, Hartford, Illinois, 270713.

For photos of the birds over the weekend,

click here

For photos of the insects,

click here

For the Lewis and Clark State Historical Site,

click here

Ruby-throated Hummingbird: Lewis and Clark Historical Center, Hartford, Illinois, and Alton, 270713

July 28, 2013

Ruth was kind enough to take me to the Lewis and Clark Historical Center, Hartford, Illinois, venue of the Hummingbird Festival. We were going to watch the


being caught, banded and released…


Missouri has only one Hummer the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Click on the bird’s name, above, to go to the Wiki entry about this tiny bird.

We went to the Historical Center:


Ruth going towards the registration desk:


Everyone gathers. The banding is done by

Vernon Kleen



Here are the feeder-cages in which the Hummers are caught:


The Hummingbirds enter the open cage for the food, and the door falls shut.


One Hummer (the first one I saw was a female, the second, a male) is being taken out of the trap:


Banding video 1

Here’s a female Hummer, in safe hands:



You can see her tongue outside her beak:



Here are the bands that will be slipped on to the Hummingbirds’ feet:


Here are bands that have not yet been made into rings:


they are, apparently, made of aluminium.

Other equipment is being unpacked:


This pink bag contains a Hummer!


I loved the tee that the “bander” was wearing:


The Hummer is held delicately, yet firmly, as the banding is done:






You can see the green and the red here:


The bird is also measured:



I couldn’t get the whole process very clearly as it was all done between the dexterous fingers:


But how delicately and expertly it is done!





This one is now all done…


What a beauty the male Hummingbird is; it’s so clear to see why it’s called Ruby-throated!




The Hummingbird is brought to be released:




The tiny bird lay inert for a while on the palm, rather mesmerized and not knowing that it was now free to go…and it went!

We went off to see the historical site, thinking that we were done with the Hummers, and then went to Alton, to attend the Towboat Festival. But here, at a feeder in front of a beautiful little home, several female Hummers delighted me, once again, zipping through the nearby trees, and then coming to the feeder:







There was even a Hummingbird lantern in the garden:

DSC04484  Hmmer Alton 270713 light

We saw a lot of other birds, watched towboats and wooden boats, saw a bit of how America was in the past, but the Hummingbirds crowned our day. Such tiny, zipping scraps of utter beauty and delight!

DSC04486   Hmmer Alton 270713

Update…I got this email today:

On Sun, Jul 28, 2013 at 8:07 PM, Jack or Ginger McCall wrote:
The hummingbird bander at the Festival in Hartford IL yesterday was Vernon Kleen, email address: . He is from Springfield and has been banding birds for years.He is a retired biologist with the Illinois Dept of Natural Resources. The person that did the most work for setting up the festival was Irma Holmes, email address
She is with the Great Rivers Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society (IAS). The IAS promotes festivals all around the state during late July and into August. Aren’t they wonderful events?

Ginger McCall, President, Great Rivers Chapter IAS

Jumping, cackling, whistling, and crowning!

July 26, 2013

When people jump to entertain him, he cackles…

and whistles so high, I call him a friend of all the dogs in the neighbourhood!

He’s really bright-eyed, I don’t know about bushy-tailed!

DSC03937 2 klyan  230713

Meanwhile, we have our Pink Princess crowning the Pink King:

DSC03966 crown 230713

Having put on her “sumin shoes” for some waterplay at her daycare, she’s also putting on, as she says, some “shoe gloves”!

DSC04103 kavya 250713

Such a delight being with these two…!

I dislike the practice of canvassing for votes

July 25, 2013

Dear Blogger, Photographer, or anyone else canvassing for my “valuable vote”.

I dislike the practice of canvassing for votes.

I have several friends in the running for several competitions, and I am voting for no one, because often I will be voting for one friend at the cost of another. How “valuable” could my vote be, if canvassing by you can secure it, not the intrinsic merit of your post or photo?

I don’t like to be told what I should do, even in a humorous vein. Eg, “Write good things, or lie if you like….. Note the topics, and emphasise on those” Why on earth would I want to do all that?

I blog myself. I don’t badger anyone to see my blogs. I post photos. I do not pester others to see my photos, or vote for them. I do not enter competitions as I too might turn to this kind of canvassing.

It’s not your problem; it’s mine. I do not like canvassing, that’s all. Have you seen the sentence, “Canvassing in any form will disqualify the candidate?” I wish that rule would apply. When you need to cast around for votes, there’s something fundamentally wrong…or at least, that’s my opinion.

I enjoy reading your posts, seeing your photographs. But I don’t like coercion or persuasion of any kind, and I don’t believe that we need to be competitive all the time. By all means let me know if you are in a competition…and then…please leave it to me to vote, or not, as I wish. Do not apply pressure of any kind.

This is not aimed at anyone in particular; it’s a general statement about my dislike of canvassing.(And it’s worse when I am bcc’d for canvassing!)

When melody is lost…

July 25, 2013

Sanjay Subramaniam is one of the Carnatic vocalists I normally like to listen to, very much.

Why “normally”?

Because of the video above. This, to my mind, is a prime example of what can happen when melody and “nidAnam” depart from our music. The song is “unnaiyallAl vErE gathi illai ammA” in the rAgam kalyANi.

Up to past 9 minutes , everything is smooth sailing, the melodious notes flow well, and the mood of the phrase that he has taken up for neraval, the “title” line, which means, “I have no saviour other than you, Mother” is enunciated.

But then, at 10.00, melody and the sweetness is sacrificed for rhythm and “adukku”, and the whole mood of the song, to me at least, is lost.

This is why I listen much more to north Indian music, these days, in preference to Carnatic music. This rattling of the rhythm and need for speed leaves a contemplative mood far behind, and is jarring to my ears.

The burden of this song is beseeching; “I have been acting long enough on the stage of this world, grant me a boon, and let me stop!” Surely, these lyrics set a mood very different from the cacaphonic crash of jathi and tALam, and should not be treated thus.

This is not aimed at one artiste; most singers seem to forget about bhakti, or the majesty that comes with a particular song, and indulge in calisthenics that spoil that mood.And…it’s not just now; I’ve seen such butchering happening amongst singers of the 60’s, 70’s.. since I started listening to Carnatic music, in fact. Sanskrit, Telugu and other language lyrics broken into meaningless phrases…(eg. “kAma krOdhudu”, in “manasu nilpa shaktilEka” by Thyagaraja, truncated to “kAma krO” for kalpanAswaram!)

North Indian music also does have speed and virtuoso displays, but the melody does not seem sacrificed to speed and gymnastics.

Paul Fernandes, and Old Bangalore

July 24, 2013

A set of beautiful posters, by

Paul Fernandes ,

click here to view

Soft as sin

July 23, 2013

“Soft as sin”, said the words
Of Jonna’s haiku.
The words imprinted themselves
In my heart.
Yes, I thought…sin is soft.
The soft temptation that calls one
In the darkness of the soul
To do things against one’s conscience.
The soft sibilancy of illicit love
Whispering in one’s ears…lust.
The soft delight of food that is eaten
For sheer love of eating…gluttony.
The soft, insistent wanting
Of more than one has…greed.
The soft sounds of sleep
That is beyond rest…sloth.
The soft heat that comes to a head
In a burst of temper…wrath.
The softness of a poisonous remark
Made against someone…envy.
Sin does not stride boldly
Into one’s soul;
It slides in, softly,
Slinking in, with slime..
With unseemly haste, we surrender
While our good selves sleep.
“Soft as sin”….so descriptive.
The sibilance of the Serpent
Is in those words.

The original haiku by Jonna:

“What does your name mean?”
His voice tender, soft as sin.
“Moonlight.” Then, he smiled.

Two legs and six…two red creatures

July 23, 2013

I went for a short walk to Forest Park, and was delighted by a certain red gentleman:


I got closer


And closer…


and then he flew away. When I got home, on the porch, this gentleman awaited me:


here are some more views of this weird-looking creature:




Does anyone have an id for this gas-mask-type insect with the beautiful wings? He was really tiny.

Hope you enjoyed the two red creatures…

Guru Purnima

July 22, 2013

September 5th is usually celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India, but a lot of people are thinking of their preceptors today, which is Guru Purnima. Here are my thoughts…

All my life, I’ve been taught…I’ve learnt some lessons, others I’ve still to learn.

I started with kindergarten…I remember the Anglo-Indian ladies in Swarna School who were such dedicated teachers. Jackie Teacher, Colin Teacher, Ollie Teacher…it never occurred to me that all of them seemed to have the same last name! There was Gayatri teacher who was the Art teacher in the school; Mrs Ghoshal who taught us Geography; Mrs Sundaram (who started the school) who taught us a few subjects, and her assistant, Mrs Bani Sen, whom I went in mortal fear of (yes..I used to feel that her eyes followed me everywhere in the school, waiting to catch me in some transgression.) We had a “Sir” in Class 8; only in hindsight do I realize that he must have been a Palghat Iyer. He was excellent at Maths, English, and off-colour jokes, which used to embarrass some of us very much. Mrs. Rao was the Science teacher (hindsight…she was a Kannadiga). I cannot forget Mrs. Datta, who taught Hindi so well that she inculcated a love of the language in me, even as I detested its grammar.

I remember Polly di (I don’t know her last name) whom my mother engaged to teach me to read and write Bengali, as well as to speak it. I took Bengali as my third language, and still am fluent in it!

In National High School for Girls, several teachers helped shape my learning..and thoughts. C V Lakshmi Teacher, Kanaka Teacher, a smiling-faced lady who made me like Physics…Mrs Omana Varma who taught Maths, that went (and continues to go) right over my head.

My college teachers (Gokhale Memorial College) were uniformly excellent. The two Hindi masters (I forget their names); Mrs Chakraborti, Miss Dutta, Mrs Chatterjee…ladies who ensured that I took a rank (University 5th, if I recollect) in my English Honours degree. Mrs Chatterjee and Mrs Mukherjee, who taught us Philosophy.

Through all these years,through all my academics, like a string in the garland… my music Guru, R.Meenakshi, who took a lot of trouble to make me a good Carnatic vocal singer. I never missed classes for exams or holidays. That rigorous training still tells.

The girls who taught me so much…I was academically very good, but very young for my age, as well as being nearly two years young for my class. They taught me Robindro Songeet, Adhunik songs…and about a lifestyle and culture that was more freewheeling than my repressed TamBram upbringing.

My own mother, who taught me how to be interested in many, many things…bird-watching, plants, the world of Nature. My father…who taught me the value of absolute integrity..and how to laugh and joke, and enjoy life. My brother, who taught me not to take things too seriously. His happiness was infectious.

My two preceptors, who helped me in “progressing” my Honours degree into a Master’s. I never even collected that certificate..but I enjoyed a liberal arts education in a time when the term had not been invented. I enjoyed learning for learning’s sake…how many of us have that good fortune?

My various teachers, through the various courses I took. Miss Karnik, my German teacher; Mr Brownlee, my Esperanto teacher; Mr Sathyapal, who was my HAM instructor; the various faculty who taught the Tourism Guide course; Mr Rao, my Japanese teacher (I enjoyed learning Japanese, but no second level course was offered, and I quickly forgot everything…but “wasure mashita!”) Mr Pandit, my Sanskrit teacher…Seeta, who taught me how to swim (at the age of 50 or 52, I think!)

My friends, who taught me the value of staunch, unwavering affection. The others, who taught me valuable life-lessons…how to deal with friendships that waned, with envy, with malice…yes, they taught me, too.

My own music students, who taught me a lot. When students ask question, one is forced to learn before one can answer them!

My many techie friends, who taught me how to use my computer and how to use the internet…I was not a good or apt pupil but I did learn slowly.

My many friends who taught me a lot about the world of Nature, birdwatching, and help me, even today, through the many mistakes I make.

KM and his family, who taught me how to be independent, and do things for myself. I’d been brought up in cotton wool, and this was a valuable lesson to learn. My daughter and her family, who continue to teach me many things.

My Nature Guru, Karthik, a walking encyclopaedia, who showed me that every inch of one’s path through the garden can be riveting!

Poonam Natarajan, who taught me how to deal with special children, and how to appreciate the daily miracle of my own child.

Travel..which has been a great teacher, indeed. And the best teacher of all…Life…I’ve made many major mistakes, but I am trying to progress towards my goal of being a Better Person.

I look back, and like the leaves in a forest, too numerous to count or mention, but giving support, shade, and beauty to my life… are the gurus who have taught me so much…I look back and salute, in gratitude, and affection, even towards those who did not think they were teaching me something!