Archive for September, 2014

Beauty defies time….

September 30, 2014


We may exist for a minute;
Our size may be minute;
But, in the little time it has…
The fly is iridiscent,
It brings life to the metallic shine.
The casual passerby
Takes a second look,
And stands, transfixed
At the shimmer of colour, and shadows.
When the leaves leave
And the fly flies,
The memory of the fleeting moment
Remains, etched in the mind…

Coming Out, 270914

September 28, 2014

Some people have trouble coming out of the closet.

But our Kallubhai has none at all, coming out of the kitchen cupboard.

The size of those feet amaze me!


The proud “out-comer”


The cupboard was NOT empty, by the way!


Experiments with light, 190914, Forest Park

September 26, 2014

I went and met Danny Brown in Forest Park, and spent a contented morning. There were no new birds, but I was trying out shots in different light settings.

The early morning sunshine was something I had to get from Danny’s running car:


The rising sun on the Cooper’s Hawk gave me another opportunity to shoot against the sun:


This, to me, provided more drama than the conventional sunlight-on-the-bird shot.


There was the light on grass seeds:


The long shadows, and the arch of the bridge made an interesting composition:


I thought the sepia generalized the bird and accentuated the lines and curves.


The mist rising off the water made a good capture.


Even the common Mallard looked lovely in the golden light.


I enjoyed the various poses!





Greenery against the light was lovely, too.


Then we came across a Wood Duck couple, partially in the light, and partially out of it. This was quite a challenge, getting the birds and their reflections without too much of washout.




Getting details with the zoom was important.


Of course, Danny clicked away like the pro that he is; it was I who was struggling!


I got the male Wood Duck alone:


Getting macro shots against the morning light was also tough.


Another common bird, the Starling:


I got a Cormorant in mid-flight:



In the twilight, I went again to Forest Park, and got the Great Horned Owls that Mark and Brenda were showing some people:



I may not be producing earth-shaking shots, but I’m quite happy with my experiments with light at various times of the day.

Scrap of life, 160914

September 26, 2014

It’s amazing to see what tiny scraps of feathers have song, and life, in them. Sitting on a twig, with his ratty little tail,this little bird still called loud enough to get my ear.


I clicked him, and got a few more “Cheep” thrills, before he flew off into the wide world of Nature, where he belongs.


Song Sparrow, Forest Park, 160914.

Life and death…and thoughts

September 25, 2014

ஜென்மம் நிறைந்தது சென்றவர் வாழ்க
சிந்தை கலங்கிட வந்தவர் வாழ்க
நீரில் மிதந்திடும் கண்களும் காய்க
நிம்மதி நிம்மதி இவ்விடம் சூழ்க

The life is over; hail to the person who left.
Hail to the person who concerned us.
Let the eyes swimming in tears dry up;
Let peace and calm prevail.

ஜனனமும் பூமியில் புதியது இல்லை
மரணத்தை போல் ஒரு பழையதும் இல்லை
இரண்டும் இல்லாவிடில் இயற்கையும் இல்லை
இயற்கையின் ஆணைதான் ஞானத்தின் எல்லை

Birth is nothing new upon this earth.
There is nothing older than death.
Without both, there is no Nature.
The laws of Nature are the far reaches of wisdom.

பாசமுலவிய கண்களும் எங்கே
பாய்ந்து துலாவிய கைகளும் எங்கே
தேசம் அளாவிய கால்களும் எங்கே
தீ உண்டதென்றது சாம்பலும் இங்கே

Where are the eyes filled with love?
Where are the hands that moved?
Where are the feet that straddled this earth
There are only the ashes, after the consuming fire.

கண்ணில் தெரிந்தது காற்றுடன் போக
மண்ணில் பிறந்தது மண்ணுடன் சேர்க
எலும்பு சதை கொண்ட உருவங்கள் போக
எச்சங்களால் அந்த இன்னுயிர் வாழ்க

What one could see, goes with the wind.
What is born on earth, returns to the earth.
The form made of flesh and bones disappears
May the soul live forever.

பிறப்பு இல்லாமலே நாளொன்று இல்லை
இறப்பு இல்லாமலும் நாளொன்று இல்லை
நேசத்தினால் வரும் நினைவுகள் தொல்லை
மறதியை போல் ஒரு மாமருந்தில்லை

There is no day without a birth
There is no day without a death
The memories born out of love trouble us.
There is no medicine like forgettin.

கடல் தொடும் ஆறுகள் கலங்குவதில்லை
தரை தொடும் தரைகள் அழுவதும் இல்லை
நதி மழை போன்றதே விதி ஒன்று கண்டும்
மதி கொண்ட மானுடர் மயங்குவதென்ன

The rivers which the ocean touches, do not worry;
The lands that touch other lands, do not weep.
When they percieve a Fate that is a like a river or rain
Why do intelligent humans get enmeshed?

மரணத்தினால் சில கோவங்கள் தீரும்
மரணத்தினால் சில சாபங்கள் தீரும்
வேதம் சொல்லாததை மரணங்கள் கூறும்
விதை ஒன்று வீழ்ந்திடில் செடி வந்து சேரும்

With death, some angers will cease.
With death, some curses will end.
Death clarifies what even the Vedas do not say.
Where a seed falls, a plant will rise.

பூமிக்கு நாமொரு யாத்திரை வந்தோம்
யாத்திரை தீருமுன் நித்திரை கொண்டோம்
நித்திரை போவது நியதி என்றாலும்
யாத்திரை என்பது தொடர் கதையாகும்

We came to this earth on a journey
Before journey’s end, we fell asleep.
Though sleeping is in our destiny,
Our journey is a serial tale.

தென்றலின் பூங்கரம் தீண்டிடும் போதும்
சூரிய கீற்றொளி தோன்றிடும் போதும்
மழழையின் தேன்மொழி செவியுறும் போதும்
மாண்டவர் எம்முடன் வாழ்ந்திட கூடும்

When the soft southern breeze touches us,
When the rays of the rising sun touch us,
When we hear the honeyed sound of the rain,
Those who are departed, may live with us again.

மாண்டவர் சுவாசங்கள் காற்றுடன் சேர்க
தூயவர் கண்ணொளி சூரியன் சேர்க
பூதங்கள் ஐந்திலும் உன்னுடல் சேர்க
போனவர் புண்ணியம் எம்முடன் சேர்க

May the breath of the departed mix with the breeze.
May the light of their eyes mingle with the sun.
May your body merge with the Five Elements
May the good deeds of the departed belong to us.

போனவர் புண்ணியம் எம்முடன் சேர்க
போனவர் புண்ணியம் எம்முடன் சேர்க

May the good deeds of the departed belong to us.
May the good deeds of the departed belong to us.

Here’s the transliteration and a much better translation by R Shankar:

janmam niRaindadu senRavar vAzhga
sindai kalangiDa vandavar vAzhga
nIril midandiDum kaNgaLum kAyga
nimmadi nimmadi ivviDam sUzhga
Life was full, blessed be the departed
Blessed be the ones who made us grieve
May eyes that swim in tears dry out
May tranquility pervade, here and everywhere

jananamum bhUmiyil pudiyadu illai
maraNattai pOl oru pazhaiyadum illai
iraNDum illAviDil iyaRkaiyum illai
iyaRkaiyin ANaidAn nyAnattin ellai
Birth on this earth is nothing new
Nothing more timeworn than death
But without them natural order will perish
The bounds of knowledge are but nature’s mandates

pAsamulAviya kaNgaLum engE
pAyndu tuzhAviya kaigaLum engE
dEsam aLAviya kAlgaLum engE
tI uNDadenRadu sAmbalum ingE
Where are the loving eyes?
Where are the hands that leapt to feel and search?
Where are the feet that measured the world?
Ashes and left-overs (from fire’s meal) are all that remain

kaNNil terindadu kATRuDan pOga
maNNil piRandadu maNNuDan sErga
elumbu sadai koNDa uruvangaL pOga
eccangaLAl anda innuyir vAzhga
What was evident has gone with the wind
Born of the earth, is now unto the earth
Skin and bone have evanesced
May that sweet life live on despite defects

piRappu illAmalE nALonRu illai
iRappu illAmalum nALonRu illai
nEsattinAl varum ninaivugaL tollai
maRadiyai pOl oru mAmarundillai
A day without birth isn’t possible
Nor a day without death
Loving thoughts are the malady
There’s no panacea like amnesia

kaDal toDum ARugaL kalanguvadillai
tarai toDum tAraigaL azhuvadum illai
nadi mazhai pOnRadE vidhi enRu kaNDum
madi koNDa mAnuDar mayanguvadenna
Rivers draining in the ocean are not distressed
Rays touching the ground do not shed tears
Knowing that rivers and rain are but fate
Why are intelligent men bewildered

maraNattinAl sila kOpangaL tIrum
maraNattinAl sila sApangaL tIrum
vEdam sollAdadai maraNangaL kURum
vidai onRu vIzhndiDil seDi vandu sErum
Wrath expires with death
Imprecations vanish with death
What scriptures do not, death does teach
If a seed falls, a tree will result

bhUmikku nAmoru yAttirai vandOm
yAttirai tIrumun nittirai koNDOm
nittirai pOvadu niyadi enRAlum
yAttirai enbadu toDar kadaiyAgum
We’ve come on a journey to this earth
We’ve gone to sleep before journey’s end
Even if sleep were pre-ordained
The journey itself is without end

tenRalin pUnkaram tINDiDum pOdum
sUriya kITRoLi tOnRiDum pOdum
mazhalaiyin tEnmozhi seviyuRum pOdum
mANDavar emmuDan vAzhndiDa kUDum
When the gentle fingers of the wind caress
When a sliver of sunlight sparkles
When the prattle of babes fills our ears
The dead come back to our lives

mANDavar suvAsangaL kATRuDan sErga
tUyavar kaNNoLi sUriyan sErga
bhUtangaL aindilum unnuDal sErga
pOnavar puNNiyam emmuDan sErga
May the breath of the dead mingle with the wind
May the brightness of their eyes brighten the sun
May their bodies become one with the elements
May their virtue become ours

Riverlands Bird Sanctuary, with Edge and June, 230914 (Part 2: Confluence nature trail)

September 25, 2014

When we finished at the dam, and had our coffee (thankfully, they didn’t say it tasted odd!) Edge suggested we go to the Confluence Point.


We had lunch (I completely forgot to take a photo of it…phulka/veg wraps, and soft drinks to go with it) Here are Edge and June with the coffee, instead!


Here they after lunch, just before starting on the trail.



We started on the trail; the time of day, possibly, was not the best for birding, and we didn’t see any. But that bothered me not at all, as both Edge and June are so knowledgeable about everything else I saw, and I got such a lot of information!

The beginning of the trail had a lot of information:




The pioneers of the westward expansion:


So too did the end point, where the two rivers meet:


Imagine the water being that high!



I watched a lot of Monarch butterflies. They weren’t migrating in clouds, like the nature documentaries showed; there was one, here and there, flying around…





Here are a couple of un id butterflies:




Several delighted me..







This plant belongs to the Nightshade family:


We found this plant had a strange aroma, but June couldn’t place the name.


This is Bindweed, considered a pest in gardens:






Clover family:


Wild Gentian:


Autumn is coming, and the plants let us know:


Here’s a burr that inspired Velcro:


A wildflower from the pea family:


This is Illinois Bundleweed, in its dry form.


Here’s the fresh variety:


And the leaves:



June pointed out these larvae, which were eating the plants around:



Several very large grasshoppers had me hopping after them!


Can you spot the damselfly?


Well, I managed to get a close-up:


Several beetles zipped along our path:


This fat spider swung in the sunshine:


and this little jewel closer to the ground:


Tent caterpillars are considered pests, but that doesn’t take away the marvel of their engineering!


I got a Hornet on a wildflower:


And, later, on a bench:


Here’s a ground beetle on the Goldenrod:


We discussed centipedes and whether they were poisonous:


A Harvestman (Daddy Long Legs…just LOOK at those legs!) was a treat to see.


So was a Cranefly.



This beautiful toad was not easy to see.


It took a lot of effort to take a pic where the creature is not melding into the surrounding leaf litter!



Edge caught one so I could get him (or her):


Then I managed to get it on the path:


The scenery:

The weather and the open countryside were both beautiful.




The Mississippi:


The confluence of the mighty Mississippi and the Missouri rivers:



Here’s Edge on the trail, with those 3 extra legs of hers:


Here’s June, trying out her new attachment, which allows her to take pics on the phone through her scope:


The two steadfast friends walk the paths of Nature and Life together:





We finally went to the Audubon Center to have a look around:



Edge, my heartfelt thanks to you!



September 22, 2014

We are having a discussion on retirement, with someone asking for thoughts from others. Various points of view, and tips for managing one’s life after one has quit one’s corporate career, were given. I decided to add this:

​I enjoyed this thread very much, as a person who’s never had a full-time career; I’ve been lucky to have a spouse earning the bread, and I’ve worked part-time at very different tasks, most of which were not very financially remunerative (yabbah, that word always gives me trouble…reMuNerative or reNuMerative? my mind keeps asking.) I agree with Sandy….there’s never any lack of things to do. The point is to also have enough in the bank to live as one wishes to do (also providing for a few emergencies along the way.)

Sometimes, the retirement can be thrust upon one. I’d like to share the experience of a very young friend of mine, Priyanka. She worked full-time for a (what else, in Bangalore?) software company until she was diagnosed with a hole in the heart, which could not be laparoscopically treated. Prior to surgery, she was also diagnosed with (I forget which type of) diabetes which had to be treated and stabilized. So…without any prior planning, it was a double whammy. She gave up her job, and the expenses, at the same time, shot through the roof. Even now, she has am injection each day, that is very expensive indeed.

But since she and her husband have always been “give back to society” people, she took all of it in a =most positive way. After she recovered from the surgery, she took up photography, which both of them were already reasonably proficient at; she did not have to invest in more expensive equipment. She cycled long distances.​ She’d always volunteered for several organizations, working with deprived children; ​she writes about recipes, particularly ones that she’s deve​loping for her present state of health.

Here’s one entry from her blog, if you are interested.

​She and her spouse help run a group that organizes screenings of ideology-based movies and documentaries every week in Bangalore. (It’s called Khula Manch, and everyone is welcome to the screenings.)

She’s probably 22 or 23 now. She’s set such a remarkable example for me, and for anyone else, on how to handle “retirement”. In comparison to her, those of us who can plan ahead for our non-corporate job careers are remarkably well off, I think.

Hats off to everyone who can turn their back on “careers” to pursue what they want to do. (Not everyone can, or should, do this.)

But a special tip of the hat who make the most of even the unexpected reverses in their lives, to do the same thing!

Bubbles, 160914

September 18, 2014

We played with bubbles last evening.


Bubbles in the sunset:


I blew the bubbles, and Kavya hunted them down:


Kavya did her share of blowing:



Some bubbles rested, ever so delicately, on the grass:


Some even survived landing on the concrete:


Mother and son arrived, and he joined in:



What can define “delight” better than a child looking at a rainbow bubble?

Reflections on Krishna Jayanti (Janmashtami)

September 16, 2014

A friend on a mailing list had talked about Krishna, and said:

Surprisingly, the word Krishna means dark/ black color. However this had not affected his immense popularity.

One point occurs to me, visiting St.Louis at a time when division based on the colour of one’s skin is more pronounced than ever, in this deeply segregated city.

​I personally find the “dark/black colour” of Krishna has been sanitized in Indian folklore (like Rama’s skin colour, too!) to a purple-blue, from the actual dark grey that “megha varNam” is…the rain-bearing monsoon clouds certainly don’t have a hue other than that!

I have heard so many Indian people claim, with righteous pride, “We venerate dark gods.” It is precisely these people, for whom the colour of even a god seems important, who seem more intolerant of darkness of skin in humans.

I think it is the other qualities of Krishna…his romantic allure, his people skills, and indeed, his crafty statesmanship…that account for his popularity.That, and his association with music, and the allied “lalit kala” (fine arts.)

I can never help being impressed by the subtlety by which he ensured that the Pandavas’ representative, Arjuna, got the first choice of his guidance in the war. (He asked one Pandava and one Kaurava to come and sit next to him, and ask their boons when he awoke. Arjuna devotedly sat at his feet as he slept, and Duryodhana proudly sat at his head. This ensured that on waking, Krishna saw Arjuna first, and gave him the first choice. Arjuna chose Krishna, and the Kauravas got Krishna’s armies. It does intrigue me that Krishna, knowing in advance the outcome of the war, so easily sacrificed his loyal soldiers on the battlefield.)

In Anjana’s high school Hindi text book (probably Class 5 or 6, in the early nineties) there was a prose passage which dealt with Krishna, not as a god, but as an excellent statesman and leader of the various tribes which made up the kingdoms around Mathura.

I thought that Rahi Masoom Reza’s characterization of Krishna in the famous TV serial as a mischieviousm impish person, not above the occasional deviousness and political stratagem, is very human, and sticks close to the persona that most of our literature and music talk about.

God or man? The choice is ours to make, based on our faith, or lack of it.

A light breakfast, Forest Park, 140914

September 15, 2014

After I caught sight of the Osprey fishing in the Grand Basin in Forest Park, my friend Danny Brown pinged me, and we arranged to go to Forest Park again on Sunday to try our luck.

As he went to park the car near the Visitors Center, I caught sight of this



An unfortunate bird had become prey to the talons and beak of this raptor, and was being polished off on top of a light fixture!



The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says, Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, is “A medium-sized hawk with the classic accipiter shape: broad, rounded wings and a very long tail. In Cooper’s Hawks, the head often appears large, the shoulders broad, and the tail rounded.”


From the yellow eye, it was apparent that this was a sub-adult.


This bird was named after the naturalist William Cooper, one of the founders of the New York Lyceum of Natural History.


Their breeding range extends from southern Canada to northern Mexico.


The sun was coming up behind the bird, and I experimented with taking the shots against it:


The wiki says, “These birds capture prey from cover or while flying quickly through dense vegetation, relying almost totally on surprise. One study showed that this is a quite dangerous hunting style.” They even prey on other raptors if they can, or small mammals.


During their flight displays the male will begin by diving toward the female. A slow speed-chase follows involving the male flying around the female exposing his expanded under tail coverts to her. The male raises his wings high above the back and flies in a wide arc with slow, rhythmic flapping. Courting usually occurs on bright, sunny days, in midmorning…not at all surprising weather for romance!


Over a two-week period the pair builds the nest, and the female incubates the eggs between 30 to 36 days.


Cooper’s hawks have been known to live as long as 12 years in the wild, and rarely fall prey to other raptors like Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, and Northern Goshawks.

The Cooper’s hawk, as a natural predator of almost any North American bird smaller than itself, can inadvertently deplete populations of rarer, conservation-dependent species. The American kestrel, whose populations have experienced considerable decrease, is one species in which the extensive predation by the recovered Cooper’s hawk population is a major concern. So this is one instance where conservation has had another side to it!


We left this fascinating bird of prey to the remnants of its meal, and went on our way.