Archive for April, 2015

Jenga, and earthquakes…..

April 30, 2015

KTB is now the right age to enjoy simple card, board and concept games. For her birthday, this year, she was given the game of


and cottoned on to it fairly well..but her Nanna managed to build quite an edifice!

jenga 260415

Pic: Anjana Mohan

I guess it takes an architect to work out how to keep the structure standing while removing something from its base…I know it’s beyond me.

I thought of how Jenga has played out, in such a deadly way, in Nepal….

KTB has a birthday party, 260415

April 28, 2015

Though her birthday is on the 29th, the party happened on Sunday, the 26th.

Here are some of us:


(Pic: Krishnamurthy Rajagopal)

Here are the Shaffer grandparents:


I rather like this pic of LS that I took at a friend’s home after the party:


It was a nice day…I cannot imagine that my grand-daughter is entering her seventh year of life! DnA took a lot of trouble to have a great party.

More photos on my FB album,

click here


is a fun place for children’s parties!

Two images from travel….

April 28, 2015

I saw this cute little monster at St.Louis airport:


And while there, I saw this image, that represents air travel to me:


It could be any airport, any traveler….

Hopping the pond…again, 210415

April 23, 2015

Left home, winging through the pre-dawn skies.


The first leg, Bangalore to Paris (CDG) was jam-packed, so looking out of the window was better than trying to sleep all cramped up. (I had a HUGE co-passenger in the next seat, wouldn’t you know?)


Across Arabia, another flight, far below us:



Light came in cold shades of blue:


As we flew lower and lower, approaching Paris, it was nice to see the innards of the wing.


It’s those ailerons that keep this huge behemoth in the air.



Soon we had seen the Seine (I know, that actually does not rhyme!)


Paris’ skyscrapers:


And the best-known of them all, through the morning smog and mist, was unmistakable:


I don’t know which racecourse this was….Deauville?


Paris still has so much of historic buildings near CDG airport:



There’s modernity, too, you can see a water-theme park!


Loved the mosaic of the land…


I still thrill to the can’t-be-possible of flight, take-offs and landings!




The design of the airport, facilitating air and surface transport at the same time:


The “futuristic” airport buildings (the future here already belongs to the past!)


Some buildings reminded me of my architect sambandhi, LS, who’s designed her house with a similar roof. It’s called

the Wave House, in Portland, Me :


I learnt from a fellow-passenger on the CDG-Detroit leg, that Jumbos are going to be retired in a phased manner, so I took a pic of the sky whale that was going to transport me to the American continent, from Europe:


Here’s the technical info:



We flew from Paris, over Cherbourg:


over serrations of cloud


and then, the southernmost bit of England:


I slept, and awoke. The flight flew into Canadian, and then American, airspace…and at the border of the two, in spite of my cloudy eyesight, I spotted another world-famous landmark:


A blurry closer look:


As we approached Detroit, the wing played hide-and-seek:



Detroit, the City of the Car, had housing in plenty, too:


of course, plenty of roads for all the cars:


Having a body of water right next to the runway….keeps the pilots on their mettle, maybe?


I was harassed again at Immigration (“Why don’t you have a printout of your return ticket? You should have proof of your return.” My goodness…my return flight is 4 months away, why would I need a printout of it, and what proof is it that I will really return?) but only a bit, and I was allowed into the US of A, and after a long wait in Detroit (with a hopeful-but-did-not-happen chance to get some travel vouchers), arrived in St.Louis, where I spent the next day totally knocked out.

I’m doing the laundry now…but after that…I think the runny nose and the sore throat I’ve picked up from my little grandson, the MistyVision(TM), and the residue of the jet-lag…all these mean, back to a nap!

Free enterprise..flight and airport

April 22, 2015

I was sitting in Detroit airport, waiting for my flight to St.Louis. I heard this announcement: “Due to overbooking, we are looking for volunteers who are willing to go to St.Louis tomorrow. We will give $600 Delta vouchers (one year validity) and hotel accommodation if you are from out of town.” A family was awaiting my arrival in St.Louis, so I thought about it.

While I was thinking, another announcement was made, and the voucher amount this time was $700. A few minutes later, it was upped to $800. At this point, I went up the counter. I made sure that there would be a free shuttle to and from the hotel, that I would not be charged for baggage for “breaking my journey”, and accepted. I was given a flight the next morning at 8.55 am. Meanwhile, another lady walked up to volunteer, and she said, “If you can get me in to St.Louis tonight, some time, I’ll take it.”

So there we were, looking forward to hotel accommodation, feeling wealthy with $800 worth of travel in our pockets….or so we thought. Suddenly, the group of 8 or 10 who wanted to travel together, decided they didn’t have enough tickets…and canceled!

So the Delta employee told us we could board the flight. We watched our $800 fly away just ahead of the aircraft.

When I got to St. Louis, I got my suitcases off the carousel, and was waiting for A to come and pick me up. Someone came along with flatbed trolley and asked if I needed help. I said my daughter was coming (I was still at the baggage carousel, one level down from the street.) The man said, “Ma’am, the baggage trolleys here are $5 each. Then your daughter has to spend $6 for parking, and then come and push the trolley back to her car.”

“So what would you charge me for your help?” I asked.

“We are not allowed to ask for money,”he said. “But Ma’am….you can give me whatever you think fit.” The exact equivalent of the railway porter at Central Station, Chennai, saying, “Ethaanum pOttu kudunga ma.”

“Would a total of $3 be OK for you?” I asked. “Also, I have to tell my daughter I will be at the street level passenger pick-up and not near the carousel.”

“That’s fine, ma’am,”he responded. “I’ll make the call to your daughter and tell her where you’ll be, she doesn’t have to go to the basement parking at all.” He suited his action to the word.

He easily pushed the flat-bed trolley up the ramp to the street-level and after putting the suitcases (and me) at the passenger pickup point, told me, “Don’t worry, your daughter is on her way and she’ll come here and pick you up. If you could release me now, I’ll go get a few other passengers.” Off he went with the dollar bills quickly disappearing into his pockets! Once again, he reminded me of the railway porter who sets down people’s luggage in the place of the platform where the coach is going to stop, pockets his fee, and goes off in pursuit of further income.

Free enterprise is alive and thriving, the world over! It may be a coolie asking, or it may be an airport employee coolly asking, that’s the only difference!

Heritage, Architecture, Classical Music….and Birding! INTACH World Heritage Day, 180415

April 19, 2015

On Saturday the 18th April, 2015, my friend and I decided that the “bandh” had died down, and we went to the Bangalore Fort to attend a photo exhibition,



and then a north Indian,


followed by a south Indian,


classical music concert.

The Fort was a beautiful setting for the music






I enjoyed the majestic trees around the Fort:


…but most unexpectedly, it proved to be an evening of birding, too! This, of course, started with Ghandabherunda, the mythical two-headed eagle:


I was expecting the usual CKMP (Crow-Kite-Myna-Pigeon) a..but I was pleasantly surprised to find that several Jungle Mynas were trying to nest amongst the crevices inside the Fort walls.


During the speeches about Bangalore heritage architecture and the ceremony where awards were given to many private and public buildings, I watched both the Mynas, as well as a couple of crows who were trying to see if there were any eggs or nestlings they could snatch!

As dusk slowly darkened the sky ,and Dr N Rajam played Yaman, it was also stunning to see first the flocks of pigeons overhead…and then, large murmurations of Rosy Pastors, filling the sky overhead as they swooped past.


After this, along with a composition in Desh, came the long-tailed streaks of Rose-ringed Parakeets as they all sailed in to settle in the neighbouring trees.

As I listened to the final notes of Bhairavi and “Payo Re Meiney”, and dusk brought the purple to inky blue, came a huge flotilla of Black Kites, interspersed with crows, as they dipped and soared and seemed to be feasting on some offal thrown just outside the walls of the Fort.


As T M Krishna tuned his tambura and started to sing Varali raagam, a little Pipistrelle, followed by a much larger fruit bat (ok, ok, we’ve gone from birds to mammals here!) flitted around, delighting not only me but probably several other aviophiles (if that is not the correct word, tell me the right one!)..or lovers of winged creatures…. in the audience.

I also enjoyed some strange creatures on the wall of the Fort:




So you can laugh if you like, but it can be possible to enjoy heritage, architecture, music, and birding…all at once!

My photos of the evening are on my FB album,

click here

Today, I took ten other people to Galibore and had some amazing birding, with a total of 84 species…but that’s for later! (Hint, Black and White lifers for several people…Black-capped Kingfisher and White-eyed Buzzard!)

TBUC (Tiny Bundle of Utter Cuteness), STL, 180415

April 17, 2015

booda 170415

The tyke on the trike. He’s moved from the 2nd percentile to the 6th in terms of weight…but from 50th to 5th percentile in terms of height…but as his uncle says, he’s “off the charts for cuteness”.

Glad I’ll be there soon….

Where the endangered species are…

April 14, 2015

My friend Sharbari sent me

this map

showing where endangered species are to be found in the world. It then struck me that I am a very lucky and unlucky person. Lucky becauseI live in a land that has so much of biodiversity; unlucky, because of the combination of that and an exploding human population, it’s also a land where there so many threatened species.

I was immediately able to list out several species that I’ve been able to see, and observe, from “right here” to “not very far away” from where I live, in Bangalore.

This was my response to her:

What a scary map! But sometimes…statistics can be misleading. The very fact that India has some of the world’s biggest biodiversity hotspots makes for a bigger threat from the human population.

I can list some endangered (they may be listed as critical, vulnerable or near threatened…but the meaning is about the same!) species very close to home. In the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (100km from home), there’s the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.

2 gs bmswri 240312 photo IMG_1439.jpg

In Bangalore (15 km from home), there is the Slender Loris.


In Valparai (400 km from home),

the Lion-tailed Macaque

lion-tailed macaque puthuthottam area valparai 100109 photo IMG_0988.jpg

and the Nilgiri Tahr.

tahr on bend 13 photo IMG_5948.jpg

In Tumkur (60 km from home), the Blackbuck,

 photo IMG_5448.jpg

and the Yellow-throated Bulbul.


In Ramnagara (100km from home) the Long-billed Vulture

longbilled vulture ramnagara 241009 photo IMG_8789.jpg

(we used to see about 13 of them in the roosting spot, now sightings are only 1 or 2 at a time).
In Bellary (300km from home ),the Great Indian Bustard


and the Sloth Bear;

bear on rock 100910 photo IMG_1957-1.jpg

House Sparrows were disappearing from Bangalore, but now they are fighting back.

male sparrow with nesting material 171108 ragihalli village photo IMG_3039.jpg

And..of course, that icon of the endangered world, the tiger, in reserves less than 250 km from Bangalore.


These are only the species of fauna (in south India) that I have taken the effort to go and see, and probably, in some tiny ways, to contribute towards conservation. I do not even know the threatened species of insects, trees, plants….

The Western Ghats contains many other species which may be dying out. And…what of the species we have not yet discovered! Every day,it seems, new species are being discovered, and their numbers are unknown.

In other ways, too, these lists are sometimes misleading. If you look at the list of endangered species in Kerala:

click here

it’s rather puzzling, because in Karnataka, we have Great Cormorants and Grey Herons in plenty. (In fact, we are now worried that we seem to see many more Great Cormorants and less of the other Cormorants!) In the US, House Sparrows are regarded as an invasive species…and as pests. There is the famous incident of the mass killing of Sparrows in China, read about it


…and the result of the campaign.

So…as usual…things are very complicated.

Also put this into the mix…I do believe that evolution, as a natural process, will cause the extinction of some species. Do we really want the dinosaurs roaming the earth ? Pterodactyls plucking us up? Certainly, several species have become extinct without (and before) human extinction.

Another point that has often occurred to me…we, too, are a species of animal on earth. What is to say that our causing the extinction of so many other species is not part of the overall evolution?

Inchoate thoughts, that I am trying to articulate into a sensible article, hampered by having only a layperson’s limited view.

Clouds and rainbows

April 13, 2015

I was sitting in the waiting room of the eye clinic. I’d just been told that I was one of the few people who suffer complications as a result of eye surgery. My cloudy vision, I had been just informed, might, or might not, improve over the next few months, after which, the alternative was more (and possibly not effective) surgery. I was feeling sorry for myself.

Then I noticed the young girl, sitting a little distance from me. She was flanked by (I think) her parents. Her left eye was bandaged. Her head was on her mother’s shoulder, and her mother’s arm was around her shoulders. As I watched, a tear slowly rolled down from the normal eye…and another crept past the bandage, and rolled down from the ailing eye, too.

She sniffed audibly. Then she raised her head. Like the sun through rainclouds, a watery smile lit up her face, as she smiled at her worried-looking mother. The smile brought an answering maternal one. Then the father, looking at both of them, smiled too. The thick file in her father’s hand told me more about the ordeals they must have been facing. The smiles told me about their fortitude.

Suddenly, my problems were put in perspective. Slowly, I smiled, too. I’d been taught how to deal with adversity, by an unknown young girl, whom I would probably never meet again. Dear Suhaasini (one who smiles beautifully)…you will never know how you gave me the gift of courage.

A birder looks back: A K Raju, 130415

April 13, 2015

A K Raju, wildlife photographer, writes about this image:

The bold, the beautiful and the scared. So unexpected. The little fellow, a Coppersmith Barbet on the right, was bold enough to threaten a larger Babbler (center bird) that started to back off, but immediately the bird on the left hopped into my frame and came to its rescue. He was bold enough to aggressively jeer at the Coppersmith and back him off. Both Babblers are same size yet one is scared of the Coppersmith while the other is courageous enough to scare him off. So individualistic. Although instinct-driven, each life form has its own character.

On the technical side, he adds:

With digital technology getting better and better, I have learnt that it’s better to put the ISO of the camera to the highest it can handle and keep the shutter speed as high as the light allows so any unforeseen action is never missed for want of shutter speed. This is one such instance.

akr bds

Photo: A K Raju

Raju further muses upon the past….

In the early eighties when Bangalore had suffixes like ‘Garden City’ or ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’, a handful of us were wildlife photographers. We, the “wildlife photographers” were considered foolish people with no better work. We were the only people to be seen commuting at six in the morning.

It would take 25 minutes and 10 kms to be out of the city into lush green and a paradise for birds. If anyone owned a vehicle, the road was his own. We left home and negotiated the streets.. that was approximately when the sun rose. The far east where the sun rose was the far end was Mahatma Gandhi Road (yes! MG Road). It would be a great sight to see sunrise on this road along with the early mist/fog that would make the sun look still dull and sleepy. The British era structures along the right side, a long walk way with a army maintained park on the left that would never be used by anybody, few cyclists, hardly a couple of cars.

The cool air would be abundant with oxygen that would encourage you to take deep breaths feeling the freshness in your lungs. A few walkers in shorts and shoes, a legacy left by the British, walking on the road. Footpaths used to be as badly maintained as they are now. Everything moved at such a slow pace, it easily showed everybody had time for himself and was in no hurry to start the day.

As the city grew into a commercial and IT Hub, things changed. Now, it takes about one and a half hours to get out of the city and ten kilometers from my place and I am still in the suburban extensions. Today, one has to travel 40 kms to get out. All this has forced us to start by 4.30 or 5 AM in the morning. We have be out of city by the sunrise . If you are late you are stuck in the morning traffic jams.

A few days back I had to travel to a lake hardly a few kilometers from my place. I decided to start a little late since the travel time was not much. As I drove along MG road….there! The sun was raising at the other end. The early mist was indeed making the sun look dull and sleepy, the morning fresh oxygen that would encourage you to breath deeper was still present in the air but the British era buildings were replaced by high rise modern structures. The long walkway on the left was replaced with hurrying Metro trains that made frequent appearances. The roads were already full. Each person had his own pace, anything but slow. The footpaths were broad and clean. Walkers and joggers, gazing into nothing, were hurrying as if they were already late into the day. It looked so different from what it used to be.

But I wondered if its worth complaining. I had changed too. I am no longer the slow lazy Bangalorean. Technology had taken over my life too. My own cameras stand testimony to that. As I came to the end of MG Road I thought the skyline of this place might have changed but it still looks beautiful. Differently beautiful. May be everything in this world is always beautiful, what changes is the way we look at it.