Archive for June, 2016

The Culture of opacity, and decencies of debate

June 29, 2016

We recently had a debate on a birding group I belong to.


(Photo above:Nest not easily seen. It took us twenty minutes of watching the birds to spot it, by sheer chance.)

My friends had been to x location, and found some birds’ nests. They neither told us that they had gone there, nor did they disclose the location of the nests.


Their reasons:

1. If they put up the location publicly, others may come and destroy the nest.

2. If they reveal the location to one person, that person may tell another, and the knowledge will spread. So it is better to tell no one at all.

My friends are doing this because of a genuine concern that the nests might get destroyed (as well as a feeling, rather misplaced in this case, that not many people know about the location, and wanting to keep it undisturbed.)

Recently, I took a group of people to the location, without knowing that the other friends had gone there. We spotted the same nests. I posted the photo on my FB page. I got a lot of criticism for this.


(Photo above: Very visible but completely unapproachable nest. It’s actually in a place where Forest Dept guards congregate all the time.)


(Photo above: Nesting box actually provided by humans, and in the middle of a village.)

I did so for the following reasons:

1. Just giving the name of the location as I did (it’s a fairly large area) will not enable anyone to get the exact location of the nest (there were actually two nests on the day I visited).

1b. Nests are delicate things, and they get destroyed by the vagaries of nature. So birders/photographers are not the only agents of destruction.


(Photo above:Nest high up in a tree. Not there the very next day, after heavy rains.)

1c. Why should I assume that every birder except me is out to destroy the nest? Why should I have this feeling of suspicion about everyone? I was told that my photo had 50 likes, so the chances of someone going there and destroying the nest were much higher. Let’s say I did have 50 “likes”. Of these, many will be from outside the city, or the country. Some more may not even be able to go, but will enjoy a sight that they cannot see for themselves. So, my estimate is that of the 50, maybe 3 or 4 *might* like to go to the same location (in which case, refer to 1. above).

1d. In any case, x is a place which is a known birding spot. Birding volunteers take large groups of people there regularly. There’s also a public thoroughfare. So what am I hiding, and how will I be able to hide it, if it’s being seen by all kinds of people who pass by?


Nest clearly visible, but on a slope and not accessible at all. Not seen during the next visit a few days later.

2. Withholding information, in my opinion, is not the right way to conserve something. No matter how it happens, information always leaks out. All that happens is that the information “goes underground”, so to speak (or not to speak!), being whispered from person to privileged person.

3. In this case, knowledge becomes an instrument of power. “I know this, and I will tell only those whom I want to” is definitely a statement of power, including some, and excluding others. It’s this kind of secrecy which, to my mind, was the cause of the decline of many cultures and languages. When something belongs only to the elite, and free circulation is closed off, that thing starts stagnating and dies. Making Sanskrit esoteric, and the language of the elite alone, was what, I think, contributed to its death.

4. If I share information with someone, I can go with that person to x place, and make sure that person confirms to the norms of ethical birding, or at least tell that person that they must observing certain restrictions.

5. When we learn because of others sharing information with us, it’s our duty to pass on that information to others. Information cannot be a one-way street.

6. I do use my discretion in publishing locations. I do not,however, believe in blanket bans. Nesting is part of bird life, and if newbies can see them and learn, that should certainly be a good thing.

7. I have not, in ten years of birding, known a single documented instance of a bird’s nest being destroyed because of information given out about it. A very old instance of habitat destruction is cited endlessly as a reason for withholding information from everyone. I want to know of a known example of such nest destruction…I have not heard of any. No one is able to give me any examples.

8. In one known example of spoiling of habitat (not even particular nests) I have stopped going to that particular place. Which brings me to

8b. If the conservation experts are so keen on not having the bird nests disturbed, why do they go there? Surely it would be better to avoid going there? How is it OK for only some people to go there, and not others?

In my opinion, if concerned birders go regularly to a location, they can ensure that unethical photographers do not harm the nest. If I stop going to a location, I do not know how it is faring in terms of nest conservation. How can we conserve if we do not visit the place we wish to conserve? I actually do feel guilty that I might have had my share in the spoiling of this venue, by avoiding it.

9. In addition, people who have never led large groups give advice on how to do it. They advocate people breaking up into small groups. This, after being part of large groups that I have led! In the open forest, the correct thing to do is NOT to stray away from the group. I know (personally) of three instances in which members of a group got lost and were rescued only by sheer good luck, and others where fatalities have occurred as the result of small groups wandering off and meeting aggressive elephants. How do people become experts so fast? The person who talks about how to go birding once was thinking about hiring boats to get closer to water birds on a lake. How could this not disturb them?

A culture of opacity gives one a great feeling of satisfaction that one is doing something actively to conserve a location or nest. But it takes experience to realize that it does not achieve this end, and actually results in the perpetuation of bad practices.

These are the reasons why I will disclose bird nest locations (in a general way, not very specific), unless they fall into the following categories:

1. I feel that the nest is likely to be seen easily by anybody, but not likely to be disturbed by visitors.

2. I am taken to visit a location or a nest by someone who does not want to disclose its location.I will respect that person’s wishes.

After 10 years of birding, I do not agree that a blanket ban on all nesting photography does anything constructive for the conservation of the nests.

I realize that there will be opinions across the spectrum on this sensitive issue, and the debate might go on for ever. Everyone is worried about conserving what they love, and I am willing to respect opinions different from my own.

What hurts the conversation between differing viewpoints, however, is sarcasm and disrespect. When the decencies of debate are maintained, it remains a debate. When sarcasm and innuendo are used, it degenerates from a healthy debate to a personal attack.

The Booda, 270616

June 27, 2016

I give him pieces of apple to eat. He shoots me with his tiny forefingers, with what he thinks is a gun noise.
I have to slowly wilt, with my tongue out, on to the chair he’s standing on. He then gives me a “Vitamin K2 kiss”, and I instantly revive with a “whoosh” sound. Repeat 843 times.

Then he cuddles up with “Jahnavi Giraffe” and “Sheepy” and lies, an angelic-looking bundle, lost to the world. Peace and quiet reign again…for a while.

Losing a driving licence (painful) ..and getting one again (VERY painful)

June 24, 2016

Day before yesterday (22nd June, 2016) my driving licence (along with many other cards and quite a lot of cash, but that’s another story) was stolen.

The website told me, I needed to get a notarised statement to the effect that I’d lost the licence, along with three photographs, and go to the Regional Transport Office (RTO) where it had been issued, and submit my application.

Part 1.
I started off with a visit to the photo shop (not Photoshop!) to get my passport photos. It took about half an hour and some extra charges, but I got 16 photos (Rs.120) at once.

Part 2.
I then started the procedure for the First Information Report (FIR) that my friends told me, had to be lodged and a copy taken to be submitted. First I went to J P Nagar Police Station, as I live in J P Nagar. When I explained that it was stolen on a bus from Richmond Circle to MICO Layout Check post, I was told that a) my Police Station was MICO Layout Police Station and b) because of the route of the bus, I had to go to Tilak Nagar Police Station.

Part 2B.
When I went to the second police station, the inspector gave me a form to fill up. However, after seeing what I wrote as the stop I got off (MICO Layout Checkpost), he said that was not his jurisdiction, and that I should go to MICO Layout Police Station. I told him that it must have been stolen before I reached that stop, he asked me to change the name of the stop, and told me that he would only give me an “acknowledgement”, and not an FIR (which could only be lodged, he said, at the MICO Layout Police Station.) However, he said it would be enough. Then he told me to take a “xerox” (photocopy) and get it back to him; the copier in the police station, he said, was not working.

Part 2C.I went out, and spent about 20 minutes hunting unsuccessfully for a photocopy shop. Could the inspector not just give me another form to fill up? No, he would not. Seeing me looking crestfallen, a constable outside took the paper, went off on his motorcycle and returned with the “xerox”! That was as helpful as the inspector was obstructive. I finally got the required “acknowledgement”.

Part 3.
By this time, was about 3pm. I then went to the Sub-Registrar’s Office near the Jayanagar RTO (which is in the same building as the Jayanagar Bus Terminus) to get this notarized affidavit, because I’ve often seen many lawyers who notaries public, in that small lane.

I asked around, and the standard charges for such a notarised statement on stamp paper of Rs.20 were Rs.200. So I chose a notary’s office which had chairs to sit on.

Some time ago, just as a precaution, I’d made photocopies of most of the documents that I’d lost. (Some others, added later, were, alas, without photocopies..but luckily, I think they’ll be replaced nevertheless.) I thought that a notarised statement should certainly mention the driving licence number, issuing date, and so on.

But to my surprise, the man who answered my query, asked me to write just my name and address. He told me that getting the stamp paper would take some time (every notary said the same thing) and told me to return after half an hour.

I came back after half an hour (more like forty minutes, wandering around Jayangar Shopping Complex) and it wasn’t yet done. I told the man I had to go to fetch a child, and he immediately did it in about five minutes! I told him, at this point, to include the details of the driving licence, and he did.

Armed with what I thought were the required documents, and having written a letter stating (for the third time) that I’d lost my DL, I went to the RTO. There, I heard the words every government employee is taught to say to the public whenever it’s possible. “nALe banni” (come tomorrow) said he. “We don’t give out forms after 1pm.” When the office works till 5 or 5.30pm, why were the forms only available till 1pm? No answer. “Come at 10.30am,” he said again. Accepting defeat, I returned home.

Part 4.
This morning, by 10.30am, I was standing in front of the enquiry desk. “Duplicate DL? Go to the DL/LL (Learners Licence) section,” was the response. Meanwhile, I’d seen a notice that said, “Senior Citizens can go directly to the Assistant Regional Transport (ART) manager.” Thinking this might save time, I parked my daughter in the queue before ART manager’s door, and went to see if I could submit it on my own. My daughter, in the queue, was shunted to 3 different places, and she gave up as she had her own work to do (converting her American driving licence to an Indian one.)

At the DL/LL section, I was told, “Go to the Inward Section.” This was at the very end of a long corridor, so I went there and fought the crowd to ask the lady what I should do. She took my documents, and asked, “Where is the driving licence?” I blinked, and then told her, that was what I had lost. “Then where is the ‘xerox’ copy of the licence?” she asked. It was just sheer good luck that I had a photocopy. “Without this, we won’t entertain the application,” said the lady. I asked her whether everyone would take the precaution of making photocopies of the licence, and what would happen if they didn’t. “Then we can’t take the application,” was the extremely unhelpful answer. If I haven’t taken a xerox, I can’t get a duplicate DL? What nonsense is that! Another example of our beautiful red tape.

She then wrote down the charges that had to be paid, which was Rs.200. I paid this at the cash counter (just across from the lady, thankfully) and went all the way back to the enquiry counter, where I was told to buy a stamped cover. The cover, with stamps for Rs.17, cost me Rs.25.

I was told to go back to the lady in the Inward section, so back I walked down the pasage. She then told me to go to the Photo section. I dug out my three photographs and found a huge queue there. At this point I decided to invoke the Senior Citizen rule. When I said I was a senior citizen, the person at the door asked me, “Where is your Senior Citizen card?” I told him, that was lost along with the DL! “Go to the back of the queue then!” he said. I resorted to a sad and tired look. “You can very well see I am a senior citizen, card or no card,” I said. “Please don’t send me to the back of the queue, I can’t stand!” Luckily, the two young girls at the head of the queue were very friendly, and they said, “Madam, please stand here.” So I did that, and got my photograph taken, and my left thumbprint taken. There was a charge of Rs.50. The photographs I’d brought? They were never used.

Back I went, down the corridor, to the lady in the Inward Department. Reluctantly, she realised that she could not find fault with any of my documentation, and having taken my application, gave me a receipt, which I must carry in lieu of my driving licence until it arrives at my address via SpeedPost in the Fullness of Time. The website mentions that the person should pick up the licence at the RTO. That is wrong. For more than 2 years now, the licences are sent by SpeedPost.

I couldn’t believe that my work on the DL front was done. What? No more negotiating the crowds? No more running up and down the corridor? It finally sank in, and off I went to attend to the next process…..

So, dear reader, if you lose your Indian Driving Licence..don’t take those 3 photos that the website talks about. You can skip Part 1, and get the other parts done, hopefully with less running around than I had!

The aptly named Indian Paradise Flycatcher

June 21, 2016

Whenever I go to a wooded area while birding, one of the birds that provides a special delight is the


(now known as the Indian Paradise Flycatcher…these boffins have to keep changing the name!

Here’s a quick video, taken early this year, of the white morph of the bird:

Of late, I’ve been visiting an area in the Bannerghatta Forest, called Jaipurdoddi. This seems to be a haunt of these lovely birds…


We saw four males, chasing each other, flaunting their fluttering ribbon tails as they flew in and out of the trees!


Males often morph from the rufous (reddish brown) colour to white. I’ve seen plenty of male birds (like the ones in these photos) with both the reddish and white plumage simultaneously. They must be teenagers!


I am not sure if the females have a white morph…. I’ve never seen a white morph female. The male birds do seem to delight in their tails, as much as we delight in watching them! Truly, one of the spectacular birds we have in our midst.

Hotel Karnataka: Kingsley Jegan Joseph

June 21, 2016

On a dark desi highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of parottas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, saw a lorry headlight
My eyes grew squinty and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
Wearing nariyal tel
And I was thinking to myself,
“I’d like Pav Bhaji or maybe some Bhel”
Then she brought me the menu, but current went away
There were voices from the bathroom door,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel Karnataka
Oottaa aayithaa? (Oottaa aayithaa?)
Oottaa aayithaa?
Ready full-meals at the Hotel Karnataka
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here

They had tiffin and full-meals (no sharing with friends)
Akki Rotis and Neer Dosas, even – Gobi Manchurians
Maddur Vade and Mudde, Soooft Dosa Set,
Some meals to remember, sambar I’d like to forget!

So I called up the waiter,
“Swalpa neer kodappa”
He said, “We don’t have enough to give, if you’re from south of Cuddapah”
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the Hotel Karnataka
Oottaa aayithaa? (Oottaa aayithaa?)
Oottaa aayithaa
Order full-meals at the Hotel Karnataka
Unlimited rice (Unlimited rice)
PaLya on the side

She asked “What’re you eating?”
Said, “I love your thunder thighs”
She said, “Chaplili hoduthini naayi”, and rolled her big brown eyes
And on the hotel TV
Dr. Raj is tempting fate
It’s too early if you come today
But tomorrow? That’s too late!

Last thing I remember, I was
Running to the door
I had to Google Maps it back
To Marathalli by four
“Relax, ” said the watch man,
“This is Bangalore traffic, see?
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!”

My FP Tips (not the same as Q Tips)

June 18, 2016

I notice that every well-known (and sometimes “world-famous in Jayanagar”) photographer likes to talk about his/her genre of photography. There’s art photography, creative photography, soul photography (no, I am not talking Kirlian here!)…so here goes, let me tell you about MY kinds of photography!

M Photography.

Mango being the English word for “aam” which, in Hindi and Urdu, also means “general, layperson” as opposed to “khaas” or “specialized, special”. ALL of my photography is Mango photography. I like my photos to be a kind of record on the day I have spent, the things that I have seen and experienced. So, as someone once told me, I have “no focus” (often true of my photos as well!). I might click a bird now; the next frame would be an interesting plant near that bird; the third would be the group of people clicking the bird; and the fourth, a funny-looking insect nearby.

For this kind of “kadambam” (mixture) photography, I realized that lugging along a 30-ton (feels more like 50 by the end of the outing) DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex…don’t think I don’t know the Camerese language!) camera fitted with lenses that look (and cost) as if they are part of NASA’s rockets to the moon, was a bad idea.

You laugh at my lens description, O rude reader? I am not joking when I say there are cups made to look like DSLR lenses…

you can see one here !

It was going to be even tougher because, in additon, I would be carrying a pair of binoculars, a bird book, a pad and pencil, a water bottle, some snacks, my laundry (ok, scratch the last, but while I am scrambling over rainy hill and muddy dale, I am in the process of creating tomorrow’s laundry)…. the finishing touch being that before I sort out all my crapola and finally raise my camera, the others have already got crisp, clear shots of the wildlife moment.

So I quickly got myself a “bridge” camera. No, this is not something that spans the river Kaveri, but one that is between one of these looks-like-an-escapee-from-an-armoury pieces of photographic equipment…. and one of the tiny, convenient, but I-can’t-handle-them mobile cameras.

This earns me the sometimes-veiled, sometimes-not-so-veiled, scorn of the DSLR community. “We’ve just stopped looking at your photographs,” one of them told me. I wanted to tell the person, with great dignity, that my photographs were not posted for the DSLR group, they were for sharing with my friends, who might or might not be photographers. But all I did was wilt under the damning words…the great riposte occurred to me only four days later.

Now that it’s established that I am a Lower Caste Photographer, I’ll go on to my wildlife photography. I blithely took the camera in my hands and soon realized that wildlife photography is as quick and easy as pulling a buffalo out of mud. For example, let us take the situation where, on a safari, I come across a beautiful animal. One (or all) of the following are likely to happen:

1. My camera settings will be all wrong. My camera is an evil one which sets itself to “M” (which stands for Murder the photograph) or some other unexplained mode (represented by a running figure with a javelin through its heart). As a result, I will either get a picture of a white ghost in a dreadfully grey background, or a dark impenetrable mist in which, somewhere, that animal is successfully hiding. It’s safe from any predator in the world, as well as the eyes of anyone seeing my photograph.

2. I will be, at the moment, looking at something else, and by the time, startled by the strangled excitement of the cries of other people, I turn and train my camera on the animal, it is a Gone Animal. I have excellent images of Gone Deer, Gone Birds, Gone Snakes…so I can also call this Gone Photography.

This brings me to the third genre of my photography, which is

PT (or WAS or AMA) Photography.

It would be difficult to find someone as expert as I am in this. Photography, it is said, is a moment in the past that has been captured. Ah, but my photographs capture a moment or two AFTER *that* moment(which is now in the Past Tense). When I click a lovely bird , I get a beautiful frame…of the clump of leaves where the bird WAS, A Moment Ago. I get a sharply focused image of a twig, where a butterfly WAS….AMA. Checkered Keelback in the water? I get the geometric ripples of the lake, where the snake WAS….AMA. Bee-eater eating an insect? I get a photo of the bird, with the insect, presumably, inside it…it WAS in its mouth….AMA. This AMA, WAS or Past Tense photography is my forte, fifty….up to a hundred.

OOF Photography.

These images are made when I am aiming for the tiny hairs on a dragonfly’s head..and I get, instead, the tiny hairs on the head of the cameraman who is standing on the other side of the dragonfly. How sharp are the blades of grass I get, as a fuzzy something that might be a unicorn, is rushing past, its blurred outlines spreading over half the photograph! OOF also refers to the sound I make when I look at such photographs on the LED monitor, after taking them.

FSI Photography.

This genre is where I aim carefully at the subject, and shoot. At this moment, when, all around me, I hear the click-click-click (and sometimes the rapid rat-a-tat of the Burst Mode) of cameras faithfully recording the image, I get my own entertainment, as my LED screen announces, “No memory card”, or the icon of a battery outlined in red, with nothing inside the outline, glows brightly at me as the rare bird makes a quick getaway. “I got it, I got it!” yell my friends gleefully, while on my face is the frozen, constipated expression of One Who Has Missed It Again. FSI, as you can now see, stands for Forgot Something Important.

So there you have it. I am an expert in these genres of photography. And since I am expert, of course, the next thing to do is to CPW…Conduct Photography Workshops. I have a nice clientele waiting for me. Let me explain. Recently, someone waltzed in to speak to me, and said, “I’ve bought a camera with two wheels.” I blinked, but then realized that for this person, the dial setting the different modes was one wheel, and the dial that allowed them to scroll through the images was another wheel. Another friend of mine reported a lady who, at the end of his DSLR photography workshop, thoughtfully asked, “You mean,I now have to buy a laptop as well?” For such people, I can certainly conduct workshops. I’ve already worked out a lot of the course material.

“Lesson 1. Cameras do not have wheels”. “Lesson 2. How to take off the lens cap (part B in the diagram herewith) before clicking the camera button.” “Lesson 3.TV mode does not mean that you can watch the news or the Oscar awards.” “Lesson 4. Please remove fingers from the lens area.” “Lesson 5: You cannot take extend your arm and take quick selfies with DSLRs.”

My budding career beckons me. I want to begin my expert pronouncements in pure Camerese –“You’ve got to adjust the white balance (this does not mean bedsheets piled on the washing machine) and push your exposure down one stop (this does not mean taking off your clothes at the next place the bus halts.), and do remember the rule of fifths, sorry, thirds.”

I shall plumb the depths of each genre of DMP (DM’s Photography)….only I won’t give it such a pedestrian name. I will call it Light Panting, sorry, Light Painting, or something Really Meaningful like that. I will of course have a Web Domain and a FaceBook page and such-like things. I will have visiting cards that say I am an Image Maker. My ads will say, “Only 10 seats left, please rush”, carefully not revealing that there ARE only 10 seats,all of them as empty as the memory card of my camera after I have accidentally deleted all my photographs before downloading them.

In fact, for sharing all these things, I want you to send me a wire transfer to my bank account…No? You won’t? OK, I will just call this post My Free Photography Tips…which brings me to the largest genre of my photography…. Free Photography, as no one would ever pay for any image of mine.

Here’s a pic where the distance of the subject from my camera is the same as that of my camera work from good photography.


Kalyan, Kallubhai, K2, The Booda, Booda-pest, Didu, and other names….

June 17, 2016


I still remember the day when this fellow was just a dash on his mother’s pregnancy test!

He’s developed into a very, very strong personality that just cannot understand the (tiny for his age) body it occupies is just 3.5 years old! Insatiably curious, casually destructive, sometimes very deliberately mischievious, impossible to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do…very affectionate, observant, and charming when he wants to be. Very competitive with his older sister, and yet so loving to her, too. Musically very talented. Still rather shy around strangers, and very clear in his thoughts and observations. Likes and eats a lot of good things like vegetables,and fruits (and of course all the “bad” stuff!)…but he will eat only what he wants!

So many small incidents that endear him to us. Yesterday he told me, “I am going to comb your hair…say ‘ow!’…!” Having been caught feasting on his vitamin gummies, he refused to say sorry, and after doing a “time out” (standing in the corner), he says, unrepentantly, “I liked them a lot!” He can’t say a whole lot of words, and last year, it was “doy” for “door” and “coy” for “car”…now it’s “balakki” for “balcony”. But he can say the name of his new playschool, Magic Puddles, quite well!

It’s so interesting to watch this strong personality emerging from the infant.

Machan, Ragihalli, 110616

June 16, 2016

It would be nice to climb above
The level of the ground;
To sit amongst the boughs and sway
With the breeze’s sighing sound.

I’d like to sit upon the tree
Looking out upon the land;
Perhaps I’d hold serenity
And peace within my hand.



June 9, 2016

The air cools rapidly, and the light dims as boiling, heavy clouds boil over the landscape. The breeze builds rapidly into a wind, whipping up the summer dust, lashing the palm fronds into a frenzy. The first huge drops splash upon the parched ground.

Every sense is overwhelmed: the ears by the thunder, the eyes by the strange,dim light from behind the massing clouds, and the lightning that dances across them, or that lances to the ground; the skin by the feel of the rain, the nose by the aroma of wet earth… that incomparable fragrance that fills the air.

We raise our eyes to the heavens, and give thanks for the life-giving showers.After the torrid summer, the monsoon is here.


Here’s one song describing the arrival of the monsoon, and the eager wait for it.

The last few seconds depict, too. how disappointing (and cataclysmic to the farmer) it can be when the rains fail.

(PS I find the brand-new clothes and the over-clean village very unrealistic!)


June 9, 2016

The air cools rapidly, and the light dims as boiling, heavy clouds boil over the landscape. The breeze builds rapidly into a wind, whipping up the summer dust, lashing the palm fronds into a frenzy. The first huge drops splash upon the parched ground.

Every sense is overwhelmed: the ears by the thunder, the eyes by the strange,dim light from behind the massing clouds, and the lightning that dances across them, or that lances to the ground; the skin by the feel of the rain, the nose by the aroma of wet earth… that incomparable fragrance that fills the air.

We raise our eyes to the heavens, and give thanks for the life-giving showers.After the torrid summer, the monsoon is here.


Here’s one song describing the arrival of the monsoon, and the eager wait for it.

The last few seconds depict, too. how disappointing (and cataclysmic to the farmer) it can be when the rains fail.