Posts Tagged ‘citizen matters’

Rangoli on Ganesha Chathurthi, 130919

September 13, 2018

Instead of the stock Ganesha Puja photos, I thought I’d click some of the beautiful rangolis that I saw on my morning walk. So much art on our roads and footpaths, I felt like documenting and preserving these transient works.

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Kolams like these are called “puLLi kOlam” in Tamizh, that is, they have first an arrangement of dots, which are joined together or have lines drawn around them (sometimes a single continuous line); very geometrical and precise.

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Ones like this are freestyle:

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Let me end with a lovely Ganesha-themed puLLi kOlam:

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Jewels of nature

August 30, 2018

I don’t find it necessary to go to jewellery shops, as Nature provides me plenty of jewels! All the photographs below are from local gardens in Bangalore.

Do I want pearls for a necklace? Here are the pearls of the Sterculia foetida, locally called the Jungli Badam:

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The monsoon season, or even a dewy morning, provides so many diamonds. Here are hundreds,sprinkled over a spider web:

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One of the bugs we see often is, indeed, called the Jewel Bug. It appears in rainbow glory, with a metallic sheen, on top of our most common plants and weeds:

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And when the bug decides to moult, it sheds that beautiful outer shell, and emerges, looking bright orange like a coral:

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Then there is the gold of the Copper Pod tree, scattered over the footpaths and roads of our city:

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Did you say rubies? Of course, of course! These are provided by the Bastard Sandal, a plant that gets its name from the fact that its wood is often used instead of real sandalwood; but it has excellent medicinal properties, too:

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If I want my rubies with a touch of black, I get the seeds of the Crab’s Eye creeper, locally called Gulaganji:

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The Grass Jewel is a butterfly that is well named. It is the smallest butterfly in India, and it’s as exciting to see one as it is to find a jewel!

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All of these jewels come to us with the energy produced by that great jewel of fire in the sky….

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So, keep an eye out for the many treasures, gems and jewels that we can observe in the natural world, as we walk along!

A flower that tricks the tricksters! Ceropegias…. endangered plants

July 31, 2018

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Ceropegia candelabrum, Turahalli, Karnataka,280718

We have all heard of carnivorous plants like the Venus Flytrap, that trap and devour insects. But less known is the fact that some plants of the Ceropegia species, actually deceive and entrap insects, for pollination!

Here’s how the Ceropegia flowers work, and it’s quite complicated.

Spiders and other insect predators often trap and eat honeybees, and there are some flies that love to eat these honeybees, too. The flies are able to smell the scent of the dying honeybees, and congregate to feed off the bees even as the predators are eating them. Since they are, in this sense, robbing the predators, they are called “kleptoparasites”

Ceropegias take advantage of this liking of the flies. They produce a fragrance that is remarkably similar to the “alarm pheromones” (the mixture of about 33 substances emitted from the glands of the bees under attack). This fools the flies into entering the flowers…and they find themselves falling into the flowers, to the pollen chamber (the pot-shaped area at the bottom of the flower).

Now, the flies, notorious thieves themselves, find that they have been doubly deceived. Not only are there no flies to eat, but also, there is no nectar in the pollen chamber of the flowers, to reward them. The Ceropegias are known as “deceptive flowers,” allowing themselves to be pollinated by the insects they attract without rewarding them with food.

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Ceropegia hirsuta, Panarpani, Madhya Pradesh, 080917

In addition to this trick, there is also the ensuing imprisonment, as the plants trap the flies in their flowers for around 24 hours. This ensures that the flies — searching for both food and a way out — do all the work when it comes to pollination. As a result of this activity combined with food deprivation, the flies are quite weak when they are finally allowed to fly away. As hungry as they are, they are magically drawn to the alluring, deceptive scent of neighbouring flowers, where they end up back at square one.

The deceit of the Ceropegias was discovered by Annemarie Heiduk, a doctoral researcher in biology at the University of Bayreuth. Scientists from Bayreuth, Salzburg, Bielefeld, Darmstadt, London, and Pietermaritzburg helped her gather the evidence. The international team has now presented its research findings in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

You can read in more detail about this fascinating process,

here

But the plant itself is sometimes subject to being eaten by the caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Here a Plain Tiger caterpillar on the flower of one Ceropegia:

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Here is a photo that I took of a true carnivorous plant, called the Sundew flower, which digests the insects caught in the sticky “dew” of its flowers.

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Just another example of the wonders of the world we live in!

Art in commerce

March 23, 2018

I think it’s a human trait to introduce an aesthetic appeal into the most mundane tasks imaginable. Surely, one would not think twice about the peanuts one purchases from the pushcart vendors, whose paper cones are getting so slender that they may accommodate only a few groundnuts.

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But the very selection of those recycled papers for the cones, and their arrangement, is so attractive visually…a fine example of art in commerce!

Crows using vehicles to crack seed pods! Ragihalli, 211017

December 5, 2017

I had read about how crows put nuts and seed pods in the way of approaching vehicles on roads and then eat the cracked nut.

here

is a very erudite study which does not rule out the possibility of crows using vehicles in this way, but suggests that they only drop the nuts on the road to crack them.

However, at the Ragihalli sheet rock area in the Bannerghatta National Park, on 21 Oct. ’17, we observed a Jungle Crow which definitely seemed to use the oncoming vehicles to crack the tamarind seeds that it was bringing, and then going to the road to eat the exposed soft tamarind.

Here’s the crow, which deliberately (and fearlessly) the crow leaves the seed pod and flies off only when the vehicle is almost upon it.

Here, the crow flies in after the vehicle has passed. You can clearly hear the excellent description of the crow’s behaviour by my friend Aishwary Mandal in the video.

Birding is not “ticking off” birds that we’ve seen…it’s also watching and learning more about the feathered creatures around us…sometimes they surprise us with what they do.

A Mushroom..a Fun Guy!

August 29, 2017

Mushrooms or Toadstools

are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
I’ve been amazed at the variety of mushrooms that, er, mushroom during the monsoons. Here are some:

A group of mushrooms:

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Pic: Vandana Murthy

Mushrooms go by different names, such as “bolete”, “puffball”, “stinkhorn”, and “morel”, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics”.

Puffball mushroom:

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Saucer mushrooms:

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Their spores, called basidiospores, are produced on the gills and fall in a fine rain of powder from under the caps as a result.

Bracket mushrooms:

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Scalloped edges:

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Many species of mushrooms seemingly appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly. This phenomenon is the source of several common expressions in the English language including “to mushroom” or “mushrooming” (expanding rapidly in size or scope) and “to pop up like a mushroom” (to appear unexpectedly and quickly). In reality all species of mushrooms take several days to form

The classic “toadstool” shape:

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Mustard-coloured:

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Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying network can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres

Bright orange:

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Greenish:

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Mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese). Though neither meat nor vegetable, mushrooms are known as the “meat” of the vegetable world.[21]

Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of these are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species available at many grocers include Hericium erinaceus, shiitake, maitake (hen-of-the-woods),

Fan-shaped ones:

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Rosette-shaped:

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People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists, collecting them is known as mushroom hunting, or simply “mushrooming”.

Looking like a human brain!

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This one was more than 6 inches in diameter:

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You can see the human foot for reference:

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More generally, and particularly with gilled mushrooms, separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail; there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. Additionally, even edible mushrooms may produce allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, from a mild asthmatic response to severe anaphylactic shock.

Stunning lilac ones:

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Mushrooms with psychoactive properties have long played a role in various native medicine traditions in cultures all around the world. They have been used as sacrament in rituals aimed at mental and physical healing, and to facilitate visionary states. One such ritual is the velada ceremony. A practitioner of traditional mushroom use is the shaman or curandera.Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers, too.

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But of course, the best use of mushrooms, for me, is as food! Here’s one of the eateries around Hessarghatta, which specializes in mushroom (khumbh) dishses:

Hotel Oyster at Hessarghatta:

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Here’s a mushroom dish at the eatery:

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A most interesting and complex organism…that’s why I say that a mushroom is an example of a “fun guy”!

Layers:

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A delicate umbrella:

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The Atlas Moth, 120817

August 15, 2017

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We have a huge variety of moths in the world, but one of the most spectacular is the

The [Atlas Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attacus_atlas), which is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and is common across the Malay archipelago.

The Atlas moth was held to be the largest moth in the world, before the

[Hercules Moth](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coscinocera_hercules) relegated it to second place. However, it still remains one of the most spectacular moths one can see!

We were very lucky to see two of these moths on a nature walk at Turahalli State Forest, on 120817.

These Saturniid moths have wingspans reaching over 25 cm (9.8 in). Females are appreciably larger and heavier than the males.

Atlas moths are said to be named after either the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. In Hong Kong the Cantonese name translates as “snake’s head moth”, referring to the apical extension of the forewing, which bears a more than passing resemblance to a snake’s head.

Here are the beautiful, feathery antennae of the moth:

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In India, Atlas moths are cultivated for their silk in a non-commercial capacity; unlike that produced by the related silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), Atlas moth silk is secreted as broken strands. This brown, wool-like silk is thought to have greater durability and is known as “fagara”.

Females are sexually passive, releasing powerful pheromones which males detect and home in on with the help of chemoreceptors located on their large feathery antennae. Males may thus be attracted from several kilometres downwind! The females do not wander far from their chrysalis.

After mating, the female lays about spherical eggs,

I was equally struck by the beauty of the moth’s thorax.

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Another amazing fact…the adult moth has no mouth parts, and cannot eat! Adult Atlas m only live for a few days…finding mates and reproducing within that time. Dusty-green caterpillars hatch after about two weeks. Theyfeed voraciously on the foliage of certain citrus and other evergreen trees.The caterpillars are adorned with fleshy spines along their backs which are covered in a waxy white substance. After reaching a length of about 115 millimetres (4.5 in), the caterpillars pupate within a papery cocoon interwoven into desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge after about four weeks.

Here’s the moth whith its wings folded:

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We were extremely lucky to see not one, but two moths in the wild…it’s an experience that will stay with us for a lifetime!

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The Nano graveyard

July 15, 2017

We went on a nature/birding walk to Kalena Agrahara today, and skirted the lake at IDBI Bank Layout. I was amazed to see several Nano cars parked, and rusting in the monsoon weather.

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There must have been about sixty of the cars, parked all around.

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At a conservative estimate of Rs.2 lakhs per car, that’s Rs. 80 lakhs just wasting away.

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I finally found this banner, saying that these cars apparently belong to this rental initiative:

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The problem in our country seems to be, not lack of good initiatives, but keeping up with them. I have tried to call this number to find out why so many cars are rusting…and could not get through. I will try again on Monday (which should be a working day.) ┬áBut meanwhile…would it not have been better to just donate these cars rather than let such an investment waste away in this fashion?

“Oh…this is a new AirBnB effort!” said my friend Rekha-Ram Lakshmanan, from St.Louis, when he saw the cars. “No,” I riposted, “This is CarBnB!”

What a sad state of affairs. Can anyone throw any more light on this failed initiative?

lagOri, Kaikondrahalli kere, 080117

January 8, 2017

We often lament about our children using tablets and X-boxes all the time…but I find, often that even our urban children are quite in touch with the traditional games of childhood.

Today, when I went to Kaikondrahalli lake, I found this pile of flat stones, with a young girl piling them up carefully.

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I knew that a game of

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was in progress, and waited a bit while the girls surrounded the pile of stones and began their game.

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The game involves a ball and a pile of flat stones, generally played between two teams in a large outdoor area. A member of one team (the seekers) throws a tennis ball at a pile of stones to knock them over. The seekers then try to restore the pile of stones while the opposing team (the hitters) throws the ball at them. If the ball touches a seeker, she is out and her team continues without her. A seeker can always safeguard herself by touching an opposite team member before the ball hits her.

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There are some other rules that may be added in different regions of the country.

So here, to please all of us, is the scene of children (the girls were dressed to the nines for an event at their school, which is adjacent to the kere) playing a traditional game which does not need electricity, and which is one that their parents and grandparents have probably played!

The weight of words…

November 20, 2014

A few days ago, Amith Kumar introduced me to a rather unusual bookshop in Jayanagar…”Book Bonanza”.

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Tipu Pasha, Book Bonanza. Pic: Amith Kumar

I have always been a lover of second-hand books, Somehow, these, to me, have the lustre of the previous owner, in addition to their contents, and so are greater treasures than usual.

When I walked into the bookstore, I was quite thrilled to see books stacked up along all the walls, and piled up along bookshelves, too.

All sorts of books, fiction and non-fiction, best-sellers as well as arcane treatises, jostled each other, and in front of it all sat the young man who owns the store, and has been running it since 2006 (and at the present location for the past two years.)

A passion for books made Tipu Pasha give up his job with a multi-national company, and set up shop with an investment of Rs. 2 lakhs, which he used to import books from Europe and the US. He bought 40 tons of books, which might have retailed for 22-25 lakhs!

He still continues this practice, and so the bookstore deals only in English titles.

The unusual part of the bookstore is that 95% of the books are sold by weight. The other 5%, are the brand new books, which are still sold at about 50% discount over their retail prices.

“The response has been quite good from the beginning,” says a smiling Tipu, nodding to several people who, starting as customers and browsers, have now become friends. “I have quite a group of regulars, and the people who come in to browse and buy are a very heterogeneous lot– scientists looking for reference books, artists, writers, ad designers, children, parents…”

What he enjoys is the personal interaction with all these people, as well as being able to help them with their requirements as he knows exactly what books are where.

Apart from this, he says, several lending libraries also come here to source books. “I am also called in as a consultant by many schools to design and stock their libraries,” he adds.

How has he, as the owner of a bookstore, felt the impact of e-books and online reading? “There has been an impact, no doubt,” he remarks, “But people still seem to like the actual feel of a book in their hands, and I have no complaints!” Many people, he says, often also come and exchange books at the store…a facility not offered anywhere else.

If you would like to go to a store where you can browse around, find some books that you like, and buy them by weight, go to

Book Bonanza,
532, 32nd Cross, 11th Main Road,
Jayanagar 4th Block
Bangalore 560011.
(Landmarks: KFC and Metro Footwear are right opposite the shop, which is close to the Jayanagar 4th Block signal.)

Proprietor: Tipu Pasha, Mobile no: 97413 25687
Email: bookbonanza86@gmail.com

here

is my post in Citizen Matters.