Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

Words of wisdom

August 8, 2017

He who knows, and knows he knows…
He is a sage: Seek him.
He who knows, and knows not he knows…
He is asleep: Wake him.
He who knows not, and knows he knows not…
He is a child: Teach him.
He who knows not, and knows not he knows not…
He is a fool: Shun him.


Votive stones, Thotti Kallu Falls, 160717

Funnel-web Spiders

October 12, 2013

A glance at a bush can sometimes take one world-wide.



I looked at the wide-flung webs on the various bushes, and thought back to all the similar spiders I’ve seen in India, too.


is one of my posts about Indian Funnel-web Spiders (we also call them Wolf Spiders).


I decided to read up a little about them, and found out that they are of the family Agelenidae, and there could be more than 1,200 species in 68 genera, worldwide. They seem to occur in every continent except the Poles.


These spiders’ social structure is sufficiently evolved, the Wiki says, to include “communal web-building and sharing; cooperative prey capture and communal rearing of young. Spiders have not, however, taken the final step into the eusociality of the social Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps) because there are no workers or soldiers (no castes) and all females are reproductive.”


I’ve seen this kind of social behaviours in Social Spiders, and documented it in my posts


But did not know that Funnel-web Spiders, too, exhibit the same kind of one-for-all-and-all-for-one behaviour.


Another amazing fact that I learnt was that these spiders are incredibly fast; “with speeds clocked at 1.73 ft/s (0.53 m/s), the Giant house spider held the Guinness Book of World Records for top spider speed until 1987,” says the Wiki!


A creature that does, indeed, have a www….World-Wide Web, occurring everywhere…and which is so interesting….that’s the Funnel-web Spider, for you!

Names, knowledge, and elitism

June 5, 2013

I tend to notice an elitism about Knowing Names. I start out by looking at a beautiful bird, or a pretty butterfly, or a lovely tree. I then look up to the person who confidently identifies it for me. A Bulbul! I am thrilled that I have this knowledge.

red-whiskered bulbul vs 100710 photo IMG_6372.jpg

Then, of course, I go on the next birding trip, and realize that “Bulbul” is not enough. Another expert informs me that it is the Red-whiskered Bulbul. I file this name away in my (admittedly leaky) memory.

After this, over several birding outings, I see many other kinds of Bulbul. The White-browed, the Red-vented, the Yellow-throated, the Ruby-throated…and so the list goes. I now go all scientific. I no longer refer to a Bulbul. I say, with hauteur, to the person next to me, who’s come his or her first birding trip: “Oh, yes, that’s a very common bird!”(It’s always important to beat the newbie down from the joy of enjoying the beauty of a bird by emphasizing that it’s a Very Common Bird.)”It’s the…Pycnonotus jocosus,” I add (if I remember the name…the experts do remember, of course, and add it, cutting my ego down to size every time.) For some reason, just saying “Pycnonotus jocosus” impresses the bejeesus out of the newbies. I am now an Experienced Birder (no matter that I may not know the name, let alone the scientific one, of the next bird we spot!). Should I not have added to the joy of the birder’s thrill by agreeing that it’s a beautiful bird, and letting him find out, later, that it is a “common” bird? Oh, no…I have to rain on his parade with my “knowledge”!

I now always go on about how the scientific names are the only correct way of identifying the bird. “Scientific names are full of knowledge,” I say glibly, and take the example of another bird, where the Latin name is easily translatable…and apt. I never refer to the “Pycnonotus jocosus” which I myself have trouble remembering. Nor do I take the example of scientific names which are downright esoteric, or unfathomable. My eager listeners hang on my every (learned) word.

This kind of “I know more than you” games are not restricted to birding…indeed, every form of human endeavour and knowlege has the Gods of the Id, who can Recite The Names and Spout The Jargon better than others, and are, therefore, reckoned to be The Experts. The person in the seat next to me in the Carnatic music concert is, in utterly blissful ignorance, enjoying the melody of what he is hearing. But I won’t let him in peace. To his happy question, “Isn’t it beautiful?” I don’t merely nod….I respond, “Oh, yes, Podalangapriya is such a rare but beautiful ragam! I remember, in 1905, Mahakrishnapuram Rama Iyengar sang an RTP (such is the erudite way of referring to Ragam, Thaanam, Pallavi) in this ragam, set to khanda triputa taalam!” The poor neighbour retires in abashed awe.

I don’t dispute that scientific names, and precise id’s are required. But they are not required by everyone. My “ignorant” neighbour in the concert is enjoying the music as much as I fact, probably more than I am, as I try to resolve in my own mind whether the ragam is, indeed, Podalangapriya, or its relative in the same Melakarta, Kathrikeswari. If I want to make a study of the science underlying what I enjoy, that’s fine. But let it not be touted as a superior achievement, to be aspired to by one and all.


is a photograph, with Adesh’s view of scientific names, and my response to him.

Fecal Output of Bos Indicus

September 25, 2012

While I realize that the scientific names of creatures are a kind of Unique Identification, and very necessary, I feel that often referring to creatures ONLY by their scientific names, and not the common ones, is a form of elitism….I-know-this-scientific-term-you- don’t-so-look-it-up…..if all and Sundari start doing this, it can be a lot of Bos indicus.

I can understand scientists wanting to use scientific names…but why do perfectly normal laymen suddenly go into “jargon gear” and start using the most esoteric terms possible? I have a neighbour who suddenly told me her son had “Coryza”. I was very concerned until I realized that the little boy had the symptoms of a common cold.

The English language may have roots in many other languages, and some of those terms may still be used for technical terminology. But to me, my relative who talks of a “myocardial infarct” instead of a heart attack, is sort of lording-it-over-me, hoping to impress me with his knowledge.

I may write indifferent verse but if I then mention that I wrote it in iambic pentameter, that makes me SOUND more learned. I may daub a painting but I can talk about my chiaroscuro techniques.

I suppose that is it…to use technical jargon as if it were everyday language makes the user feel that s/he can impress the hearer about the superior level of knowledge about the subject.

This kind of jargon extends towards prolix (there I go!) language, too. Insted of “now”, I say, “at this point in time”. My favourite sentence is, “At the end of the day, at this point in time, the need of the hour is to address the burning issue and put back the clock.” A whole lot of FOBi (see subject title) that is “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

This works towards my general (yes, like all generalizations, this is not totally true!) theory that very often, an increase of knowledge seems to be accompanied by a proportional increase in ego. When Knowledge walks in, sometimes Humility walks out.

Sharing…not sharing…

May 22, 2012

On a lighter note (we saw this bird) and hence this question popped up.
Did you some one you asked did not disclose this location ?

In other words, was I sour-graping because I was not being told the location of this (or any othe recently discovered) bird?

My response to him:

Ha, ha, Vinaya, I know better than to ask for the location! Have I asked you? (I know you saw it.) No, it’s not a case of sour grapes…in fact, the reverse, as I have given the location of various birds to many expert birders, after discovering them by sheer accident (eg . Indian Eagle Owl at Ramnagara or Turahalli.) I can confidently say, go look in Valley School, you will find the Indian Eagle Owl. This does not guarantee that the person will see it!

I am a well-known “L-birder”….I have neither the knowledge nor the scientific background to quality. 🙂 Neither will I ask where the Pratincole, or the Emu, or the Mute Swan, the Roc, or the Phoenix, are to be found. Most birds will, for me, be found only within the covers of my Grimmskipp , Salam Salim, Pam Aunty, or Kashmirjack. You think I will go on a ship-without-a-toilet to see pelagic birds? The answer is, Gua—no!

We’ve already had the hilarious situation, in Lalbagh, of a totally non-bird interested jogger coming up and telling us, “Some crows are harassing some bird which I don’t know, can you help?” It proved to be the Mottled Wood Owl. No humans (birders or non-birders) were troubling it…but it was the ever-present mobsters, the crows.The Mottled Wood Owls, in spite of the Lalbagh crowds, have been at their location off and on over the years.

My birding friends here in St.Louis, Mark Glenshaw, Chris Ferree, Mary Dueren (Audubon Society) and Danny Brown (Wildlife photographer and conservation scientist) , freely share the location of birds and animals in Forest Park, with me. That doesn’t mean that I can see them all the time! In fact, in the heights and the thick foliage of the Cottonwood trees, even when Mark is showing me where the huge female Great Horned Owl is sitting…it takes me several minutes to spot her. It took me a week of scouting the right area before I saw the mink family, and the little baby mink came up to my feet and looked up at me!

Oh well…there are valid things about both points of view (share and don’t share) and ne’er the twain shall meet…unfortunately, birding is becoming a “I-know-so-and-so-who-will-tell-me-where-x-bird-is-to-be-found” kind of activity. This is why I like my UGS (Usual Gang of Suspects)…we are a happy-go-lucky lot who are as thrilled to see an Agama in front of the Udupi Banashree Darshini as we are to see a Crested Hawk Eagle at Nandi Hills! We don’t want the secret birds……where the ordinary birds are, is secret enough for us most of the time!

Cheers, Deepa.


October 25, 2011

The Betel Leaf

Once a well educated botanist approached Kanchi Maha Periyava and out of ignorance,
asked ‘Why is betel leaf called ‘Vettrilai’ in Tamizh.

Maha Periyava non-challantly replied, ‘The betel vine does not have flowers, nor does it
bear fruits. It has merely leaves (’verum ilai’) and so is the name ‘vettrilai’ !

The botanist hung his head as he did not even realize this simple fact!

Did you read the story? OK, good!

Now…what struck me about this story was the extreme schadenfreude of it. When we see someone learned, or rich, or otherwise endowed with breeding or looks, we seem to take great pleasure in somehow bringing them down. We need to somehow know that they are not as learned or wealthy or handsome or well-bred…that they have their weak points.

But truly…is it possible for everyone to know every thing? Why is it a matter of shame that a “well-educated botanist” does not know the meaning of the name “vettrilai”? After all, he didn’t know, and he asked his spiritual guru about it. What is the shameful thing about this, and why is so pleasing to us that he should hang his head in shame? There may be several (million) “simple facts” that the very learned may not know….is ignorance, by itself, a matter of shame? Does our respect for learning have to be tinged with scorn for not knowing something?

When one does not *want* to learn, that, I feel, might be a matter for shame or scorn (though I would even disagree with that. I don’t want to learn quantum physics, or the details of grafting plants, for example…and I am not ashamed of this!) ..or if one claims to know something and then displays ignorance of it, perhaps that is shameful…but to crow over the momentary lapse of a noted person is surely, to me, a mark of mean-mindedness and intolerance….a form of a “superiority complex” which places ourselves, for that moment, above the knowledge of that particular learned person, or that plutocrat, or that film star….I am uncomfortable with this need to drag down our eminent people to below our level.

How many people (who are not TamBrams or Tamil Brahmins) know that the “Kanchi Maha Periyava” referred to above, is, to be precise, Shri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi, erstwhile pontiff of the Kanchipuram Peetam of Shankaracharya? And if they don’t know “even this simple fact”, is it a matter of shame?

Well…what do you think? I feel ignorance, in itself, is NOT a matter of shame. It only means…there is something more to be learnt. And surely that is true for all of us, all the days of our lives.

Scientific names…

April 10, 2011

Scientific names are a very valuable id tool, and that the unique names mean that they won’t let anyone get confused.

Well….that’s what they (the boffins) SAY.

I got these two names from


recently, with the subject title, “Etching bird names into one’s memory”…..

Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides
Gammaracanthuskytodermogammarus loricatobaicalensis

(The first is

the Soldier Fly

and the second is

an amphipod

I cannot see myself ever getting comfortable with such names….so I wrote back to Shyamal:

As much as I want to etch
Such names into my memory…
I’ll only gag and retch
And never remember the names, only the features.
And that will be the end of the story.
Could you go over YOUR recollections hoary
And bring out and fetch
The common names of these creatures?
The scientific names….are,literally, a stretch!

I also find that suddenly, scientific names themselves are changed; for example, all the “Bufo” and “Rana” of my younger days are now gone and some horrendously difficult names have taken their place.

So…scientific names will not be my great favourites….

Diapers…Maturity…Wisdom….Lots of Each Required….

April 7, 2009

I am absolutely *petrified*…just barely able to move my fingers to type this post of my fears….

I made do with cloth diapers all through my daughter’s infancy; there were no alternatives then. I was envious when the disposable diapers came into being, and wished they had been there when I had my baby. Never mind, I thought, one day, as a grandmother, perhaps I will benefit from the convenience they represent.


I reckoned without the “what goes around comes around” factor. Now, disposable diapers are a big ecological no-no, and cloth diapers are the green (er, sometimes literally, if the baby is having loose motions!) and responsible way to go.

So I am back to the prospect of diapers, diaper pails, washing, drying, folding…oh, the works, that I was SO glad to get away from all those years ago….

I have not yet come to stuff like baby formula, pacifiers, humidifiers or the millions of other details….

I realized that I had forgotten some of my diaper-origami (more precisely, how to fold a diaper so that there is a pad of cloth down the centre.) And I found myself googlind nappy-folding sites….

Oh my goodness, I am overwhelmed. How on earth am I going to come by the store of knowledge and wisdom and maturity and patience and expertise that I am supposed to have as a grandmother? I am a TOTAL ignoramus. My daughter and son-in-law, I think, are going to send me home in disgrace in just a short while. And this, if I am successful in not dropping the baby….

Well, everything is on the internet these days, so I am probably be going to be holding The Baby in one hand and the mouse in the other.

Must email Nirmala, a friend of mine who recenly became a grandmother, and is doing a great job with her grandson, about lots of details….

For a long time now, the word “nappy” stood, in my vocabulary, for a short form of the name “Napoleon”…that’s about to change soon.

Also…with my baby, it was MY baby, and I did what I wanted to do…but with The Baby, it’s someone else’s baby, and I must do what the parents want, which may not be the same thing as what I want! For example, they may not want me to take a short cut to peace and quiet with a pacifier (I did that with my baby, until she started having one pacifier in her mouth, one in each hand, and also started dropping one, or all, of them and demanding instant replacement…at one time I was buying pacifiers by the dozen!)

If you lot read a news item in a few months about “grandmother banished back in disgrace from the US by disgusted parents of infant”…that would be…ME!

Is this helpless little one going to be, one day, the kind of confident and self-assured young woman that my daughter is today? I look back and realize what a miracle has been achieved!

What the internet means to me

February 14, 2009

I am so totally amazed by the power of the net…well, obviously, I am not intelligent enough to grasp its overall significance for the planet Earth, but as far as it has impacted that most important person in the universe, namely, me…

Parts of my past years in terms of music, ideas, people….are all now accessible to me on the internet.

I find it so easy to write articles and give links to the various topics that I want to touch upon. So easy to share the images that I, and others, have made. I get feedback instantly on what I write…

I am in touch with so many people across the world that it’s only lack of time (or lack of inclination) that keeps me from being constantly in touch! And it’s still incredible to me that I am in touch real-time with people halfway across the world. No more waiting to pay large sums of money for a three-minute faint, atatic-filled call which mostly goes by in everyone crowding around the phone asking, “How are you?” I am so…connected when I choose to be.

So many of my face-to-face friends are on the net, too, and vice versa. And I have so many close friends that I am never likely to meet, either.

Because I carefully chose the ponds I would like to paddle in, the dangers of the internet don’t bother me. (And I agree, there ARE deadly dangers lurking there.)

There is just SO much information available out there, and hopefully, some of it will be processed into knowledge in my head….it’s like the entire sum of knowledge is out there, available, free…that does stagger me.

I always think that the future holds things that cannot be visualized right now. Thirty years ago, would anyone have been able to predict accurately at the way the web covers the earth today?

Here’s a nice image to begin the day with:

No, it is not a childhood self-portrait.

I am rapidly approaching the 2500 image limit on my Photobucket site!

And yet, there are the places where the net is unknown, unheard of…we do live in several worlds at once!

How to present knowledge….

August 29, 2008

This is my opinion….if the solid dough of knowledge is leavened by touches of humour, it becomes the appetising bread of information that people are far more likely to understand and absorb.

For example, it would be better not to make preachy statements like the one above….