Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Visit to FES for Grow-Trees, Kallimapalli, Karnataka, 230618

June 28, 2018

I got a call from my friend Srinvasa Shenoy, aka Srini, asking whether I would be interested in a visit to a site where afforestation is being done, near the Karnataka/Andhra Pradesh border, in a small village called Kollimapalli.

Since I am always interested in this kind of work, I asked a few friends too, and we set off. After a productive morning of birding at

Bhairasagara lake

which delayed us quite a bit, we drove to

Bagepalli

where we met Avinash Chowdary of

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)

Srini tries to offset the carbon footprints of his clients in the travel company he runs, by donating to

Grow Trees

and wanted to see the planting efforts on the FES site. FES is the local partner of Grow Trees for planting trees as a part of its efforts in ecological restoration in co-ordination with local rural communities.

We found the tiny hamlet of Kollimapalli nestled in a rocky, scrubby landscape:

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Blue skies greeted us as we entered the tiny village and walked up the forest path.

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The local people whom we met said that what was earlier a barren, arid area was now quite green with the establishment of the scrub jungle, with planted trees growing well.

However”The objective,” says Srini, “is not about planting trees only – rather, it is a broader perspective of ecological restoration through water conservation, planning, planting trees (local and at the right place), educating the communities, providing expertise and then working along with them and the local government. It is all about providing a sustainable solution at the local level.”

Here we are (at the end of the site visit) :

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It is critical that the rules and practices resolved by the local panchayat are followed, for the success of the project, as they allow everyone to participate in the effort.

FES follows a system of CRPs (Community Resource Persons). CRPs are not employed full time – but devote about half of their time for a fixed payment. The CRPs monitor, report, and co-ordinate with local people. Each CRP is responsible for 4-5 villages. They have 350 villages under their project.
They have corporate sponsors like Grow-trees, Say Trees, HUF (Hindustan Unilever), Axis Bank etc.. – who fund them under their CSR budgets. The Community Resource Persons we met were

Grazing is allowed in certain areas, and others are ‘prohibited’ zones for grazing, to allow for vegetative regeneration. Here is a river of cattle flowing down one of the paths in the permitted area.

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The impact of all these efforts is felt when the local stakeholders accept the results; the results are synergetically more than just the number of trees planted to prevent erosion.

Efforts also include building of bunds/tanks at strategic locations to provide for water throughout the year, and providing for ‘cattle ponds’ at strategic locations. Here is Srini, talking to Avinash and the CRPs, at one such cattle pond, which had been dug before the monsoon.

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Without co-operation from the local community, merely planting trees (even if the trees are monitored) is of no point whatsoever and is doomed for failure. It was, therefore, heartening to see the good equation that has been developed with the villagers; we were welcomed, we enjoyed seeing the children of the village playing.

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After the visit, the hospitable people gave us some delicious buttermilk to slake our thirst!

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We found that FES had planted Neem, Jamun,Indian Gooseberry, and other species of trees suited to the rocky, rain-starved environment. On our walk around the area, here are several beautiful creatures which we spotted, proving that the place is, indeed, a haven for all kinds of wildlife.

Lynx Spider

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Small Salmon Arab

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Robberfly

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Sirkeer Malkoha

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Oriental Garden Lizard male

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Oriental Garden Lizard female

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Catunaregam spinosa, or Mountain Pomegranate:

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Givotia rottleriformis, or the White Catamaran tree (Butti Mara in Kannada)

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As we walked back, a flight of Painted Storks overhead delighted us.

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In spite of the challenges, Grow Trees and FES seem to be making an impact with their work with the twin goals of afforestation and conservation.

Bird lists:

For Bhairasagara, click

here

For Kollimapalli, click

here

For Gulur Lake, which we visited on our way home, click

here

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Permits and permissions…

March 22, 2018

Permissions…
Are required only by humans.
The scholars, the researchers,
Those who need to get
Their field work done, their business transacted…
To get the data
That their study requires.
Do the birds, the animals,
The butterflies and insects,
Our feathered and furred fellow-beings on this Earth…
Do they not slip from one region to another,
Across states, countries and continents,
Without a visa or permit?
It’s only humankind which trammels itself
With documents,stops, and gates:
We are allowed here,and not allowed there,
As we struggle for access
And find it increasingly difficult
To move around on our own planet.
We snake through serpentine queues,
Fill up forms in triplicate,
Just to enter the territory
Of other human beings
Amongst whom we seem to find ourselves restricted,
Barred, or even banned for life.

Why I travel by train in India

October 13, 2017

Why I travel by train rather than by flight.
1. I have to reach the station only half an hour before the train, not two or three hours ahead of departure.
2. The railway station is 15 km away as opposed to the airport’s 45 km. (which mandates a journey of its own).
3. I don’t have horrible luggage restrictions which mean I cannot take an extra pair of socks.
4. I don’t have to screen my luggage (well, except in Old Delhi Station).
5.I don’t have to stand in long security check queues.
6. I don’t need to have my sunscreen lotion and (yes, once) safety pins thrown away.
7. I can pack home food and lots of water for the journey.
8. I get a lot of free time on the train.
9. I have enough time to both strike up conversations with fellow passengers as well as commune with myself.
10. The view from the window is as spectucular as the one from the air.
Oh, and
11. I get a senior citizen’s discount!

I can also add to this, that train travel is definitely more “green” than air travel…and that food on the train is mediumly priced junkola as opposed to exorbitantly priced junkola at airports and on flights.

Blr-Pollachi-Anamalai-Top Slip, 100717 and part of 110717

July 20, 2017

Adnan and Sarrah, who are two of the most impressive young people, with unbounded talent only matched by their humility about those talent, invited me along on their trip to the places mentioned above, and I jumped at the offer…such great places to visit, and such great company to do the trip with!

I am choosing only a few photos from my Flickr albums of the trip, which are

1. Blr-Pollachi

here

2. Pollachi-Anamalai-Top Slip

here

3. Top Slip-Parambikulam-Top Slip (public bus route)

here

4. Top Slip-Valparai

here

5. Valparai, and my train journey back (that’s only the last 5 photos)

here

We started off from Bangalore rather late in the day, as they had to re-do their tickets to return to the US (18th August is their departure date). But though we did not take the “scenic” route, and travelled through Krishnagiri, veering away before Dharmapuri, on the Pollachi road, there was enough to keep us interested and excited all the way.

I told Sarrah I’d get her chai at one of the “copper boiler chai shops” on the way, and we stopped at Tiruppur, where Lily runs her chai shop. These copper boilers are slowly being replaced by more efficient,but less quaint, stainless steel ones.

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Lily’s mother lives with her, and she has two daughters. One is married and living in Coimbatore; the younger one works as a teacher in the school near the airport, just a few kilometres away.

Against the monsoon sky, these village guardian deities, called

Aiyanar

sit in conference…alas, the car hit a particularly bad pothole as I clicked!

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Saradha sat outside her biscuits/snacks stall, looking over her little daughter’s homework.

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We reached our hotel in Pollachi (Ratna Square, the building in the centre…the one on the left is a movie theatre called “Shanthi”, and don’t miss the amazing architecture of the bakery on the right!)

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The next morning, we had a superb brefus at Amutha Surabhi, just a few doors away,

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We stopped for a while at Aliyar on the outskirts,

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looked at the temples,

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the scenery,

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the fishes,

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the butterflies and flowers,

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the insects,

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Mating Damselflies

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and the people eking out their livelihoods

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at some cost to the environment

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We had to wait around until 9.30 am, when the Tamil Nadu Forest Dept office at Pollachi opened.

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We wanted to book accommodation at Top Slip, but could not book accommodation online, and had to wait to talk to the young lady in charge at the Forest Dept office. She did give us a lot of information, but did not even give us an acknowledgement slip; all she did was talk to the Forest Guest House in Top Slip. I do wish the booking could be streamlined…we found the morning enjoyable, but would have preferred spending it in the

Anamalai Tiger Reserve

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I’ll write about the trip through the Reserve and into Top Slip tomorrow…but will tease you with the largest butterfly in south India, which we sighted (amongst many other Interesting Things) on our drive!

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A life lesson and offer of help, Mysore trip, 240517

May 27, 2017

Everybody can dance…

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We must

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But if,during all that dancing, you get an acute abdomen,

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We can help

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This message comes to you from the

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And of course, from Anjana and me:

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Kolkata, Jorhat, Kaziranga, 07-130517

May 19, 2017

We visited Kolkata

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had an evening admiring the Victoria Memorial,

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enjoying puchka

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jhaal mudi

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and visited the family who brought me up.

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We visited Pradeep and Sulakshana Barthakur at their home in Jorhat, where they run a centre for children. (Pokamura, 7km from Jorhat)

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The location is

here

Their home is a veritable garden of Eden which they share with all kinds of beings:

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Bronzeback Tree Snake

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Blue-throated Barbet

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We went to Kaziranga National Park, staying at Wild Grass resort.

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Hog Deer

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Red Jungle Fowl

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Elephants

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Rhinos

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Swamp Deer (bArAsinghA)

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Here’s K1’s beautiful depiction of the elephant safari,

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where we saw so much of wildlife.

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The Flickr albums are:

Blr-Kol and visit

Kol, Science City and Gariahat Mod

Kolkata-Jorhat

Jorhat, 100517

Wild Grass, Kaziranga, 11,120517

Jorhat, 130517 morning

Jorhat-Guwahati-Bangalore, 130517

It was a memorable trip and I enjoyed it very much, through my own experience and that of my family.

Visit to Shivamogga, Mathur, Kudli, and Sakrebailu, 080417 to 100417

April 19, 2017

Kiran Kannappan and I went to Shivamogga to help conduct a summer camp for 85 rural children, under the aegis of

Vatsalya

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run by Shaila, Shruthi and Adarsh

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Morning prayer

Story-telling, some Sanskrit shlOkAs,

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nature around the campus, basic birding

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Red-wattled Lapwing on the school campus

basic origami,

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basic cartooning

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…these were some of the things we went through with the very receptive children.

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On the 9th evening, we visited

Mathur

where Sanskrit is taught, and still used extensively. We visited a couple who have settled down there, having built this beautiful house:

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Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Mathur

We then went to the shAradA temple at Kudli

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as it was about to close.

On 100417, we visited the Sakrebailu Elephant Camp.

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Kiran decided that we would return by the afternoon train rather than wait for the overnight one…so a memorable visit to Shivamogga came to a conclusion!

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Colourful buses….

April 11, 2017

One of the things that interest me very much is the wonderful colours of the buses that ply on our roads….the mofussil (sub-urban) buses, and those that connect the various towns of our State.

I had a bonanza when, on our way back from

Sarkrebailu

after seeing the rehabilitated elephants, we came to the Shivamogga bus terminus.

There were a whole row of colourful beauties. I won’t say anything more, but let the colours, the images and the words talk for themselves!

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For a break, here are a row of apples (iPads?)

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Another break with the co-existence of two species:

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Some more children:

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The Tiger Fighter bus had a lovely pic of Tipu fighting the tiger:

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I feasted my eyes as I took an ordinary-coloured bus to go back to Ayanur!

A most unusual young man….Rajdhani Express encounter, 131214

December 15, 2014

I always meet the most interesting people on train journeys (another reason why I prefer them to quick-yet-painful plane journeys in India.)

I got talking to three young men who were travelling up to Kazipet; they were working for Punjab National Bank and were on their way to a small town in Andhra to conduct training programs for other bank employees there. They would, they said, be continuously posted from town to town, when their final place of posting would be decided.

As I chatted, one of the young men, Ashwini Jha,

ashwin jha rjdhni 131214

talked more about himself, and I learnt some astounding facts.

He was extremely interested in electronics and was excellent at his studies.
At 11, inspired by the biography of the Ashok Chakra winner late Lt.Puneet Dutt of 11, Gorkha Rifles, developed an interest in firearms.
At the age of 12, developed ankylosing spondylosis…and was confined to bed for 4 incredibly pain-ridden years.
At 16, the family had to sell their property to enable him to have an Aortic Valve replacement surgery in Delhi, as the heart had been badly damaged by the disease (which still does not have a cure.)

In his own words, from a document he emailed me.

I am quoting:

“Why anyone die due to lack of a rupee for medicine when the other one spending Rs.10 or more on his onetime smoking?
Now to get rid of these all problem became the purpose of life for the boy. He determined hat e will serve the humanity and will change the scenario. He believed that if even a street dog is doing something for the society by eating roadside litter than why can`t an individual can do something for the betterment of society. He began searching the solution of these all problems and got that in the typical Indian way of living if a single person has the employment it can change the life of at least five other ones, means a single employment can address at least five persons problems (food, cloth, shelter, health and education) and with the good education those dependent five can address the problems of other 25 in the long run in the form of their own family, means few employments and a school can revolutionaries the life of hundreds of people….”

A lot of books that he read motivated him and “to know more about poverty, money, economy and finance” he took a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

He took up a job, but “in November 2012 he went through Hip Joint Replacement in which he faced serious troubles due to Pre – Cardiac problems”.

He took up a job again and quit in July 2013.

Once again, he studied for competitive exams and landed his (present)nationalized bank job. His thoughts are very different; instead of the usual elation, here are his words:

“Parents satisfied, the colony envious and villagers` proud….hahahaha…What a pity with India..a 30K p.a. job decides an individual’s worth,character and everything
else 😦 sad…his zeal ,concepts and dreams worth nothing but 30k!”

And now, this courageous, adventurous person says, “Now comparatively with good health …modern medical science ..hell pricious medicines,yoga..vipassana and physiotherapy is doing good with mind body and soul…Lets` see what next!”

Here is what he dreams in poetic form:

Dream Great

Ideas are not born in streets,

But they arise in your mind.

What they only need is the great dream

And a daring attitude

Now when the world badly needs heroes,

What are you looking for…

Come on dream great, do hard

And if you have the fire in your heart

Snatch the stars from the sky

ULTIMATELY, IF YOU CAN DREAM ANYTHING

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING

**************

Each person I meet on a journey is a story, but some stories are more amazing than others…I hope everyone is inspired by Ashwini Jha’s!

Economic development and its dependencies: different lifestyles

December 15, 2014

Visiting any large city,and observing the different worlds that co-exist, is always a thought-provoking experience. Gurgaon is no different.

Here’s the view of one of the thousands of high-rise apartments that have come up in this was-a-sleepy-village:

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To me, however, what gives character to this photograph is not the high-rise..but that cluster of buildings nestling below it, with the spire of a temple as well.

In those homes live the people who make life convenient for the occupants of the high-rises; the faceless people who provide so many services: maids, ironing-wallahs, drivers, security guards, gardeners, the innumerable tasks that the relatively cheap labour in India takes on.T The prosperous middle-class would collapse without these services that take away some of the strife of daily living in this country, rendered by people who do not have other people to take away their own strife.

Motorized fossil-fuel transport, of course, is the backbone of this kind of residential area, but right next to the motorized transport in this photo, is a greener option: the cycle rickshaw, which does not depend on electricity or fossil fuel. I was happy to see many plying everywhere.

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Here’s someone delivering large PVC pipes somewhere by cycle rickshaw, this one modified for cargo:

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In fact, I was tickled to see some motorized transportation being consigned to a dusty oblivion:

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Here’s someone who fills mattresses with cotton (or is it some artificial filler, I wonder) and then sells them:

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Some provide services by carting away the deteritus of a consumer lifestyle:

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Some get excellent exercise while commuting:

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Here’s a “chik” (bamboo-slat blind) maker, whose blinds will add to the ambience of so many “ethnically” decorated apartments:

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Other people provide services for those who provide services. Everywhere, mobile carts catered to the needs of those less financially well-endowed than their high-rise brethren:

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Here are the people who tend to the the little greenery that surrounds each high-rise:

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Here, a mobile cycle-rickshaw, so ingeniously fitted with a pressure pump,that allows car, van and truck tyres to be inflated:

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This is Indian

jugaad

at its best…no more waiting at petrol pumps to inflate one’s tyres!

The urban scenario is not a pretty one for the lower economic strata:

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Pollution and litter seem to be part of their lot, and yet they manage to exist…and thrive, and have a blue-eyed vision of their future:

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Here’s a night view, with the building (in the first photograph) to the left:

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Fascinating to see how, in the same space, so many different lifestyles go on!