15 August, 2016

The Spirit of I-Day

Like every year, it was a cold, rainy Independence Day morning here.

Like every year, at 8.00 a.m., I heard the drums and the other instruments of at least three school bands.

Like every year, it was my cue to take my position by the gate.

Like every year, I watched as the school kids and the teachers passed by - braving the rain and the puddles, walking in step, shouting patriotic slogans - the drummers and the trumpeters playing something random and ubiquitous!

Like every year, after they were gone, I turned indoors with one picture of the receding parade.

Like every year, I stepped into my home feeling an inexplicable cheer - for, THIS, more than the speeches, the messages, the renditions of patriotic songs,... keeps my patriotic spirits high on August 15th!!    

26 April, 2016

Draupadi's Garland

Last June, I had promised a sequel to this post. What I hadn't expected was that I would be back with my update in less than an year!!

Starting from where I had stopped.......

Last monsoon, this branch, with lots of wild orchid plants had landed near our gate from the tree across the road, and, I had decided to experiment with them..

As planned, I had potted a couple, placed one on a shrub in our garden and had left the remaining on the branch itself.

Until February, i.e., for about 8 months, they were looking exactly like how I had transferred/ let them be.  By mid - February, when the weather turned warm, the ones on the branch withered away. I was planning on keeping the branch until the end of the monsoon this year. But, before I could tell him, Chandrappa, my latest gardening help had thrown the branch away....

 The ones that I had placed on the Allamanda shrub have developed new roots and are showing signs of flowering. Of course, thanks to my earlier experience I'm  quite sure that sooner or later, these will flower.

Now, I wish I had placed more on other shrubs, leaving only one or two on that ill-fated branch!

 The first results of my experiment, however, have come from the ones I had planted in a pot - could be because I have provided them with some extra care (coconut water and some tea residue on a monthly basis).
 Now, orchids are planted in pots that have holes all over, in order  to aerate the roots. Pieces of bricks and charcoal, not sand/ soil, is used as the medium for growth.      

Around the last week of March, the plant had these tiny yellow flowers... totally different from the flowers in my earlier post. As there are very few flowers, I think I can safely refer to these as Draupadi danDe and the earlier ones as Seeta danDe.

 You know, quite coincidentally, the yellow orchids look very similar to the only other potted orchid in our garden!

06 March, 2016

Watching Bulbuls

I'm an unabashed admirer of birds......especially, their nest building skills.

Earlier on, I had made an attempt to record the happenings at a bulbul's nest (Here). Unfortunately, things hadn't proceeded as expected and the fairy tale ended even before it began.  Since then, whenever I see a pair of birds building a nest in our garden, I pray that things work out smoothly, and leave the birds alone.

However, a few days ago, it was a little too difficult for me to ignore. A pair of bulbuls had chosen to build their nest on the Bird's Head Birthwort creeper....almost touching the window of my office-cum-study.

Paragon of patience 
I tried to be as non-intrusive as possible as I watched all the comings and goings whenever I could. When the comings and goings became less frenzied, I realised that the nest was ready and the eggs had been laid. My vantage point provided me with a rear view of the bird, and I couldn't stop myself from taking this pic!!

The wary look!
Soon, the frenzied activities resumed. The chicks had arrived!! Two...., and they seemed to be perpetually hungry!
 They would lie low, very quietly, until they sensed the parent's arrival. Then, they would really beg and clamour for food!!
 Such variety of food the parents brought, you know! From wild berries & insects to pieces of dosas, etc! My respect for the birds increased as I watched them break each item of food in their mouths before dropping them into the mouths of the babes.... Even the berries were crushed into juice!!

Every time they arrived with food, the parent bulbuls threw a glance at me, and it made me quite uncomfortable! It was obvious that they were aware of my peeping presence.  I felt guilty about not letting them feed their little ones in peace and withdrew.

Catching cricket!
My absence from the vicinity seemed to have made a difference. The parent birds no longer looked around before landing on the nest.
While I missed my view of the nest, keeping the window open gave me a view of the food that was being brought. 
By now, some bigger birds had also noticed the frenzied activities. Some of them started lurking around. The bubuls responded by spending more time near the nest. One or the other would always be perched on the cable nearby.

The Brahminy Kites gave up as soon as they realised that their size wouldn't allow them to reach the nest. But, there was this determined female cuckoo, trying to squeeze in and cause harm. Thankfully, the more determined bulbuls succeeded in chasing her away - every time.
Moral of the story - Unity is strength..... 

Fallen babe
After one such attempt by the cuckoo, one of the chicks fell off the nest. I could see it right below the window. It was lying still. Not dead....scared, probably. I wished I could convey what I knew to the parent birds. Since it was so close to the nest, all I could do was hope that the parent birds would sense the chick's presence when it made some movement.

Where's my baby?
My heart went out to the parent bulbuls as I caught them looking here and there, tweeting,... obviously searching for their lost little one. What touched me even more was that throughout the ordeal, they had not forgotten to feed the one in the nest!

Well....My day got busier and it was almost 24 hours before I could check on the bulbuls.

While I was wondering about the zero activity near the nest, I saw the parent birds taking food into the shrubbery nearby.... The family had moved! Obviously, the chicks were now too big for the nest and strong enough to cling on to twigs.
A couple of days later, I saw a juvenile bulbul flying about unsteadily. It was probably one or the other of the two chicks, on its way out of the nest.....

And, so, ended my second attempt at watching the nest of a bulbul..... I would have loved to watch the re-union, the moving-out ..... Next time, I guess!!

13 November, 2015

Alter Idem's sixth!

 Alter Idem turns six today!

 I started out by sharing a short story. That's why, I mark the birthday of this blog by sharing some short story that I have read - usually, the first one that comes to my mind as I begin to write the 'Birthday Post'.........

Last month, I came across an anecdote - A friend wagered Ernest Hemingway to write a short story using six letters only...... and, it had to make the readers sad. Of course, EH won the bet - and, here's the short story...

                                         For Sale : Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

There! For the first time, I have shared an entire short story... as it is!!

 I'm sure Ernest Hemingway didn't have to think very hard to come up with this one. He is a master story teller who can convey quite a lot with very little words. Take this story, for example....

Initially, it conveys the enthusiasm of soon-to-be parents. But, then.... what happened??

 Did the pregnant mother die?  Was the child born without feet?

 Did the baby die soon after birth and the parents couldn't have another? 

 Or, did the brat refuse to wear the shoes and he/ she outgrew them?

 Whatever the reason, to consider selling baby shoes in the second hand market brings the picture of someone who is really desperate for money .......... a sad story however you look at it!


You know, every year, as I begin to write the 'Birthday post', I'm reminded of the 'End Poem' by A.A. Milne. This is how it goes.....  
                                                     When I was one,
                                                     I had just begun.
                                                    When I was two, 
                                                    I was nearly new.
                                                   When I was three,
                                                   I was hardly me.
                                                  When I was four,
                                                  I was not much more.
                                                 When I was five,
                                                 I was just alive.
                                                But now, I'm six,
                                               I'm as clever as clever.
                                              So, I think, I'll be six now...
                                              forever and ever! 

For some time now, I have been thinking of saying bye-bye to blogging, and, thanks to this poem, six seems to be the right time!

At six, I have published only 93 posts. And, I do not want to throw away my wicket before scoring the century! For the moment, that keeps me going.........

01 August, 2015

Ignorance is bliss ?

Check out this half-a-minute video, folks...
There's this neatly turned out 6-7 year old boy. His teacher, asks him to tell the two times multiplication table (in Kannada). He gets it right till '2 x 3 = 6'. After that, he recites pure gibberish..... in the right tone!! Does he think he is telling the table correctly? Or, does he think he is hoodwinking his teacher? From the most innocent expression on his face, I think it is the former....

A couple of months ago, this video was widely shared on local Whatsapp groups. Recorded by this boy's teacher and her colleagues, I'm sure the intention was to spread some laughter..... but, somewhere along, for me, this video stops being funny!
Could be because around the same time as I saw this video, I had read an article in the newspaper. Apparently, the education minister of Karnataka, during his tours of state-run schools throughout the state, discovered that the knowledge levels of high school students were disappointing. He is now thinking of conducting some ability test for Class 7 students. It is a test for assessment only - no detaining students who perform poorly.....  That, according to me, removes all traces of seriousness from tests and exams. If there is no 'pass-fail', the proposed tests will be a futile exercise - another misuse of the taxpayer's money. 

It's not like the minister has made a discovery. It is something that citizens genuinely concerned about the dismal KQ levels in state-run schools have been telling for a long time. This survey is one such. Conducted nearly ten years ago, it is a study that matches the minister's observations. In addition, the authors have come up with practical suggestions to better the situation. One doesn't know why such opinions are ignored. Maybe, the concerned authorities prefer to be selectively ignorant....

Of course, for a balanced society, one needs all kinds of people.  And, in current times, everybody has to be reasonably literate - something that only schooling can assure.  All I can hope for is that by the time they are out of school, all kids are compatible with the three basic R s.............       

30 June, 2015

Chai Stop - no more.....

Five years ago, as a new blogger, I had told my readers not to miss the chai (tea) here if they happened to be passing by....

Two weeks ago, we were there - after a very long time. For old times' sake, we had had our usual chai & chaTTamboDe (daal pakoDas). While writing my earlier post, I was worried about an upcoming temple blocking the view from the tea-cart. My worries had not materialised. Things were more or less the same. This time though, there were lots of fearless monkeys....

While exchanging pleasantries with the affable owner of the tea stall, I asked him about his children. In the past he would always tell us about the daughter who did him proud by topping Tirthahalli taluk  in the Class 10 exams - not a mean achievement for a student studying in a place like Agumbe.

Happy as ever to talk about his children's academic achievements, he told us - amidst chasing monkeys- that both his daughters were engineers working for MNCs in Bangalore, while the son was studying to be an engineer. As an afterthought, he had added that whatever the achievements of his children, he would never give up on his tea stall.....

He then spoke about Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan and how India would have been a very clean place if the first PM of the country had initiated something on a large scale. His logic was that since the citizens had a servile attitude back then, they would have obeyed orders and keeping our surroundings clean would have become a habit with us by now.

 Pleasantries over, we had taken leave of him - exchanging good wishes, etc... little realising that this would be our last meeting with Mr.Premanand.....

Yesterday, local media announced to shocked citizens that Padiyaar Maam (as Mr.Premanand was popularly known) was no more.

From a common acquaintance, we came to know that he had contracted the Kyasanoor Forest Disease, commonly called Monkey Fever because monkeys pass on the deadly virus to humans. Many a time, this fever can be fatal, as it turned out to be for Padiyaar Maam.

A lover of books, one shelf of his cart was dedicated to books, mostly in Kannada. These books, he had told us, were gifts from customers. He would spend all his free time reading them. Customers could read them too - while waiting for their order.

Because people from all walks of life visited his tea-cart, had informal chats with him,... he was a well informed man.  He could talk about a wide range of topics. Thanks to our conversations with him, we knew that he had been featured on Discovery Channel (something to do with catching King Cobras), had done bit roles in the TV series Malgudi Days,....

Like the obituary from his friends (the pic above) says - he will be missed by all those who pass  through Agumbe Ghat. May his soul rest in peace.....   

28 June, 2015

Plant Mythology

 One thing I like about Indian mythology is that we have very beautiful stories about how rivers, plants, flowers, etc. came to be. The stories are so reassuring that sometimes, I wish science and its complicated theories didn't exist!

According to Indian mythology, all plants have been created from the hair of Lord Brahma. I had read this in a book called Brahma's Hair by Maneka Gandhi. The book is a collection of myths and stories from all over the country - of about thirty sacred plants and trees, along with some historic and botanical details. 

The book has very few stories from the South. Some flowers and trees that have mythological and religious importance here are missing. Of course, writing an exhaustive book on this subject would be quite a task!

Recently, I have been curious about the mythology behind some flowers common to my surroundings. The plant is a parasite and is always found attached to the branches of huge trees.... The flowers bloom once a year - just before monsoon sets in.

Here are the flowers I'm talking about...... Wild Orchids.....

                                     Wherever they grow in Karnataka, they are known as either Seeta danDe (Seeta's garland) or Draupadi danDe (Draupadi's garland).  Since Seeta and Draupadi are epics apart, I have always been curious about the origin of these names. After some googling, I came across one gardening blog where the author has explained that Seeta danDe has more flowers and Draupadi danDe has fewer..... because, apparently, Seeta had more time to weave flowers than the polyandrous Draupadi!!

 Whatever the mythology behind them, the flowers in the above pic have a story - a real one........ Last year, a small branch from the tree across the road had fallen near our gate. While clearing the debris, I had separated the orchid plant that was attached to the branch and had placed it on a tree inside our fence - simply because I didn't have the heart to throw it away. Three weeks ago, the plant had flowers - the  ones in the pic - and some new plants around. As a gardener, it was one of my happiest moments.....

The garland is full, but the flowers have some space between them. That's why, I do not know if this is Seeta's garland or Draupadi's!

Now, last week, a branch from another tree nearby had fallen due to heavy winds.
 This branch is loaded with enough orchid plants for me to experiment. I'm going to plant a couple in pots, place a couple on another tree and retain some as it is - on this piece of wood.

Let's hope that I can update some interesting results here next year!!