08 December, 2010

Coffee Aayita?

Coffee Aayita? - 'Had your coffee?' - That's it!! This morning, as I asked my neighbour this question, I realised that I had finally become a true citizen of the Malnad region :)

In these parts, a smile and Coffee Aayita? or Aayita Coffee is equal to 'Hello'/ 'How are you?' elsewhere. Walk down the street - anytime and everybody you meet will ask you Coffee Aayita? ( except lunchtime.. then the question is OoTa aayita) :)

During my initial years here, I would wonder if this is what people here did through the day... and it seemed so! Most houses had a pot of coffee boiling at all times - on a stove fuelled by coal. Every other hour, family members would dip their tumblers into it and drink - like I would drink water!

Not that I mind coffee, but, I prefer tea. And, I'm no 'tea-guzzler' either - 1 BIG cup at around 9.30 a.m (when the house empties) and half a cup at about 4 p.m.- that's all. Whenever anyone asks me Coffee Aayita?, I return the smile and say Aayitu (yes, I have). Sometimes, I'm tempted to shock by saying ' No, I haven't had. Shall I come over?'...have not yet said that! :)

Actually, there has been this one occasion when I have drunk 3-4 cups of coffee within 2 hours, that too, after my regular cup of tea! Ah, that day! Even thinking about it makes me sick! But, I'll brave the feeling, and, share the experience :)

The government school here is more than 120 years old. A couple of years ago, the old students' association funded some renovations. But, before that, they wanted an approximate survey of the existing buildings on campus. One of the old boys, a retired military man, approached me (am a Civil Engineer), and, well, that survey was my contribution to the project (so what if I'm not an old student).

Thus it was that one fine morning, Military man, 2 boys (officially sent out of class to 'hold tape') and me were measuring & noting down ... a tough task when there are absolutely no plans/ records of the existing buildings :(

In addition to the various class rooms, there were about 3-4 offices on campus. Military man entered the first office, ordering (yeah!) me in with him. While the military man & the office man exchanged pleasantries, I simply sat and smiled. The two boys stood out, doing nothing! Much envied boys that day, I'm sure!! First, by their classmates, and, later on, by me!

Pleasantries over, MM said, 'If you are planning on giving us coffee - geefee, you can do so, now'. Ignoring my protests, 5 minutes later, 3 disposable glasses of coffee arrived from one of the nearby canteens....very fresh and aromatic, but, strong, sweet, coffee with very little milk. Post-gulping, we continued, until the next office,...

Very relieved after the survey ended, I came home, feeling quite queasy. And, thoughts of the tough job of straightening out what we had measured wasn't helping me feel better :(

Skipping lunch made me feel better. Still, I didn't venture out that day and THE question wasn't asked. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to answer 'Jeevamaanakke bekaadashtu' - 'Enough to last a life time' :)

13 November, 2010

Sharing a Short Story

Alter Idem (Second Self) turns one today :)
I had begun by sharing a short story. You know, I have decided - I'll mark every year by sharing a short story.

This story dates back to my high school days. Back then, summer hols meant visiting grand parents - going to native place :) One corner of the attic in my maternal grand-parents' place was (probably, still is!) reserved for dumping old books and magazines. On some afternoons, this would be my time-pass haven.

If it was the jokes that lured me to the college mags, it was the articles and features in English mags like The Illustrated Weekly of India, the short stories in Kannada mags,.... I read this story in Sudha, a mag that has launched so many Kannada writers, and, a mag that is still around :)

The story, then ...

Here's Parvati, waiting for her husband, Shankar, a Yakshagana artiste, to come home.

Now, Yakshagana is one of the few surviving folk arts of Karnataka - characterised by elaborate costumes, drumbeats, music, impromptu dialogues & dancing. Touring companies of artistes play out stories from the mythology and the epics. Like most other Indian folk arts, the female characters are portrayed by men. Yakshagana is traditionally played out in the open air. Come rains, and the artistes go back to their homesteads.

Well! Let's return to Parvati.... all excited, because, she's learnt something new at the village well. Shankar's troupe will be winding up for the season at home ground - with the story of Mohini - Bhasmasura. That means, Shankar, who specialises in playing female characters will be the lead! Parvati has never seen her husband on stage. She is very eager to... she has heard everyone praise his performances and it makes her feel so privileged - to be the wife of a much admired man. She can't wait to see Mohini - Bhasmasura - the story of the seductress who tricks the demon into killing himself.

At last! D-day arrives and, dressed in her best, Parvati goes to the show with her friends. As the story progresses, her husband's effeminate act makes Parvati quite uneasy. Relieved when the story ends, a very disturbed Parvati goes home amidst bantering & teasing from her friends. Shankar follows after some time, minus all the make-up and as Parvati knew him. But, she finds it impossible to delete the Mohini act out of her mind. Unable to physically relate to Shankar and depressed by it, Parvati kills herself :(

..... A sad story :( Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the author of this story - a woman, perhaps?

You know, I think, it is unfortunate that unusual stories like this one have a limited reach - thanks to their regionalised themes.

18 September, 2010

Travelling Cattle

According to Indian Animal Welfare Laws, it is illegal to transport animals in any manner that will cause them suffering. It is perfectly all right to complain/ take the transporter to task. But, how many of us have the time and the inclination to go to the nearest police outpost and complain/ exchange words with the transporter?



During a recent journey, this pair of young buffaloes were travelling ahead of us.It was impossible to ignore them - especially, the difficulty they had with maintaining their balance. A couple of times, the tether seemed to be pulling at their necks, adding to their discomfort. Obviously, the driver preferred speed to the animals' comfort.
Disturbing, no doubt, but, we were definitely in no mood to pick up an argument. Soon, we passed them by and the buffaloes were out of our sight (can't remove them out of my mind though :( ).
Some years ago, I had read an article by Menaka Gandhi. She had written that if animals could sue us for defamation, they most definitely would. See how we malign them ....A dog is known for its loyalty, but, we call traitors Kutta. Crows, pigeons, owls,cuckoos - intelligent birds, but, an idiot/ non -thinker is either an ullu/ / cuckoo/ bird-brained. A pig is known for its personal hygiene and we call a dirty person 'pig'. A donkey is so hardworking and the lazy one amongst us is labelled gadha, .... and so on.
Yeah, I think, she has a point there. Maybe, the cattle should be suing us twice? For forcing them to travel uncomfortably, and then, calling that kind of travel 'cattle class'!
It's not always that cattle are transported this way, you know. People with genuine concern, lay a thick bed of sand on the floor of the vehicle. Once the hooves sink into the sand, it's a relatively comfortable journey for the cattle. Now, I would call that 'Cattle I class'!!
The real 'cattle class', however, travels like in the picture on the header of this blog - relaxed, at its own pace, occupying the entire stretch of the road :)

20 August, 2010

Water - falling from a height


It is almost the end of the rainy season - the time when all waterfalls are at their glorious best. Even the little wayside ones, that exist only during the monsoon, have their own charm.

It was around Aug- Sept, one Sunday afternoon, about 3-4 years ago that we decided to check out Sirimane Falls, a locally known waterfall. An hour's drive from home took us to the Sringeri- M'lore highway. A right turn, and, 7-8 kms later, we were at Kigga. Kigga is a town that is connected to Sage Rishyasringa. It has an ancient Shiva temple - active on important days only, I think. I vaguely remembered an Amar Chitra Katha story I had read long, long ago - about the sage with the horn. By the time my brief recollection ended, we had reached the end of the macadam road. There was no sign post around. Only, a school - which wasn't deserted on a Sunday afternoon!
A group of young men had converted the corridors into a temporary adda. They gave us the directions and cheerfully added that nobody visited the falls during this weather (The next stretch was motorable, but not during the monsoon). We decided that after coming all the way, it would be foolish to go back without seeing the falls. Since rain had taken a break, walking for about 1.5 km would only enhance our spirits - so, we thought!
Armed with umbrellas, in case it rained, we began our walk. The first couple of minutes was fun - light breeze, the earthy smell, skipping around puddles, slipping through the slush,... After some time,
Kid: How much more do we have to go?
Me: Not much. Maybe, another half a km.
Soon,
Kid: I think, we have lost our way. There's nobody here. I'm getting scared :(
Me: There's no other road. So, we haven't lost our way. We must be close by - can you hear water?
Turned out to be a small brook. We had to walk over it!
Kid: The wind is sounding scary. That tree looks like it will fall on us.
That was what even the husband & I were thinking! We changed the topic and walked on - with false cheer! Sometime later,
Me: 1.5 km? We have already walked more. That man has no sense of distance.
Matter that wasn't debated.
Some more minutes of silent walking, along some areca plantations (a strange sense of comfort that humans were around!) and, we reached a small clearing. Yeah, that noise was definitely that of a waterfall :) There was a confirming signpost (!!) and a ticket counter that also served as a canteen, grocery store,.... There were a few houses too. A friendly couple (this shop was part of their home) tore out the tickets, and asked us-
'Will you be wanting tea? Actually, nobody comes here during this weather and we don't have milk. We can give you black tea.'
By now, we were feeling like 'ET's - for venturing out in unpopular weather! We assured them that we didn't want anything other than a view of the falls! We went through the gate, and there she was!

Sirimane Falls at her best! It began to drizzle and we couldn't have asked for more! Someone has taken a lot of trouble to develop this place. Sheltered spots for viewing, a little kiosk for changing clothes- I guess, during the right time (Oct to Jan-Feb), one could go to the foot of the falls. After spending nearly 45 minutes, drinking in the view from different heights, we decided to head back - after all, we had the trek back.
Near the shop, a group of armed cops were waiting - for us!! Someone had been keeping an eye on us?! Scary!!
While one questioned me, the rest took on my husband. The kid held on to me, quite sure that we would be going to the jail next! Satisfied that we were harmless, the cops let us off - with advice to go back quickly. The cop who questioned me added- 'I don't know what you people see in waterfalls ma'am. Water falling from a height. See one, and you have seen all'. And, at that moment, I totally agreed!
The presence of the armed cops puzzled us throughout our return trek. And, half way through, we discovered that leeches had latched on to us! With great force, we managed to pull them away. That done, we sped and felt very relieved when we reached the school!
The mystery of the cops' presence was solved the next morning. The newspapers carried reports about Naxalites burning a bus- somewhere within the 10 km radius of Sirimane Falls!!! Good of the cops to have kept quiet about it - we would have definitely panicked!
Naxal activity in the region is almost non-existant now. Going by the signposts advertising the falls along the Sringeri- Mangalore highway, the approach is probably better now - I wouldn't bet on it though!
It just happens that we haven't been to a waterfall since. Speaking for myself, I don't mind. For me, just a view of this one makes up for all the waterfalls that I may miss/ have missed.

Non-existant during the summer months, playing hide and seek with the mist during the wet months, seemingly inaccessible & nameless - to catch this one,one has to look far and straight towards the mountains - somewhere near the top of the Agumbe ghaut (jasoosi on Google tells me that this is Barkhana Falls - popular with trekkers - challenging too). And, everytime I see this one, the cop's words come back to me!

17 July, 2010

Border issues


Check out these abandoned wooden idols. They are called Gadi Maari gombes. Gadi means 'border', Maari is short for Maaramma, a Goddess and Gombe means idol/ doll. Part of your landscape if you live in the Malnad region of Karnataka, you will come across these abandoned figurines on the outskirts of towns and villages.
Maari/ Maaramma, Chaudi/ Chaudeshwari, Gutti/ Guttamma,.... are some of the popular guardian Gods of Malnad. They are mainly worshipped for protection - from diseases, ghosts,..... Maari is usually worshipped for protection from contagious diseases.
Sometime towards the end of summer and before the onset of the rains (the disease season!), a committee of villagers - belonging to various communities, decide to perform the pooja . First, the idol is carved - usually out of some holy tree like the Banyan or the Jack. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the rituals. I have never been invited and I have absolutely no intentions of gate-crashing! My only involvement has been in the form of the Rs.50/- donation that I'm sometimes expected to make!
Post rituals, the idol is taken out in a procession and abandoned on the outskirts - within the boundary of the neighbouring village. It is to symbolise that Maaramma has come & gone, taking all the ills and diseases with her! From here, it is like a relay for the idol - from one village to the next, until it reaches no-man's land like forest, river,...where it stays. In fact, you'll find many such abandoned idols in the middle of the Agumbe ghaut! Termites and natural elements take over and the idol just disintegrates.

From the fresh look, this idol seems to have been abandoned recently. I don't know why the male figure known as Maara is never really given any prominence. Maybe, he is only the lady's bodyguard? In fact, his presence has always confused me!!
Maara is Manmatha, not exactly a friend of Shiva, and, Maari, is an avataar of Durga- Shiva's best pal!
So, is Shiva okay with Maara-Maari going out together? Of course, he shouldn't mind - after all, they are fighting diseases and that is a good cause! Now, M-M means fighting in Hindi! Mix it up what I'm saying and it is such a funny rigmarole- Maara- Maari doing Maara-Maari!!

30 June, 2010

Forgotten Bangalore?

'What?! Have you forgotten Bangalore?!' - this was my dad's neighbour, Mr.Sheshadri, greeting me one evening, with that familiar, teasing tone! Laughing 'No, uncle', I spent some time talking to the Sheshadris by their gate. Some time later, it rained heavily. To top it, we had a power cut at 10 in the night. The weather hadn't cooled down and I found it difficult to go to sleep. After some tossing and turning, I went through my day and remembered Shesh uncle's words. Suddenly, it struck me that, actually, I hadn't forgotten Bangalore at all!
For starters, I remembered the Bangalore, where, the fan was not used at all. Even during the peaks of summer, the nights would be so airy and cool.
Then, I remembered,
- the Bangalore, where travelling around was not a nightmarish experience.
- the Bangalore, where walking, be it on Commercial Street or our own I Block, was such a pleasure. One didn't have to watch one's step, or, purse.
- the Bangalore, where one could sleep uninterrupted from 10 pm to 10 am! Not any more, thanks to noisy vehicles dropping & picking up people through the night :(
- the Bangalore, when, one evening, a visiting uncle decided to accompany me on an errand. After coming back, I overheard him telling my dad, 'It is so tedious to go with your daughter. Every other step, she meets someone she knows, they talk the same things over & again. With the result, she has spent 1 hour on what ought to have taken her 10 minutes - no time sense, blah, blah...' The uncle would have found my company pleasant now - I hardly see any familiar face! All my friends live in other cities and their folks have moved to quieter, unheard of places in the suburbs.
At this moment, the fan began to whirr. Ah! power supply at last! Otherwise, I would have gone on and on!
Well, from a city that had a homely, down-to-earth ambience to a city that is conscious about/ trying to keep up with its global identity. And, now, I realise that, I should have said 'Bengaluru'. No! At least for me, that will be the day when I truly forget the place I grew up in!

02 June, 2010

Dogged by Shadows

'Naayi - Neralu' - the first time I came across this term, about 3-4 years ago, I was in Puttur, a town near Mangalore. Everyone I met was talking about this film unit that was shooting for a Kannada movie of the same name in a heritage house nearby.The movie went on to win awards for the director, Girish Kasaravalli. I don't know if the movie did well at the box office, but, it was shown on TV, more than a year ago. My dad, who seldom watches movies, had just finished watching it when I had called him. Dad had liked the movie and even recommended it to me - unlike my husband's friends. They had watched it in the theatre with their kid when it was released. Turned out to be an embarassing experience for them - the kid insisted on yelling 'What a boring movie!' every now and then :D
Sri.S.L.Bhairappa, now in his seventies, is a Kannada novelist who enjoys enormous readership. All his books, including 'Naayi- Neralu', have seen several re-prints and translations.
'Naayi- Neralu', literally means 'Dog - Shadow'. In regional Indian writing, 'dog' is a reference to one's past deeds/ actions - whether in this life or a previous one is left to the reader, I guess. You know, if the author hadn't said this in the preface, I would have missed out on the meaning of the title/ story!!
The story, set in the early 1900s, revolves around the life of Achchappa - a rich Brahmin landlord in a village in the erstwhile Mysore. His son, Vishweshwara, dies in the Kumbh Mela at Prayag, leaving behind a young wife and an infant son, Achuta. Several years later, Achchappa comes across a young man, Kshetrapala, who looks and behaves like Vish. What's more, Kshet also narrates everything that has happened in Vish's life - including the private conversations with best pal, wife, mother,etc. Mr. & Mrs. Achchappa, convinced that this is their son, Vish, reborn, bring him home. Some religious intervention, and, society is convinced that this is Vish. One fine day, even Vish's wife Venkamma, putting aside her apprehensions about the difference in their ages (@ 35, she is 17 years older), accepts him. The only person who refuses to acknowledge Vish as his dad/ mother's lover, is Achuta, now, a student of science in Bangalore(He keeps referring to the man as an impostor).
The story takes quite a few twists and turns- Venka discovers that she is pregnant & the new Vish has an affair with the farm hand's daughter - she gets pregnant too. Achuta, feeling vindicated, solicits the farm hand's help, takes Vish to court and Vish is imprisoned for 7 years. This news kills Mrs. Achchappa, sends Mr. Achchappa into depression & Venka decides to run away. These events force Achuta to discontinue his studies and come back to an unfriendly village. He gets married and true to a curse, is childless.
One day, Achchappa goes into 'flashback mode' and tells Achuta about the misdeed in his life - committed during a moment of greed - the probable reason for all their miseries. Achchappa takes up sanyaas and joins a group of wandering sadhus. Vish, who is released early for good behaviour takes up sanyaas too!! Though Achuta succeeds in locating his mother and her second child, she refuses to come back - and that's how the story ends - leaving each person to face his/ her own destiny.
Well, a dramatic story written in the 60s for a different generation, about a different era. For me, the easy language and the racy narration made two rainy evenings pleasurable :)

21 May, 2010

One at blogspace!

Sometime, early last year, the 'MT' set of cousins decided that a group blog was a good platform to exchange views / ideas and keep in touch. They extended their invitations to their cousins 'on the other sides', and, that was how, I came in. Of course, I knew my cousins and had heard of/ met a few of the others as well.

I liked the idea and accepted the invitation. While accepting the invitation, I had half-decided that my participation would be limited to commenting on what the others wrote! Soon, e-chaavadi was born. Chaavadi, in Kannada, is an open veranda. Now seen only in large, ancient homes, chaavadi is an informal, relaxing space for the family members/ friends.

Unfortunately, e-chaavadi didn't take off as expected. Only a couple of folks - folks who already had their own blogs- had contributed. The administrator finally sent a mail to the rest of us - asking us to contribute something.
I do not know how many of us responded, but, I promised to write something within the next couple of days. As my promised deadline drew near, I realised that I had a word to keep and nothing to write about :(  Till then, I hadn't written anything apart from letters. I had only read a few blogs and was an occasional commentator in a couple.
I went through the group members' list and decided that I would first introduce myself
(http://e-chaavadi.blogspot.com/2009/05/hello.html). That is how I began :)

After more than a month, I wrote again, and noted that nodody else had contributed in between! By then, I had realised that I could actually think of things to write. Instead of hogging space on a group blog, I decided to start my own blog. While doing so, I made a promise to myself - to contribute to e-chaavadi once in a while - haven't kept that promise :(

This morning, while cooking breakfast, I was thinking that I hadn't updated Alter Idem for nearly a month. That's when it hit me that, actually, I had turned one :) To celebrate, I must try to keep up my promise - at least by the end of next month :)

29 April, 2010

Kuppalli

Kuppalli, in the heart of Malenad (rain country) is the birthplace of Kannada poet Rashtrakavi Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa (1904 - 1994).Popularly known as Kuvempu, the highly revered poet has won the Jnanapith Award, Sahitya Academy awards, Padma Vibhushan, honorary doctorates,.....

(Kuvempu's pic, courtesy Wikipedia)

A few years ago, the tourism department made some renovations and converted Kuvempu's house into a museum (The surrounding few hundreds of acres of greenery is also protected by the department). Ever since, Kuppalli has become a favourite picnic spot for the people of the surrounding region.
Kuppalli is within 50 km from our home and, for no particular reason, we hadn't been able to go there. On a recent Sunday afternoon,we decided to check it out since everyone had been giving us the 'Oh?! you haven't been there yet?!' treatment.

A small break post-lunch, and an hour later, we were there.On entering the yard, this poem greeted us, and I knew this one - had to mug it up in high school!

I must admit, the poem seems much nicer now than it did long, long ago!
Written when the poet was in his early twenties,this is a poem where the poet gets nostalgic about his idyllic childhood spent at home. Interestingly, he ends the poem by hoping to spend his final days here and look back at a fulfilling life. How nice to have your dreams come true :) 


Thinking so, and feeling good for the poet, I took a proper look at the house, and .......

.... there it was - a typical Malenadu landlord's house! See that window on the topmost floor? That used to be Kuvempu's room. The view from there is very good- mountains and greenery. My tailor had once told me that with a view like that from her window, even she, could write poetry!

Inside (photography not allowed), the house has verandas (on all floors!) and rooms around an open, central courtyard.There is so much wood - in columns, roof, doors, louvres - some with ornate carvings. The books, furniture and other interesting objects used long, long ago have been arranged very well. Among several of Kuvempu's personal stuff, you will also find a few tufts of grey locks, a pair of Bata sandals (Rs.56.95!)and also the portable mantap used for his wedding!
The house has a naturally cool feel and one could easily settle down in any of the pleasant nooks with a book - & doze off on lazy afternoons :)

Kuvempu, I'm sure, would have had many wonderful siestas in this house. Post- coffee, post-siesta, he would take this path to his favourite spot on the hills behind the house.
This place is now called Kavi Shaila.
Often, Kuvempu is supposed to have brought along friends. These stones have been witness to the discussions of some great minds! The department has marked this stone as THE favourite spot. The other names on the stone are those of famous Kannada writers- B.M.Srikantaiah, T.S.Venkatachalaiah and Poornachandra Tejaswi (Kuvempu's son).
From here, one can see the Kodachadri mountain range - 20-30kms away- and a beautiful view of the sunset on clear days (very rare).

The poet's body now lies in rest near here. The watchman told us that there is a crowd here only on Kuvempu's birth & death days. Otherwise, the visitors are mostly tourists on their way elsewhere.

There is little else to do / see in Kuppalli. One of the rooms in the house serves as the department's office. If interested, one can buy Kuvempu's books at a discounted price. CDs of Kuvempu's poems set to tunes by popular artistes are on sale too.

A note if anyone wants to visit after reading this - The place is open on all days - 9 to 6. Entry fee is Rs.5/- per person (You are welcome to donate for the upkeep of the place). Outside the house, there is a curio shop - cum- canteen - if you are desperate for memorabilia/ coffee!

10 April, 2010

Crossandra


It is summer and one of my favourite flowers, Crossandra, is in full bloom.During this time, it lives up to its popular name - Firecracker flower.
Known as 'Kanakambara' in South India, I'm not sure about its presence in the North.During my growing up years in Bangalore, some street hawkers would give a twist to the name and call out 'Discoambara' while pushing their carts :)
Like the bouganvillea, this plant loves the sun.Since excess watering encourages foliage, watering should be done only when there are visible signs of drooping.Propagation is very easy - cuttings / seeds & not much care is required.



The cultivated flowers are in different shades of orange while the wild flowers are in shades of green. Crossandra has no smell and there are no visible flower parts like pistil, anther, etc. Hence, traditionally, it is not offered to God.

Once upon a time, there were a lot of cultural prejudices against wearing the flower. Identified as the scarlet woman's flower, it was strictly no-no, especially among the women of the upper classes.
Now, of course, there are no such prejudices - even God has started accepting the flowers!

 Women of all classes wear it because of the ability of the flower to look fresh for a longer duration. On the plant, the flowers stay fresh for nearly a week.

Often, people ask me about my lack of interest in wearing flowers. Well, I have always preferred flowers on the plants. If I have to wear, then it is a small strand of jasmine, preferably of the Mangalore or the Mysore variety for me. The reason for my jasmine preference - jasmine lives only for a day, whether on the plant, or off it :)

29 March, 2010

Temple Ponds

Temple ponds, or, 'Pushkarni's are such an integral part of ancient temples. I just can't get over the idea as well as the efforts that must have been made to build them.
 Often, these ponds are quite polluted. But for the presence of some stagnant water, some of them look like dump yards :(
 So, it was a pleasure to come across this clean one at the Janardhana Swami Temple at Yermalu on the Udupi- M'lore highway.

Dakshina Kannada & Udupi districts can be called the temple districts of the world- there are so many temples that one would need a lifetime to cover all of them! So, not surprisingly, this was our first visit to this temple.

If the M-S wedding didn't take place here, we would have missed this one. The idol here was installed by Saint Madhavacharya- social reformer & philosopher who lived 700 years ago.

This pond has obviously been renovated since, but, surely, the origins date back to the 13th century, or, earlier? You know, according to traditional wisdom, if the water of a pond is blue-green in colour, it means that the water source never dries up. Of course, we know that the colour is due to the presence of blue-green algae. Maybe, this species thrive in water sources that never dry up?

23 March, 2010

Testing Times

Come tests and exams, and my neighbour's kids are at their studious best. They love to read their lessons loudly.Their study is about forty feet away from mine. Since the windows are usually open on both sides, I can hear them quite clearly.
Often, I'm tempted to yell out, 'Read softly' or mention about it when I see them. But, something holds me back. What, if their marks come down because of reading softly? I would feel very guilty :( So, I simply shut the window and switch on the fan!

Sometimes, I wonder about what the Americans would have done. The other day, a US- based relative was telling us about how, one of his neighbours, a dog owner, had to get the voice box of his dog removed. Thanks to the dog's constant barking, a lot of people were deprived of their sleep. Someone started a signature campaign and got the minimum number of signatures required and the poor dog lost it's voice :(
Parents of wailing babies are not spared of complaints and that's why, one sees most American babies in pacifiers.
 Maybe, we should send some 'Maata Snehabodhanandamayee' to the US. She can go on some talk show and preach basic tolerance. Maybe, I should take up this job!
I can almost imagine myself, smiling and nodding now and then, at the host and the audience - 'Let barking dogs bark and wailing babies wail. After all, they are forms of expression. Listen to a child wail and you can identify the need by the tone of the wail. Ditto with the dogs. Company deprived and confined within the four walls, the only way that a dog can express his boredom is by barking', and so on.
The major hitch that I can see here is the whole world calling me 'Maata'. I will wait for another 25 years for that. Till then, this job is up for grabs. The name too :)

16 March, 2010

Empowering Women

In the Udupi - Dakshina Kannada - Chikmagalur region of Karnataka, Dr.Veerendra Heggade of Dharmasthala has been setting up and promoting women's self-help groups as part of his rural development programme. It is an initiative meant to make semi-literate/ illiterate women economically independant. Women's self-help groups in other parts of the country are not unheard of. A lot of them have been started by & spear headed by men. I think, initiatives like this bring more power to women, than, say, reservation of seats in the Parliament.

The basic principle of these area- based, self-help groups is some sort of a fund that is set up from which loans are handed out for small- scale industries (chiefly food items like pickles, squashes, chips), dairy/ poultry farming, etc. Easy repayment schemes & money- saving schemes have successfully lured a large number of women, irrespective of caste/ community, to these groups. Thanks to this, there is a BIG shortage of domestic helps in these parts.Only the old retainers of long- standing families remain.

As it is, education till Class 10 is compulsory & the school drop out level in these parts is quite low.Young girls haven't been opting for jobs as domestic helps. And now, these 'Sthree Shakti Sanghas'(as the SHGs are known) have successfully weaned the older women, leaving people like me in the lurch :(

Most of us have come to terms with this house-cleaning thing. I'm fortunate to be my own boss and since I work mostly from home, I have a flexible work schedule. Sometimes, though, tight schedules creep in and I feel quite harassed. At times like this, I try to think like my ex-help (now, a home-guard). Had I been in her place, I would have very gladly grabbed the opportunity to opt out of doing other people's domestic chores. After all, life is about bettering oneself. If this doesn't pep me up, I try to think of doing domestic chores as regular physical exercise - for my better health.

Yeah, that thought soothes me, and, I must admit that life outside the 'domestic help' tag, more social interaction & the financial betterment has improved the confidence levels of the hitherto faceless women.

09 March, 2010

Bulbul Watching - Part 2

My worst fears came true yesterday morning :(

When I discovered broken eggs and lots of feathers near the shrub, I didn't have to check in to realise what had happened. What a bad start to my day!

A few minutes later, I heard the continuous cry of a bulbul. Was it the male - searching/grieving? Or, was it the female, who may have fought before flying away? I will never know.

Hopefully, these bulbuls will not build their future nests at low levels.

Anyway, my attempt at getting to know about a bird's life had come to an abrupt end.

:(

07 March, 2010

Women's Day

Tomorrow is International Women's Day and every year, at least one woman I know, wonders, why only one day out of 365. Well, people pray to so many Gods every day, but have one special day every year, like Ganesh Chaturthi, Shivarathri,.... somewhat like that, I guess :)

I have always treated Dasara/Durga pooja as a celebration of womanhood. Durga is usually depicted as having many arms - each holding different things. I like to think of it as a tribute to a woman's multi-tasking abilities. Ditto with the many avataars of the Goddess.

Right from the woman who cleans the streets to the President, each one of us multi-tasks, be it in our relationships or in our range of duties. Giving equal justice to everything takes a lot out of us. To all those men who understand this and give us our space, thank you - may your tribe increase :)

According to one report, this year is the 100th year of IW Day. Wishing us more strength to wipe out female foeticide/ infanticide and other crimes against women, a wonderful day to all!

01 March, 2010

Bulbul Watching - Part I

Here is a peep into the life of the Red Whiskered Bulbuls who chose to make a part of our garden, their home :)
 
This is one of the bulbuls - I'm assuming it is the female. To an amateur eye like mine, the male and the female look similar. Even the creator seems to have taken gender equality seriously here!










The shrub the bulbuls chose for building their nest is so low and accessible! I'm praying that the cats and snakes that move about freely don't come to know about this. Though, how, I don't know :(
 Animals are so sensitive. I'm sure, like me, the snakes & cats have been keeping an eye on the bulbuls - for different reasons, of course!






3-4 days of hectic activity by both birds and their cosy home is ready :) It looks to be made of dry twigs only, but actually, they have lined it with large quantities of soft stuff like spiders' webs, etc. No fuss and frills, no disagreement, no third person's help required- excellent! I wish nest building was like this for all of us!
The nest
The next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see one egg :) I love that colour - a shade of burgundy - 'grape wine colour' in popular parlance.
One egg






The second morning, I peeped in to say 'hello' & discovered another egg!
 Hm.. so, birds lay eggs, one at a time. I had never given this a thought and for some strange reason had assumed that all the 3-4 eggs were laid at one go!!
Come to think of it, very stupid of me!!
Two eggs
The third morning, there was yet another egg! Maybe, this is it - the nest seems full now. When there were 1, 2 eggs, Ma Bulbul would leave the nest unattended. After the third, she has been around.

Three's a crowd!


I was right! She stopped at three. It has been 5 days now and she leaves the nest only for brief intervals- food breaks, I guess! She is used to me now. She allows me to peep in and say a few words. But, at the sound of the 'click', she flew away & I have decided not to disturb her again during the incubation period.
Mama-in-waiting
Birds are so active and chirpy and it must be very boring for her to simply sit in a cramped fashion and stare. What could she be thinking? How long will she have to sit? Let's learn patience from her and watch :)

26 February, 2010

Sinners

Thursday means, I have to go to music class in the evening. It also means, another piece of Kannada movie to endure during my half hour bus journey. That's OK- after 6 months, Iam an expert at shutting out things I don't want to see/ hear without physically closing my eyes/ ears :)
Yesterday, I sat at my usual place and looked out of the window, a little worried, because I hadn't had the time to practice my lesson. I was wondering if I should feign a throat pain. I dismissed that thought...my teacher's a nice man. He understands if we sound unpracticed once in a while.
As I was thinking about honesty being the best policy, my attention was called to the TV screen. The hero was shouting at the heroine (in Kannada) 'If one has never fallen in love, one is a sinner'! Wha-----t???!!! Hey, that's offensive - at least, to some of the 'never fallen in love' members of the audience!
On second thoughts, no, it isn't offensive. Because, in my opinion, the bigger sinners are the ones who unleash such meaningless dialogues on the unsuspecting public - the script-writer for writing it, the director for okaying it, the actor for mouthing it and the 'bus fellows' for forcing such movies on hapless passengers.

23 February, 2010

End Point



Memories of an hour's brisk walk, early in the morning at 'End Point', Manipal.
 Lovely weather, good company- would love to repeat this experience :)

16 February, 2010

Bird Watching

Till my only child started school, I was a full time mom. Looking back, I would call it the most blissful part of my life. I have also realised that one of the best things about bringing up a child is learning new things yourself.

One routine that Y & I would always look forward to was our daily evening ramble. Chatting our way along a lot of greenery, we would come across playful dogs, grazing cows, butterflies, snakes, ants and lots and lots of birds. For Y, every bird had to have a name and it was here that I would feel thoroughly challenged. Brought up in a big city, my knowledge of bird identification was limited to crows and sparrows. Of course, I could tell a pigeon from a peacock!

After Y was born, a visit to the book shop in big city meant a browse through the children's books section. During one such visit, we came across a book in Kannada called Pakshi Sankula (A collection of birds) by Mr.Suresh Kulkarni - a book with paintings by the author of commonly seen birds and a brief note on their feeding & nesting habits.

Bird watching/identifying became a favourite pastime after that. Sighting a new bird meant coming home and going through the book to identify it. Picking up a feather meant coming home and pasting it on the page that had the bird. Soon, our vocabulary had words like 'Magpie Robin', 'Scarlet minivet', 'Green bee eater', etc. These birds soon began to feature in the stories that we would invent. On rainy evenings, if indoor games & story books tired us out, we would leaf through this book/ try to sketch the birds .

When identifying birds was no longer difficult, the dependance on the book lessened. With time, the spheres of interest widened and birds have now become objects of momentory curiosity.
For a majority of the Indian birds, February - March is the nesting season. As I see and hear the frenzied activity of the birds around me, my mind takes me back to those days of active bird watching.

06 February, 2010

Valentine's Day Gifts

Ours was a marriage arranged by our families and we hardly knew each other before marriage. It was that era not-so-long ago when there were no mobile phones, letter writing was out and men were conscious of the may-be-hovering-around- after-taking-the-call dads, to talk for more than 2 minutes :D
A couple of months after the wedding, Valentine's Day was nearing and I was wondering if I should be gifting something or ignoring? During my growing-up years, V's Day was something that Archie (of the comics) had to deal with. Just as I was getting out of college, Archies - the greeting card folks had begun to target the college crowd here, in South India.
Strictly speaking, of course, V's Day is to acknowledge passing fancies/ one-way love/ romance that cannot happen (like St.V's), etc. That's why, the traditional V's Day gifts are perishable goodies like chocolates and flowers. Clever marketing has now turned the gift giving thing into a serious, expensive affair - something that folks married to each other are encouraged to indulge in! I think, the marketing festivities should be shifted to Holi (Festival of Madana, as Amar Chitra Katha calls it). Our culture has been boisterously celebrating spring/ love for aeons and cloaked in the culture garb, things would be so non-violent - more lucrative, probably.
Anyway, coming back to my dilemma - it was solved one evening while watching news on TV. The anti- V's day group was making threats and noises and quite naturally, it became our topic of conversation for the evening. It turned out that while I had a neutral attitude, the man had slightly anti- leanings! The rhetoric I endured made the decision - 'No wishing / gift-giving (or receiving!)'. And, that's how it has been through the years.
For Feb 14 this year, however, I wish a 'Happy V's Day' for the enthusiasts, 'gussa- control' wishes for the 'antis' and a very peaceful Sunday to the fence-sitters :)

01 February, 2010

Tea Break

Some time ago, I had written about one of the best coffees to be had when one is in these parts of Karnataka. Now, let me introduce you to one of the best teas.

AGUMBE.....The place reminds one of so many things.....

Second only to Chirapunji, it receives the highest rainfall in Karnataka.

One of the best views of the sunset can be had here, especially during the 'minimum mist season' (February). One can actually see the sun sink into the Arabian Sea some 40 km away!

It is THE place to study king cobras. Romulus Whitaker of the 'Madras Snake Park' and his team of herpetologists have set up a research station here to study the less known and highly revered king cobras.

Agumbe is the 'Malgudi' of Shankar Nag's famous TV serial of the 'only Doordarshan' zamaana- 'Malgudi Days'. If you are looking out for them, you can recognise some of the buildings from the serial, like Swami's home ( a 'home stay' tourist spot now!), school (the British soldier's statue from the serial lies bepedestalled and neglected in the backyard of the school!), etc.

If Agumbe is naxal- zone for the cops, to occasional passersby like us, it means the 20 minute ghaut stretch with the perpetually pot- holed, hair- pin curves and tea at Mr.Premanand's cart :)

At the head of the ghaut, you will anyway have to stop at the check post manned by the K'taka Forest Dept. Look at the curio shop nearby and chances are that you will miss the non- descript cart opposite. If you don't miss it, well, here's my advice - stop and get off for some good chai. Try the mixed dal vadas if available - they are out of this world too :) You can either chat with the affable Mr.Premanand or, look across at the greenery around as you sip the tea as slowly as possible!

This is the park maintained by the KFD near the check post. One must really thank the dept. for creating this out of what was not-so-long ago, a totally neglected water body. After tea, if you have the time, you can go pedal- boating on the lake/ walk on the cobbled path around/ simply sit on the conveniently placed garden seats - all this at a very, very minimal fee (Rs.2 entry fee to the park & Rs.10 for a spin on the boat). Your only responsibility is to maintain the cleanliness and the pure air.

Of late, the guards at the check post have been collecting money to build a big shelter for the guardian Gods of the ghaut. Now placed inside a small, low shelter, one has to really bow on one's knees to see the Gods! If the temple comes up at the proposed site, it will block out the view of the lake fom the tea cart and the thought is not making me very happy :(

However, that notwithstanding, we will , I'm sure, continue to stop for the chai. Here's hoping that the cart will shift its location to ensure the 'lake view' :)

20 January, 2010

Food for thought

A farmer is someone who 'grows food' - everyone knows that. Food is one of our basic needs- everyone knows that too. Farming is therefore, a profession on which the very survival of human beings depends on. Inspite of that, it isn't the chosen profession for the vast majority of us.....

All these thoughts came to me as I was reading http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/jan10/jan101.asp.

Adike Patrike (http://www.adikepatrike.com/) is a magazine in Kannada written by & of agriculturists for everyone. As a regular reader, I am often in awe of the agriculturists featured. These men and women defy all the common, negative perceptions of a farmer as illiterate/uneducated/ someone who is forced to take up the profession because he isn't fit for anything else. Thanks to the magazine, I know that a lot of people have come up with their own ideas to face hurdles like water shortage, labour shortage, lack of marketing support from the government, etc. What's more, they are tech-savvy enough to keep in touch with the global trends and share their experiences through blogs, web sites, and, of course, newsprint.

Ours is a country that considers agriculture as the back bone of our economy. As far as I know, no other profession enjoys as many tax benefits and loan incentives. Which brings me back to where I started - why, then, is farming considered inferior? Why isn't there any encouragement to take it up as a profession? While the lean times of the farmer are highlighted everywhere, why do we restrict the good times to agri- magazines only? Why don't our movies glorify the annadaata? After all, even Bill Gates has to eat to survive!

13 January, 2010

Letters

This morning, I had a surprise phone call- from my dad's sister. Yesterday, while spring-cleaning her attic, she came across a sackful of old letters written by her relatives and friends and like any other normal person, she took a break from cleaning and went through some of the letters. She came across a couple, written by me, dating back to 1976 (I must have been about 5)!!
She read out a few lines, and I can tell you, we were in splits :D
Before she hung up, she threatened to keep those letters - to be read out and laughed at when there is a family get-together. OK aunty, go ahead, I am sportive! Make sure your brother is around - I must have been guided by him!
That talk put me in nostalgic mode and, here, I must confess that I have my share of letters - collected through the ages. Going through them gives me lots of cheer, especially, when I'm feeling low. Curiously, my collection doesn't have a billet-doux. That is, because I haven't received one :( True! Nobody has ever written one to me. Well, letter writing is almost extinct and I guess, I will die without ever knowing what it is like to be naaraaz - prem patr padkar ;)

02 January, 2010

Not quite amusing

Barely a week after I wrote the previous post, a touring amusement fair decided to make a brief halt here! However, instead of the shopping types that I was hoping for, this one was of the fun and games types - hoop- la stalls, merry-go-rounds, etc. So, on Sunday evening, we went & found 75% of the town already there!! We are really short on entertainment here!
Kids between 2 & 5 made the most of the rubber slides and the merry-go-rounds with seats shaped like cars, boats, planes, etc. The bigger kids went in for the ubiquitous giant wheel and rides with names like 'Titanic' & 'Tora Tora' (For people like me, observing the flirtatious mood among the youth was added amusement!!). There was a freak show- advertised as Naagin- supposedly, a creature with a woman's face and a snake's body (A dwarf forced into a skirt made to look like a snake's body? - Probably). We decided to give it a miss.
And then, there was the dog show - managed by 3 dogs & 2 men. We decided to go in. The audience had to stand around a circular enclosure within which the dogs performed as instructed by the men. The 2 pomeranians performed the usual circus tricks - pushing a cylinder, jumping through hoops and walking on twos wearing necklace, sunglasses, purse & umbrella, while pretending to be 'Naguma' :)
It was the labrador's performance that was new to us- 'Sony' would walk along the enclosure and stand by the apt person when its master asked questions like 'Who's the oldest here?', 'Who's the youngest?', etc. After sometime, the man asked, 'Inme kaunsi maydam aalsi hai?' and to my utter horror and embarassment, it stood in front of me!! There were a few titters and my husband gave me a smile that meant 'You look it - even a dog can see that' (Hubby, you know that looks are deceptive, right? And, I'm sure one of the men was making a clucking noise when the dog neared the person the man thought answered the description - bad judge, I think :) )!
And so, the show continued for some more time, embarassing a few more people with answers to questions like 'Which boy here is a master at ogling?' and 'Which lady is forever quarrelsome?'. The show ended just when everyone was beginning to feel a little bored and we headed home.
Shows like this, involving animals, bring out such conflicting emotions. On the one hand, there are those two men, whose far away, probably large, families must be surviving because of the income generated by the animals. On the other hand, there are the animals, who, for no fault or choice of theirs, must be subjected to so much torture to learn and regularly perform unnatural tricks. It must be hard on the men too - away from their folk for long stretches, spending time in strange places, eating different types of food & unhygenic living conditions. Handling the animals during transit must be difficult too. Falling sick in stange places would be traumatic, both for the men & the animals. All in all, a very difficult equation to solve :(
 Maybe, one should takes these things at face value and not think too much about it - that's the only practical solution I can think of.

The Story of a Seed

It was a visiting Sunday - six years ago at the Poorna Prajna School, Sangameshwarpet. As usual, all the hostelers were waiting for their pa...