26 November, 2014


Necessity is  the mother of invention. And, getting the desired result from available resources is jugaaD

I had come across the word jugaaD for the first time when I heard this song by Kailash Kher. Quite a catchy number - especially, the 'karle jugaaD karle, karle koi jugaaD' bit........

And, it was the first word that came to my mind when I saw this all-weather volleyball/ badminton net at a rubber plantation quite  recently.

When I expressed my admiration, the lady with me explained that it was her husband's idea and workmanship.  Well.... a real net is a luxury that a farmer of limited means cannot afford. This net is the result of a cash-strapped grandfather's desire to add a dash of professionalism to the games played by his grand children..... Only a true sports enthusiast can have the determination and patience to carry out such ideas!

The entire net is made up of stiff, sturdy nylon cord - the kind that's used to fasten heavy parcels.

You'll find such cords in so many homes (including ours!!) - kept on convenient ledges for probable use.... and then, lying around unused for ages and ages!

But, this net has given me an idea. On my next gardening spell, I must experiment with this cord as supporting grids for the vegetable vines......

13 November, 2014

Birthday No.5

Alter Idem turns five today! It means, 'Story-time'....

You know, many a time, when you read a short story, you are not aware of the impact it would have made to the author's career.
 I had read the story Sooryana Kudure by Sri.U.R.Anantamurthy about 5-6 years ago. But, it was only when the author passed away three months ago that I came to know - it is rated as one of the best stories in Indian fiction.

Sooryana Kudure literally means 'The Sun's Mount'. In some dialects of Kannada, it means 'Grasshopper' (the insect). The story is so true- to-life that you can relate to the characters and the narrative if you have lived in the Malnad  for a considerable period! Here goes....

Anantu is on a visit to his hometown. At the market place, he runs into his school-mate and childhood friend, Venkata - the dunce of their class. Venkata is now an expert masseur - cum- astrologer and he convinces Anantu to be his client, and, thus, guest for the day. Though they shared a common childhood, they are now a study in contrast - the erudite professor, and the country bumpkin......

Recollecting their childhood pastimes, talking about their current lives, they walk along to Venkata's house - pausing to take a breath/ acknowledge passersby.... and, finally, to call on the lonely, elderly, bed-ridden neighbour (being looked after by Venkata).

By now, it is obvious to Anantu that behind Venkata's cheerful, easy-going facade lies a life of poverty and wretchedness. While his three daughters are undemanding, the son is a wastrel and a trouble-monger.

Well.... they reach home in good time for lunch. Towards evening, it is time for the oil massage and hot water bath. Meanwhile, Anantu is witness to the son's quarrelsome ways and is quite disturbed by Venkata's helplessness.

The women try to make things better for Anantu by cooking his favourite dishes for dinner. Venkata's wife decides to serve the sweet in a silver bowl for the special guest. Upon opening her safe, she realises that the son has stolen it - along with the other trinkets. Unable to relish the tasty food, Anantu spends a restless night - like the rest of the family. The events of the day keep playing on his mind. His emotions swing from affection to pity to anger towards Venkata - for not keeping his son in check, for breeding frustration by not providing enough......

The next morning, Anantu decides to leave and looks for Venkata. He finds him near the hedge - staring at a grasshopper. And, that is how the story leaves us .... wondering if there are parallels being drawn with the grasshopper from the famous fable........  

05 September, 2014

Teacher's Day

I have never been any teacher's pet. Nor, have I had a favourite teacher. But, I think of Mr.PSC on every 'Teachers' Day'. I'll tell you why......

It was a wintry morning in the Bangalore of the early nineties...... For an average Bangalorean like me, it was a Herculean task to get up from the cosy confines of my bed, get ready and travel 8-10 kms. for the Soil Mechanics class at 7.30 a.m.!

On that day, to my horror, none of my classmates had made it! The teacher was missing too. Because I had met students from other classes, I knew I hadn't turned up for class on a holiday!!

Just as I was thinking of ways to spend a lonely hour, old Mr.PSC walked in.

Mr.PSC : What?! Only one student?!

Me : (Foolish smiles)  

Mr.PSC : How can I take a class for just one student? You can go to the library.

And, he turned away.... The next minute, he turned back!

Mr.PSC : Wait! You have come for the class. I'll be doing you an injustice if I don't
                take the class. Get in....

The next hour was a pretty awkward one for me - a combination of trying to pay attention amidst prayers that no questions would be asked! Mr.PSC, however, didn't seem to mind teaching an almost empty class, because he carried on as usual.

Well, the hour ended and the years have rolled by.......

During a recent discussion on Facebook, I noticed that most of us on our high- school group page could recollect most of our teachers and some anecdotes - after more than 25 years! It reminded me of something I had read somewhere.... Everyone remembers teachers - not methods and techniques.

 As September 5th of every year is the chosen day for all of us to acknowledge their contribution to our lives.... Thanks, and best regards to all the teachers out there!  


29 June, 2014

An Unhappy God

God looks like how the artist wants him to look.......

 And, God knows when his sculptors decided to make him from bricks and cement ! Masonry, plastering, painting,...... lots of people and co-ordination involved in making these brick-and-cement sculptures, you know.

I won't call myself a fan - but, usually, I stop to stare at these sculptures. Don't ask me 'Why?', but, I like to check out their facial expressions!

 Almost always, the Gods are youthful, good-looking, and have serene/ smiling faces. Quite recently, I came across a sculpture where God looked quite unhappy and bad....... I'm sure, you'll agree with me!

Unfortunately, everything that can go wrong in a brick-and-cement sculpture seems to have gone wrong with this one!
First of all, it is quite disproportionate.  The half-moon, that one is so used to seeing on Shiva's tresses, is missing. Poor River Ganga looks more like an antler! And, look at that  anklet (on one foot only)! Way above the ankle!! The foot doesn't look okay either.....

This sculpture is one of the recent additions at the Sharada temple complex, Sringeri. How could anyone allow such horror to come up near the entrance to one of the most aesthetic places around??

17 May, 2014


During my early days as a blogger, I had written about Kuppalli. Back then, we were unaware of this place in the vicinity called ChibbalaguDDe. A recent acquaintance told us about it and we decided to check it out on our way elsewhere.

ChibbalaguDDe is marked by a Ganapathi temple with the river Tunga flowing behind. There are some reliable signposts to guide one to the place. People who cannot read Kannada can depend on the locals to guide them, I guess......

You know, all along the length of the river Tunga, you'll find special spots teeming with the Mahaseer fish and this is one such spot. It is believed that by feeding puffed rice to the Mahaseer fish here, one is cured of a skin ailment known locally as Chibbu (Tinea versicolour to doctors). That's why/ how the place got the name.....

Since the Mahaseer fish here is protected under law, one is greeted by a list of "DON'Ts" put up by the Dept. of Fisheries, Karnataka Govt.
NO - fishing, littering, smoking, boozing... Of course, there is no one to keep a check - the department trusts every visitor to be good and conscientious!!
A house at the entrance- the priest's probably- advertises the availability of puffed rice to feed the fish. The good people have filled two concrete containers with drinking water - 'For Cows Only'-painted boldly on them. They have also maintained a neat garden.

'NEAT'... Actually, that's the best word to describe this place!

The lingering fragrance and the closed doors told us that the pooja for the morning was over. I guess, like all small temples, this one's open only during pooja hours.

However, we got to see some pics and read about the idol on the walls of the veranda. The idol here is referred to as Udhbhava Moorthy. It means that it is not an idol that has been carved. A naturally-cut stone with God Ganapathi- like features was found here long ago and hence, the temple....

NO taking pics inside the temple complex..... The not-too-old temple complex is like most temple complexes in South Karnataka/ North Kerala - a central temple surrounded by an open courtyard on all sides.
These courtyards have verandas on all sides. The verandas are usually roofed and at a higher level than the courtyard. As outermost rooms of the temple complex, they have walls to the outer side, and are open to the courtyard.

 At ChibbalaguDDe, three sides of the courtyard have verandas. The courtyard behind the temple leads to the river..... about 30 to 40 feet below ..... and some very steep steps lead one to the river.

NO swimming in the river..... However, there are a couple of benches where you can sit and spend some peaceful minutes. We were warned about troops of monkeys that usually assured 'NO sitting on the benches'. Fortunately for us, not a single simian was around.....
The river bed here is quite rocky - both, upstream.......

......................................................................and, downstream.

Such rocky stretches are known to contain whirlpools. That's why, 'NO swimming'....
If you peer into the above pics, you'll see some huge shadowy creatures. Those are the Mahaseer fish. Since we believe in 'NO feeding creatures in the wild', we hadn't taken any puffed rice and the fish didn't come up to the surface. Even so, it was quite fascinating to watch them bump into one another as they swam along...... and not seeming to mind the traffic jam!

Well..... nothing else to do/ see here! It is just an ideal place to stretch your feet if you are travelling on this road (a short detour from NH 13 between Koppa & Tirthahalli).........

10 April, 2014

My Day With Tom...

This is the profile picture of the neighbourhood stray.

Actually, from the amount of time he spends in our yard, you could call him ours!

To date, he has not asked for/ stolen from our kitchen and I have never offered him food/drink. But, I have given him a name..... the most unimaginative 'TOM'.

As usual, one morning last week, I heard some neighbours yelling 'shoos' and kids hollering out exaggerated 'miaows'.......and, I knew.... Tom would now come to his safest haven - our yard! On a sudden whim, I decided to  keep track of the time he spent here.....

 I first found Tom at around 9.30 a.m- comfortably settled under the Allamanda shrubs.

Some time later, he was eating  what I call 'Animal-grass'......

You know, dogs and cats eat this particular grass when they have indigestion..... self-medication!

Since I have caught Tom eating Animal-grass quite often, I'm inclined to believe that he gets a tummy-ache regularly!

Around noon, Tom was where I expected to find him.... in the porch.

Here, he can stay away from the sun for long stretches.....and, that's exactly what he does!

A little later, at high noon, it seems to me that NOTHING can disturb Tom....

Take a look at him!

What I wouldn't give for a siesta like that!

 Hmph! Tracking Tom isn't doing me any good........

Towards evening, when I water the plants, Tom's sleepy mood remains unchanged... Only, the spot and his posture has changed.

By now, I'm tempted to hose him down with a jet of water.

Even though I have never done that, Tom doesn't trust me.

He shifts from the ground and climbs on to the wall.

Stupid cat!! If I wanted to, I could still give him a wash!!

From the expression on his mug, it seems like this is his last lap of sleep.

And, I'm right! A couple of minutes later as I take off for my daily beat, he's gone - without even thanking me for allowing him to spend the entire day undisturbed! Well..... his day has just begun!

You know, it is so sultry and hot this year that ideally, I would love to spend my days lazing about, doing nothing. And, this fat cat is doing exactly that - right under my nose!!

I think, I'm jealous........................

21 March, 2014

Live... and let live

 Conducting a research on lizards?        
 Short on them??
 Feel free to drop into my office-cum-study. At any point of time, you'll find at least one on the  wall.

 Right now, a little one is playing 'catch-me-if-you-can' with an adult!

Actually, the word 'lizard' sounds so unemotional and scientific. I prefer the Hindi chipkali... it sounds slimy and creepy - and, suits the creature better!

 Not that I haven't tried to chase the chipkalis away....I have tried every kind of repellant - from the commercially available stuff to placing peacock feathers at vantage points... and failed.

Now, my teenager tells me that her friend has a surefire solution - to write Kaanchi Maharaja all over the walls - mind you, it should be written in Kannada with chalk!

After having a good laugh (alone) at this one, I began to wonder..................................................

Maybe, lizards find it hard to move over chalk-dust?
If so, writing 'Stupid Chipkali' should work just as well as ಕಾಂಚಿ ಮಹಾರಾಜ!  Or, perhaps some artistic chalk-doodle all over the wall!

Well! I will not write on the walls, and, I see a major drawback with the last one - within a few days, the art will disintegrate and you-know-who will have the unpleasant task of cleaning the walls/ re-doing the art-work!

Some years ago, I had read an article by Maneka Gandhi... about why one should be nice to the chipkalis... They keep the house free from cockroaches, spiders and other keeday-makoday by eating them and are thus good for the general well-being of the human home.

 Since she is right, I have adopted her attitude. It is an attitude that we  'old - B'loreans' can sum up without beating round the bush....  'Swalpa adjust maadi' !!

15 February, 2014

Chillies, courtesy N

Some months ago, I had introduced you to N.

Well... N is someone I run into quite often. Every time, our interaction is restricted to smiles - a benign one from my side, and a shy one from his.

This morning, N's dad dropped in and gave me these chillies - sent by N from the patch that he has been cultivating near his home. I was quite touched, and glad!

There are exactly eight chillies.... enough for more than a week! And, anyone who has used chillies can tell - these are 'export-quality'!

I must confess here.... even though I have been managing a couple of chilli plants in our kitchen garden, I end up harvesting what remains after the crows and the bulbuls have had their party.

I guess, N has whatever it takes to make a good farmer.

Maybe, I should encourage him by giving him some of the vegetable seeds that I have .................... and, then, hope and pray that he gives me some of the results!!

08 February, 2014


This book gave me my first nightmare in recent memory! And, no.... I'm not referring to the 933 pages!!

So much has already been written about Shantaram - 'powerful', 'original', 'vivid', 'compassionate', 'impressive', 'publishing phenomenon', 'extraordinarily vivid', 'gigantic, jaw-dropping, grittily authentic saga', ..... the book is all of these!

Many people out there feel that it is one of the better books written about Bombay - the city. Maybe, it is. In fact, people who are familiar with the Bombay of the '80s will be able to tell the facts from the fiction. They'll, perhaps, recognise some of the people in the book.....

Shantaram was meant to be my 'monsoon-book'. But, I started reading it sometime in December. After the first 200 pages or so, things became a little hectic and I picked up the book again last week....and, read a major portion on a very lonely day.

In the book, the author talks about acting as an extra in a few Hindi movies. He mentions one movie and his two second role in particular - a movie called Paanch Paapi. I took a break from reading and checked out the song sequence on you Tube. There!  Between 1.37 & 1.40.... that's the author.... a real chor, sitting with fake chors & comfortably nodding to the lyrics 'gora chor' !!!

I lost interest in the song after '1.40'. From the list of 'suggested views', I chose the interview with the author uploaded by CNN Asia sometime in 2009!

A well made interview, I watched all the 4 parts at one go - because the author revisits some of the places in the book. You know, throughout the book and in the interview, Gregory David Roberts, the author, talks about a clinic he used to run in the slum where he lived ..... something that is contradicted here.

 I had read most of the book, related articles, and, watched the videos on that single day. At around 3 a.m, I woke up - just as 'gora chor' was gaining on me with a fearsome expression on his face... wielding knives in a fist-like grip, edges pointed towards me (That's the best way to hold a knife if you are fighting someone - Shantaram gyaan).......................................................................... An overdose of the book and the author?? Powerful story-telling?? A bit of both, I guess!!

Apart from this nightmare, the book has given me/ continues to give me some creepy thoughts - mostly about foreigners lingering around in India (No offence meant here... just that all of them in this book are involved in criminal activities of varying degrees), and our own cops (for looking away and allowing so much to happen.... extremely offended here).

Otherwise, Shantaram, for me, is the exceptional story of a survivor, the re-birth of a fallen individual.

P.S : Since Bombay has given so much to the author, he spends a considerable part of his year there - giving back something to the city that gave him everything...... For more on that, you can go to his official website here.


Century on the Bronze Anniversary!

This is my100th post, and today is the eighth birthday of Alter Idem !! That's an average of a post per month......1.04 to be precise!!...