Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blog of a blog

I had written a blog when I decided only a countdown will help me finish my book. And then, later, I wrote a blog on how it ended. I failed to write everyday, given the chaos that ruled my life in the middle. So, here are both the blogs

107


107 days to go! That's the target for finishing the book. Taken on this challenge, as nothing else has worked. Missed deadlines, unfinished targets, name it... and I have done it all. So, decided to try and write down what I have done everyday, hoping that it will help me, for whom writing is the most boring task in the world after the long bout of creativity. So, starting today, you will hear all the nonsense that goes in writing a book, dear blog. And hoping that when the count turns 0, I will not have a page more to write. And I will be free like a stork, to go back home after the long migration. To build a nest. To start life again, armed with the experience of the new territory visited and explored.

So, here I go !


How the countdown ended

Well, I did start a countdown - to finish writing a book by May 31st and I forgot to write about it. I finished the book by August 15th. The going on I couldn't relate as I was just too engrossed or pure irritated dependent on the time and day. It was hectic, writing, writing, writing. Sometimes, it felt like it would never end. Sometimes, it was smooth sailing. Sometimes, it felt like smooth sailing but landed me in troubled waters.... Truthfully said, I did do some writing everyday, some days more, some days less, some days nothing at all. Finally, it ended. However, when it ended, I was left empty. I didn't know what to do with the time. I felt like I had lived in a different world and had been transported suddenly to a different one. Felt like in a vacuum after all that stress and strain which took a toll on my health and my normalcy. I used to rage, cry and laugh, more than normal, sometimes inexplicably. Anger was on the tip of my nose all the time, waiting to explode, into flames, to burn anything in its path to ashes, fine as there can ever be. Finally, I did put a full stop and submitted the same. And then there was the void to handle. After raging and ranting, there came a sudden peace that I couldn't take. I felt like I was not working, lazy, felt like I had so much time when I had previously had much.

Took some time to figure out the new way of life. New timings, new routines. Night became day, and day became night. Instead of waking up at 8:30, I had to overnight shift timings to 6:00 in the morning; hit the bed at 11:00 instead of the 1:00 a.m. at night; in the process my body rebelled, protested, tried to shut down. I used to feel sleepy through the day and wide awak when the clock struck 10:00 p.m. Then there was the new routine and regimen to adapt to. Remembering timetables, calculating internals, valuing answer scripts, evaluating assignments. Instead of a few people with whom I interacted, now it is a herd. I have to address a large gathering everyday, and most of the time, my brain is racing, trying hard to think ahead of talking, instead of the slow and steady momentum it had got used to. At the end of the session, I feel nice. However, I didn't feel the high, the kick I got doing research, when I had read a paper and found something interesting, or had come up with something new. I felt sad and was left wondering 'from heaven whereto"....

After four months, my brain still rebels, refuses to follow the regimen. It asks for the old place, the old environment, asks for a walk through the forest, breathing in the smells of the wild flowers. It wishes the quiet and the calm offered by a forest, the music called research, rather than the tumult of the concrete roads with traffic racing to fill every inch of tar.

I need to figure out how these two worlds can co-exist. How best I can adapt ... that is the work now.

Tales told by Mystics - Manoj Das

Prof. Hrushikesha Mohanty, my research supervisor, presented a book to Arun as a momento for a talk he gave. The book turned out much more precious than the talk itself. For me that is, as I knew what Arun was talking about, given that my research area was connected and I had the chance to go through the slides before and ask questions, too.

The book is a collection of stories, fables told by mystics. A lot of stories are ones heard before. However, when read again, they give new insight. Besides, there is timing for everything. And time teaches you a lot of things. It gives answers to questions you asked and never found an answer for. In my case, some answers came through the book. Questions about life, balance between good and wrong, about happiness. Important questions, silly questions, all my questions, that I always wondered about.

The book should be something that is advised in schools as a must read for children and owned by libraries in schools and colleges, I think. For it is easy to read, and at the same time enlightening as such stories always are. The book does have a few typo mistakes and can do with a little editing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Diwali - the festival of lights

The 5th of November, is Diwali (actually Deepavali) , the festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil. During Diwali, we light oil lamps(clay lamps usually) called diya. We also burst crackers, wear new clothes and share sweets.

There are many stories surrounding the festival. In the north of India, it is the day Lord Rama returned with Sita and Lakshmana to Ayodhya following his 14 year long exile in the forest after vanquishing the Rakshasa(demon) king, Ravana, thereby tilting the scales towards goodness. In the south of India, it is celebrated as the day Lord Krishna defeated Narakasura(the Asura king) in battle.

Jains and Sikhs also celebrate Diwali. It marks the attainment of moksha by Lord Mahavira and hence is a joyous occassion for the Jains. For Sikhs, it commemorates the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji to Amritsar after freeing 52 Hindu kings imprisoned in Fort Gwalior by defeating Emperor Jahangir.

So, Deepavali is celebrated in all parts of India and in Nepal also.

The habit of bursting crackers stopped once we(my sisters and me) turned twenty or so. However, we do celebrate Diwali, by waking up early, having a bath and praying to God. We get in touch with our family and wish each other.

For most people in India, Diwali is the grandest festival. Companies pay bonus during Diwali. All workers get a bonus actually (non-skilled workers). It is also the time when most families buy clothes, and in some cases, the only time when the whole family gets new clothes.

From childhood, I have seen the joy on people's face once it is September. First we have the pooja days (Navrathri). We pray to Goddess Sarasvathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi. We perform pooja for our books, asking Goddess Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning to bless us. The next day, is Ayudha Pooja. we do pooja for all the implements we use - from the spanner and screwdriver by the electricians, to the axe-saw blade used by the carpenter, to the bus driven by the bus-driver. It is meant to signify that we hold these objects in esteem as they help in our livelihood. They are the tools which help us in our everyday life. For me, it is my books, my laptop and the stove I use in the kitchen, which help me in my everyday life. I thank that these things help me better myself and perform better. On Vijayadashami day, we pray to God and use these implements. Many children like me, started my education on this day. Most kids have their initiation(vidhyarambam) on this day. Then, a month later, it is time for Diwali. So, the festive mood that starts in September continues till Diwali every year.

I love the culture in India. There are so many festivals, reminding you and giving you the big picture. It helps you remain rooted and brings you closer with your family. It is also a time when we get holidays.........

The Sound of Metal ------ againnnnnnnn

Well, the bum of my car is jinxed. I will have to get an exorcist to get the devil away from it. After having been hit twice on the back, the finale was on 3rd November. We were driving to a wedding reception and had stopped the car at a signal and turned the engine off. The signal being 120 seconds, we, Arun and I believe in saving fuel and reducing the emission of harmful gases. So, we had switched off the car and were yapping away happily. Going for a wedding reception, my husband looked handsome in his formals and he said that I looked great in my silk saree. All other days, I hardly care to dress. All I think about in the mornings is cooking up breakfast and lunch, and dashing off to college. Sometimes, I am worse than a student. My hair is a complete mess when I reach the college, and if I remember, then I comb it. Else, that is my look through the day. So, I guess Arun was happy that for once, my hair was in place and I had worn a little jewellery, which again I do very very rarely. So, both of us were sitting there yapping about this and that when our world was shaken. There was a huge thud and both of us hit out heads against the roof, went forward and came down. Yes, fools that we were, we hadn't worn our seat belts(Please, please wear your seat belts even if you are dressed for your own wedding). An auto-rickshaw had come in full speed and hit us from behind, throwing us up and down, and our car had inturn hit the Maruti Zen that was standing in the signal a feet away in front of us. All this despite our car having had its hand brakes on. It took us two minutes to gather ourselves up. Both of us rubbing our heads, looked at each other and got out of the car. To find that our boot had caved in and our bonnet had sunk in. Thank god it was an Indica, made of heavy metal, and not our Maruti 800. It would have crumpled like paper and the auto might for all you know have been sitting comfortably next to us, all dead.

The driver said that the brakes didn't work. That was a total lie. He had either dozed off or was drunk and had rammed his vehicle into ours. The sound of metal was too much to bear. It rings even today, five days after in my head. Now, I am scared of other drivers, of their capacity to harm others, even when they are stationery. What can you do on the road if drivers don't care at all.

Luck is too much to place your life on. So, for this I turn to God. The only thing both of us were thankful about was that we were not hurt. The huge amount we have to pay(despite the insurance) is painful. But, it is okay compared to the fact that all of us are safe(The auto driver had hurt his teeth and nose, otherwise is fine. The elderly gentleman in the Maruti Zen was not hurt too).

Hope people drive safely and are as allergic to the sound of metal on metal as me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vacation Time

Back to college for work and now, am finally getting into the routine. The pace is very slow, hardly any motivation, thereby creating the need for self motivation.... which is difficult to come by. However, it is november after the exams and so, it is time for vacation. Yes, at the end of every semester, we get a vacation, two weeks during winter and four weeks during summer. It is one of the perks we get for being a teacher in a college. Okay, government staff get more. Six weeks in winter and eight weeks and more in summer.

I am excited and scared about the vacation. Excited because I have time for myself. Scared as to what I will do with all that time. With the last two years gone in a haze, having worked even on a sunday, I don't know what I will do for two weeks of total off. Shall I paint, or join some singing classes to continue something that I let off in school. Hmmmm..... or shall I read all the novels I wished to read in the last two years and kept putting off due to work. Or is it going to be hardcore research - software testing. Or shall I eat and sleep, thereby catching up on all that sleep I lost. Ya...... that will make everyone else jealous :). What am I supposed to do ?

I have been trying and trying to draw up a plan, but a few days have gone by in the trying to plan activity. At this rate, my vacation will pass me by.

Still trying to plan.....

Manufacturing defect

Yesterday, talking about students in the staff room, I heard a staff tell that a particular student somehow gets away with things. While others can't. Isn't this something that is heard so often, I thought ? Something that you experience at home, at the workplace, generally in life. You might be the hard working one, but someone else takes the laurels. Similarly in all spheres of life. In the class room, there are students who get away with their pranks, while others get thrashed(not literally) for playing a small one, that too innocuous. Then there are siblings, where one sibling gets beaten all the time, yet the one inflicting the injury gets away with it often. Meaning, besides getting beaten, the former takes the added hurt of being unprotected. Then, there is the workplace where every working person comes across this so often. Getting passed for a promotion, getting the back slap individually for team work. It happens even in the family. The person inflicting the hurt gets the sympathy whereas the one who goes through it, whose dignity and self respect gets eroded is blamed. Adding insult to injury.... is that what they call it. But that is light. In case of personal relationships, talking about it outside is difficult. However, if tears will run down your cheeks at the click of a button, or if you are old, or sick, then no matter how bad you are, sympathy is always with you.

Why is this so ? Each of us reads the proverb 'Never judge a book by its cover'. Still, how often do we do it. How often are we judged by our appearances. I remember my sister's experience. She was one who used to work hard and at the same time have fun, openly. She believed in that. However, I was a little different. I was someone who used to work, and have fun, however not openly. Especially in front of teachers. Out of their purview, I would have fun. Somehow, I separated the two. She joined the same college when I left, for the same course. And she being used to doing everything openly, got caught and often scolded. That was okay by her. The most injurious part was when the staff used to tell her how good a student I was and how bad she was. How they couldn't believe I had a sister like her. That caused her a lot of hurt. She used to keep complaining. I felt bad for her. I could not completely understand for I personally had not gone through such an experience. However, the hurt in her eyes revealed all.

Why can't people take others for what they are ? Why judge ? And especially, why base your judgement on the superflous, without knowing exactly what is going on ? When it happens to me, I wonder why people don't see the truth. Wonder why they are so blind. Why doesn't man use his experience when he relates to people. Each of us has definitely had an experience where we have been misjudged ? So, why not remember it when we are passing judgement on others ? Or is this the way we have evolved, with a defect. Manufacturing defect.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Istanbul - with Orhan Pamuk

I was in Istanbul this weekend, courtesy Orhan Pamuk...... no, not really, virtually. That is what his book did. Took me to Istanbul, to Nisantasi and the other surroundings of Istanbul. The yalis, beautiful and burning, so much a part of the identity. Not to mention the pashas. The view of the Golden Horn, the smell of the Bosphorus....... Pamuk shows how a person identifies with a city, and the city lives inside you. How one becomes part of the city, breathes the city, understands and lives the city.

I felt the 'Huzun' get into me as I read the book. It did really get me melancholic, a strange kind of melancholic at the end of it. No, I did not cry, nor did I feel discontent. Actually, resigned is the feeling, and it did take over me powerfully.

Istanbul is about culture, the co-existence(not happy always of course), the resignment. The book shows the amount of research and reading he has done. It also shows how he has breathed the city. The only thing lacking was the food aspect. Towards the last fifty pages, when I ruminated over what I had read and assimilated it, I found that food was one aspect of the Istanbullu culture that he had not spoken about much and wondered why. Was it because he wasn't a food fanatic. But then, in his early days he speaks about how he was hungry and kept eating. Finally, towards the end, he does speak about food, but in passing. He does not attach Huzun with the food of Istanbul. He does not speak about how the smell of the food added to the Huzun. This because, he has discussed how every aspect added to Huzun. I wondered why ? Or is it that is is by default so.

I guess any city that has a river, large lake or a seashore has a more definite personality than those that do not have. Because, they become the focal point of the place. The point which infuses life and takes it. The point that gives continuity between generations, aids transformation and enriches culture. So, it is for the Bosphorus with reference to Istanbul.

Whenever they showed Istanbul on the TV, I always wondered why I felt a tinge of sadness. No, I am not telling it in hindsight. The music that played along with the pictures were oriental - maybe that was it. Or was it because the places looked old. Or was it because the pictures had people who were not dancing and laughing. Rather it had people who looked resigned, not content. Now I understand. Pamuk has spoken about a city like no one I have read. His love for the city(may I call it that) comes thru the way he writes about her. Of course, with fifty years spent in a city, it does define you totally. But then, how many people put that in words. Or how many people think about it that way.

Reading Istanbul, I am reminded of my home town. The place I grew up. She has a beautiful river passing through her. Trichy has culture, old glory(not as much today), architecture and music. However, westernization is taking over here too. When I reminiscence about my Trichy, I remember the bridge over the river and spending sunday evenings with my parents silently looking at the river flowing by, the breeze gentle on your face. I also remember her fury, when she overflowed and flooded the city. I remember the fort area and the Rani Mangamma palace. All falling prey to the new. The old places becoming older. However, I love my place and she is still the best in the world. Pamuk through his novel helped me bring out in words what I felt for Trichy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Above Average by Amitabha Bagchi

I spent saturday and sunday reading Amitabha Bagchi's 'Above Average'. The book I must say(according to me) didn't reach there. Ok, first the positive. The english was good, the writing style direct and expressive. There are a lot of incidents related in this book, all intertwined. Some hilarious, and some making you sad. One of the good things is that it speaks about places in Delhi, especially Mayur Vihar and gaves a rather good account of how the view would be. The book is good for light reading.

But then, the book did not leave me with anything at the end of it. Ok, it is a first novel from someone who is not exactly a writer(meaning, not a writer by profession). I understand that. Yes, it is the life of Arindham Chaudhary as seen from his eyes, his views and his experiences. But somehow, there is something missing that I am unable to pinpoint. It feels like the author has not revealed something and has left it unsaid. It feels like out of 360 degrees, something like 90 degrees of the picture is blurred. It is not like the ones where the end is left to the reader to choose. No, it is not that. It is like he didn't want to reveal some aspects of the character/characters. He wants to protect them, yet writing a story about them. Only the superflous layers have been shown. In case of some, there is only a mention of them where required.

Maybe I am growing old and the book is meant for students, meaning people of that age. The college stories are okay though some of them feel like they were introduced to add some effects. Besides, the IIT campus life has been discussed in some other books and it feels like a continuation of the same. Understandable that campus life cannot be different.

It was not a book that was rivetting. Rather, it was a book I put down many a time and picked again, hoping I would see something different in the pages to come. The last few pages just summed up or hastened to bring things to a conclusion. And when it was over, I wondered what I got from the book.

Maybe I went in with expectations. Of finding something, of learning something. The only thing I noticed is the way the stories and incidents are presented, in and out, intermingled.

(The above is my personal opinion only).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A kid's fantasy

The other day, when returning home, I had a tiny tot, most probably going to play school, coming in full speed in front of the car and shouting 'stop, stop'. Usually, I get angry with parents who let their kids play on the roads unwatched. I also stop and tell such kids to take care and stay away from the road. But that day, I decided to indulge in this kid for whatever reasons, I still don't understand. So, I stopped the car. He said again, 'Stop, Stop'. I said okay. Then he turned around and looked in all directions. Then he walked to the side of the road, and said, 'Ok, Go'. I took some time to start the car again. Immediately, he announced, 'You can go'. I laughed at the kid. He probably decided to play the policeman on the road. I could see him in the rear view mirror, smiling happily and clapping his hands at having successfully stopped the car and played the part of a policeman.

Kid's always have these fantasies of playing policeman, fireman, teachers, doctors, drivers.... As a kid I don't remember having any such fantasy, though I used to take class for my sisters. There used to be a board at home and every holiday, I used to take some class for my sisters, or used to learn writing on the board. So, sometimes I wonder, whether it was this that has made me a teacher today. It is strange what we fantasize on as kids, and how, those jobs become worthless when we grow up. Especially those of policemen and firemen. Most kids play these roles but wouldn't think twice about them when they grow up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When I took my leg off the breaks

Last evening was crazy. A policeman had stopped traffic at the cross roads. Then he said go and we started. Suddenly, the bike in front breaked and this guy and the policeman started chatting bringing the traffic to a sudden halt again. The car in front of me(behind the bike) applied his brakes, and I did too. No speed, nothing. Just started and stopped. Then I heard a bang, someone crashing onto my car. The car was still running, and I turned back to see who it was crashing into my car. I pulled the left passenger glass down. Then I heard the horns of cars blaring.......... blaring............... I just turned back to see what was happening and the driver at the back as well on the side were having their hands raised at me. I just didn't understand why they were shouting at me when they should be shouting at the bike guy who bumped into my car. The policeman had stopped talking and came up to me and told me to apply the brakes as the car was moving backwards. In the melee, I had somehow taken my legs off the brakes and the car had been moving slowly backwards and I hadn't realized it. So, I took the car a little front. Then I could see in the rear view mirror, the owner of the car at the back get out menacingly and charge towards me. I stopped the car. He had every right to catch my ear if I had damaged his car. He came shouting. I told him that I had turned to see what happened when someone bumped into me and had missed in the process and that I was really sorry. I think my bumper touched his bumper.

It was the first time I had touched another vehicle in all these 13 years of driving a car and the second time since 25 years of driving a vehicle starting with the humble cycle. The first time was when I was learning to drive the cycle. I saw this guy coming straight ahead of me with a basket behind in the carrier calling 'poove, poove'(flowers, flowers). I told the anna(brother) helping me to learn that I was going to crash into him and to help me avoid it. He said, 'look straight and drive, nothing will happen'. So, I looked straight and crashed straight into the flower vendor. He shouted at me, asking me what I was upto. I was too stunned to tell him anything. The anna took all the flowers and helped the flower vendor to get his cycle up again. I returned home that day, having had enough of driving. From that day onwards, I have never like the sound of metal on metal. It is a weird sound.

Yesterday, after the incident, I was feeling so bad and upset that I caused harm to someone else's vehicle. He had every right to shout at me. But then, this was started by the two wheeler who crashed into my vehicle which was almost stationery. So, A crashes into me, and I crash into B. So, A crashes into B - by the law of transitivity, right. So, isn't A responsible for the damage caused to B if any. My research oriented brain is trying to model the incident I guess. I thought of this on the way driving back from this incident, and laughed my head off, but still feeling very bad for having touched another person's car. I know how men feel about their vehicles, experiencing how my husband looks after his first wife(22 year old Maruti 800) with so much care, that he would carry her on his head if there was a pothole on the road. So, in this case, A was wrong to crash into my car and I was wrong to crash into B's car. Mistake is A's and mine and B got a raw deal. That is the end of story.

This is the second time when a person has crashed into my car in the past month, the first, a week ago when an auto crashed into my stationery vehicle at a traffic jam and pulled off the black beading above my bumper. My husband's pet is having a bad time with me driving her. Hoping the combined luck (me and the car) improves in the days to come and that I won't hear the sick sound of metal on metal. Also, that I will remember to have my leg on the break come what may till I apply my hand brakes, even it the whole world around me is crashing.........

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why is teaching fun and not so much fun

Teaching is fun. Fun meaning, it comes with responsibility, a lot of it actually, and then, its rewards are amazing. You walk into class, ready to give your best. And when you take class to your satisfaction and the satisfaction of the students, made evident from their faces, it is an experience. One that cannot be described in words.

Same time, when you see blank faces as you explain something simple, or review what you had taken the previous session, then the whole thing is defeating. You wonder about your own ability in conveying what you wanted as well as your capacity to teach to a class. It is not much fun then. Rather, it makes you feel down and doubtful. Which is a bad feeling.

Another feeling you get is that what you are saying goes over people's head. There are many vigorous nods of the head, some dozing off, some just sitting through the routine because they have got into it. This again feels different. This is the most challenging part because on the spur of the moment you have to make a decision whether to continue with class or change tactics or bring it to a stop and try it another day. Change tactics is what I like, where I try to start where it became hazy, take examples, get the class in, and continue. It is tricky because the examples can lead you away and it takes a lot of effort to connect it again.

So, teaching is a lot of fun where you have the chance to interact with many people, all growing, young and full of ideas. They may be quiet but you know that inside is a young person, full of life, blood boiling to go out and do something in the world. That is the attraction in teaching. You are part of something new, something waiting to happen, something that you don't know how it will turn out. And you have the chance to play a very very very small part, where you are a speck, smaller than an atom in the scheme of things.

Otherwise, teaching is not so much fun. When assignments and test papers are loaded on your table, and you head cries for creativity, it is not so much fun. When you feel like sitting and reading something new, some new article, or do research, and you have to mark the attendance in the online system, it is not fun at all. When you feel like doing something new, and you know you have to prepare for class is again not much likable. For you have to do what you don't like, semester after semester, year after year.

Students change, but the job of a teacher does not. It is a continuous cycle of teaching, taking attendance, correcting answer sheets and assignments and doing a lot of clerical work. With the current paper work, it is like what they say about work in a CMM Level 5 company. There is more paperwork than actual work. Here too, it is the same. I have to give 5 assignments, when I know that students will give copies. I am not allowed to try different methods, like projects, surprise tests, and so on. So, we need to try and innovate in this limited scope. Give different assignments, but how many different assignments can you give. 45 in a class into 5 assignments per paper makes it 225 different assignments. Impossible don't you think for a teacher. Afterall a teacher is human not superhuman. And if you handle two subjects, a total of 450. Not humanly possible is what I would say if you are speaking of quality especially.

So, getting back to teaching is fun one way, and not so much fun when I see the paper work. The target is to maintain the assignment and answer sheets and file paper after paper. That is getting my side clear. But, actually the focus should be in seeing that something creative is done that betters the student from one semester to another. The objective must be to check if there is positive progression in each students performance. That will be the real check. How it is to be done must be left to the teacher, I would say as long as it is democratic. For there lies the challenge both for the teacher and the student.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's a mad world.

Life was moving at a nice pace, driving down the winding roads in the university, watching greenery on both sides, listening to the birds, and listening to the air whistling in my ears, her song, so much one with the environment. The past few weeks have just been the opposite. Driving down 30 minutes to work is a nightmare. I hear all the unnatural of sounds, pam, poom, peem, creee, keee, kiichh........ oh noises of every kind, not to speak of reverse horns,,,,, tick tick, tock tock, pick pick, pock pock. Thankfully, they don't play the national anthem, everything else is there in the menu. For otherwise, me and my car would have had to stand in attention right in the middle of the road.

It feels like a rat race, with competitors of every kind trying to make the vacant inch of road ahead of them theirs. They would overtake you left and right, and make your hair stand on ends, but overtake they will to obtain that vacant inch. And if you are slow, they will honk the hell out of you till you and your car nearly jump off the road, till they get their way.... plain bullies. There are then vehicles who drive all round the road, left to right, break, and zoom which makes you wonder whether you unknowingly became part of a computer game. It's crazy I tell you. In India, you have vehicles starting from the poor cycle, poor because we don't consider them anymore as vehicles of conveyance, so much so that we push them off the edge of the road, like the poor pedestrian who is considered as person non-grata on the road. Then you have the three wheelers, auto rickshaws, rickety as they are, their pulling power at an all time low, but their emission levels always high. Then come the cars, big and small. Small like the Maruti, which occupy less space and were meant for India roads and the ugly like the Sumo, Innova and the Safari's, big time bullies, who I believe should be banned from the Indian roads. They are the rakshasas of today, scaring anyone in their path, and having air-horns that blow your ear drums off. Then there are the buses, the state transport ones, typical elephants they are(in a nice way - I love elephants). Huge, carrying the heaviest possible load and the means of conveyance of many, they are the most ill-serviced of the lot and their drivers, the most harassed. But then, there are those private buses who believe that the road is theirs to rule and follow the 'push everyone off the road' mantra, again, big time bullies. I can only thank the people who decided to keep the lorries off the roads during working hours for they heavily loaded as they are are a veritable pain moving snail paced, occupying a major part of the road and heavens forbid if they break down.

All of the above I manage, laugh and move on. The only kind I don't understand are the two-wheelers, the bikes. They think they move in air, going from left to right, right to left, scratching the edges of the car by trying to go in any nook, gap and corner they find. The worst is when they think they are elephants. What I mean is, they drive in the middle of the road and would not let you go. Besides, they love driving in the middle of the road in single file, not to speak of some drivers speed and occupy all the space. To add to this, they are gingerly and start shaking if you go near them, making it a terrible experience to overtake them. Then there is a special kind among them, who when driving look at posters and shops and everything around, and sway with the wind that moves, thereby confusing you as to what is their next move. There was this guy who was driving in the middle of the road, and kept looking to his left over the shoulder, that I thought he is going to go left. Instead, he took a sharp right. Maybe for him, yes is a no and a left is a right. They are the ones who need to be taught road rules first, for they rule the roads as of today and are bad rulers.

So much for the madness on the road I face every morning and evening, a total of one hour, that to survive I must learn these rules. I must learn what left and right is for whom - so much patterns to pick and so much confusion to resolve.

Oh, driving is mad, especially in the mornings, when everyone is driving to reach on time somewhere. As someone told me once, "Would two minutes more matter ?"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life changes tracks

 
Well, sometime in life, we change tracks.  Not that the two are disconnected totally, but it leads us in two different directions.  So, it is here.  From being a full-time researcher, I move on to being a part-time researcher.  In the process, I realize that a researchers life is bliss.  You sit and read work by people, then dream a bit about what you want to do and finally settle for what is possible to be done as of now and postpone the rest to future work.  In the process of research, a lot of elements come into play.  You read a bit on philosophy, a bit of literature, and ask a lot of questions because you are being conditioned to ask questions thereby irritating beyond repair people around you who have no clue of what's happened with you.  However, you enjoy this phase as it helps you bring your creativity to the fore.  For one, there is no such thing as time in a researcher's life.  If you feel like working now, at 4:00 a.m. in the morning, then yes, go for it.  There is no better time.  Sleep can be postponed. 
 
Change of track and the real world welcomes you.  For one, time is an important factor.  9:00 means 9:00 and the practical world steps forward and the idealistic world a little backwards.  It jolts you when the change is radical.  It is so here.  Having moved into teaching full time, research is taking a back seat and I am not ready to let my good friend take a back seat as yet.  I feel like I am not working at all though I teach.  My brain protests at the lack of food.  It also protests when something not very interesting is fed in.  It's a strange feeling, but that is the way it is.  I itch to pick my research papers and start again. 
 
Life was bliss as a researcher.  And the university gave me an ideal mix.  Computer science, music, drama, literature, and the perfect environment.  Can only idolize the life gone by.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting 'No Dues'

Everyone wishes to show their power.  From the watchman, to the paper boy to the electrician.  Everyone wants to bask in their two minutes of glory.  Satiate their ego.  No, not everyone is like that, but you will find this happening many a time.

Go to a government office for any work, and first you have to salute the peon.  He behaves like a demi-master walking around with files and shooing you away from the door as though you were a mere fly.  Then he walks around with this virtual halo he sees around his head.  And if he wishes, and you have pleased him enough, you get to see the actual person.  And then starts the wait for their autograph on the sheet of paper you want.  And you helpless soul, feel reduced to eat the dust.  It is a moment of eating up your ego.  Of being powerless.  All this if they are they are not on leave, else, your bad luck.

I started my job of getting 'No Dues' certificate I guess at the wrong day and time.  First was the library which was straight.  No problems.  Then I tried home turf.  The murti didn't turn up in the office for four days.  There are tri-murtis to keep track of our activities.  Two murtis were on leave and only one murti left who for the time being had all the authority.  So, two days, I waited, hoping the the murti will show her face in the office.  Third day, the office staff told me to try going and meeting her in her workplace(this was her additional duty).

The building was a maze and at some nook and corner there are rooms for the staff.  Suffocating corridors, where if two souls have to walk, each of them have to stick to the hall.  Even light fears to step inside for fear of getting lost in the maze.  Our university gets amazing architects who know to use maximum space and indirectly tell its residents to maintain shape.  After crisscrossing the maze with my poor geography I haplessly stood in front of a clerk(a good one) who guided me and showed me the way through the maze to one such room.  Waited there for two hours for her to show up to no avail.  Blessed are the people who work here for they need not show their faces in case they don't have class.  No office hours.  No 9-5 schedules...

After giving up hope of getting a signature, I went back to the office and told them that finding her in the dept was a Himalayan task and hence, they should do their job and get it for me.  In the afternoon, when I went back, they told me to get the signature of the superior, and in case he requires the one of the tri-murti's signature to tell him that it is four days since she's come to the office, the other two being on leave.  Great.  Nice way of passing a complaint.  Doomsday for the student.  And then, lo as though like a miracle, someone brings news of her arrival and then there is a flurry of activity.  Files are pulled out, others clear up their tables and start working, the atmosphere in the whole place changing.  I finally get her autograph.   She did show how powerful she was and how difficult it was to get her autograph.  After four days.

Next is the superior's office.  4 they tell me is the time he comes and it will be done.  So, yes I am there at 4 on the dot.  Wait till 4:15 and then, he calls up telling he is in a meeting and will be coming only at 5.  Well, maybe his way of telling people in his office to wait or otherwise, another way of showing his importance, he is attending meetings and everyone in his office should know.  So, around 5:20 his car comes at a distance and again there is a flurry of activity.  Students waiting for him wake up from their slumber as do other people.  The office staff gear up with their files.  The head among them orders who has to do what.  In all this flurry of activity, and arising from the chairs, I am left mesimerized.  What is all this about, I wonder still sitting in my chair.  And there he walks in and looks around at heads bowed in reverence, some even saluting him.  After getting his due, he walks to his room, a jatra in his trail.  They jostle for his blessing and one by one come out, victory written on their face.  I wait, for the clerk to get the signature and give me my form, tired and amused at the same time.

Each one, his/her two minutes of glory. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's just not my day

This has been the feeling for the past few days.  Here I am on the last leg of one of my most important events in my life, and there is a setback at every step.  When I mean every step, literally, every step.  A signature that takes less than a minute usually, takes four days for me.

My luck has always been bad, I know that.  But, it usually used to be just for one day - never for so many days at a stretch.  And it is depressing.  Yes, I am using the word.  At the end of the day, I feel defeated, fighting against my bad luck and making no progress at all.

Some people tell me 'Be Patient', some 'It happens', others 'Your luck is bad'.  To sum it up, it is not a good experience at all when people and events stall your progress for no fault of yours.  When events happen and you feel that they are all comisserating against you and you feel powerless to overcome it.

Bad days.  It never rains but pours.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Waking up to Vande Mataram

This August 15th was different.  We had Virasat going on by Spic Macay.  And it was a full night event.  Right at the stroke of midnight, Shri D. Balakrishna on the Veena, wished us on our independence day and played Vande Mataram.  It was a moment of sheer joy and happiness.  Of feeling part, of pride in our country, of feeling one with her people.  We just stood up automatically, all of us in the auditorium.  

It was a moment when we, all strangers were bound, by a common string - of being children of the same mother, of being part of a country with a great heritage.  Of being blessed to be born in a free country, of having great forefathers who fought for our independence against a superpower of that time.  It was a time when we pledged ourselves again to our motherland.  It was a time when we were one.



Cricket Vs Food Portfolio

This is with reference to the news "Free distribution of foodgrain an order, not suggestion: SC tells Sharad Pawar".  

It took just overnight for the minister, as ICC head, to declare that the matches played by tainted cricketers will continue.  But handling the portfolio of agriculture, the same minister doesn't care to move even his little finger over the food grains rotting in the FCI godowns.   This, even after the supreme court ordered it to distribute the foodgrains instead of letting them to rot(he thought it was a suggestion which he need not care about). 

This is typical of the political and wealthy class in India(not all of them) who prefer to throw food away than let it be passed on to the less privileged.  The problem with India and Indians is not that we don't have enough to feed ourselves.  It is that we are selfish and just don't care.  

The rulers of the country don't care about its people.  All they care about is a silly game and now, an even costlier sports affair where we erstwhile colonies try to maintain our history and link to our colonial rulers...... and all this benefits no one else but the rich.  It doesn't disturb their conscience at all.    The poor who work there don't get full wages and live in unhygienic conditions.

This minister is more concerned about cricket and its welfare and how it adds to his status than about poor people.  So why does he continue to be minister - how else will he have access to power.  The only job in the country where people decide what they should pay themselves for doing nothing, for a job requiring no accountability  is the political class in India today.  They go around telling private company CEO's about the hefty sums's they receive as salary and don't do anything about it at their own homes.  Austerity drive is for photoshoots with the media.  

India..... she must be cringing inside at what her children are doing to one another..... her blood must be boiling at her produce being wasted when her children wither for want of food....... she must be wondering how she could have such children at all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Caged

Sitting here within the four walls
The window showing the world outside
Where butterflies flutter
Birds fly, squirrels chatter
I feel myself caged
Forever and ever.

Day in and out
This has been the way
To sit here facing the wall
Closeted in this atmosphere
I feel myself tied
To this seat forever.

Waiting for the day
When I can spread my wings
And fly far and up
Filling my lungs
With fresh air and new smells
Never to return.

When will that day come
Or is only a mirage
Of moving to another cage
One wonders aloud
Seeing the distance
Reality mired in myth.

Difficult decisions

Everyone comes across a point in life where you are standing on crossroads and wondering what decision to take.  There have been a few such decisions, most of them I regret to this day, for I took the wrong road.  Yes, the wrong road taught me a few lessons too.  But still, when I look back, I regret my decision, my idealism in doing certain things.

Today again is a tough day, when I have to take a decision and decide what comes top on my priority list.  I have picked my choice and am clear on it.  But then, when you make such tough decisions you always are left feeling strange.  You are in a state of nowhereness, if you understand what I mean.  You wonder if you are right, whether you could have tried the other way a little bit and turned back if it didn't work out.  There are so many if's.  And you hope that life gives you opportunities again.  Well, again, there is a saying asking you to grasp an opportunity when it comes.  But grasp you cannot many a time, can you.  Only yesterday, my student was telling me about a wrong decision he made which he says is wrong in hindsight.  He deeply regrets his decision and wishes he had taken the other road for today he sees, that the other road would have given him more happiness and success.  But then, all this is in hindsight and many a time we are given such a short time to take those decisions. 

:) Turning philosophical I know.  It is especially at such times, that you remember you past decisions, and the wrong one, hurt and trouble you more.  The victory is in taking your decision and coming out strong I guess.  For what is life without risks and what is life worth if you get the wrong priorities on top.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I am 'Music Deaf'

I love music.  But then, I find nowadays more than before that there are limits to my listening time.  Today, I was sitting in my friend's room and she was listening to the saxophone.  It was played well ofcourse by a known person, Kadri Gopalnath.  But, somehow, I couldn't appreciate the music.  It sounded more like noise than anything else.  I found myself wondering what was wrong, because it was a different experience.  It was like noise reflecting off a wall.  That's exactly it.  Today, I understood the meaning of the phrase.  I just didn't want it to go into my ear.

Maybe it was the mood.  I was in the mood for research and maybe quiet was what I wanted.  But then, we were all talking over dinner.  So, it was not totally quiet too.  Today I realized that I could be music deaf - deaf to certain kind of music maybe(like I am with heavy metal, when I run away, far away).  And it was a strange experience.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

People are nuts

Telling another girl she looks good in some dress, or her hairstyle suits her was so easy earlier.  Nowadays, you get strange reactions that I think twice before I tell it.  I am surprised how something complementary is taken the other way around.  Sometimes people think I am sarcastic.  Please, I don't need to be complementary to be sarcastic( I am bad at being sarcastic, rather, I am good at being blunt). 

Telling a boy, even if much younger, that he looks good or his hairstyle suits him or anything is to get seriously into trouble.  As a teacher, for me students of both the sex are the same.  Just like I would complement a girl, I used to complement boys too.  But, when I continued that after I became a student again, it got me in serious trouble.  There were all sorts of expressions - wide eyed, wondering, non-understanding to say the least.  

Should I say it is my mistake ?  With my students, our roles are defined I guess.  Me the teacher, and them the student.  Gives me the liberty to complement and it will be taken in the right way as long as I don't go overboard, I guess.  But otherwise, just a 'Good Morning' at a nice face in the morning gets you into trouble,  for here, me as a girl better not look at a guy.  I am solely defined by this garb, this dress I wear, of a woman.   Even if they are 15 years your junior, it's trouble.  For me, I am what I am.  I like something and I tell it openly, without anything more.  And that is it.  I forget it after that.  

What's happening with this generation ?  Why is a little curtesy like a 'Thank You' with a smile at a door or a threshold crossing seen differently, with astonishment and smirks that too in an educational institution.  Is being polite so out of fashion ?  Or is it that I am expected to be stern faced all the time, as though I could kill someone with my looks.  That would be so difficult.  Think of passing life concentrating on keeping a stern face most of the time.  But, here I am learning to be that nowadays.  So sad, this world doesn't care to smile.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Night of Music by SPIC MACAY

This time SPIC Macay's Virasat series had a night event.  The event started with carnatic vocal by Shri T.V Shankarnarayanan. at 8:30 p.m. His enthusiasm for music was something nice to see as was his singing.  This was followed by Veena recital by Shr D. Balakrishna.  The veena was something I have not heard for a long time.  Bang at 12 midnight he played for us the Vande Mataram and this Independence year was ushered in all goodness.   The Mohan Veena recital by Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt starting at 1:30 a.m. was energetic.  The instrument looks like a cross between a guitar, a sarod and a veena to me.  But it was pleasant music.  His enthusiasm was to be seen.  There at 3:00 a.m. in the morning was someone so fresh and so much alive playing his instrument.  The night continued with Drupad by Shri Uday Bhawalkar and Hindustani Vocal by Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan, both of which I had to miss sadly due to migrane.  Wished the chairs were a little more comfortable so that I could have slept off listening to music(thankfully, I do not snore, atleast as yet).  It would have been better than sleeping in the hostel.  Then, waking up at 5:30 to music would have been the best. 

However, the evening was a different experience - an evening of music, of seeing accomplished, talented artist, some past their prime, but still young as 18.  Their energy, enthusiasm and passion for their art was something that stood out.

Passion - that is what I don't have and they have.  I haven't still found something I am passionate about.  I love a lot of things - I like listening to music, like my research, like Software Engineering but passion I still have not found anything for.  Which is sad, for as I tell Arun always, he is gifted.  He is passionate about Badminton(he watches even the junior matches at the national level - anything where there is a badminton racket and a shuttle) and Artificial Intelligence(he can talk AI through midnight).  I still haven't found something I am so passionate about.  Still searching.

To many more evenings like this, hoping SPIC Macay continues this tradition.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pandavani - a performing art

Pandavani is a performing art form from Chattisgarh.  Tales from the Mahabharata are enacted with musical accompaniments.  Having seen the art form on TV, I was excited to see it performed by a master artist for the first time live.



Teejan Bai was a revelation with her strong voice and personality.  Her confidence and the way she related the story was entralling.  I got pulled into the story of Karna and Arjuna in the war at Kurukshetra.  My hair stood up when she related how Karna and Arjuna were equals in the art of warfare.  How Lord Krishna had to dig the chariot into earth to save Arjuna from Karna's arrow once and how Arjuna's arrow got Karna's chariot stuck.  At the end, I had tears when she related how Karna, the Dhanaveer(King among Givers) was killed in the war.  She spoke about Lord Krishna's words, explaining to Arjuna his role in the war.
 

It was an evening where I understood the strength of the Indian performing arts.  Those days are fast dying when people in the villages used to go to such strong performances by people who could capture an entire generations imagination.  Today, cinema and TV have taken over and we are fast loosing such art forms to the disco world. 

Another striking factor was her struggle to survive.  Her life was not easy as she rode into a male bastion.  Pandavani had only male performers till she arrived and she took the male bastion by storm.  She is truly a gifted person.
The photo above shows the rings she wears which stood out during her performance.  They look lovely, don't they.

* The photos in this blog are taken from google

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Magic with the flute by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia



Listening to Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia was a gift.  He plays the flute and in the process takes you where boundaries disappear.  He takes you to the villages, the mountains, dense forest, he speaks to you through his flute.  Starting with Raag Kalyani and ending with Raag Pahadi, he showed us the power of music, her strength and her healing power. And it was a glimpse to what magic Krishna could play with his flute with his divine powers.  Unimaginable

Listening to his  flute recorded on CDs is nothing compared to listening to him playing live.  It was magic.  An enriching sunday it was, where the mind was cleansed and cleared.  Where I realized that only a special blessing can give you that gift.  

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yesterday night

Yesterday night, while returning after dinner from the city, we saw a two-wheeler accident just 100 metres away from the university small gate.  The accident had just then occurred and there were two people on the scooter, both without helmet.  While the driver was sitting dazed on the road, we could see another man, the pillion stuck under the scooter.  The driver of the auto in which we were travelling, stopped immediately and ran to get the man out.  He was lifeless, still lying on the road, with blood oozing out of the temple.  They turned him around and felt his pulse.  He was breathing... In the meanwhile, we asked people passing by on bikes to inform the university security at the gate to call the ambulance stationed inside the university.  My friend started running towards the gate to call the ambulance.  I waited there, paid the auto and ran up to the gate.  On reaching the gate, the incharge of security asked me if it was a colleague of ours.  We said no, we didn't know who it was.  I started calling the Health Center of the university to get them to send the ambulance immediately.  At that time, the security guy told me to leave the matter off as he is not my colleague and not connected to me.  I was shell shocked.  There was an accident victim and here is someone telling me not to care.  How can man be so ruthless ?  Panting for breath, I asked him, if  tomorrow I was in that man's place, would he ask me if I was a student and only then help me.  I was dumbfounded.  I would have slapped him in my anger but there was something more important to do - calling for the ambulance.  Sadly, the number didn't get through immediately and the auto driver took them in his auto to the nearest hospital.

I wonder where the world is headed.  When I was standing on the side of the road, I saw so many passersby in bikes and cars.  The cars slowed down and continued.  Some bikes stopped and helped.  It is not the fault of the people.  In India, if you take an accident victim to the hospital then the person who helped gets harassed by the police and the case is foisted on him as it is the easy thing for the police to do to avoid the difficult job of enquiry.  I remember my own experience in Chennai.

A friend and me were searching for an office.  We had stopped our two wheeler and switched it off and were wondering where this building could be.  Suddenly we heard a noise and found a guy on the cycle down on the road.  The bike that had hit him was fleeing.  100 yards away, the signal had turned green and the vehicles were coming in full speed.  I knew what was to happen.  Asking the guy to get up, he couldn't.  He was shivering and was too stunned.  I jumped off the two wheeler and with all my strength, dragged the guy to the side of the road and made him sit down.  Then a crowd gathered and they started blaming me for hitting the guy(with a stationary vehicle whose engines were switched off).  Thankfully, there was a security guard of a house who had seen the entire incident and told the others that I had saved the guy.  Else, my condition that day would have been bad.  So many people face similar conditions when they help not to mention police harrasment so much that no one stops by on the road even if they see an accident.

This country frames rules but in such a way that is stopping people from helping someone in need.  Why ?  Why such laws when someone's life is in danger.  When a few minutes can be the difference between life and death not only for the persons injured but also for their families.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hide and Seek

(This is my second story - trying my hand at story writing.)

I've been searching for some time now, and haven't found her yet. It never took so long. I start feeling a little worried and decide to tell her then, that this will be the last for the day. Playing hide and seek is one of her favourite games. She always picks the coconut and mango grove to play though it doesn't suite my old, complaining knees. She loves hiding and flitting from tree to tree, teasing me with her calls, till I find her. Also, I can never say no to the lovely smile accompanying the twinkle in her eyes. She means the world to me, being my only grandchild.


As I walk around, looking for her, a coconut frond falls a few feet away, with a huge thud, catching me unawares. After steadying myself and rubbing my bothering knee, I continue my search. I register in my mind to remember and call Moosa, the lad who drops the coconuts and dried fronds. There's a cool breeze blowing and I can hear the soothing sound of the fronds swaying in the breeze. My mind goes back to another time, another age, when I was young. When I was fifteen. The grove in my grandfather's house was much much bigger, with coconut, mango and arecanut trees. It used to be my favourite place to spend the day. And then I see, the young boy, me, running for life, pursued by an elderly man with a piece of frond in his hand.


One evening, walking back home after school with friends, we passed by the graveyard. I ridiculed my friends' belief in ghosts and proclaimed my fearlessness. They made a bet and I took it. To prove their non-existence I was to stay overnight at the graveyard. So, as my friends made their way home, I walked into the graveyard, looking for a nice place to spend the night.


At first light, after an uneventful night, I walked back home still half asleep. As I passed through the gate, I saw my grandfather standing on the steps, transfixed. The next thing I knew, he had picked a slit piece of coconut frond from a pile meant for firewood and was coming after me. I raced towards the grove. I ran around the coconut, mango and arecanut trees, with my grandfather pursuing me, the slit piece of coconut frond raised in his hand, yelling at me, eyes blazing fire, tears running down his cheeks. I ran for life like I never had. It eventually ended with me getting caught, and beaten.


I learnt later, that my grandfather had searched frantically, sending people in all directions to look for me till late evening. He had stayed awake worried through the night, fearing the worst, waiting to start the search again early morning. After my parents death, he had taken it upon himself to look after me, his only grandson. I still miss him, my grandfather.


A familiar voice brings me back from my stupor. I am a grandfather myself today. The breeze still blows but the smell is different, a mix of the old and new.


'Appuppa', she calls again. I hear her giggle. I turn around and see her standing behind a mango tree, head sticking out, smile a mile wide with a pup in her hand. Emotions rise within me. Of love, relief and happiness all at once. I walk up to her as fast as my knees allow, swoop her in my arms and kiss her, tears running down my cheeks. Life had come full circle.

* Appuppa - grandfather in Malayalam

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I am lucky - Why ???

I am lucky.  Yes, I am.  I know that and can say that a thousand times over.  For I was born to parents who gave me the best of everything even though their lives were not so comfortable.  They have always got me what I needed and given me the best of education(my parents had to pay a heavy price for the donation to be paid in my school early in the 1970s and this when they were just starting their life).  They have brought me up to be an independent woman who knows to fight for what is right and say stop when someone goes beyond limits of endurance.  More than that, they have taught me to believe and fight which is the greatest gift any parent can give.

I always believe, that my birth was just a matter of chance, a matter of seconds.  I am a thousand times lucky because I was not fated to be a daily wage labourer, a manual scavenger or in any of those professions where  lives are worth nothing in this country, where you are treated like shit.  And they are also like me, two hands, two legs, eyes, ear

Manual scavenging is the most humiliating and degrading of all professions I can think of.  It is still prevalent in India in a few states like Bihar, UP and Jharkand.  What is such a life ?  Even an animal has more dignity to its life, don't you think ? 

Reading about the law to be passed, I wonder when this country will really attain glory, in the real sense.  Here, the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer.  It is a matter of pride that despite so many suicides by farmers and weavers, you don't hear of one farmer or weaver taking to killing or looting or ransom.  That is I think where a real Indian is.  That is the heart and soul of this great country where even in abject poverty, a human being thinks of right and wrong.  And I hope I can live up to such an ideal, me being just an ordinary human being.  For it requires strength and courage of the mind to be that. 

But still, I am lucky, for I have the chance, the opportunity to do something.  And there are dreams of doing something small, something consequential, of giving back atleast part of what I got.  Working towards that dream.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Indian Robin has got kids

I see the Indian Robin, next to the window in my workplace bringing insects to the nest.  Which means, the kids are born.  Which is a happy sign.  However, I am unable to see the kids as in the case of the Red Vented Bulbul due to its position.  Anyways, it's celebration time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sighting a wild cat - hurray

Yesterday, midnight, returning from the lab, I saw something big, bigger than a cat cross my path.  I breaked hard, and got off my cycle.  It being dark, I couldn't see the colour.  But there it walked on the wall and I realized that it was a wild cat.  Sorry, but I didn't have the camera.  Besides, I wouldn't have been able to capture it for I could see it only for a few seconds. 

Interesting life in University of Hyderabad.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul (man's ruthlessness)

Gone is the nest.  I came in at 11:30 to the department having had to wash clothes this morning(had a huge bucket full of them, not having washed in four days).  As usual, I came, put my bag in place, switched on the system and ran to see the little ones.  And as I looked up ascending the steps, I found no nest.  Both the nests were gone.  I went mad - really.  My mind wouldn't work.  I saw two little ones(out of three) sitting near the window(which does not have an opening at all).  I searched for the third one and couldn't find it at all. 

I searched then for the workers who sweep and mop the department.  On asking them they said they saw a snake had come near the gate, so they removed the nest.  Snakes come so often in the department and the immediate reaction of people here is to kill them, not to shoo them away.  So, they had removed the nest and left the little ones to fend for themselves.  They didn't think the least little bit if they could fly, if they could survive.  

Took the two in a basket and went out searching for the parents.  Found them hovering around the area and set them out.  The nice part was that the parents came and flew near them.  And the little ones, opened their wings and fluttered for some distance.  I saw hope in that little flutter and came away, wishing them infinite joy and a safe journey in this world, this world were we men are cruel as no other being on earth.  What else could I wish for.

Lesson learnt:  Man talks about humanity, but that is contained to only one's circle, one's house.  I call it house because if man understood what a home is, then he wouldn't for anything destroy anothers.  Man's humanity is limited, it is actually unearthly.  

Exactly, what man needs to learn is not to be humane, but earthly, where he loves all beings like himself, where he feels the pain of every being like he feels his own.  Till that day, this earth will continue to get destroyed.

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul (takeover)

There has been no activity in the nest since a week.  Today, the oriental robin also called the Indian robin has taken over the nest.  The Red Vented Bulbul parents came and objected but the new two were much stronger I guess.  First I thought of helping the Red Vented Bulbul's but then felt I shouldn't interfere with nature too much.  Besides, I have no idea if there are eggs inside there.  The female is now busy widening the nest(sitting inside and shaking it up) while the other is bringing new twigs.  Below is a picture of the bird from the internet.  The one bringing the twigs look like this.  And I find a Magpie Robin (black with a dash of white) coming too.


So, things are changing.  If there were eggs of the Red Vented Bulbul and the little ones hatch, will the Indian Robin mom look after them ?  Wondering.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - (contd/-)

Since yesterday evening, the parents are back.  And they were making such a noise that I decided, I need to check out the nest.  But, not wanting to scare the birds, I put it off to today.  Morning, I heared the continuous chirping of the birds and was wondering if they felt some danger and hence were making the noise.  I went up and found three kids, sleeping tight, eyes closed.  The parents were annoyed and kept flying all around, I think to shoo me away.  

Happy that things had turned around fine,  I came away happy, telling myself that I shall wait for the right time to click some snaps.  So, now, when I went back to the department, I heard them chirping their heads off.  I picked the camera and went again to see why they were so disturbed.  There I find, a big fat cat waiting.  I drove the cat out.  Yes, I was disturbing or interrupting nature but then, how can I let the cat be and allow it to eat three small ones, so tiny, so cute.  I clicked two pictures in a hurry and came away.  Here are the two pictures.  The feathers are growing as you can see.  Their skin is red and they are yet to open their eyes.  So tiny.






Monday, June 21, 2010

A walk at night


The following two photographs were taken when I went for a walk one night around the university.  Something different, something feels strange.

 
When will I sleep ?



Look scary ?  I am not

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My workplace

This is my workplace.  It is cluttered with paper, pencil, pen, books, clips and name the stationery, all around, reflecting my current state.  However, the bird's nest can be seen on top of the window.  The window is for me a periscope to the real world, having to work inside a concrete room all through the day.  Now you understand why this one is the best place in the room.  I can take my eyes off the greenery and not be distracted when I wish to focus.  Again, if I need a break, I just need to turn my head. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The jungle where I work

Whenever I write about the place where I work, I mention about the jungle.  These photos, taken from my workplace as well as the roof show the jungle.  In the centre is a small lawn.  The place is well kept ofcourse, at huge costs.
                           
This is the entrance to the department.  Road leading to the small foyer.
                                   
This one is from the roof.  Is towards the side which my window faces. The three below is the centre lawn and sitting area.




However, the neem tree(picture above) there is a favourite among birds when the fruits are ripe.  Then, when the roses, chembaruthi(hibiscus), thechi(idliepoo in tamil and always wondered why they call it so.Ixora coccinea in english, see the pink flower above) and others are in full bloom, it is visited by butterflies and insects too.

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 8

The birds have settled in.  They take turns I guess in guarding the nest.  They keep rotating the eggs I think, in between as they perch themselves on the edge of the nest and move things around.  Now the wait for another 11 days before the eggs hatch.  I keep watching them trying to determine the difference between the parents.  Besides one being larger in size than the other, I am unable to distinguish any other feature between the father and the mother. 

Birds, I know so little about them, their habits and culture.  However, I do know that the Red Vented Bulbul is dominant.   The other day I saw them shooing away a crow.  Imagine, a crow.  They made such a noise and kept flying all around the crow, until the crow flew away. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's so great about football ?

That is a question many people ask, especially my cricket student fans.  I speak to them about the capacity of an individual as well as a team to create magic in 90 minutes.  About agility,  stamina, hardwork, perseverance.   More than all this, it is the spirit of the game.  Besides all of the before, it instills in you without your knowing a pride that other sport can only aspire to.  It removes boundaries of religion, of language, of discrimination in any form.  It breaks down walls created by politics, by war, by ethnic strife.  It is a game that breaks barriers.

You have as example players who made it there out of sheer hardwork showing you possibilities.  Players in the game, who have achieved fame not by their association but because they have it in them to do something great.  For they dreamed to be great.  For they worked to become great.

And the best part I like about the game is the surprise element.  Like yesterday when North Korea scored a goal against the mighty Brazil.  Mighty because they are ranked No. 1, for their sportsmanship, their skill, their grace, the magic they can do with the ball.  No they did not win, but that doesn't matter.  What mattered is the spirit they showed in playing the game.  North Korea, ranked 105 who everyone expected to get a drubbing, stood the onslaught and scored one too.  That is possible in football.  The spirit of fighting for a cause, for a nation, to inspire a nation, singled out, poor and  searching for a reason to believe.  What J. Yun Nam did was just that. 

Saluting North Korea and wishing them luck.  Also, waiting for the day, when we will have a team representing us, giving us a chance to feel great, to cheer, to cherish.

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 7

Okay, she's back.  She is in her nest resting.  Her head touches the ceiling.  It is safe that way because it is protected from the heat and the rain.  Another 13 days and I hope to see little ones. :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 6

Today is day 6.  Not much happening.  Think the nest is done.  The birds came by only once today. 

Till something happens then...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 5

There is hardly any work going on today on the nest.  The birds also have not come so far.  Wondering what happened and there is no way I can look inside the nest, given its position.

Found another one's nest near the stairs leading to the terrace.  So, tried taking snaps when the bird was away.  First time, when I started walking up, the bird flew away.  But my camera batteries failed me.  So, second time I went when the bird was not there, took two snaps and rushed down. 
I didn't want the bird thinking I am an intruder and abandon her nest, nor did I want the eggs to loose life.

The amazing thing is that the eggs are so small and are the colour of chocolates, dotted though.  Reminded me of cadbury's choclolates or the nutties.



There was another nest, though not as stable as this one and empty. 



The birds have not laid their eggs still.  The other one is waiting for her neighbours to come.

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 4

Today, the nest is almost made.  I took two pictures when they were not around.

They are done, almost.  But the birds are not ones who compromise on perfection.  They continue to bring tufts of cotton or whatever in their beaks and keep working on it. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 3

The process of building a nest continues.  I find that only one of them builds the nest.  The other one(bigger of the two) sits nearby and watches as the nest is built.  Of course, when the smaller one goes to collect twigs, they go together.

From the above, I surmise that it is the female that builds the nest.  No, the husband is caring.  He brought in his beak something and called out to her.  So, I guess he is getting food for her as she is busy building their home.  

Also, as the nest is being built, this little bird sits in her nest and moves in all directions.  I wondered what she is upto first, but then reasoned the following:

a.  She has to live in the nest and hence is testing the strength.
b.  It must be the right size and depth as it must hold the eggs as well as the bird.

So, as the nest is being built, I sit here, looking out of the window, marvelling at nature.  How she teaches different beings what is needed to survive.  I am also working, slow as a snail, but working, motivated by this small bird.  I have started believing she is a God send, as I had not been working at all and was getting demotivated.  So, a good sign.

Now, at five minutes to four, it has started drizzling.  So, work has stopped.  I don't find them coming anymore.  Guess, they've decided against working in the rain.

I wanted to take a photo but that would involve opening the window nearby.  I am apprehensive that if I disturb them, they might leave the nest.  Shall try tomorrow.

Orchids - Beauty Unparallel

Orchids are my favourite.  I love the dancing dolls especially.  Some photos of orchids taken on a visit to a botanical garden.  There were so many of them, big and small, pink, yellow and white.  They were a delight to see.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lesson from a Red Vented Bulbul - Day 2

Yesterday, they failed.  Only two twigs were there in the evening.  Today morning, I reach at 10:30 and they are back to work with around 10 more twigs.  The nest is not stable and twigs keep falling as they build.  So, now they are bringing something white and fluffy, which looks like cotton or pieces of cloth and running it trough the twigs and then turning the twigs to go round.  Engineers cum designers cum architects cum interior decorators all in one, at work.

It is 6:00 p.m. now, and the foundation is almost done I guess....now to build up......they continue still as it is yet to turn dark, being summer.  Looks like the steel is holding with the help of wires.