Sunday, May 30, 2010

We had a visitor

I woke up and looked out of the window. The first thing I saw was this beautiful 'Kuil' in Malayalam and Tamil, the 'Koel' in other Indian languages and the 'Cuckoo' in English sitting on one of the branches of my tree friend. This is a small one, a youngster.

The mother lays an egg is laid in the host's nest and once hatched the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest. Once the small one is out of the nest, the parent takes care of them.

My parents had a nice way of putting the same: The Kuil did not know how to build her nest nor does she bother to learn. So, when it is time to lay her eggs, she visits a crows nest. She lays her egg in the crows nest when the crow goes away in search of food. When the eggs hatch, the crow to her surprise finds a spotted kid. The crow is happy and takes care of the spotted one more than the others for the others are black like her. At the same time, the mother Kuil comes everyday and sits on the same tree and sings her song. This goes on till the kids are a little old. When it is time to learn to fly, the mother Kuil prods her kid to sing the song. When the little one opens her mouth, what comes out is a Koo, Koo instead of the Caw, Caw of a crow. That is when the crow understands, she has been duped. She fights with the mother Kuil and throws the kid out of her nest. The mother Kuil then takes her child with her and teaches her how to sing. and fly(but not to build a nest, for she herself does not know). Moral - nothing comes good out of laziness(Kuil not learning how to build her nest) and there is only disgrace in doing wrong.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Man's folly - how many more will mother earth take ?

The pictures below(courtesy the web) show the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Result of man's carelessness and callousness.

A bird struggling to stay alive.

A dead jelly fish.
A dragon fly trying to clean her wings.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's it between monkeys and dogs ?

Last sunday evening, coming out of the department, I found a pack of four dogs, barking and trying to climb up the tree. I looked up and there were two monkeys on the tree. No, don't sympathize with the monkeys as yet. They were no less. One of them, was fooling around jumping from one branch to another or by coming halfway down the tree just to get the dogs a little more agitated. And there was another one, breaking away the dried up and small branches and flinging at the dogs barking below with precision. This went on till the dogs got tired of it and went a distance away to rest.

The monkey waited for sometime and after fifteen minutes, when the dogs showed no interest, got bored I guess. He came down the tree and sat on the ground. Still, the dogs showed no interest. So, he chattered a bit, getting the dogs attention. The dogs got ready for the charge. And when they were nearly there, he shot up the tree and they, the twosome returned back to their old tricks. This went on for how long, I know not for I realized that either side would not give up. So, I clicked a few photos and then went my way.

Cycling down the roads, where trees other than the neem, peepal and tamarind stand lifeless I remembered my most loving dog, Michael. There was a Jamun tree at home, with a branch that was low. This was a huge piece of land where my dad indulged in his passion for the bovine and the canine. Michael was young and he was loved by us as well as all the cows. They even let him drink milk from them.

One day came a former self of the type homo sapien, a monkey. He had a long, long tail. Michael immediately set himself the task of guarding his territory. The monkey wouldn't budge and started playing. He lay down on the horizontal branch of the the Jamun and let his long tail down. Michael seeing this, calculated the height and started walking a few yards away. He started and then paced down the stretch ending with a high jump to catch the monkey's tail. At the right time, the monkey would lift his tail up with his hands and chatter, laughing at Michael. This routine went on and on till I realized that I couldn't make what they were upto. Why was the monkey putting his tail down if he didn't want it caught and why was Michael chasing when he knew that he wouldn't be able to catch it. No amount of calling out to Michael to give up worked.

Seeing the same repeated today, I again wondered, 'What's it between monkeys and dogs ?'

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life is Beautiful

I love elephants. Huge yet humble, large yet handsome, they are what you can call epitomising might without wearing it on your sleeves. One of the reasons I love going to Guruvayoor is the same. Yes, always a little sad that those who should be roaming free in the forest are chained. Thank god the temple has stopped accepting new elephants. Hope the temple thinks of acquiring land with its huge resources and making it an elephant sanctuary or adopting an elephant sanctuary. That would serve the purpose.

The below is a video of an elephant taken in the wild. He was happy standing there on the rock till we disturbed him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pilgrimage to Pochampally

After years of speaking about it, finally I got a chance to go to Pochampally. Yes, Pochampally, famous for her sarees. Pochampally, the place where Acharya Vinoba Bhave launced the Bhoodan movement - a land gifting movement which set the stage for land reform in India where land was owned generally by wealthy landowners at the time. He walked across India persuading landowners to part with a percentage of land to those who were of lesser means. It is an example of how one man's dream can change the world.

So, we were there, looking at the sarees handwoven by artisans and known around the world today on par with the Kanjeevarams, Benarasis and Dharmavarams. She stands there amid arid dry land, beautiful, proud and yet humble of her achievements. The pictures weave the story.

Artisans are paid Rs.10000 to weave eight sarees which are then handed back to the middle men. A saree takes 6-7 days to finish started from dying the silk yarn to making the finished product and can cost anywhere between Rs.1500 - Rs.10000. The loom itself extends to the size of a room, with the artisan sitting with a dugout trench where his legs rest working the loom. The handloom sarees woven thus find its way to many a home, enriching our lives for occassions - so many colours, so many designs, costly, simple, yet elegant.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

My friend bloomed

My friend, she who listens to my non-stop thoughts, my chatter, my anxieties, my fears, who knows my happiness and sorrows, who has seen my anger so close, whom I look forward to seeing first thing in the morning when I open my eyes, who ushers in a new day for me, who helps me brighten up a sad one, has started blooming.

When I started living in the room, she was young. She hardly reached my window. In the four years since, she grew, reaching out her hand to me and my neighbours. She provides me shade from the harsh summer sun. The wind that blows through her is always cool.

I saw similar trees blooming and every time wondered when and if I will get to see my friend in bloom. Time is running out as my stay will come to an end I hope soon. There were buds and with it my hope rose. Today, when I looked out of the window, I found her first flowers, right next to my window.
My friend, is beautiful. She made my day today and will every day I know and am ever thankful for a friend like her.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ushering summer

In this part of the world where I live, there is hardly any spring. It probably is for a week or two and then summer begins. However, this spring had a riot of colours in the university. The Tecoma trees were in full bloom. It was a lovely sight. Some pictures that capture the magic forever.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lost is my canopy

After four years, I looked forward to my road trip from Coimbatore to Trichy, especially the Karur-Trichy part. Lined with huge, old tamarind trees providing a natural canopy, it has been my favourite since I was a kid. I loved the way the trees raised their arms to cheer up the weary traveller by providing shade and beauty at the same time. Some of the trees would have been a hundred years old. For those who walked these roads or travelled on two wheelers the natural canopy protected them, especially from the fury of the summer sun. Oh, what a delight it was to travel on that stretch ? Many a time, a tender coconut had in the shade of the trees from a wayside vendor, the wind blowing soft accompanied by the chirping of the birds, tasted like elixir. And then, the friendly banter of travelers, who meet but just for a few minutes. That conversation, so little, so simple, yet so important in the big scheme of life. Finally when I hit the stretch, I was horrified. Not a single tree remained. They had been cut down for widening of the highway, a project glorified by the government, a four lane to help reduce travel time. The sun hit us with all her fury, but whither my old tree friends, I searched, not a bird in sight.
What's happening to us, mankind, I wondered ? When did we become so insensitive to nature, to our many fellow beings ? I closed my eyes, and played over and over again what my mind had captured in times gone by of the beautiful road unable to accept the cruelty of the present. I ruminated on the past, its glory, its beauty and wondered if generations to come will know life as I knew it, full of beauty and understanding of other beings.
What could be done, I questioned ? What can I, a lone person do to bring back the best of the past ? I felt defeated. How could I, a single person, fight against a mighty, heartless government looking at only financial benefits unmindful of the necessity to coexist with nature. Then realization dawned. I don't need to fight them. All that was needed was plant trees, on the road side. Surely, someone in ages gone by, had planted the trees. His hard work had borne fruit and given me and many like me warmth and shade. If only I could plant trees by the side, similar to what existed, similar to what someone in ages gone by had done. Yes, there lay the answer. There lay the solution.
The story of Thimmakka and Chikkanna motivates me. They planted trees on a 4km stretch and looked after them like they were their children. Wouldn't that be possible to replicate here, I wonder ? Yes, I live far away from Trichy today. But then, we could start a project. Get people interested in the project and start planting trees. Make it a community activity. Will it work out, I know not. But try I must.
I am reminded of the old story of the collective strength of individuals. Of how, the will and strength of individuals is multiplied manifold when they stand together. And stand together, we must to continue a legacy, a legacy of good, of kindness towards ourselves and our fellow beings on earth, sowed by our ancestors. Follow the footprints and leave ours in the sands of time, to be followed by another generation.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Paid news: Type 'Academic'

The need for advertisement initially was felt by people who sold products. Companies took it to a new high with the advent of television. Nowadays, a film star or sports personality is paid in crores (1 crore = 10 million) and given the title brand ambassador. The current war among film stars is as to who gets more brand ambassadorship(that's what I call it). Anyways, coming back to the point, everything is getting advertised today. From products manufactured by big multi-nationals to oil made by your local guy.

Then there is the self advertisement kind. The first thing that comes to mind is of matrimonials. Matrimonials are endemic to this part of the world. For those who don't know what it is, I can advertise myself and get a bride or groom, marriages being arranged. So, I specify my age, occupation, religion, marital status, caste, height, weight, colour of skin to how handsome/beautiful I look and anything that is even frivolous like 'film star looks'. I remember reading an advt where the guy said 'HIV -ve' and another which said 'aristocratic lineage'. Remember, India did away with monarchy in 1947, but some as they say still live in the stone ages. It amuses me no end and is my favourite pass time on sundays. I always wonder what 'aristocratic lineage' means and amuse myself thinking that maybe his forefathers were the kings cooks, dhobis or carpenters(please, take no offence, but I can never rein in my wild imagination. Maybe I should have a post on this ...... shall think about it.)

After that came advertisements of people who wanted to be employed. They found it a good way to find a job by advertising themselves. Sometimes, however I got the notion that they were boasting like some of those in the matrimonial section.

Then came elections and politicians as you know can work beyond your imagination. They spent crores passing of paid news as news. Newspapers had columns written about these politicians as being great and saviours of mankind. No one, not even a film star would think of doing it. Politicians did.

Now, there is a new kind. The academic boasters. The education section of the paper, I always thought is a place where educational institutions (schools, colleges and universities besides coaching centers) can advertise themselves by sending a writeup about themselves. Most such concerned courses given by the institutions or school day and sports day activities.

Day before, to my amusement, I found a column speaking about how a colleague of mine was awarded a PhD. The column said that so and so was awarded PhD from this university and the work was done under the able guidance of so and so. I was first shocked. The first thought was wow, did she do great work to come in the news paper. Having just woken up, sitting and sipping my morning tea with the paper, my brains started working a little late. I then remembered that I had attended her pre-phd viva as well as part of the final viva and there was nothing exemplary or phenomenal that it would find mention in the newspaper. So, was wondering what made it to the news. Was the work implemented in some real world set up as it is rarely done. No, atleast I had not heard about it. So, then what was it that brought it to the papers.

Then I remembered the term. 'Paid news'. Advertising self. I know not what to write. I am stuck for words about this kind. I also remembered about two girls who advertised their pre-phd presentations through SMS, by sending messages glorifying themselves as those who started an unknown club attended by hardly 20 people on the whole. I laughed then and I laugh now.

Did academic greats like Einstein gain popularity by academic brilliance or through publicity. Okay, okay, not everyone can be an Einstein or an Edison. But then, even Venkatraman who got the nobel prize for Chemistry this year spoke about how work speaks. Now, now, not everyone can be Venkatraman, right. Okay, so then what do we do ? Advertise the self.

Maslow's hierarchy speaks about the needs of a human being. Man initially wants basic needs to be fulfilled. Then as he moves up the ladder, he yearns for a place in society. But he spoke about it as something you achieve by hardwork. Like what Bill Gates did and is doing. First he made money, enough for himself, then for his children, then for his retirement too. After that, he started looking at securing a place in his society, the computer world. Once he achieved that, today he looks at giving back to society and runs the foundation. He is doing it because that is what makes him happy today, not recognition but the feeling of doing something great. 'Self Actualization' as Maslow called it. No, I am not going to talk about Microsoft. So, that is the hard way and what Maslow spoke about. Forget it, I can't do that. So what do I do ? Find a shortcut. And today's shortcut to fame is, 'Self Advertising', I guess. Basking in a little limelight, even if it is self created. Am not hurting anyone, am I ? Then, what's the problem ?

But then, so many people receive a PhD. It's nothing great. Whether you learn your subject of study fully and clearly or not, one thing a researcher learns for sure is how little he knows. How his contribution did not even make a scratch. How, there is so much to learn and discover in this world. How his contribution has not helped mankind in any way. All it did was to get himself a three lettered degree which might help him get a tenure if he continues to work hard. So, then what is this all about ? Someone tell me.