Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birds Of A Feather…Flock Together At Nandi Hills

It was Saturday evening and we were observing Earth Hour at our cousin’s place when Sunday morning came up. We disclosed that we had no plans and when our cousins announced that they had plans of going birdwatching I couldn’t resist the urge to tag along, it had been a while. Logistics were quickly figured out even as we vacillated between venues and settled on Nandi Hills. And a deadline of leaving home at 5 AM was set.

Leave we did. At 5:10 though, on Sunday morning. We picked up two fellow birdwatchers on the way and set out for Nandi Hills. I do not remember much of the journey since I was busy dozing off at the back (I prefer to say conserving energy for better involvement in birdwatching but never mind).

I had been to Nandi Hills earlier. But we were so busy chasing the sunrise and Maggi noodles that we had hardly ever craned our necks beyond an angle of 20 degrees with the horizontal. Sometimes treasures lie scattered in front of you and you fail to notice unless someone comes along to point them out.

The bird life in Nandi Hills is delightful. One just needs to learn to listen and see. Get out of one’s own head and observe. We started near Tipu’s Lodge in the nursery area and in the first 5 minutes we had already spotted an Indian Blue Robin hopping around on the pots. Then came around a Common Tailorbird and a Warbler whose specific name I forget. We also spotted a Blue Rock Thrush female at this point (click the picture to enlarge it and you can see a small bird in the centre).

Blue Rock Thrush, F

All this while, under the canopy a Common Buzzard sat with remarkable composure unfazed by our presence. Its stance commanded a lot of awe. Managed to take a picture before it flew away (my camera is absolutely not made for birdwatching purposes but this is more for reference than anything else).

 Common Buzzard

Just as we decided to move to the next spot, I noticed another Blue Robin in the bushes close by. It sat there grooming itself. When it revealed itself more clearly it turned out to be a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher (distinguished from the Indian Blue Robin by the absence of the white brow).
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

While on our way up the slopes, we came by a ditch filled with some water and sat there for a while. We spotted the beautiful Asian Paradise Flycatcher female there…what a beauty that bird is!

 Asian Paradise Flycatcher, F

All this while, calls of the Coppersmith Barbet filled the air and Ashy Drongos flew overhead as also the Red-Whiskered Bulbul.

The next stop was a manicured garden that is still work in progress. The place turned out to be a gold mine in terms of bird varieties. We saw many birds from close quarters as they descended on the ground to look for bugs. Some of them were
the Eurasian Blackbird (the Nilgiri Blackbird treated as separate sometimes), the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, the Olive-Backed Pipit, the Oriental White-eye  and a Blue Rock Thrush male.

 Eurasian/Nilgiri Blackbird

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon 

 Oriental White-Eye (the ring around the eye can be seen behind the bar if you look closely)

 Blue Rock Thrush, M

On our way to the next stop we saw the bamboo-dwelling Indian Scimitar Babbler scourging for nesting material in a bamboo cluster. Quite a pretty bird!

We walked along the fort wall for a while after that and one of us was able to spot the rare Yellow-Throated Bulbul. There were many raptors gliding in the air around at this point. A Tawny Eagle was one of them.

A quick snack of Maggi, Idlis and Omelettes at the restaurant and we started to walk down the hill. We decided to sit by the ditch for a while hoping to see the male of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher and we were suitably rewarded : ) . That bird is truly a bird of paradise! Lovely…And while we were at it we also saw a Puff-Throated Babbler and an Oriental Magpie Robin sang from a branch.

Feeling satiated with the overall experience we decided to head back to Bangalore around noon. I couldn’t help feeling thankful for having had the chance to rediscover Nandi Hills. And now I can only look forward to going back because I know no trip will ever be the same again with such a rich canopy to cover the place.

Travel Well

I had been meaning to share this for a while now.

Lonely Planet picked Vardhan Kondvikar to be the editor of the Lonely Plant Magazine India. And just one look at the editorial note in the first issue (as also the second) told you why. He’s got the idea of travel right. Just right. Nothing more, nothing less. His words are consolation to many of us who suffer from the affliction called Wanderlust. Here’s an extract from the first editorial, here’s to all travellers:

It’s the leap that matters.

Getting out of your shell and going somewhere you’ve never been, knowing you might be completely out of your depth, knowing you’re never going to be the same person again – it takes some doing.

And yet, is there anything more satisfying than travel? The moment when you bite into something that looks disgusting only to find it’s an explosion of taste. The delight on a local’s face when you try your first, halting words in his language. The moment when you discover that you and this person standing in front of you in strange clothes, who doesn’t speak your language, doesn’t eat the same food and belongs to a totally alien religion, is not so different from you after all…

…Our message in the end is simple: get out of your house, and go make the world a better place.

And now, like ever so often, I am itching to travel to somewhere new, unknown and exciting. Mull on Vardhan Kondvikar’s words while I go look for my atlas.

Travel well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Really Can't Think Of A Title For This One! I Couldn't Care Less

I am sick.

Of having to prove myself. Over and over and over and over. Of having to ask people to let me be…me.

Some people are born this way. It’s like the Druid messed up his potions in the cauldron and concocted us. It’s a weird mix. But I’m proud of it anyway.

I didn’t write ‘with eyes that twinkle and a heart thats fragile’ because it rhymed with the previous line. That’s for people who noticed in the first place. Stop trampling upon other people like they are your backyard. It hurts.

If I am not your idea of how a person should be, allow me to take a walk.

I’m pathologically happy. It’s not a mental disease, it’s outlook.

I am voluble and I listen with equal respect but if I choose to shut up it is exactly YOU who comes asking what went wrong. If I decide to retract into my shell there is hardly any hope you’ll see my head again…ever. Unless that is the plan, I don’t suggest prodding.

I can dissect to bits and look at the bigger picture with equal ease. I am analytical, I’m an engineer for God’s sake!

I like to think, yes it’s a hobby. I can also let go if I choose to. Somebody has to care about what’s happening around, we all can’t be zombies living our lives on autopilot…I chose to bear the cross. Do you mind?

The world has too much beauty in store to let it pass by. And I am more of a visual person so yes, I love relating details about everything.

I love hearing other people’s stories and then telling other’s about it if they are worth telling. People are my world and their stories mean everything to me at this point in life. If you don’t have the patience to listen to that kind of stuff, I’m sorry I put you through the torture.

I cry when I hear music that can touch my soul. If you think that’s sissy, think again. It’s the quality to feel that makes someone human in the first place. I just got a ‘Buy one get one free’ on that. So yeah, I’m sensitive…in your face.

I like to romanticize…my ruling planet is Venus. So yes, tomorrow I will romanticize about the fricking fly sitting at the edge of the table if I feel like it. Is THAT really your problem?

To me it seems like you were looking for an electronic store but walked into an art gallery instead. Obviously what you are looking for is not here! If you don’t like what you are getting, look for another store, another brand, another model. This is who I am, take it or leave it.

Also, if you don’t trust me or what I say, don’t humour me at all. Basic tenet. I have said this before. I don’t say things just to make myself look good or to make you feel nice about yourself. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. If that is something beyond your understanding or acceptance, face it. Don’t question MY sincerity. Unless that is your way of intentionally hurting me. For the record, it works. Now get off it.

If I evolve somewhere along the way…no let’s put this on you…if you can MAKE me WANT to evolve somewhere along the way, we’ll just doff our hats to Darwin. Until then, find a younger one to pick at and mould…I’m not exactly wet clay you know.

In fact you know what, I was born under the sign of Libra and we are supposed to be the nicest people around. Easiest to get along with and all that jazz. I find it hard to comprehend that you found more than 5 things that are brazenly wrong with me. I don’t mean to sound like a narcissist because I don’t mean to and I hate that but it’s just that it’s a revelation. And no I don’t like it. I’m sure I am entitled to being around people who like me. Which is why I choose to hang out with the people I hang out with. They don’t seem to mind that these 5 things are wrong with me.

In fact there’s still loads of hope because of those who make it all worthwhile. Those of you who are there. Sometimes just to listen and have a random conversation with involvement that suits a presidential debate. Sometimes just to humour me and all my quirks. Sometimes when I need someone to be there…I have enough confidence to pull through but it’s nice to have backing hands. Even if it’s a little, you guys care. And that means a lot. It’s not like you don’t tell me I’m wrong. But it’s only about what I DO and never about who I AM. So thank you all…you save the day, everyday.

In my sweet old brooding analytical way, I’m thinking why any of this should happen. I have lessons to learn. The way you can’t go to the higher class unless you have finished the curriculum for the present one, I think I won’t get to the next stage in life with unfinished portions in this one. And I should be thanking you all for expediting the process. I don’t always like using big words but today I will, just to prove a point…that is if you consider Expedite to be a big word…I don’t.

Like the scribe I used to be in college, I’ve scribbled notes for this class too. Let’s see what the next lecture has in store.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book Review: February 2010

I’m going to cheat now. I finished just one book in February. And then there were the Murakami short stories, which I won’t talk about here. But I also read a book called Kari yesterday that I can’t keep myself from writing about it. So it goes into last month’s review : )

So the books being reviewed this month are:
  1. 2 States by Chetan Bhagat
  2. Kari by Amruta Patil

2 States
Chetan Bhagat

I hadn’t picked up this book for the negative vibes that were generated by ‘One Night…’ and ‘The 3 Mistakes…’ I should have known personal stories are different though.

Make no mistake, I am in no way saying that technically this book is better than any of Bhagat’s other books. I mean I would never want anyone to use his books as reference while learning English…unless it was one of those spoken English crash course types. Bhagat’s writing is for the discerning reader, who can rise above the language and understand a story I think.

So yes, after a strong recommendation about how he had done a good job of portraying the two perennially warring factions of India, I decided to pick up the book for its potential to be a socio-cultural commentary. No, I’m not that much of an intellectual…it’s just that people, societies and cultures appeal to me.

And the book did not disappoint on that front. Having gone through the entire situation himself, his observations about the two communities involved couldn’t have been wrong. The book delights with accurate and hilarious descriptions of both the Tamil and Punjabi communities and rides the stereotype wave quite well. In terms of the stereotypes, the book isn’t telling us anything new and yet, it’s really entertaining.

Of course, there are the elements that, I’m sure, were added to make the book Bollywood-ready. There is the requisite drama and exaggeration. In fact, I can almost see the book as a movie in my head – it’s quite easy the way it has been narrated in good detail, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rights had already been bought. But if Bhagat is clear about writing for the screen and literary brilliance or immortality isn’t exactly his aim in life then that’s perfectly acceptable.

I do have to confess I couldn’t put the book down once I picked it up. It’s a story of people, a real one and that can never be ignored. He even rouses enough curiosity for the reader to wonder what happens next. And that makes this a very fast read once you have gotten over the fact that the writing isn’t too great in itself but the idea.

So all in all a pure entertainer. The kind of light read you want to pick up over a lazy weekend and finish off in that time frame.

Amruta Patil

There I was ambling through the aisles of Crossword when my eyes fell on the cover of this book. For some reason, I felt it necessary to take a better look and so I picked it up. It turned out to be a graphic novel, a category of literature I never thought I’d take to. But then there was text as well. And words like 'ad agency' flashed across the pages in some very well constructed sentences. I was halfway through to deciding I should buy it when my eyes fell on this paragraph in the book:

Because I had no politic. Means, I have no Burning Issue. Blurring genderlines? Bigotry? Cultural genocide? Dying planet? I can’t pick. My favourite form of movement is ‘float’. I stand for nothing. I espouse nothing but Ruth.

I have no politic too…for most part at least. I can’t really stand fanatics. About anything. I don’t understand blind opinion. Notice I don’t mix it with blind faith. That’s another story altogether and yes, convenience may be involved here.

Anyway, suddenly I knew I would relate to most of the book. Operative: Most. There were other things about the book too – we liked the font, the sketches and there was the fact that I had never read a graphic novel. So I decided to buy it.

And I am so very glad I did! This book is brilliance. In fact, I am going to do something I hardly ever do otherwise because it’s boring and also unfair to the book – I am going to list out my favourite bits from the book!

This novel runs with urban India in the background and is a story of a girl called Kari. Her life in smog city, her separation from Ruth (strong suggestions that Kari is lesbian lace the book), her life in the ad agency and with her two room mates, her being a boatman to a dying woman…I really don’t know what to say except that you should read it.

I can’t really say the writing is abstract but it is not coherent either. It is metaphor that thrills, I personally thoroughly enjoy this kind of writing and have half the mind to drop the author an e-mail (again something I have never done before). The plot can pass off for chick-lit but it is not…in reality this is bold Indian writing minus the sleaze. Welcome the new age author.

I picked up this book last night to leaf through it and could not put it down until I had finished it 3 hours later. That should speak volumes about how the book makes me feel. Enough said.

A very few of the many bits I liked from the book are:

The body rights itself mid-air, aligns itself heaviest part first. It is with the head, then, that I must meet death, though it was the geart that willed it.

Her last memory of the city must be an aerial one. Dark and ablaze with fistfuls of light. Them airport was a ford, and she crossed over.

A failed suicide is death still, because no one emerges from it unscathed.

Every day, the city seems to be getting heavier, and her varicose veins fight to break out of her skin. Soon we must mutate - thick skins and resilint lungs - to survive this new reality.

A city alters when a person leaves. It drops drawbridges, grows new roads, looks hairy at dusk.

Interesting that my postal address in smog city sounds like a pit stop in a fairytale. Where gold trees with silver boughs bear pomegrenates with real ruby seeds. Floors of marble, cielings of brocade. Place where twelve dancing princesses dance through the night until the soles of their shoes wear out.

Every Friday, at 10 PM, is the long call home. Mamma talks, I listen. When I get back home, the silence has teeth again. My bed feels as large as a football field.

We are constantly awed by the shelf life of her skin.

My thoughts keep returning to the city's lower intestine. To the gutters and hastily dug out canals that empty her bladder and swell her arteries with clean blood. I catalogue smells for entertainment.

That's it for this month. Happy reading folks : )

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Late Goodbye

the devil grins from ear to ear when he sees the hand he's dealt us
points at your flaming hair, and then we're playing hide and seek
I can't breathe easy here, less our trail's gone cold behind us
till' in the john mirror you stare at yourself grown old and weak

and we keep driving into the night
it's a late goodbye, such a late goodbye...

There was no goodbye.

It was a red-eye flight for more reasons than one. Dreams and fear fought for their rightful place. Fear won. And kept sleep at bay.

Sleeplessness is a bad state to realize that salt tastes bad on your lips unless it’s on the rim of your Bloody Mary.

It does not help sleep-deprived eyes to be filled with salt-water. It hurts. No metaphor there. And closing your eyes doesn’t necessarily change anything. Something else starts to hurt then. Deep inside.

You pretend to be asleep but there is nothing you can do to stop the acid rain on your face. You did not select the usual window seat. You never thought you would need one.

With no window to hide against, you close your eyes and pretend that nobody can see you. The cat that thought the world couldn’t see. It’s a different matter it was getting a treat in return. You got whiplashes. From everyone. Starting with the 6 AM breeze.

It’s one of those rare moments when you find strange comfort among strangers. Those who knew you would have asked questions. And what would you have said. That you were riding a dream? And it’s touchdown now. Ground realities.

For the first time in life anonymity is sanctuary. Nobody cares as your eyes leak themselves over. After a while you can physically feel the void inside. That empty space where it all came to life. Your dreams and fears and tears. Emptied now. Written all over your face with salt ink. If only it could be read.

The sunrays come in through the window now. 25A. You should have booked that seat. To see the sun rise and the new day come over the world. But you’re stuck at 25E. And looking the other way, the way you are headed, away from warmth and from the light. Looking at what you are headed towards even as others are headed home. The cold.

There you were, sitting on the rock and watching the moon rise. You watched other people take off on those dreams of steel. To where they would be fulfilled.

Now you sit on that rock again, a part of you, and watch the sun rise. And you watch yourself take off on the wings of cold morning steel.