Neat little cubbyholes for your realities

I approached Nandini Sundar’s “The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar” with a fair degree of triumphalism. Here I was, in the comforts of my home in Bangalore willing to read about and, eventually, hold an opinion on a conflict in far away Chhattisgarh.

For most of the duration the conflict raged there, through the latter part of the noughties, I was living in the US and any reports came in through the media. There were the pro-Naxalites, in the form of Gauri Lankesh (when Naxalism was trying to rear its head in Karnataka), and Arundathi Roy, who people were convinced was loose a few screws. Having read her “God of small things” I held that she probably knew what she was talking about. My opinion was along what Sundar describes as the standard urbanite view of sympathising with the Maoists’ cause but not agreeing with their violence. Which is kind of a standard stand to take with most rebel causes. “What do you think of the LTTE?” “Well, they exist because of what the Sinhalese did, but I don’t agree with the violence they are wreaking”. Fair enough.img_4380 Continue reading “Neat little cubbyholes for your realities”

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Super Blue Blood Moon

I guess this has been making enough news for me to not have to explain what it is. I had been planning for a while as to how to shoot this. I had a longer lens now, so one option was to just point at the moon at the longest pipe length I had and shoot it.

The other, more tempting option was to take photos of smaller moons and then do a composite of the way it unfolded.

Around 6 PM I had set up the tripod and the longest 150-600mm lens on it. There was nothing for close to an hour. The only interesting thing was a pair of Oriental White-eyes on the neighbouring tree. But the light only yielded a couple of out of focus images.

I was on the call with A who had set himself up at Ullal Lake and eventually managed to see a dull red moon pop out of the light pollution, before being kicked out of the lake premises. Bangalore lakes get locked out at 7 PM.

Around 7:10 I eventually noticed the dull red moon. It wasn’t easy to shoot as there wasn’t much light coming from it. The best option would be to down the shutter speed, but even at 1 sec, the moon appears shaken. It’s a large object unlike smaller stars. However I had missed the eclipse happening. This was expected. The goal was now to get the eclipse unravelling the moon.

So I stuck to the original plan and kept shooting at 3-4 mins interval. After a while, around the time the eclipse started clearing, one side of the moon started brightening up. I realised the pointlessness of a large lens and got the smaller 18-200 hooked up and at a length of 170mm. This got me better range with the aperture and was easier to handle. The moon however became a bit bigger from the earlier pics.

But I stuck to this for the next 1.5 hours and managed to get around 30 pics. Of this 23 were useful and the remaining were variants of one or the other of them.

The trickier part was compositing the pics. Initially I tried compositing with the RAW files. This took a lot of time, each addition taking close to a minute. I also ended up with 2 files, one for the red moon and the other for the unravelling moon.

My lack of planning also can be seen in the second one.

The next day I tried putting all of them in one pic. This went well and took me close to an hour, but eventually the program crashed.Seeing the pain I was causing the CPU with RAW files, I wrote all the valid moon pics out as JPEGs and then set about compositing them. I realised that this was what I should have done in the first place. It was a fast and snappy experience to composite on JPEGs.Anyway, here’s the final output of it. One pic to show them all.

On the trail of warblers

The first time I came upon a warbler was when I was trying to round up all the birds around my house during spring-time, February. There were the tailorbirds, sunbirds, tits, flowerpeckers and then one solitary warbler. I could never identify exactly which warbler but I held on to it being a Blythe’s Reed Warbler.

As I dug more I got more about warblers. That they are winter visitors, visiting from the foothills of the Himalayas. And that they have specific territories marked out to visit each year. Means that if you observe one spot across winters, it would be the same warbler individual visiting it each winter!

This year, we did not have the thota outside which used to be visited by a warbler. If it flew in from the Himalayas it would have seen just a black road where its old haunts stood. And not too surprisingly I did not hear any of the familiar “check… check… check” calls. The calls of the pale-billed flowerpecker are oddly familiar, just that the tempo of the check-check is a lot more hurried, the sound is a bit shriller, and they are a lot more common. What you need to watch out for is the measured pacing between the “checks”.

Continue reading “On the trail of warblers”

Catching up with the past

It’s been a few months since this happened. I was in the Metro, Indiranagar station had passed, and I’d started moving towards the favoured exit that’d get me ahead of the crowds and quickly to the exit. As I hung around that exit, waiting for SVR so that I could move into pole position for the last stop, I saw someone who looked familiar. I was more or less convinced who that was, a classmate from PU. But I just could not go up and talk to him. Instead I tried noting things to ascertain if that was really him. His bag was of a premier institute in Bangalore, his ID card was also of a well-known company. Thankfully, he hadn’t noticed me, or even if he had, was probably wondering along the same lines as me. Running into someone after just a few years can raise enough doubts, and this was a guy I was seeing after more than a decade!

I got to work, and promptly checked him out on LinkedIn, as am no longer on FB. He was on my 1st network, the institute and the company matched. It was him. He was a very good friend in PU, but I had just held back. More importantly, this wasn’t the first time I was doing this. When ORRCA gave me a month’s free pass to try that service, the first thing I saw was a classmate from school who used to live within shouting distance of my house in Chamarajpet. We were pretty close to the point where he used to come down to play cricket and hand tennis during weekends and summer holidays. It was a fairly close friendship in school. Our paths had diverged right after school, him choosing a diploma, and me taking the usual PU route. I had added him on Orkut (those days!) and knew that he lived closed to my current house! And thus we were on the same ORRCA bus.  I sat right behind him in the bus. He got off one stop before mine. I went through this charade the whole month that the ORRCA pass was valid for, and promptly ditched it for the normal Volvo pass. I have since realised that having a fixed entry and exit time, which is the norm with such gentrified transport services, doesn’t work so well for me. Public transport, especially the metro gives me the freedom to pick and choose my timing, to a much larger extent that is. I still fret over specific buses and train timings, but that’s also me.

Anyway, unlike in the former case, I had a good one month to talk to him. But I desisted. Once when I ran into a former colleague in the metro there was none of this hesitation. Maybe ex-colleagues are in a different league than friends from what feels like a different planet! Your life feels like a continuation from when you started working, so running into colleagues at different points feels a lot more “natural” than school mates.

I wonder if, more importantly, when you meet ex-colleagues you connect at a more professional level, and your personal life isn’t brought into the equation. The conversation naturally flows towards your jobs and other former colleagues that you both knew. It’s easy. With school or college friends, it gets a lot weirder. You invariably end up with an accounting of the rest of your life after school. Your marriages (or the lack of it, or in almost all cases, the one of it), your kids, your parents, your siblings. Your professional life is given the place that it holds in your life – one part of it. This was probably what made me hold back.

Even as I write this, am reminded of the time I moved back to India. I walked the corridors at my new job, and came across one name which sounded familiar. This was a friend I knew from school, who went to a different college, but our paths crossed again the day he landed his first job (for some reason, his college was asked to send interested students to my college for the placement interviews). Our paths diverged again, eventually ending up in the same company. The day I saw his name, he was away in the US. When he got back I went up to him and struck up a conversation. The flow was straight towards jobs, the different paths we took to end up in the same place, and then towards school friends and school teachers.

But that was a good seven years back. I had just moved back to India, and I was still looking at what lay in front of me. Over time, this forward view has been gradually including things that have gone by, and more importantly things that could’ve been. Over time, I guess it’s only natural I’ll be looking more backwards than forward, but hopefully a lot less of what could’ve been. But that’s life, I guess.

Trouble is, this account taking does not put me in the same path as everyone else. No matter how much your paths diverge, they stay parallel in the milestones we add up as we go along. And I might be holding back fearing the questions that follow, and hating having to give explanations. But that’s me projecting my fears into things. For all I know things would’ve just been alright, and it would’ve been nice to catch up with an old friend.

Maybe next time, it’d be worth saying hi and letting what happens be what happens.

Books list from 2017

I was about to search for Books list from 2017 to put up the list for 2018. Thankful that there’s one more year for that! As mentioned in an earlier post, I was looking at finishing 34 for the year. And 34 is where I ended up.

I hope to do more this year. But then I also hope to do a lot of other things this year. Not sure how I can stack everything up together. Compared to 2016, I loved a lot of the books I read this year, so in a way it was a better year for reading than 2016 I guess. There were no books that I struggled to finish. Yes, maybe some that I wished I had chucked aside earlier, but finishing wasn’t an issue.

A chronological order makes no sense, except making it a lot easier for me to jot them down. I guess a better approach is to split them up as Fiction/Non-Fiction/Language and then order them alphabetically. So here goes. Continue reading “Books list from 2017”

Of Resolutions for 2018

Like everyone, I try to say that I don’t make resolutions. And like everyone, I do have them. 2017 was supposed to be the year of no electronics shopping except to replace. It worked surprisingly well. The only thing I had to buy was a phone after one was stolen, and, not had to, a used camera lens. I tried to see if I can do the same with clothes, and even there I managed quite well. Need to do better.

I knew I’d do well on these fronts as I have been on a conscious downward spiral when it comes to buying stuff. This year I hope to look towards the other side of buying to replace – getting rid of stuff and not replacing them.

On this front, the resolutions list from @thetoonguy looks very interesting. I am quite covered on a lot of this, as I use public transport for the office commute and intend to continue using it, I stopped buying bottled water ages ago (even in Kenya, where we were given only bottled water, we used it to fill our own water bottle, which helped us using less than half the water provided), I don’t use straws anymore, even with coconut vendors, and I have started growing my own veggies. Things that I need to work on is buying organic and fairtrade clothes(not hard), maybe get out of using denims(very hard).

What I wanted to work on, is trying to go vegan, and see how that works out. It is going to be very hard, as it’s not just milk that is the issue, but so many things derived from milk. Not sure what’s the best approach here, will need to figure it out. Also need to work on moving further away from rice and wheat towards millets. This will be a lot harder, as millets generally have higher Potassium (at least Ragi does), and mother has electrolyte imbalance issues.

So there, with some additions:

  1. Cycle a lot more than I got done in 2017. 2016 was a much better year on that.
  2. Restart running. (A bit iffy on this)
  3. Cut some JLR trips. Do more treks, birding walks etc instead that don’t need safaris.
  4. Have reduced flying to a trickle. Continue that. Allow max one per year(with return of course), no rollovers allowed.
  5. More theatre visits, barely did a few at RS this year!
  6. And get back to more than 40 books for the year.

Not too hard, eh?

Day trip: Kambadahalli and Hosaholalu

Despite having done a bike ride to and from BR Hills a few days back, having the whole week off meant that another was always on the cards. This time S signed up. I had come across the Jain Basadi of Kambadahalli from @drvivekm‘s instafeed. Googling revealed that this was one of the oldest structures standing in that area, having been built around 900-1000 AD. Most of the Hoysala temples tend to be a few centuries younger. The oldest would be the ones on top of Chandragiri in Shravanabelagola. It’s also been a while since I went there!

Anyway, the start was later than my preferred pre-7:30 AM. Winter and S having to ride all the way from beyond Indiranagar meant that an early start wouldn’t be feasible. We left from my place at 8:25 AM and rode down to Swati Delicacy near Yediyur for the breakfast stop. Despite being heavily crowded we managed to find a table, and I didn’t  have to fight for an own table as is the case when am on solo rides.

Post breakfast we rode down towards Hirisave and took a left where it said Bindiganavile. There was also another board saying “Kambadahalli 19KM.” These days when roads get widened and people end up losing the old sign boards and milestones, it was a welcome sight! The road alternated between awesome, ok, okayish, to watch-out for potholes without ever degenerating to a bone rattler. We reached the road from Belagola to Nagamangala and took a right there. A road went to the right which announced Kambadahalli at 1 KM, but we did not take that. The next right had an arch with Jain insignia and icons all over it. This was our turn. Within a Km of this turn, the Jain structure loomed on our right.

The first structure you see is the pillar. There were inscriptions on it, but we could not date it. This might have been a later addition too. Later meaning from the Hoysala period.
The Pillar seen at the entrance
Inscriptions on the pillar
Continue reading “Day trip: Kambadahalli and Hosaholalu”

The magic of K-Gudi

It doesn’t do to do just one day in JLR’s K-Gudi wilderness camp. The place demands 2 days. The second day between breakfast and lunch is when the fun is to be had. You walk around the campus, as the staff are cleaning up freshly checked out of tents before the next party comes in, and you spot birds, reptiles and sometimes even mammals.

This time, the staff helped us out with a tip. “Look there, sir, owl.” We checked it out, and that was a scops owl, nesting in a hole in the tree.
Scops Owl!
Nearby, in a much smaller hole, there was a malabar parakeet peeping out at times.
Malabar Parakeet nest Continue reading “The magic of K-Gudi”

Of books and reading in 2017

Is it too early to call it a year? There are more than 3 weeks still to go, over 5% of the year still left. But how much do I expect to achieve in that period that I haven’t in the preceding 94%?

Compared to previous years where I was logging books in the mid 40s at least, this year has been underwhelming. Am staring at 31 at the moment. I expect to take it to 33 or 34. Not entirely unexpected as before the year started, I set myself a target of 30 books for the year.

I knew I was going into the year with a fair degree of book fatigue. And it showed in more ways than just the number of books. It hasn’t just been the time that has been available to read, but also the speed at which am reading, and the amount of time am able to spend on a book in one sitting. I have been easier to distract, been finding other things to do than read. The commute has also been not too friendly on reading. Compared to more than an hour of reading or audio books, the metro offers around 30 minutes of reading per day. But that does not explain it completely. I took the metro for more than half of last year and managed 20+ books during that time.

Continue reading “Of books and reading in 2017”