Bangalore rain patterns for 2020

Wrote on Bangalore’s rain patterns this year for citizenmatters.
You can find it here.

A lot of it flows from this table about the monthly rain this year since March.

Month Normal Actual Departure from Normal 
March 18.5 18.4 -0.5% 
April 41.5 121.1 191.8% 
May 107.4 128.6 19.7% 
June 106.5 114.8 7.8% 
July 112.9 158.3 40.2% 
August 147 75.9 -48.3% 
September 212.8 300 41% 
October 168.3 204.3 21.4% 

Also, added additional info on state of the Kaveri reservoirs, which are full.

Image

(source: KSNDMC reservoir data) 

Please read here.

Actual article: https://bengaluru.citizenmatters.in/bengaluru-excess-rain-flood-patterns-2020-variances-54014

COVID cases: How Bangalore’s really doing

Something I wrote up for citizenmatters. Can be read here. Please to read.

Raises a lot of questions about fatality numbers. I suspect we might be under-counting Bangalore deaths by (optimistic)500-1000(pessimistic). And that difference would be higher for other districts.

A lot of things are suspicious. The rate at which fatality rate dropped while the number of cases per day was going up rapidly does not make much sense. At best you’d expect it to stay stable. Only explanation was that the demographics tilted towards the younger side. Except that it didn’t, and in fact the share of those older went up a bit from earlier days!

The other thing was ICU data. As cases climbed, the numbers in ICU suddenly started declining. And now, they are rising again. It does not seem to have any relationship with the number of cases, which is odd. Something is black in the daal looks like, no?

Rest in peace SPB….

How does one write about a loss that feels personal? How does one make sense of it?

A voice that meant your childhood. The one that you literally grew up hearing, on the radio, in the mornings as the announcers repeated day after day for years – SP Balasubramanyam mathu Vani Jayaram, or SP Balasubramanyam mathu S Janaki, or just SP Balasubramanyam.

And then in the evenings, dusty evenings in the golden hour, with the Philips radio playing a Tamil Station. It took you a few years of growing up to realise it was the same person. But you put a name to a face when you saw him singing in Thirugu Banna. The concept of Playback singing new to you, you could not make out how he would sing to others. That when Vishnu or Shankar Nag or Anant Nag sang during Chitramanjari, it wasn’t them, but SPB singing in the background.  This was our growing up with Cinema.

I go back to Baradwaj Rangan’s obituary to MS Viswanathan, where he writes about his “Home” the one he grew up with.

When you’re young, you absorb pop culture intensely. Your mind is a blank slate, and gradually songs and stars and movies begin to leave their mark on it. These songs and stars and movies become… home. Then you grow up and, at some point, there’s no more room on that slate. Thereon, you still listen to music or watch a movie, but because your mind has more to do, more to process, with work and family and other things that make up life, pop culture no longer becomes personal. Thereon, it’s a kind of disengaged participation. Luckily for me, MSV was around when the slate was still being filled. And at least some of the tears were due to an image, however fuzzily recalled, of me tying my shoelaces and making sure I had the right textbooks in my satchel while Kaatrukkenna veli played on the radio.

SPB was that home for us, the generation growing up in the 80s. Along with, in fact, through Shankar Nag, Vishnuvardhan, Ananth Nag, Ambareesh and Srinath. You cannot think of one without the other. Remembering Vishnu through Noorondu Nenapu is not possible without remembering SPB now. (God, how easily language has slipped to remembering now!)

It was much joy to see him succeed (albeit briefly) in Bollywood (and also much disappointment to note that his accent was a big deal for actual Hindi speaking folks). But he was around, there were those TV shows, some interviews given during his birthdays, which you stopped to watch or to read during busy days, because… it was SPB. Like how I do with Anant Nag (speaking of whom, we beg you, stick around for another decade at least please!!).

I don’t want to do lists, that’d be picking parts of childhood. I don’t want to do a technical rating, how he could sing classical etc, that’d be othering him. What he gave us was a background voice for our childhoods, for those growing up in Karnataka, TN or Andhra is the 80s, to hum while playing cricket in overcrowded grounds, while we skipped along to buy some urgently needed grocery, to school or to friends’ houses. Yes, the Floyds, the Coldplays, the U2s, the Dylans and the Cohens all came later. But SPB was home, where a song wasn’t about itself, but about you, your past, your growing up.

Part of growing up, I guess is that many of those icons of your childhood will pass. But then, what else is growing up but the end of Childhood in every way possible?

Today we mourn not just the loss of a great artist, but the loss of a big part of our childhoods.

Six months on – STAY HOME!

Almost 6 months since the start of the lockdown. As much as everything is “Unlocked”, I still stay in. Visits to shops are planned to avoid minimal interaction. Even though I meet the cousin at times when we go birding, and these days, spidering, I haven’t gone out to any place in particular in all these months.

At around 3000 cases per day, we are in for the long haul here in Bangalore. I track the data everyday, put it into an excel file and see what comes out of it. And so far it isn’t good. Daily cases are rising at an average of close to 3000 per day if you look at a 2 weeks window. And all this is a function of testing which has been haphazard at best, following a 2 steps forward, 1.5 steps backward approach. The fatality rate seems to be trending quietly at around 1.25%, which seems good. But I guess this is expected as the number of cases per day keeps going up.

Continue reading “Six months on – STAY HOME!”

Spiders be with you

One of the things the lockdown has done is forced everyone indoors. This has cut all traveling, even within the city, to almost zero. Before the cases exploded I did manage to get a visit across to Blossom’s once to stock up on books. Other than that I have been mostly homebound.

This also being the Monsoons, the rains and their numbers keep me busy. Being monsoons, this is also the time of signature spiders. Have learned to look for them during these months, and even though the ones near my place are pretty small, I ran into a pretty big one during my daily walks with the mother.

IMG_20200722_170521.jpg

You might know her from an earlier post. This is a Signature spider of the Argiope sp. Continue reading “Spiders be with you”

Farm away

Like most people I also harbour plans dreams of eventually getting out of the corporate rat race, leaving the big bad city, and settling down in a farm far far away. Like the magical happily ever after, such a plan also stays right there in the horizon, neither coming closer nor going away entirely. Such topics also keep popping up in drunken conversations with much hand-wringing about how in Karnataka you have to either be part of a farming family, or earn less than Rs. 25 Lakh per annum.

In real terms, this has of course meant that a lot of folks have been buying up farm land, and farming in places right across the border – the Hosur/Krishnagiri belt or across the AP border. Recent changes introduced last week have now removed such restrictions making it a free for all. These changes have turned up along with a host of other changes like cap on income from agricultural sources, relaxations on restrictions in land holding etc.

As I mentioned this is something I have been following for a while, so just putting my thoughts down on what is happening. And it also has been a real while since I wrote anything.

For starters, it looks like a great idea, that those who want to get out of agriculture can now sell their lands and get a good price for it. Other states haven’t had any such restrictions, so why should Karnataka? This also seemingly opens up the market and prevents mafias like that of DKS from operating in the farm real estate area.

While this is good, the fine print and the other noises the government has been making don’t seem too encouraging. One claim is that “educated folks can take up farming“. Another claim goes that “IT/BT folks can bring innovative techniques to farming”. The trouble with these claims is that they assume that the problem with farming is the current bunch of farmers, who are illiterate and don’t know how to manage their own lands. Some years back, there was even someone who went on record saying that there’s nothing to farming – “sow a seed and water it, and the plant grows out, what’s there to it?”. (I don’t remember who, but if you remember, please comment below.)

This also assumes that engineers and folks who might have done some graduation and done a good job in a corporate structure, and know how to check the internet will be better placed to grow our food than inter-generational farmers who’d have learnt the job growing up.

It isn’t to say that people from the cities don’t know how to grow their crops. There have been people who have taken that step towards a farming life, and have done a good job of it. But from what I have seen, the scale tends to be lower than that of a farmer who’s livelihood depends on the produce. It is nice to be able to grow your own food, and some extra stuff that you can send to your friends. But growing tons of cereals per acre might be a different thing to manage.

Also, the goal seems to be to solve the farming crisis by encouraging farmers to sell their lands and getting away from farming. But this assumes that the farming crisis is about productivity which will be solved by IT/BT folks. For a new person coming in from a corporate job, getting the same productivity might be a hard task that would take a few years of effort to understand and manage. And we’d be nowhere closer to solving the crisis in farming, either.

First, the issue of climate change induced erratic weather events is not going to go away. Farmers who work in cities and do the job part-time of growing food are not going to solve it. They might move towards crops that are more weather resilient, and change their own diets. They might be ok with lower yields as the “experience” would be what matters. And anyway they won’t be dependent on the yields as there will be other sources of income. But the main issue is not going to go away.

The issue of food pricing is not going to go away either. Combined with the Central Govt’s move to get the market into the act, this would mean government price support will be a thing of the past. And given that the PDS and FSA were also part of the same deal, we can expect a lot of whittling down there, to loud cheers from economists.

The question also remains as to what farmers who sell their lands are supposed to do. The desperation that can cause a farmer to sell his/her holdings would usually stem from mounting debts, thanks to weather and pricing induced crises. Given this, and farming is all they know, the most likely scenario that will unfold is farmers selling their lands to richer farmers or their creditors, and ending up sharecropping on that land. Basically you do the same job as before for the same miserable outcome, but you no longer own the land.

There is also the worry that this will allow industries and other players to move in. This has, in fact, happened already. Even if a farmer is doing well, a not-so-lucky farmer next door might sell his land to an industry which might pull out ground water from under the whole village. Where does that leave the rest of the farmers? Also, this doesn’t seem like a great way to “encourage IT/BT folks to take up farming”. How likely are you to buy farm land when you know the above can happen at any time?

Combine the multiple “reforms” and you know who the real beneficiaries are. Caught between climate change, debtors, increasing input costs and an ever-more exploitative market, farmers will be forced to sell their lands. The govt then paves the way for anyone to buy land, with no limit on ceiling. And no clearance needed to convert agricultural land to industrial use. Where will the farmers go after selling their lands? If the land gets converted, even sharecropping won’t be viable.

What was needed was a lot more hard work.

  1. Understanding the need for climate-change friendly, drought-resistant farming. The moves towards millets and markets for millets was in the right direction for this.
  2. Getting farmers choices apart from BigAg companies. Again, the push for millets was a necessary move in that direction.
  3. Govt procurement, or good Minimum Support Pricing, and implementation of that. This is necessary for farmers to be protected from the vagaries of the market, which they cannot foresee or have control over.
  4. Stronger govt involvement in deciding how much food to grow and what to grow. All farmers growing sugar, or all growing rice will lead to high yields on good years and lower prices. Protecting against market vagaries can also be done by spreading the produce across different kinds of produce. And govt involvement need not be at the state level, but at the Taluk/Hobli level.

All these require a lot of grit work, with no immediate results that you can make votes off. But there is no market for such work anymore.

As always, farmers have been left clutching at air. Even the straws have gone.

Lockdown days

A decade in a month. That’s how the last month felt. Each Monday glacially giving way to Tuesday, and slowly moving the needle to Wednesday. You know the drill. For all that glacialness, this week seems to have moved faster. It is already Friday and there were no holidays in between. Maybe we are getting used to it.

I really shouldn’t be complaining about lockdowns. Working from home was something I had mastered to an art, turning up at work only around twice a week. But only now do I realise how much those two days meant, to be part of the rhythm of the City. Being swept along with the crowd in the metro, and then the buses. Walking with the walkers. You were always part of a crowd, running, walking or resting with it, but always on the move. One reason why I could never really take to private transport for office commute -it feels very alone and cut off. Being stuck in a traffic jam in your own car or two wheeler isn’t the same as being stuck in a jam in a bus. Continue reading “Lockdown days”

Spring in Bandipur

We’ve never been to Bandipur in spring. The time for Bandipur used to be the end of the Monsoons, around the time of the NE Monsoons – October-November. How wrong we were!

This time, we did spring, as February leads into March. And what a time it was! The padri trees (Radermachera xylocarpa) were in bloom, white flowers at many places.
Deer antler tree flower - Radermachera xylocarpa The semals(Silk cotton tree – Bombax ceiba) were in bloom, red flowers, but they were high up tall trees. Chestnut-tailed starling on Semal
Continue reading “Spring in Bandipur”

Where are the warblers?

Ever since I ID’ed them, ever winter I eagerly wait for the “chek-chek” sound of the Blythe’s Reed Warbler. And even if I don’t hear them from right next to my house, I know I will come across one somewhere in the area. And all these years I have not been disappointed.

Every winter, I also go looking to shoot pics of these birds. And they are extremely hard to shoot. And then out of nowhere you’ll have one sitting opposite your window when you are busy with something else.

IMG_4774 Continue reading “Where are the warblers?”

Books list from 2019

Again, time for the book list. This year’s count is the max I have managed. Ever. I finished with 53 books, and also with, exactly, 16000 pages! (What are the chances of getting an exact 000? Well, 1 in 1000.)  I read a lot more non-fiction this year and they come with a lot of Notes and References pages, but either way, only citing the pages count to say I did not get there by just reading smaller books.

Without much ado, the books, using last year’s format of classification. Also, if you just want the list on Goodreads, here it is. Continue reading “Books list from 2019”