Pelican spotting – II

On a cycle ride I noticed that the Kommaghatta lake was back to hosting Pelicans. These are the spot-billed pelicans that I had written about earlier this year. They are apparently winter visitors, although Grimmett, Inskipp claims that they are full time residents. It is possible that this is their breeding season and they tend to spread out more during this season looking for places to nest.

Either way I started off with Indian Cormorants resting on the Tree at the entrance.
Great cormorants

The Pelicans were spread out with more in an island that was closer to the sides.

This one was chilling out:
Spot-billed pelican Continue reading “Pelican spotting – II”

Where are the silences?

After weeks of enduring the constant stream of latest B’wood numbers coming from a let-out house a road away, I went up and asked the students living there to pipe down. They were very polite and reduced the volume immediately. They were also well-versed in the art of giving up a few battles for the ultimate war. The volume went right up the next morning. It usually stays up whenever there’s someone at home, so it starts at 8 AM and goes on all the way till 10 PM. Thankfully, during the evenings, the TV volume at home can drown out extraneous noises.

What surprises me is not the noise coming out, but the noise that stays in during all this time.Forget hear each other, how the hell do they even hear themselves think?! I can understand their being young and all, but surely at some point, your brain will scream “FATIGUE!” no? Even I was a teen, a student, and I couldn’t endure so much sound. Of course, living in Srinagar meant that there was always some loudspeaker for some function on, or a front-engine auto running on kerosene would try valiantly to climb up the slope in front of the house, stopping all conversation at home, and spreading the stink of kerosene over a 100ft radius.

But then, students’ music noise is just one of the cacophony of noises filling up the area. We live in a reasonably quiet neighbourhood, mainly because there is a lake behind and roads here lead to houses and not to other areas. There is no pass-through traffic. But even with that, the propensity for noise is just staggering! Anyone who returns home after 11 PM has to cause his share of noise. There are cars with reverse horns, which are banned by the Govt, but no one cares. And then there are just normal front horns, which people nervously press every few seconds, especially two-wheelers. A quiet neighbourhood brings out the need to fill up the quietness with some noise, those trying to sleep be damned.

Come daytime, these noises fade into the background as granite grinding machines fill up the quietness. Sunbirds, tailorbirds and bulbuls fly in, perch on trees and plants, sing for a few minutes, realise the pointlessness of it and fly away. A few brave butterflies flit around, some with wings mutilated by predators or speeding vehicles; their numbers coming down every passing year. Every house needs to have the tree in front of it cut down. I stopped blaming houses though. Whoever planted trees should have put them at the border of sites, not bang in the front of each site. Almost all trees that are in between sites survive. Very few put at the front of sites make it. Gates, parking, cars always take precedence in the anthropocene.

Through all this I try looking for silence. While the last construction was raging on, I grieved over the death of the bulbul chicks by sitting by the lake, listening to Weavers singing. The lake was a respite on bad days. Now the path is overgrown and there is no easy way to walk around. A constable stays put there and has barred the entrance closest to me. He is amicable though and tells me about the kind of people who use public areas that few people go to and for what purpose.

What is left is just cycling. The road is silent, there are few vehicles, some honk, but I tend not to notice, I hear them coming and wave them by, trying to prevent a few honks. But the effort for cycling helps clear out noise. I take Amma walking. She struggles to walk after a few minutes, but we manage. I show her the flitting Mormons and Crimson Roses. Some days at the lake, we see cormorants, egrets and ducks. We still have some commons in the Western part of the city that aren’t polluted as much by noise.

We went to Bhadra a few weeks back. I sat outside listening to the river lapping at the banks, some birds singing, and watching butterflies flit by. Within minutes the sound of people talking came over from neighbouring huts. It wasn’t just in huts, everywhere there was the noise of them talking. Never an immersion into the surroundings. It is almost a fear of silences, the need to fill everything silent with some familiar sound.

During the days of running, those used to be minutes of silence when the lake was still good enough to run around. I never could run with music like many do; after all, it shouldn’t be that difficult to do some activity without having some noise that you control coming into you.

Wonder where we are getting to where we have to go farther and farther to find any sense of silence. At least night times used to guarantee some sense of silence. Now we have to get used to sleeping through sudden horns from vehicles that could not care less. We just might get there, with deep sleep that doesn’t get disturbed by vehicle noises in the middle of the night. But all this noise will exact its consequences, and there are already reports of deafness rising in cities.

There is something assholic about the way people use their cars. Honking in the middle of the night, honking early morning, honking to ask people inside the house to hurry up, honking just for the heck of it! The real tragedy though is that we go to sleep listening to horns, not crickets or cicadas and we wake up very early again to blaring horns and not birdsong.


Bhadra – a sky full of stars

The last time we stumbled on Bhadra Tiger Reserve was in 2011 where we did a lone safari through the forests, after paying one of their staff Rs. 500 each to accommodate 3 non-lodgers in their jeeps. It was fun. We saw Eagles, Gaurs and barking deer, and a fellow-guest told us about stranglers and showed us some in the forest. It was winter and the mist lifting off ponds in the early morning Sun was a sight to behold.

The last attempt to visit was to experience the Monsoons in 2015, and it got spectacularly screwed as every one of us or a parent of one of us was down with some health issue. This time, only S managed to not make it because of health issues at home.(I sometimes wonder if there’s a lurking non-serious health epidemic in our cities which no one is talking about. Far too many people keep falling sick the moment the Monsoons hit, or if they fail.)

This time, me and A drove down to JLR’s River Tern Lodge located on the banks of the Bhadra river. We had a choice between cottages and loghuts. We chose the latter, as the former was supposedly too far from the dining area. Having suffered a lot at K-Gudi, we decided to stay close to the main area for a change. It helped to not have to walk 300m after every round for a refill.

There was one jeep safari and one boat safari. The jeep was just about OK. We wanted to see a Malabar Pied Hornbill and we spotted one within seconds of entering the gate!
Malabar pied hornbill
One Crested Serpent Eagle graced us with her presence, this too within 5 minutes of the start.
Crested Serpent Eagle
And that was it. Barring one monitor lizard, there was absolutely nothing much to see. Of course, we kept ourselves entertained spotting spiders and all kinds of birds. A forest can never bore you as such. All you need to do is keep your eyes, ears and brains open. Continue reading “Bhadra – a sky full of stars”

More spiders

That time of the year when spiders start putting up webs all over the garden. The more common one is the Signature spider (Argiope anasuja), which I put up last year. It was around this year too, and I managed to snap one from the back using the phone, thanks to the Camera+ app’s macro feature.
Spider... signature spider Continue reading “More spiders”

Kaveri and the years of drought

Another year, another bandh. It feels like 1991 all over again. Those empty roads, those days of being at home on weekdays, having to converse with parents in Kannada outside home. But yes, 1991 was definitely worse. There was news of people moving back to TN weeks before the final order. There was a build up. When the final verdict came and cities erupted, there was a sense of inevitability to it. Then there were shoot-at-sight orders and cops milling in front of the house in Chamarajpet. We camped on the terrace, more curious than worried – at 11 you had a strong sense of “it happens only to others”. A policeman in helmet saw us and motioned us to get inside. I remember being scared. It was “shoot-at-sight” and he had seen us! A few days later curfew was removed and things limped back to normal, like they do always. Until 1992’s Babri riots.

25 years on, there are buses and cars being set on fire. Hotels being raided based on “tip-offs” about Tamilians camped inside. Hapless souls stuck in the wrong places at the wrong time. I saw a two-wheeler being chased by a police van turning right near our house’s corner. I also saw 2 lorries, their main windscreens damaged being escorted by youngsters on bikes to a corner where a road ends. I thought they were going to set them on fire. They were only saving them and keeping them out of harm’s way. Continue reading “Kaveri and the years of drought”

Day ride: Nuggehalli. Once more.

I realised all of a sudden that it’s been a long time since my last ride. Considering that we are into the last quarter of 2016 I hadn’t done even a single one in 2016! The last one was late December 2015, and to Nuggehalli. This time I decided to do the same route again. I like the temple with its carvings and the road is just awesome to ride on. There will be a time to explore other regions, but a comeback ride after 8 months is probably not the time for that.

The plan was to do it last week, but the weather looked dodgy with a good chance of rain. Just as it was clearing, a bandh happened and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find stuff to eat. I postponed it to the day after Ganesha. Except that this became a Mandya Bandh, and considering that I was planning to pass through large parts of the district, if not the city itself, I decided to play it safe and shifted it to the next day, September 7th. The weather promised a partially cloudy day with no chance of rain. Just the thing to expect on a September day. It was expected to be cool, though not as cold as winter. In short, perfect conditions for riding.

I set off at 7:45 AM. Fuel was done along the way, and so was air for the tyres. The weather was absolutely splendid. Clear blue skies with puffy clouds left over from the Monsoons, mild temperature, not biting cold, the kind of weather expected and the kind that makes you love riding.

On the way...clear blue skies

Continue reading “Day ride: Nuggehalli. Once more.”

But…was it a PARTY?

A few months back, a cousin doing her Masters in the US was visiting and the rest of the local cousins decided to do meet up for a beer or two. I got back home, a tad tipsy, and was asked where I had been. Since it was a “family” event, I said the cousins met up.

“Was it a party?” asked my Dad.
“I don’t know. We met up.” I said truthfully.
“But was it a party?” he asked again.
“What’s a party?” I asked. It did not go anywhere from there due to lack of a clear definition.

A Party. A party. A party. Repeat a word too many times and it loses all meaning and becomes a meaningless sum of its constituent syllables. All my life the word’s been like that.

It evokes memories of people standing around talking, usually with one hand in a pocket and the other holding a drink. As the oatmeal would say, it’d be about one guy talking about how he did not get conned by some rip-off. “And then he said…. and I said… and then he said… I said… Hahaha”. More than anything, it conveniently solves the problem of what to do with one’s hands when talking.

The ones I have been to have generally been birthday parties. The adults’ ones were of people I did not know and, now realise, people I would definitely not have managed to get to know, even with time, or with all the alcohol that flowed. Yes, there were a few as a student when I sat around with people I knew. And those with the cricket team. It wasn’t as terrifying, but there are other terrors am talking about.

For the kids’ it was the neighbours’ ones attended as a late teen. To make it easy, my parents would pack off a steel plate lying unopened from some other gift. The kid would make a show of opening all gifts right there and go “Thoo! Thatte!”, disappointed about not getting any cool toys. I remembered not to put any names on the package from then on.

“Where do you party?” one extremely annoying colleague asked me standing in the cubicle aisle a long time back. All eyes turned towards me, and I figured I had to come up with a cool answer and save my name. The topic on discussion had been some bugs he had filed and I don’t know why a question of parties and their becoming verbs came up, but there was a way of asking that question that made me feel obligated, and pressurised.

I looked all around, to confirm that all eyes were boring on me, waved a finger around my head and said “All over” and not knowing if that was the right answer to the question, given that I had no idea what the question was, I beat a retreat the way one does without moving from where one was. It seemed to have satisfied him, having gotten the exact lame answer he was looking for. All of a sudden, another colleague got interested and they started talking about “X place throws some awesome parties, which are so difficult to get into”. There were enough phrases being used repeatedly for me to recognise that this was a ritual which required these phrases to be repeated – also known as clichés – to make sure you’re part of this clique.

Around this time TOI had launched the Bangalore Times and its 3rd page was all about people standing around and their names. I had no clue who they were and why I should know about them. But I religiously went over their names and the usual cliché verbs that went with them. “X and Y partying hard” one said, “A and B chilling by the pool” said another, with no sign of any pool around. “Who are all these people?” asked my dad one day. “How am I supposed to know!”.

Then there was the movie called “Page 3” which did a clichéd take on different kinds of personalities. It took me a few years to make a logical leap between that movie and the number of the page where BT put all these photos. By that time I had given up going through all these pages, and restricted myself to Page 2’s comic strips. How you are in your 30s and later is always decided by how you are in your 20s, just that you don’t know that and go around trying to be everyone else.

I still could not figure out a whole lot. Of course, these things made a lot of news. Like when the HC or the Govt passed an order that there would be no dancing in parties or some such. And then you got this idea that people would be dancing around in these places like in the movies. And wanted to stay as far away as possible. There was enough hue and cry, and more clichés were added to the mix and soon the order was reversed that it was allowed but only till some PM or small AM and some semblance of sanity restored.

I still read “X was partying hard” and an image of X with a party hat, eyes closed, going “yay!” silently, and one hand raised and waving comes to mind. It fits into the latest “DID YOU HAVE FUN?! BUT DID YOU HAVE FUN?!” trend of putting a lot of pressure on most pastimes.

Advantage of being in your 30s is that you know where you stand on most things, and what things will interest you or not. Yes, there will be occasional attempts to “get out of the comfort zone” and all that, but most importantly you know that it’s not a crime to not be interested in certain things, or be a certain way. Most likely the question of what is a Party and what people do there, and if I’ll fit in, is not likely to get resolved, ever. And I guess am more than happy to keep it that way. Little mercies.

Cars and bikes…

I have been driving in Bangalore for the past 5 years now. When I moved back from the US I took a 6 month break from all driving, to rinse out any nice ways of driving, took off on two-wheelers all that while and then bought a used car to drive. The plan was to use it for 5 years and then look for a new car.

5 years have come, and I don’t intend to sell my car. The usage is so minimal that I don’t really need to change it. There is a temptation to go for an electric one, but again it’s costlier than a petrol car given the cost of battery and my usage. The more you use it the better it works out. In the current market, a petrol car works best if you don’t drive to work everyday.

But my plan is to hopefully sell my car and not own a car after that. Every time I drive, I come back home nerves frayed, after enduring what can only be called traumatic experiences. People constantly cutting in, slow moving vehicles suddenly speeding up without indication just because you might be thinking that since they’re slow you might take a right some 60ft in front of them. How can anyone allow that!

Two-wheelers doing blind turns, or blind lane switches, or just plain scared in some cases and taking over a whole 10 ft side of the road by plonking themselves in the middle and not responding to anything.

And then the signals. Each one at least 2-3 minutes and not guaranteeing a move ahead on green even if you’re 2 rows behind the front. Possible that one car couldn’t get started, usually private and you have to wait it out. And after all this, you fervently hope you don’t have to deal with a traffic jam.

I have tried everything – being stoic, being Zen, playing music and closing windows and trying not to care. Except that the experience of constantly jerking slow for near misses does get to your nerves. It’s like having your reflexes on every moment for an hour or two. We are just not designed for this kind of stress. The only thing that works is to give enough time to get to your destination, but it is mostly the constant reflexive nature of driving that gets to you.

The sad part is it feels so much better to be on the Bullet. I don’t cut people off like other idiots, follow lane discipline, and try to ride the way I want others to when am driving. And it is so much more stress free. Am not sure if it is just the bike experience or the thump of the Bull that helps here, but it is overall a much better experience than driving. Of course, the kind of experiences you usually hate are life threatening when on the bike. A goods vehicle that decides it has had enough waiting and suddenly hurries across the road, or BMTC buses deciding to jump signals, those are always there. Defensive riding helps, and if you’re the one at front your side of the road, you can expect to be cut off by crossing vehicles. The main reflex intensive nature of driving is not there. On the highways though, you have to deal with farmers on Hero Splendours spitting around them, or bikes with rowdies throwing out cigarette butts (not even stubbed), but on bigger highways safe distances can be kept. A lot of temper management is called for here.

I really wish one day I can sell my car off and just manage with the bike. When it rains there are always taxis or autos. Probably manageable. I don’t know. Worth trying some time, but given my usage am already doing it more often!

Can’t say where we are headed this way, every time things get worse we get used to it and move on to the next level of worse. Seems to be our fate.

Oh well, a pointless post, I know. But hey, didn’t want my blog to open with the last one for too long.🙂


Whither life, whither happiness?

I left my previous post hanging, to put some more working of some thoughts from the previous few months, in fact, the previous few years. Well, time has been hard, has not been ideal. If you had made plans, this wouldn’t be what you bargained for. In cricketing terms, you were looking at a 500+ score, but suddenly realised that you were 200/5. That kind. What is one supposed to do?

During some really bad moments, I looked forward, I looked really forward, and then I looked around and it made it all the more worse. Sometimes I felt I wouldn’t be making it that far ahead, that there would be no escape from current predicaments and bad days, that these bad days would eventually consume me. I worried for my future. In fact I obsessed, yearned, longed and pleaded for my future. But the present was unmoving, I still had to deal with it. Some nights I had panic attacks. Few moments when the heart beat faster, when there was a lot of sweat. Am not new to it, and am sure quite a lot of you have experienced it at times. Then there were moments of resentfulness, when I looked at others, and thought look how they dealt with it. Why not us?!

Continue reading “Whither life, whither happiness?”