Borewell days

Not every day is borewell day. Apparently there are specific days of the week when they bore wells. Not out of sympathy for the suffering neighbours, but general issues of auspiciousness. The only days allowed are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. I was pleased to note that Saturdays are at least off, only to have sounds of distant borewell rigs boring waft in too many times for it to be a no-borewell day. Maybe they start late Friday evenings, for 30 minutes before winding up for the day.

There has been a sudden spate of constructions all over the area. There is always this overgrown site that people who don’t live close by use to dump their garbage. And then one day you find that it has been cleared, the tree in front chopped if it isn’t too big. And a day later there are decked up people doing some poojai in the site. That’s your cue to go chat with them, try to know the day the rig is going to turn up. That day, you ensure that a tarp is pulled over the house, no clothes are being washed and put out to dry, seal the windows with newspapers and other sundry stuff to block out as much of the fine dust as possible. And then brace yourself for a full day of noise. Continue reading “Borewell days”

Advertisements

Kommaghatta again – Oct 2018

I happened to pass by Kommaghatta lake multiple times post the last birding trip. Each time I noticed that the Pelicans were back. There were also reports from different parts of the city of Painted Storks being in town. A birding walk was much in need.

I set out a bit earlier than usual to pick up A on the way. On the way I brought down a 2-wheeler carrying 3 girls, who were happy to just get up and speed away without any complaints (well, for starters they were 3 in a 2-wheeler without even one helmet between them, and whether anyone had a license is left to your imagination). Thankfully, only some scratches on the bumper for me.

We reached a tad early, by 4:45 and the light was good. We started with a Brahminy Kite eating something. Couldn’t figure out what it was eating.
Brahminy Kite
The pelicans were there, on the island, and floating around feeding. So were the painted storks!
A sleeping painted stork
Continue reading “Kommaghatta again – Oct 2018”

Day ride – Turuvekere and Aralaguppe

The Hoysala hunt continued with two new places added to the list, thanks to Twitter. Technically, there was just one – Aralaguppe, but the place was close to Turuvekere, and a bit of digging showed me two other places there.

This time S joined me for the ride, and we left at aroud 7:45 AM from my place, me on the Bull 500, and S on his Electra. For the second half of October it wasn’t too cold. We did the usual route of Tumkur road -> Hassan Road and the usual breakfast stop at Swati Delicacy before Yadiyur. After Yadiyur, there was a right to be taken towards Turuvekere. Right after the turn we were greeted by a pristine B road. Two lanes width, just about wider than that, and going all the way in that condition to Mayasandra where we had to take a right and then a left to avoid going towards Gubbi. Turuvekere was reached at around 10:15 AM.

The first temple on the list was a Chennakesava temple, from around 1260 AD. Unlike other Kesava temples, this wasn’t too ornate. It didn’t have much carvings outside, and the ASI or PWD had also done a shoddy job with some concrete support at the top. img_5283 Continue reading “Day ride – Turuvekere and Aralaguppe”

Khaki fears

One of the perks of studying in a school close to home is that you can just walk down to it. And one of the perks of living in Chamarajpet was that you could walk down to pretty much everything. And then we moved to “faraway” Srinagar. Srinagar, so far away that there were snakes on the street, where jackals were said to howl on the banks of the Vrishabhavati that flowed behind the house. Never mind that it is only 5-6 kms from the railway station and only 2 kms from Gandhi Bazaar. When you have to walk 0.75 km to get to a bus stop and sit in a (black board) bus to get anywhere, you used to think you were living far away.

I was in the 9th Standard when we moved to Srinagar. For the next 1.5 years I used buses and autos to commute to school. And that was my initiation to the world of BMTC. And it wasn’t pretty. Buses hated students. Schools all leave at around the same time. Between 4 and 4:15 PM bus stops got crowded out by students of different schools. Drivers and conductors hated that crowd. Students come with passes and are not ticket-buying. And most annoyingly, for them, students come with huge bags dangling from their backs making it difficult for them to move around. A close friend was punched in the eye by a bus conductor and had to get admitted to Narayana Nethralaya. His father duly approached the media, and the next day we woke up to our friend’s face, swollen eye and all, gracing the City pages. The conductor was suspended, “pending inquiry”, and silently reinstated later I guess.

We were scolded, cursed, called names, pushed around – basically bullied every day as we tried to catch buses that didn’t want to be caught, sometimes waiting at traffic signals before the stop and jumping into moving buses. Buses didn’t have doors those days. We had to hang onto footboards in crowded buses.

You learned to fear the driver and the conductor, trying not to earn their attention in the first place. The only defence was friends. You learned to negotiate buses with friends, to not really care for the crew too much. The mark they left turned up much later.

As an adult you enter a bus with the same fear. You learn to be defensive when the conductor shouts in your face to go to the back even though your stop is next. You have your moments when the bus gets stopped at random places for the conductor to finish issuing tickets before a stage, and you speak out. Sometimes a few more join in. Most times, you are on your own, everyone else having fought their battles, lost and silenced to suffer.

You learn to also be careful with the staff. I once chased a 500K from Bellandur to Silk Board in a 500C after he refused to stop at the stop I was waiting at. The standard approach is to hide behind another bus while approaching the stop, overtake and scoot as the bus in front slows down. I caught the bus at Silk board, and in a moment of anger started raging at him. What are your names, I asked them, having been encouraged by BMTC’s site to complain there. “I’m Ramesh and he’s Umesh” said the conductor and laughed. As I was getting down he warned me that he knew how to keep track of people’s stops, so I better be careful with him. I have never been happier to permanently leave buses.

Having said that, most of my problems with buses have happened on the ORR side. West Bangalore has generally been peaceful for me with buses for some reason, maybe the lack of competition, and lack of Volvos makes like easier for them too. Also, there are a lot more women conductors this side of the city for some reason. I am yet to meet a badly behaved woman conductor.

And when you think Khaki, there’s the next version – Autos. I know friends who swear by them, and also friends who just can’t deal with them. I’ve oscillated regularly between the two. For every auto driver who accepted what I had when I ran out of change (surprisingly common post Nov 2016), I’ve had auto-drivers with parents in hospitals, whose meters are broken down with no money to repair, who believe that the rate per km is Rs. 26.  But the toughest part is always the negotiation. There have been those who asked for 20 more, but “seemed to agree” to a smaller rate, only to bring it up as you are paying the fare. Once you get past that, and having sent some of them on their way, you can usually have a peaceful ride. Being an adult helps here a lot. The West of the city also has a lot more autos that run on meter. Days when I used to take them regularly to get to the bus stop, some dude would not turn on the meter. When asked, he’d quote the standard meter rate and add “I’ve dropped you so many times, saar.”

The coming of the Metro meant that I could easily jettison all the khaki dealings and have a peaceful ride. Only to be confronted by them right from the point you enter the station. Have your body and bag scanned, and if the scanning machine is broken, open your bag and subject it to wider scrutiny. I was even asked to open a box of tea-bags at the station. “Illa!” I insisted. He didn’t press the issue, as he didn’t speak Kannada, and I refused to answer in Hindi. Of course, when in a hurry, I have smuggled the bag in without scanning multiple times. Wonder what we are protecting by inconveniencing people so much!

And then you hit the escalators. Depending on station, you might have a security guard shouting at you for walking up the escalators, never mind that most of the time people like to stand next to each other, block the path and even scream at those who rush past. You enter the platform, and the guards look at everyone as if they’re out to either walk around the platform or jump in front of the train. “swalpa hinde banni”, ” illi ninthokolangilla!”, “alli hogangilla!”, “photo thogalangilla!”. There are no rules as such, but hey, I can make them up and you are bound to follow. The train arrives, the doors open, and the guards go into a frenzy of orders – “horage barorige jaaga kodi!!”( leave space for those exiting, I admit, needed with our kind of etiquette), “olage hogi” and a version of “munde hogi” directed to those standing inside. Probably the only peaceful thing you can do in a metro station is exit it. No one gives a shit.

I am not even going to talk about the epitome of Khaki – the Police. There are almost never good experiences. Almost every transaction has meant a constable asking how much I earn to know how much to ask as bribe. There’s one here detailed.

The gist is basically this: If you’re going to use your own vehicle to get around, you’re going to get pissed and stressed out by those like you. If you’re going to use public transport of any kind, you’re going to get pissed and stressed out by someone in Khaki. Getting around is stressful, no matter how you want to! We just cannot communicate smoothly and make life easier for ourselves. It shows in the way we drive. And this paragraph is becoming too big for a gist.

I’ll end this with this song of Kamalagasan playing the mythical benevolent bus conductor. Also a piece of Bangalore nostalgia. Wonder why they don’t have his photos all over buses like Shankar Nag(who did the equivalent for autos) on autos, eh?

October birding day

Every once in a while Team eBird holds a birding day. The idea is simple, you download their app, head out to a birding location near your place or even walk around your neighbourhood. As you see birds, you note down their species and numbers that you see. At the end of it, you review the list and submit. We try not to have reasons to bird, but having something like this helps. You at least make sure you’re going to bird so that it’ll be part of some larger database collecting info on birds.

This time, me and A decided to go birding at Kommaghatta lake. Kommaghatta offers a larger array of waterbirds with fewer passerine birds like stonechats or sun birds. We usually end up with a shorter list, close to 20 whereas the Mallathahalli lake gives us around 30 usually. There are chances of catching shikras, Kingfishers, bushchats, swallows and peafowl at the latter place, which is a lot wilder with hardly any human activity. Kommaghatta offers a nice path to walk around and a larger presence of big birds. It is the only place to boast of Indian cormorants, purple herons, oriental darters and black-crowned night herons this side of the city. Also, being a smaller lake they are more easily photographed.

We reached the place around 5:00 PM and we started off with the usual sighting of the Indian cormorants on the Peepul tree at the start of the path.
Indian cormorant, close up Continue reading “October birding day”

Myristica swamps and other things

The Monsoon trip is supposed to be freewheeling. You are not supposed to have a plan. You end up near Jog Falls. And then freewheel. But over the 3 visits, over 2013, a dry ‘15, and ’18 we seem to have come up with places to tick off. The Chaturmukha Basadi is a must-see. A stopover at Belur or Halebeedu on the way back. A stay at the Forest Department nature camp. This time there was no A, while S made his debut.

This time, the Monsoons had been plenty. The reservoirs were full. We expected to see Jog in all its glory. Except that the rains the past few days had slowed down. The reservoir was shut, there was below average outflow. The falls were there, not glorious, not a thin wisp of water either.
Joga with its rainbow. Continue reading “Myristica swamps and other things”

Day ride: T Narasipura and Gaganachukki

Aug 22nd was a holiday on account of Bakrid, and I had been itching to do a ride for a while. I woke up early, got ready to leave by 7, and was out on the road by 7:15 AM. I didn’t have a clear plan in mind. I knew I wanted to check out 3 places if possible – Gaganachukki, Sathegala bridge and T. Narasipura. Barachukki was also on the radar, but I wasn’t sure how crowded it would be. There’s a dargah there and the road could also be closed during Bakrid.

Anyway, the order is for later. I took the ORR to reach Mysore Road, and even that early it was a bad decision. Too many humps and buses make it a stressful ride, and the Metro construction on Mysore Road had also screwed up the roads. The route through Vishweshwaraiah Layout and Kempegowda Layout reaching Mysore Road near Decathlon is the better route now, the only issue being the railway crossing.

There weren’t too many clouds, there wasn’t much of a chance of rain that day, but the weather was chilly for August. I made good speed after crossing NICE road and reached Bidadi well before 8. I finished a quick thatte idli-vada breakfast there and was off by 8 AM. The advantage the bike has is that bad traffic is a lot less stressful and I was turning left after Maddur well before 9 AM. Malavalli was reached in 20 minutes and I turned right after Malavalli’s junction, but just before reaching the junction where the road from Kanakapura reaches Malavalli. I stopped after a few kilometres near a huge lake for a break of 5-10 minutes. This was the Marehalli Kere. The road after this was peaceful with hardly any traffic. There was the odd pothole or patchwork, but bikes register them a lot less than cars, the effort needed to avoid them is much lighter.

Purigali was reached and I took a right onto the Belakavadi-T. Narasipura road towards T Narasipura. This road was pristine with hardly any traffic. I was at Narasipura before 10, which felt like a good deal, and I hadn’t rushed either. I went down to the Agastheshwara Temple, which looked really old, but was closed. There was a path leading behind it which took me to some steps and down those steps was the river. In fact, there were two rivers – the Kaveri and the Kabini – merging into one. The name T Narasipura expands to Thirumakudalu Narasipura. The Thirumakudalu is from Sanskrit – Trimakuta. There are apparently three rivers having a confluence here – the Kaveri, the Kabini and a third, a lake called Spatika, which is considered mythical or might have existed in earlier times.

Some of the lower steps were slushy suggesting that the water level was much higher the past few days. They had apparently reduced the flow a tad from that day. There were a couple of men bathing, and I had to wait for them to finish before trying to do videos. Keeping the blog family friendly.

Kabini coming in from my right, then I pan to the joined rivers and pan to my left where the Kaveri is flowing from.

Continue reading “Day ride: T Narasipura and Gaganachukki”

The life of a goat

The topmost review for Perumal Murugan’s Poonachi: Or the story of a goat is just one line: “I’ll write the review when I stop crying”. When I picked up ಮಲೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮದುಮಗಳು I knew I was going to be on it for more than a month. It’s 712 pages long, and I can’t get through more than 20-25 pages per hour. At that rate, I’d be at it for between 5-7 weeks. After close to 2 weeks, I am almost at the 40% mark. Given this, and that the neck might allow some metro reading, I picked up Poonachi’s kindle version to read on the commute. Bad idea.

You don’t notice it, but you feel the emotions when reading, and they show on your face. At times you glow, at times you well up. There is that beauty in it. In the simpleness of it. The name itself is odd. Poonachi is what you’d call a cat, not a goat. But the old woman sees the tiny goat kid which looks like a kitten and is reminded of her cat that passed away some time back. There seemingly is nothing here: A goat that lands up with an old couple and grows up with them. The goat’s story is part of the world where she grows up, where the rains are failing every year, where no vehicles seem to exist – the Govt officer comes riding a horse, a rich man owns a bullock cart. But there are terrorists, there are procedures and there are number tags for livestock. It’s an interesting world where when they have to travel to their daughter’s village they have to walk through the countryside dragging their goats along. At many points it reminds you of Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant”. There’s so much looking into the past. But that’s when you see it from the old couple’s perspective. But the story isn’t that.

There is so much of “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”. I wonder if the story will lend itself to an artistic interpretation a la Kaguya. But we don’t have much of an artistic film industry that can think beyond songs and dances. I digress.

A buck goes into heat, goes around sniffing the tails of the does. The herds watch, amused. They untie him the next day. He has his day of fun. At the end of the day he goes home with the doe to her herd’s pen. The next day a man, a boatman, turns up, carrying his tool. He castrates the bucks while they have no idea what’s happening, cries about the sin he’s committing, taking liquor as payment to drown his guilt in. The bucks go through their short lives wondering what happened that day, having their spirits completely broken. Later, in their daughter’s village, Poonachi meets Poovan, a billy goat and falls in love with him, only to be dragged back home by the laughing humans.

The book is very allegorical, and always the best allegories are those that can stand on their own if you forget that characters and situations are stand-ins for something else. And this is where Poonachi works. You feel for the goat, you understand her life, you get the idea of lack of agency, you get the idea of hierarchical authority, that the life of the goat reflects that of women at so many levels. This is also Perumal Murugan’s protest and survival story against the current environment where everything you say or write is fodder for an outrage industry. And still, you can’t help crying for the goat, laughing with it as it grows up and finds love first with the old woman, and then with Poovan, the billy. And this is what eventually makes you love the book.

As the translator says in the end, this is an animal story for adults, something that is rare and has books like Animal Farm as the shibboleth.  The translation is spot on, and this should be the standard for how translations should work. It isn’t that the language is kept simple, it’s that you can feel the Tamizh in the translation, in the adas, the ayahs, the Mesagarans and the general flow of conversations. Kudos to N Kalyan Raman for that. I wish I could read Murugan in Tamizh, but apart from the speed issues I have with the script, having no formal schooling in the language I expect I would struggle with the meaning of words. But this is something I want to try once. It should be far easier reading a 150 page novella set in current times than a 1000-page பொன்னியின் செல்வன்.

Personally, this reminded me of Em and The Big Hoom and The Shadow Lines in how deeply I felt about the story. There are those books that you love, and then those that you live and feel through. This was easily among the latter, not something you come across too often. Read, laugh, and cry with it. Not for public reading, unless you don’t mind looking silly and misty-eyed in the open.

Us and Them

“Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”

I remember sweating this question in college, on the eve of interviews. There always seemed to be so much I had no answer to. “Why should we hire you?”, and the more pernicious “Everyone goes for PG in 2 years, so will you, why should I hire you then?”. The last needed gentle massaging to prove that you won’t be thinking of your own future and leaving a multi-billion dollar MNC high and dry. As impressionable 21 year-olds impressing upon snooty and openly arrogant HR reps, who were enjoying the few days in the Sun when people look up to them, those were hardy days. There were always right answers where you were supposed to be favourable to the company, but at the same time looking after your own interest. “What if you are put in a project that is boring and not challenging, but the company needs desperately?” I had no clue as usual. As long as it pays I guess, I thought. One smart fellow said “I am ok with that for the short term, but in the long run I would hope to get just reward for that and move into something more interesting.” They had a winner there!

Needless to say, the company that I got into eventually was one where I did well in the written tests and reasonably OK in the interview. They had zeroed in right after the test though. But that is not the point of the post. Continue reading “Us and Them”

Butterflies and other bugs – Mallathahalli Lake

This isn’t the season for birding. The winter birds are gone, the monsoons have set in. We are left with the usual suspects – the coots, egrets, lapwings, a few stilts, and some ibises. The Monsoon has also meant a spurt in the Parthenium that takes over the entire path of the Mallathahalli Lake. This usually discourages walkers, and encourages different forms of urban wild to take over. What you usually get is butterflies. Lots of them.
Yesterday, as I made my way for  close to a km through the Parthenium, I ran into at least 5 types of butterflies – Plain tiger, Pioneer, Mottled Emigrant, Common Castor and Common grass yellow. And surprisingly, a tiny spider which turned out to be of the Rhene species.
img_4728 Continue reading “Butterflies and other bugs – Mallathahalli Lake”