Dodda sampige mara, BR Hills – May 2019

The annual trip to K-Gudi and BR Hills happened as usual. The lead up left me worried, with skin rashes and illness lurking around the house. But the morning of the 5th saw the saddle bags packed and mounted on the bike and we were off to K Gudi.

The first evening it rained. And rained and rained. Inside the jeep we got drenched and the top cover had to be pulled down. It was interesting to note the temperature come down drastically and what started as a ride in sweltering heat and humidity suddenly left us needing jackets. Even the waterholes started showing mists like in winter.
Mist on a summer afternoon, after the rains The morning safari went great, with the usual birding. The fun was with the massive Bull Gaur with buffalo shaped horns who blocked our path, walking towards us, sniffing and grunting before walking away. Angry bull gaur

Continue reading “Dodda sampige mara, BR Hills – May 2019”


Birding in Bandipur

There was a plan for a one day ride. To somewhere around Sakleshpur. The idea was a birding trip. No safaris, just walk around and bird. That place however turned out to be heavily booked, so we decided to look around. K-Gudi was the obvious choice, but we do that in May. I looked around and saw that Bandipur had slashed its prices to the same range as K-Gudi. The recent fire, and declining tiger sightings had taken its toll apparently.

The booking for a weekend was made. One night and two safaris. The idea was to ride, but due to last minute niggles, we drove. It was a quick 4 hour journey via Mysore road, as the Kanakapura route is seeing a spate of roadwork.

The evening safari began promptly with Pradeep as driver and Natraj as spotter. A good combo as we have gotten into a good rapport with both of them, Natraj being known since his K-Gudi days before his transfer to Bandipur, and Pradeep is someone who sees the forest for way more than the big cats. The birds, even the ubiquitous mynahs interest him.

Continue reading “Birding in Bandipur”

Day trip – Basaralu

It’s been a while since I went to Nuggehalli. The main issue is the distances between the different Hoysala temples. I usually prefer to combine Nuggehalli with other temples, but that becomes a bit hard when you have to be zigzagging across the highway. Now, I tend to hit those around a spot. And sometimes, not stress myself and just spend time in one place. The best solution seems to be to do more rides more frequently. Just need to remember to do that.

This time the destination was the Mallikarjuna temple, Basaralu. This was at a sweet location, near Nagamangala, and on the curve back towards Bangalore. So the plan was to leave early, have breakfast at Swathi, hit Nagamangala, get to Basaralu and then back home for lunch via Huliyurdurga and Magadi. The plan kept getting postponed from early March due to one reason or the other. And I finally zeroed in on the 18th March. Only to have other errands intrude on it. I don’t particularly enjoy weekend rides, but there didn’t seem to be any other option. So the 17th it was.

I left at 7:15 AM, and the ride was a bit more stressful than I would have liked. Hassan highway is no Mysore Road, but on weekends the traffic can get a bit rowdy. Vehicles that like to pass you close by, zipping two-wheelers, the whole charade of bad driving notorious on our streets shows up. But I reached Swathi at 8:40 AM without issues. After breakfast I was off by 9:00 AM.


Continue reading “Day trip – Basaralu”

Blank – VII

I feel the blog drying up. I try to write something, but nothing turns up. Those birding write ups, those trip diaries, and those occasional book reviews have been the red herrings, that the real blog that I used to maintain, to pen what I thought and experienced is dying.

I wonder why that is so? Is it that what I feel has been wrung dry here so many times, that I don’t feel the need to write anything about myself anymore? Or is it that I’ve passed the stage where I was questioning myself, my choices, my fate, and have finally accepted what is as what it is? If that is so, is this a burning away of whatever was raging inside me, trying to get me somewhere? Or is it a sign that I am there and there’s no further need to seek?

I don’t know. Maybe there’s a flow chart for it? Am I at peace? If yes, all good. If not, what can I do to be at peace? Do that. Get back to the first question. Problem solved? If only.

I still feel the void that was there a long time back, I feel that every day at work, sitting in front of the screen, and not having much work to do. Maybe that is the curse I’ve carried all my career, of not having much to do. It’s a surprise it has carried me this far, but it’s also that you learn along the way how to make a career out of doing nothing. As I explained to my manager, most career movements, like promotions and hikes, depend on luck. You could go a whole year not doing anything, and then a couple of weeks before the big review, a major customer issue lands on your plate. Your manager is busy with other personal issues, you main guy in the US is dealing with his own personal issues, all eyes are on you. You manage fine, even suddenly landing a presentation to big shots because your manager overslept his post-dinner nap of “20 minutes only”. You get your “visibility” and you are set. On the contrary, you could spend 9 months executing from scratch a big project, only to have your 9 months end 6 months before the main review. Which doesn’t leave you anywhere. A bit like having an attack happen just before your elections, eh?

But I digress. Or maybe not. The whole point of everything is, maybe, luck. You coast 30 years of your life. Land a job at the highest-paying company to visit your college during a recession year, travel abroad to the point that 10 years since your graduation, you realise you haven’t spent more than a year or two continuously in your city, and even laugh, not even in the same continent. You rack up the air miles, counting the number of flights you take, some for vacation, some for work. You cannot be flying higher. And then, suddenly things change. That sudden hesitation in your parent’s voice. That sudden health crises, which slowly consumes you. That hesitation in your life, maybe another year. And before you know it, you are here, writing a blog, about to enter the last of your 30s, a big chunk of your life already behind you.

Where does that leave you? Cynical? Even bitter? Or with (a misplaced) optimism? “I’m going to live my life from now on.” A long time back I wanted to live my life. Many years on, I now realise that you only live your life, you never live others’. Yes, we could think of it as battles that we fight in different forms.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

– Tolkien

When the Mirage 2000 that they were operating developed issues shortly on take-off from HAL the pilots were faced with a choice, and they decided to turn the aircraft around and lost crucial moments to save themselves. The choice to turn the machine around likely saved a lot of lives of unsuspecting residents. I remember reading this thoughtful piece on it.

It was a decision made out of priorities. It only takes a microsecond to take a decision, but the priorities themselves take time to build. Over years, perhaps. It is true that anyone who enlists in the Armed Forces is taught and trained to think about the greater good, and it is possible that it is people who already believe that way are the ones who enlist. But how do we inculcate in ourselves these priorities? Or any priority for that matter?

Yes, there are many things that you wish had not happened on your watch. But as it happens, that is never your choosing. Yes, there will be relief at the end of your watch, but until then, you just have to choose what to do, and how best to respond. What we are and what we become is what we choose to do when things happen on our watch. And everything you do, every choice you make, doesn’t stand by itself, but is a result of making similar choices earlier.

Which could be true, we are programmed to respond in certain ways because we have always done that earlier, and it comes naturally. But, what made you make a choice the first time? Was that also chance? Or is that something ingrained in us? Good person genes vs bad person genes? What makes you a Frodo vs a Bilbo or even a Smeagol, given the same ring? Even easier, what makes a person respond to a road accident the way he/she does, by either driving away, gawking, or being the person who takes over and helps?

How much of what I am is my choice vs what I was programmed to be? Does the answer even matter, though?


P.S: Twitter account deactivated for the weekend, although I suspect I might stay away longer. 😉

February heat

Mid Feb 2017. We were driving to Chennai. Since 2014 it has only been “driving to”. It’s been unfeasible to take the train since then. Aging parents can no longer cope with coach steps, toilets and train schedules that are all stuck in the 60s. I had vetoed the idea of carrying sweaters as it was already Feb and it shouldn’t be colder than in Bangalore in any case. We reached Shoolagiri, and it was 17°C! Chennai was nice and comfy.

Mid Feb 2019. Driving to Coimbatore. We left Bangalore at 20 °C. Memories of 2017 meant that we carried sweaters, just in case. Coimbatore, however, was burning at 35. Palakkad was showing 37! And summer is not even here yet. Nowhere in the middle did the temperature drop below 20.

On cue, world weather reports show that January 2019 was among the hottest years, ever.

January was cold. Temperatures went really low in Bangalore, touching even single digits in the surroundings. But this spell lasted barely a week. Beyond that, it kept getting humid as clouds turned up from somewhere each time, and that kept raising the temperatures. Couple this with daytime temperatures almost always hovering around 30°C and we really didn’t enjoy much of the usual winter days.

As per KSNDMC January was unusually colder when it comes to minimum temperatures. The average temperature was closer to 21.5°C and while the average min hovered at 11.28°C, the average max was 31.8°C. It has been a hot and cold winter. Note also that this has generally been the trend this decade.

bangalore temperatures min and max for Jan 2019
(source: KSNDMC)

What is interesting is the higher day time temperatures. Purely anecdotally, temperatures used to be lower than 30 usually and you’d be fine with a jacket during day time too. There is just one day, early in the year that docked lower than 30, that too barely. If you look at earlier years, much earlier, 2013 and 2014, a lot of days can be seen in the 29s. Even some 27s and 28s would be visible. (Check query interface).

Now, what does this mean? Does this tie up with general global warming patterns? Yes, and no; more like I’d rather not wager that way. In Bangalore at least rising day temperatures can do a lot more with general urbanisation, loss of green cover, increase in number of vehicles, ppm and all that. How much has it to do with global warming and how much to do with local causes, I don’t know. I’d guess it’s a combination of local and global conditions. There have been reports of how winter is ending sooner and summer starting earlier (leading to longer summers and shorter winters). So that’s there.

What does this mean for the Monsoons. I don’t know. Last year we had a particularly mild summer, with the temperature barely touching 35°C. The Monsoons were excellent along the coast and Kodagu, but a complete letdown in Bangalore and SIK.


There was already talk of El Nino taking effect in the later stages of the Monsoon and that showed in decreased rainfall activity around September and October which are the wettest months for Bangalore. A few days of heavy rain ensured the months did not face too much deficit, but looks like that’s the way it is going to be in future.

El Nino is already in effect this year, and is expected to end by Feb 2018. The last El Nino ended in 2016, around March-May. So it is possible that the current one which has been short-lived might not affect the Monsoon badly.

But here’s some fun cud to chew on. 2014-15 was a weak El Nino year, 2015-16 was a “Very Strong” El Nino year (source: ggweather). We had droughts, officially from 2014 to 2015. 2016 was a drought-free year. Having said that, coming to South India or Karnataka in particular, 2014 was a good rain year, the reservoirs were full by end of October. 2015 and 2016 were really bad droughts! But Chennai was flooded by end of 2015, and Bangalore also received heavy rains.

2017-18 was (a weak) La Nina. For India, 2017 was a good rains year. But, Karnataka saw the Kaveri rising to only 63% of its capacity and there were widespread rows over sharing the waters with TN. Bangalore, and SIK in general, were flooded with heavy rains all the way till October-November that year!

2018 was an excellent year for rains all over. Except that for Karnataka, it was excess along Kodagu, Hassan and Chikmagaluru, the Kaveri catchment areas, and drought for the regions beyond the Western Ghats. The rivers were full, there were floods, but all the action got over by mid-August with scanty rainfall post that.

In this background, what does a normal monsoon prediction mean? In fact, what does a normal monsoon declaration at the end of the Monsoon even mean? Depending on myriad factors, you could have a great year with lots of rains while the rest of the country is declaring a drought, like Chennai in 2015. You could be reeling under a heavy drought, while other parts of your state are celebrating a heavy monsoon and full rivers, and some even drowning in floods, like NIK and Kodagu during 2018. Forget even that. You could be dealing with floods, and have a shortage at the end of it : Kerala after those 100 year floods in Aug 2018.

When just one month of conventional monsoon season is left, India faces a deficit of six per cent rainfall. The normalcy implied by this figure hinges on the enormous excess seen in the southwestern parts of the peninsula this month when around 40 per cent of the country faces drought. Distribution of monsoon rains has seen a deviation from the normal owing to several regional and global climatological factors.


What we are seeing is a new normal, and country-wide predictions of Monsoons don’t make sense anymore. We need more granular predictions, at least at region levels (NIK, SIK), and try to get them right over the years. Otherwise we’ll continue to be celebrating normal monsoons, while a third of the country will be under floods, a third in drought, and some parts reeling from both.

So what does all of this mean?
Well, welcome to the anthropocene, all bets are off!

A K-Gudi winter again

Before we get into the trip diary: after much deliberation, and trying out other options (OK, one option), I decided to buy a pro plan with Flickr. The other option was to go with Google photos, but after one attempt I realised it remains as appalling as it was when they retired Picasa. For starters, I cannot link those photos in my blog which itself is a major deal for me. And at close to 2000 photos I was using up too much space to justify a free account anymore. So that’s that.

We seem to have gotten into doing K-Gudi trips in December since 2017. This is usually planned just before the peak Christmas season starts, so the crowds are thinner, and the winter birds are also around. This time the plan was to leave on a Sunday, the Dec 16th and get back on the 18th, 3 of us on 3 bikes. Now that I have a larger lens, one bag was no longer enough, and I ended up with a tied up kit bag and a backpack on top of that. By the time we reached Bidadi it felt like a very, very, bad idea. We had to stop, pull out one of A’s bungee cords, and tie up by backpack on top of the kit bag. This wasn’t entirely a great idea as the taller the back luggage gets the more it tends to list towards one side or the other. Given my fear of right turns, it was going to be to the left. For the rest of the journey I had to put S behind me to keep one eye on my bag, and right after we entered the BRT Tiger Reserve, A took up duty behind me. This was also partly because after the shenanigans post-Bandipur, in terms of a minor accident, I was noticeably edgy in my riding. Inside the reserve the roads curve a lot more, and we needed at least two stops to get the bag back into position.

We reached with no other issues, and news that there was a new naturalist had reached us much earlier. Yes, we were slowly becoming JLR veterans who know the details of not only animal movements but also naturalist movements. The old manager was still around, and Narayan, the veteran naturalist, wasn’t. Also turned out there was just one other guest, so a total of 4 us there. Good fun, and quiet!

As always, the campus yielded birds well before the safari, and we started with sightings of Malabar parakeets, jungle babblers and vernal hanging parrots.
Malabar parakeeet, male

Continue reading “A K-Gudi winter again”

Books list from 2018

It’s that time of the year to look back and make lists of things. I used to do the movies and TV shows list. But I don’t remember what I watched last year, and I didn’t watch much of interest either. This seems to have made a difference in how much I read too.

Around April, I started having issues with my neck. This mainly meant that I could no longer read in the metro. It eventually got fixed by Iyengar Yoga sessions, which turned out to be my biggest find of the year. After things got fixed, around August I slowly started packing my kindle in the office backpack. Only for the pain to slowly return in a couple of weeks. That finally put paid to any plans of reading in the metro. The options were either Audiobooks or podcasts. But I chose to go with TM Krishna and other artists, paying closer attention to music and just letting the mind relax. These 30+30 minute sessions in the metro are now a time for quiet and relaxation.

But still, I was able to pack in 45 books for the year, similar to earlier years. Even in terms of number of pages, the annual count was high enough at 13600+ which is my third highest ever in the past decade. And the key thing here is that, this is despite the 700 page tome, Malegalalli madumagalu, which locked me in for 5 weeks.

Not sure how much I can pack this year, but I can confidently look at 40+ this year too. Mainly because I don’t think I’ll be doing another 700 pager this year. Oh well, I wasn’t thinking of doing a 700 pager last year either. We’ll see.

Anyway, here’s the list, not in chronological order as that does not make any sense anymore. Continue reading “Books list from 2018”

Once upon a Goa trip…

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Goa! I remember the “planning” for the trip. Anush did most of the planning and booking. I was visiting from the US, and pretty much just turned up for the vacation. Aswin took a flight from Chennai to Mumbai, and the two of them took a bus from Mumbai to Goa. I had taken an overnight bus from Bangalore to Goa. Got down at the main bus stand, took a bus to Candolim, somehow managed to find the hotel in the pre-Google maps era.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about this picture. Dec 21st, 2008. The three of us, the camera probably timer fired, look how low the angle is. A fort in Goa, evoking Dil Chahta Hai and the three dudes. Yes, the photo was intentional.


Aswin, too cool for a reaction, Anush, not sure when the camera is gonna fire, and if it is. Me, having run in within 10 secs, manage to squeeze into the centre, and for a change don’t look like I want to break the camera.

All of us, within a year of having completed our Post-graduations. Our aborted attempts at doing normal IIM type MBAs, me moving to Australia for the masters, then moving to the US for work, the first visit back home. Them, having done their MBAs across Dubai and Singapore, one semester this side, one that side, having started on their jobs recently, one in Mumbai, one in Chennai. It was that time of life. The hectic planning, studying, restlessness in our first jobs having given way to our Masters after trials and errors at different things, having now landed jobs and in fields that we hoped to be in for a while. There was going to be no running around after this. This was the deal for the foreseeable future, in terms of work. We were “settling” for the long march.

And of course, in parallel, machinations were beginning at home to settle us down, now that the period of “freedom” was drawing to a close. It might have been one last hurrah, except that we did another the next year to Palakkad, and one more to Pondicherry, but very short ones. Goa remained our second best trip, after Sikkim/Darjeeling.

And then the decade turned. Life changed. I moved back to India, Aswin got married, then Anush got married, one year after the other. And then they moved to the US, different parts of the country. And the inevitable gaps between conversations began. Weeks before you chat, then months.

One slowly cut all ties with the extended family, one still stays in touch, but just about (he’ll hit me for this :P). I realize as I write this, that I have seen Aswin maybe twice after he left for the US, but a few times before that as he was still in Bangalore, while Anush just once after his wedding, just before he left to the US. Not having the same hometown doesn’t help much I guess.

I remember watching DCH and getting really bored towards the end, the post-college life of the 3 of them. We were 21-22, passing out of college at that time, and that’s the part of the movie that mattered, the fun they were having, so much like ours. Looking back I realize how accurate Akhtar was about the whole growing up/old and drifting away part. You hang out together, you are referred to as a group, but before you know it, it’s been years since you’ve even seen them.

Oh well, lifeu ishtene, I guess. Anyway, cheers to the trip and its memories!

Of Fictions and Non-fictions

A lunchtime conversation.

Colleague 1: “So, I am reading this book, which is big and I am struggling to finish.”
Colleague 2: “What are you reading?”
C1: “Oh, not fiction, something non-fiction.”
C2: “OK”*nods approval*
C1:”I don’t read fiction at all, only non-fiction.”*they both nod approvals at each other*

It wasn’t what was said, but the way it was said. The righteousness that comes with NF over Fic. This is something I see everywhere, the shirking away from Fiction as if it is something you don’t want your dead body to be caught with. An accompaniment is also “Since you read books, here is a recommendation”, which is usually something related to work, telling me how to improve my productivity. It is not enough if the book is NF, it has to make you better at doing your every day work – a self-help mostly.

When you say fiction the thing that springs to people’s minds is stories. Someone is telling you a story, and you just go along with it, and at the end there could be a moral. When you are done, you move on to the next story. Fiction thus falls under a waste of time. It doesn’t get you to be better at your job. And almost always fiction always conjures up images of R.K Narayan, whom you likely read in high school(and not even properly), and then graduated to the Chetan Bhagats and the Amish Tripathis who write now. It doesn’t help that they are the poster boys of Amazon kindle and “books” in general. This is something you want to avoid.

In this world there is no scope for fiction that is literary, that exists for the sake of itself. That might not just tell you a story, but can put you through different emotive states. It also raises questions about the purpose of reading itself.

Now, why does one read? I frankly don’t have a clear answer to it, other than I like reading. If I have free time, I would rather be reading than doing anything else. Maybe the beauty of a well-written line draws me, a well-crafted tale about something that I can relate to evokes memories that lie dormant in me, and more importantly it can make me empathetic towards people and their situations. And along the way it tells me about places, people, cultures, politics, relationships, emotional states, among others.

How does one slot a book like Amitav Ghosh’s “Shadow Lines” that is probably about some riots on the surface, but so much more, like leaving home, coming home, memories, history, relations, pasts. Should we even try to slot it?

For a change, this year has seen me reading a lot more NF than usual. 19 out of the 43 I’ve read this year have been NF. But NF would be too broad a brush to paint them under. These 19 count amongst them an autobiography, a biography, 2-3 travelogues, some on science, some on social media, one on politics, climate change. Not a single one would help me with my work. But then, what’s the point if you’re coming home and spending your free time reading about stuff that is only going to help with your work?

Yes, Fiction is an indulgence. It might not serve you any tangible purpose, but what’s the point of earning your free time if you are plowing it straight back into your work, when you can indulge yourself with some good prose? Remember that forward a long time back about the guy who was idling away at work?

All this aside, it has been a great year for Fiction in India. This was the year the JCB prize for literature was instituted. And it saw a shortlist of 5. I had read 2 out of them, and was hunting for the 3rd (hunting = waiting for the price to drop). I remember sitting in the metro, reading Poonachi on the kindle and smiling wistfully, or even welling up at times. It was a powerful experience. Half the Night is Gone made me sob, as you mirror your life with that of Vishwanath coming to terms with old age, a running out of time, and all  the misgivings from the past with his brother and his father, only some of which he can set right, all after his son dies in an accident far away from home. Go easy on those around you.

There was an instagram giveaway for the JCB prize shortlist, and my name surprisingly came up. You don’t usually win in raffles, as they are low-probability occurrences. So it was a huge surprise, and the books came to me a week later, all of them signed by the authors! Latitudes of Longing was part of it, and the story of fault-lines and people living on them, and through them made me want to read it again. A few years later I guess.

This was also the year I got a new bookshelf made, which is filling up slowly. Hopefully, another few years I won’t have to worry about shelves. Maybe I would also have divested a few books away. Hoarding isn’t always a good habit. It’s just that I find it hard to read good fiction on the Kindle. It works really well for NF though. Not sure why that is, maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, given the large number of books, 2019 should be the year of rereading. There are so many books, that I wanted to revisit when I finished, but never got around to it.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth and the Namesake. Ondaatje’s English Patient and Anil’s Ghost. Chinaman – Karunatilaka, Arundathi Roy, the God of small things, Ghosh’s Shadow Lines, and Pinto’s Em and the Big Hoom are amongst those crying out to be reread. Can maybe throw in Gabriel Garcia Marquez into the mix. So much of One Hundred Years was contextual, which I missed. Having read Galeano they might make a lot more sense now. Definitely needs a revisit.

Oh well, this was my cud-chewing at the end of the year. The actual list will be up only next year, after Anush is done.

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”