Some winter visitors – Mallathahalli Lake

After a long time, I stopped by Mallathahalli lake for some birding. It’s a place I was using for running, but that stopped 4 years back as the path had become overgrown. Even though most of the 2.5 Km track is cobblestones, it’s amazing how much Parthenium can grow out of the gaps!

This time I was looking specifically for one kind of bird – the rosy starling. They are winter visitors and found in huge numbers and I was inspired by this photo from zenrainman on his lovely twitter feed.

In case you are wondering where those birds are, that ‘cloud’ near the middle is what you are looking for.

I remember seeing these birds a few times on earlier walks around the lake. So this time, I carried the camera to see what I can get.

The first thing I saw on getting off the car was that the yellow tabebuia tree was in bloom, and amidst those flowers was a flock of rosy starlings. Talk about beginner’s luck!
Rosy starling

Rosy starling Continue reading “Some winter visitors – Mallathahalli Lake”

The Bazookas of Kabini

Visits to Kabini began in May 2012, initially as a one-off visit. Yesterday we returned from our 6th visit to that place. So much of it is the same, and yet so much different. We now know many of the naturalists, and they recognise us. Even then, every year it’s a different experience, bringing its own set of birds and animals. And even humans in the form of other guests. Sometimes even that trend is bucked and we start noticing people who had been seen in earlier trips, and their idiosyncrasies. And usually hoping we don’t end up with them in the same jeep.

Given its high density of Tigers and leopards, and that prized catch – the solitary Black Panther, Kabini sees a high density of ‘Bazookas’. A Bazooka is anyone, usually male, who has a camera attached to a large lens. The camera is usually a single digit Canon, or equivalent Nikon, and the lenses would be in 600mm usually. Despite the differences in brand, model or lenses, all Bazookas are united in one thing – they want to see big cats, and only big cats. They would be doing regular trips on forest safaris, but they always want big cats, and in different variations – a big cat sitting, or a big cat marking, a big cat posing with forelimbs on a mound, big cat in water, big cat drinking water, big cat resting on the ground looking at the camera with mouth open.

Continue reading “The Bazookas of Kabini”

Finding peace

How does one break away from it all? Can one really break away from it all? Or is there no option but to stay on the hamster wheel and keep moving till eternity?

Am not going to do another whine here on how mundane life has become. The mundane has its own attractions. A sense of routine brings its own (false) security. There’s nothing wrong as such with it, that people need to go screaming, live like it’s the last day of your life! Or Do something different today! Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara! Go backpacking in Europe!

It’s been a while since I stopped caring about such guff. Have come to realise that all it means is that you have too many friends of FB, so your average feed is full of vacations, and you have bucketloads of money to take off wherever you want to and you don’t really know what to do with it.

So yes, how does one break away from it all? Is it possible? In a way am thinking of an escape, a temporary refuge/world/dimension that you can escape to and come back. And no, I don’t necessarily mean physical ones. You could physically escape to some ‘resort’, but that’d hardly help if you are taking everything with you mentally.

Is it possible to carve a niche and settle a world in your everyday life and escape to it? That’s where physical activity/meditation come in. All those escape hatches like running, cycling, meditation, these are what help you stay sane. But, do they?

I remember writing about this once, about the need for escape hatches and being able to come back to tackle what life is throwing at you. And I was left a comment saying that I should probably look at the opposite approach which is embracing whatever is being thrown at you. At that time, I disagreed. I believed in escapes. How do you manage to stay sane, and come out in one piece when you are going through a lot? Will what goes in, come out exactly as is? Won’t the experience change you, for good or bad? What if it does? Why shouldn’t it?

I really don’t know what I believe in, anymore. While escapes are nice, do they always leave you refreshed to get back? Or do you get stuck in a mode where you are only looking forward to the next escape? Where your mind is on the escape, and not on what you’re dealing with.

How does the other approach of embracing the whole thing and dealing with it fare? Hard to say. Would it depend on the duration and the intensity? Something to deal with for a few weeks, might be better to deal with and then get out. Something that you have to deal with for years, like an illness in the family, might be worth having both approaches? Either way, embracing is necessary. But how does one stay sane? What if the problem is emotionally draining and taking a lot out of you?

This is where defences like stoicism or detachment come into the picture. To be able to immerse yourself in the activity, but not let it get to you. To be able to observe your emotions and not go with them. To be able to elevate yourself one level above your emotions.

And how easy is it? It isn’t. After months of meditation, some my own attempts, and some guided, am now scratching the surface. At some moments, am able to notice my rage, the sudden spikes in stress, during activities like driving. But the excess rage I used to work myself up to aren’t there as much. At home, it isn’t that easy. I still get thoughts when the mind is empty, and they do play a lot on me. It’s going to be a long path ahead, and it won’t be easy. But the start is there, and some results are being seen.

But the key thing is that it also works as an escape hatch. After a stressful day being able to just go in to this other world, and then come out is refreshing. It feels peaceful, the opposite of the rearing to go at everything feeling. And that’s what you want after a point, to be able to sit back and not feel like the world is crashing around you, that you can’t go on like this forever.

The future might not be promising, the past might not have worked out as you wanted, but the present is OK, there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you are able to breathe in and breathe out. It feels good to just feel yourself alive. What more can you ask for?

Day Ride – Lepakshi

After much “being on the radar”, the Lepakshi ride was finally agreed on. Anand had already been there some months back and knew the way. There really isn’t much knowing the way required, though. You head straight North on the Airport Road from Bangalore, avoid getting into the Airport, and keep going North. Cross the border into Andhra, and take left where a board with an arrow left says “Lepakshi”. Go on for 16 km on that road, and you see the Nandi on the right. Go on a bit further, turn left where everyone else does, and you have the Veerabhadraswamy Temple.

Well, this is pretty much what we did. We left from my place at 7:45 AM, me on my Bullet Electra, and A on his Classic 500. I expected an arrival at Lepakshi at 10:30 AM with a half hour for breakfast. The Goraguntepalya railway overbridge is now ready, so timings should be predictable. The breakfast stop was at the fancily named “The Indian Paratha Company”, which was reached at around 8:45 AM. The place was crowded, and seating was in the morning sun. The Paratha came on time, but we spent 20 minutes waiting for tea. What was expected to be a 30 minute stop, took 1 hour. Really good food, but service needs to go a long way!

The ride along NH7 is plain boring. There is no other term for it. You get your speedometer to 80-90 Kmph, and stay there on the four lane road and keep watching the odometer ticking. There are neither trees nor curves to keep you interested. We reached the turn-off from NH7 by 10:40 and the Nandi before 11 AM.

The Nandi is carved out of a monolith and thankfully we got a few shots before the crowds streamed in. I figured it might be smaller than the one at Bull Temple road or the one at Chamundi hill. Turned out, I was wrong on all counts. This is the second largest Nandi in India, after one in Aimury, Kerala.(Not completely verified accounts I believe. Some claim it’s the largest.)

Monolithic Nandi - Second largest in India!

Nandi from the back

Apart from size, the carvings showed a garland of bells, and what looked like two ghosts on the body.

Bhoothas...

Continue reading “Day Ride – Lepakshi”

The Fastest Masala Puri Ever

The 4:36 PM Metro drops me off at Attiguppe at exactly 5:06 PM. I make the long walk of close to half a kilometre to the Income Tax Layout Bus stop. Buses pass under the station, but BMTC is strict about not stopping for metro users. Lots of people waiting at the IT layout stop. It’s always for buses that go as far as Nagarabhavi Circle. There’s one every 15 minutes approx. It can be better, but BMTC prefers the Moodalapalya route, where the roads are narrow and buses move like bogies of a train.

A Pani puri vendor has his cart near the bus stop. It’s a bigger cart than the usual, and he attracts a fair trickle of customers, even as early as 5 PM. Most ask for ‘parcel’ and take it away, to be eaten in the comfort of home, instead of by the street. I watch him, keeping one eye on the turning from West of Chord Road for any incoming buses. One question on my mind, every time:

Given foresight of an arriving bus, what’s the minimum time needed to order, prepare, pay for and eat a Masala puri without missing said bus? Continue reading “The Fastest Masala Puri Ever”

Books list from 2016

Anush’s list is up. Most of the cud-chewing was done in a previous post. Won’t do anything more here. Not much of a to-read list. I have only one book apart from the one am currently reading. A trip to Blossom’s is due.

I read more non-fiction than in previous years(15), and more on the Kindle(9). It’s much easier carrying the Kindle around, and it saves a fair bit for books that I don’t really intend to own as physical copies. Some, like “H is for Hawk”, I’ve got the print version after reading on Kindle.

Anyway, here’s the list: Continue reading “Books list from 2016”

Chamarajpet at 125

Apparently, it would be 125 years since Chamarajpet was carved out from the “outskirts” of the petes, in 1892. I find it odd because the St. Joseph’s Church, right at the border of Chamarajpet has been standing for more than 150 years. But then that would’ve served the Cottonpet, Akkipet and Chikpet areas. Chamarajpet would’ve come up later – a perfect rectangle of 5 main roads and 9 cross roads, with a conservancy lane stretching between each main road for all the 9 roads. Each plot of land extending from the main road to the conservancy lane. Long and winded plots, with one house for the landlord and surrounded by tenants living in one bedroom houses.

But how do you make sense of History for an area? Can you look back that long and see all that has remained? Or do you make sense of the change that has happened and measure all that has been lost? It would be like a big old house – some additions made, some old parts destroyed, but mostly an overwriting of memories. Would those who live there know about those who lived earlier, 50 years back? Would it even be the same family? Continue reading “Chamarajpet at 125”

Speaking of books

As always, waiting for Anush to put up his list before I work through mine. But like last year, some cud chewing on the books I read.

I managed 45 last year. As against 47 in 2015. In terms of number of pages read, I was some 2000 pages short of 2015. That’s almost 6 decent length books short! How did that happen? I can only point fingers at the months of June and July. It was a pretty torrid time at home, and reading wasn’t on top of my list those months. It is a considerable achievement that I actually managed 45 when I look back.

And I also felt a lot more friction from some books. I went into Philip Ball’s Life’s Matrix: A biography of water, expecting a typical well-written non-fiction book. It was only non-fiction with a lot of chemistry thrown in. I worked my way through it for the most part. James Gleick’s “Chaos: Making a New Science” was somewhat similar, but he somehow salvages it. I just could not get in too deep into it.

But in terms of Non-Fiction, the number kept increasing and I managed a decent 15 of them, exactly a third of all the books read! Of course, they weren’t all “science”, but included a biography, memoirs, people’s real life stories about mental health issues, and some travel writing too. But still, it wasn’t someone weaving stories.

I really wish I had discovered more new authors though. It was the same beat as the previous years more or less. I wasn’t too impressed. Yes, I discovered Jorge Borges, but reading him isn’t easy. It takes a hell of a lot of concentration! There were the usuals – Murakami, Barnes, McCall-Smith, and a Terry Pratchett. I read Paul Kalanithi, the book. The tragedy of it being the only one he would ever write.

I missed Kawabata, and did not find any other works of Mishima. But I did discover Anjum Hasan. Sadly, only Cosmopolitans is left and it hasn’t reviewed as well. I finished the trilogies I started in 2014. The Alexander trilogy of Mary Renault, and the Gormenghast trilogy of Mervyn Peake were done and dusted.

When I look back, it wasn’t as great a year for reading, as 2015 was. I loved 2015 in terms of the books I read. So many of them have stayed with me – Kawabata, Ondaatje, Gordimer, Dalrymple, Gawande, Mishima, Munro, and oh, Salinger! Each one something to immerse myself in. It was a great year for reading!

I guess am being a bit uncharitable on myself. This was the year I went exploring. Whitaker’s work on psychiatric medicines was very enlightening. Burkeman’s book on “happiness” was extremely timely. Borges was hard work, but necessary. So many other works talk of his works, or refer to that. Siddhartha Mukherjee and Josy Joseph were among the best reads this year. Glad Mukherjee was writing again! Amitav Ghosh’s Derangement was an excellent and necessary take on the biggest crisis we are facing.

Yes, it wasn’t as enjoyable as 2015, but it was a good set nonetheless. Would I be gifting any books from this lot? Not too likely. They aren’t things people would really enjoy.

I do want to find more books that I’ll enjoy and remember. I want something like “H is for Hawk”, like “Em and the big hoom”, like “Levels of the game”, like “The Devourers”. Books that leave you with a tinge of regret, that you’re now done with them, and won’t read them for the first time ever again.

I want that feeling for 2017.

Langurs and Birds (Bandipur Stories – 3)

As we drove along on the mud-paths inside the forest, we noticed Langurs on the sides. There are very few stops for them. Only those who are new to the forests get excited about them. The only time we stop is when they sit on the road and stage a rasta roko. The cameras then come out and a few snaps are shot. They make for good photos when they are like that. Other times they tend to jump up trees and you only see silhouettes.

This time, I noticed something strange. There were no Langur kids. There were only adults and sub-adults clinging to trees. Any langur group usually has a kid or two clinging to its mother. We passed group after group, with no sign of a recent birth. Was it the drought? Or was it timing? Did Langurs not have children during the Winter? The driver had no clue, but he felt it was less to do with the drought than the Winter.

The first morning though, as we drove through empty forest roads, on what was the most eventless safari of the four, we finally came across a group which had a young one. The sun had just come out and it was warming the air and dispensing the fog. The child was sitting by itself, saw the jeep standing below and ran up to its mother’s outstretched arms.
Langurs - mother and child

Continue reading “Langurs and Birds (Bandipur Stories – 3)”