A road for your thota?

Last Saturday as I returned from my round of tennis, I saw 2 JCBs standing at the end of the road, ominously. Post-lunch (theirs) they started. They began ripping out the road which hadn’t been repaired in 8 years and had gone to a state of no-return. We stood guard to ensure that they never got to our water pipes that were passing 6 inches under the road cutting across it. Thankfully, their work was only at a one-inch level.

They got past the neighbour’s, two houses down, and spared the (illegal) fenced garden outside the house. We were slightly relieved. A few minutes later, the contractor came over and barked orders to pull down everything from storm water drain to storm water drain.

I rushed into our thota (garden), moved all the pots to the top of the covered storm water drain. The bird feeder was brought in. No birds had yet discovered it. The curry leaf tree(Murraya koenigii) was slowly dismembered of its leaves. I started breaking it down, taking more and more branches with their leaves inside. A visitor was given one branch. The workers stopped me as I passed them. “Inga konjam kudein?” (give me some, no?) they asked. I passed along largish twigs, enough to last a week for an average household. Some were distributed to the neighbours. The neighbour’s thota was reached. It was ripped out mercilessly by the JCB.

They came to ours soon and slowly brought it down. The flower bushes were pulled out – the pink hibiscus plant, the kakada bush, some turmeric. And finally the curry leaf tree. The tree was pulled out and flung aside easily, and the workers stopped work for a while. It was brought back, leftover leaves plucked out and distributed amongst themselves before being thrown away. The JCB driver called out for his share to take home.

They got to the red hibiscus bush after clearing the fencing. One worker asked the driver to spare it. “Has grown so well, and is close to the edge, why remove it, let us leave it”. They then got to the two trees standing inside – the Mango tree and the Parijatha tree(Nyctanthes arbor-tristis). “I’ll remove the Parijatha tree, and spare the Mango” the driver offered. The trees were a few inches apart, almost growing attached to each other. They were at least two feet from the drain, so I knew I had some convincing to do. The thing in my favour was that these trees were in the same line as the Sampige tree(Magnolia champaca) in the corner and 2 feet from there too. I told them that since they would be sparing that tree in any case, bringing down these two trees makes no sense. “It’s not like a vehicle can pass here!”

The driver’s argument was that his instructions were to pull down every tree that wasn’t BBMP’s! I pointed out that a tree is a tree, whether it is BBMP’s or not, and now that it was in the road, it hardly belonged to us in any case. Of course, it’s a different matter that the same BBMP doesn’t turn up to fight for its trees when they are pulled down when houses are being constructed!

After much convincing, and coaxing, he agreed to let it be. “If someone asks, don’t put the blame on us!” and he conceded the tree. The thechi(Ixora coccinea) in the corner was also pulled out and that was it. Then they began digging out the soil, to bring it to the same level as the road. “Bag irukuda?” (have a bag?) asked the workers. What for? “Mannu” (soil).

***

The thota itself was a “gift” from our contractor. He brought in 2 truckloads of red soil, created a barbed wire fence and left it to us. The parents planted the trees and the plants that they needed for their daily use. It was predominantly floral because of that. The mango tree came up by accident. After eating a mango, Appa tossed the seed in there, just to see if something comes up. Something did.

For me, more than the loss of the plants itself, it is what those plants meant. The hibiscus bush once hosted a nest of Red-whiskered bulbuls. Spring is heralded by purple-rumped and purple sunbirds chirping all over the garden. Tailorbirds bathed on the leaves in summer in the excess water from the overhead tank after it overflows. Great tits, Warblers tweeted and clicked around. The odd Signature spider turned up in August. Monsoons brought out snails, toads and slugs. Caterpillars spun their cocoons on the bushes and emerged as butterflies.

It wasn’t just a thota, it was an ecosystem in itself. Yes, it was illegal. We had taken over what was earmarked as footpath space. The road had three layers – the storm water drain, space for the footpath, and then the road itself. The current demolition of gardens is scary in a lot of ways. The storm water drain, which lies around 9 inches above ground is expected to serve the purpose of footpath. Never mind that it is barely a foot in width, and is 9 inches above ground. What used to be the footpath is now taken over by the road, so that people can park their cars outside. The glut of cars all over has meant that passing cars barely squeeze through the gap between parked cars. But this was on the perpendicular roads, where there were no gardens in the first place.

Yes, I try to justify the thota. It was illegal, on public property. I wish we had larger space to be able to make a thota inside the property, but that’s not possible. Pots don’t create the same wilderness as a rooted ground. But it was a green space, in a locality where trees are being cut down by almost every other new house, and if not, pruned by BESCOM as they continue to refuse to move electric wires underground. Trees now grow slanted, away from the wires, and in some cases, like a ‘Y’, letting the wires pass in the gap. Who said trees are not intelligent?!

I already miss the toads that used to hop all over the roads when it rained. The day after a rainy night you could see carcasses of toads littering the street, flattened by passing cars. There were also sparrows and babblers that my parents used to leave rice for. You miss a day, and they’d remind you, sitting on the grill, calling out. There were fireflies flitting around, occasional pulses of light in the darkness.

There are no sparrows left near my house. I see them in an older area as I walk to the bus stop. What used to be once a village, with houses that also have cattle sheds, where people sit outside washing vessels or combing each others’ hair. Sparrows chirp around while calves walk the streets.

I had left a bird feeder on the mango tree, it was untouched. The birds that visit come for the flowers and the bugs. I had hung out a bird house behind the hibiscus bush, but none came. At one point a neighbour remarked to my father – “Haven’t seen you in a long time, don’t see your house these days also.” It was covered behind bushes and trees.

***

Moving on, I hope to put up a terrace garden. But that wouldn’t have the kind of wilderness a thota has. The birds that visit won’t be the same. Once the road is done, I need to think up some way to grow some plants again, just for the birds, the bugs, the snails, slugs and the spiders. A place that they can visit. “Laws” be damned.

The snake in the hole

Around 4 PM on Tuesday as I was working from home, someone rang the bell. Father answered it, only to find no one. Turned out some of the workers’ kids nearby had done that. They were now busy looking at the other side of the road. Turned out they had seen a snake cross from our side of the road and go into a hole in the empty site opposite our house.

On looking closely, the snake had coiled itself inside that hole. I pulled out my camera and shot a pic to see what it was. I thought it would be a rat snake, but the neighbour who had seen it was insistent that it was a cobra. He turned out to be right.

IMG_2702

Even if I could concede that he knew what he saw, I was a bit worried about letting on to the standing labourers that it was a cobra. Most labourers’ first reaction to snakes is to beat them to death, and I really wanted to see the cobra go its way. The labourers and other assorted people standing nearby eventually lost interest and went their ways. The snake stayed put. A few kids came down to watch, one decided to pick up a stone to throw. A few stern words and they were off, no stones being thrown.

Continue reading “The snake in the hole”

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 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”

Day ride: Bhoga Nandeeshwara

Being a long weekend and all, a ride was always on the cards. I had had my eyes on Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple for a while now, thanks to ZenRainman‘s pics on Twitter. I pinged S who had only recently got his RE and was keen on doing a ride. A was a doubtful starter, and pulled out in the morning. I started out from home at 8:30 AM, and S left from his place at the same time. The plan was to meet up near Hebbal opposite the notorious Esteem Mall. I reached there at 9 as there was hardly any traffic on the way. S reached there in a few minutes too! Talk about timing!

We hit the Hyderabad highway and after passing the turnoff for the airport, we reached a Sri Krishna Garden at 9:30 AM. The breakfast was just about decent, and we back on  the road by 10 AM. The route was to avoid the Nandi hills turnout, take left on a service road somewhere further up, and then take left onto the road leading to Nandi town. As expected with such turns when on bikes, we missed it and came upon the Chikkaballapur turnoff. We doubled back and got on to the road. Very soon we came across our first sign that we were on the right track. (:P)

Glorious Promised Land

Not sure what this place is. The board said it’s a religious place. But a Google search did not reveal anything interesting about it. Either way, we rode along and reached the temple pretty soon.

The very first structure is the main temple complex itself. The rest of the structures are on its left (on your right as you enter). We were greeted by a pillared hall with pillars that looked like they had been plucked out from Hampi. The temple itself is very old, built around 800 AD. Various dynasties and Kings have added their own structures, and you can see a temple evolving across different architectures from different periods.

Pillars

If this reminds you of Hampi, not too surprising. Those pillars inside with 3 sculptures are also similar.

Pillars

Continue reading “Day ride: Bhoga Nandeeshwara”

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.

 

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”

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. 🙂

 

The 14 year reflection post

August 5th 2002. The date we started earning money. We, as in, I and 7 others who joined you-know-which Chinese company. Fresh out of college, all deferential, and trying hard to be enthusiastic. There are some who are enthusiastic, and then there are those that just aren’t. Almost to the count, not a single one of us could summon up any reasonable ounce of enthusiasm. Am not talking about the basic stuff needed to get work done, we had enough of that, and some more. Am referring to that enthusiasm that makes people bubble and jump even when they are, on closer notice standing absolutely still. Almost all of us were mostly of even temperament with a fair degree of cynicism which we tried to hide, but realised soon enough that it’s par for the course.

Well, 14 years since I passed out of college. If I were Rama, I’d be returning home after defeating Ravana, memories of those days when I was booted out fading in the distance. Of course, given the nature of the adventures in the forests, am sure it would take some effort summoning up those days of adolescent joie de vivre.

Continue reading “The 14 year reflection post”