Feb 26, 2010

Birds of prey!

This post has been altered on 2nd March after a valuable feedback from another blogger.

At first we, Dr. Ajay Pradhan & I believed that this bird I'd spotted is the  The Red-necked Falcon or Red-headed Merlin (Falco chicquera). However, a kind reader and fellow-blogger Thomas, whose a veteran nature enthusiast, pointed out that we were mistaken.

This bird here is in fact the Shikra  (adult male) and not the Turumti!

As of now I'm extremely thrilled to have spotted a bird of prey. And I have actually also been able to click a fantastic picture within its brief moment of perch.

WOW!! Isn't this a price catch of sorts?
" Just look at the details..the red eye..super Vibhuti!" were the words of praise from Ajay!

The Shikra or The Little Banded Goshawk (Accipiter badius) is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors like the eagle, buzzard and the harrier. This bird is a small raptor (26–30cm long), a widespread resident breeder in India and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Shikra's hunting technique is similar to that of other small hawks. It mainly preys on lizards, dragonflys, small birds and mammals.The call is a bi-syllabled whistle titu.
The Shikra used to be a favourite raptor amongst the falconers in India, due to the ease with it could be trained and was frequently used to procure food for the more prized falcons. On the fist it was carried unhooded, and released with the belly resting on the palm and wings held around the base.
I just can't get over the blood red eyes that stared at me. 
Hoping to see you again friend!!

Feb 21, 2010

Ambush - 55 Fiction #4

They’d been crawling under the scorching sun.
Elbows were grazing on the gravelly earth but they didn’t care.
They’d been waiting for this chance for weeks now.
This time they were prepared.
Just when they were taking aim at Marty
mother called, “Tommy, Joey, where are you?
Lunch is ready!”

Feb 19, 2010

The Hungry Tide - Amitav Ghosh

A Hutch Crossword Book Award winner of 2004, 'The Hungry Tide'  tells the tale of the settlers of Sundarbans. The book is neatly divided into 2 distinct parts- The Ebb: Bhata (Part I) & The Flood: Jowar (Part II). The parts are like the first and second half of a good movie, that would leave a feeling of lacking and incompleteness without each other.

The book rotates around two protagonists- Piyali Roy, the Marine Biologist from America of Bengali origins who has arrived in the Sundarbans to further her study on a specific species of cetaceans and Kanai (to be pronounced to rhyme with Hawaii) Dutt who is a Delhi based Businessman. He is also drawn in the same direction as Piya but only for personal reasons. In the first half of the book the two meet and part and meet once again while their stories are being related on parallel premises.

Between the sea and the plains of Bengal, on the easternmost coast of India, lies an immense archipelago of islands. One of these islands is Lusibari meaning Lusi's home, where Kanaii's aging aunt Nilima has lived for ages and has done great contributions to the betterment of the settler's life there. At her behest he travels to the village to collect a packet that his late uncle Nirmal has left for him. While Piya has travelled great distances in the hope of acquiring and collecting valuable information on a species of rare fresh water dolphins called the Orcaella Brevirostris, known to forage in the backwaters.
The author has done such an immense amount of research on the life in the Sundarbans and also on the methods of observation of cetacean life  that not one moment will the reader feel that the story is anything but the truth. Walking a thin line between fiction and reality, Amitav Ghosh is a truly gifted writer who knows how to keep the readers spinning the pages despite the simplicity of the storyline. There is no drama, no thriller turns in the story but it is definitely an intricate detailed sketch of the multifaceted life in the islands. The labyrinthine quality to the storytelling is what I enjoyed and the beauty of the plot was that it had a mythological leaning to it.

Amitav Ghosh has designed a lovable mythological goddess of the jungles called Bon Bibi and her valiant brother Shah Jongoli who fight Dokhin Rai, the demon of the jungles who attacks the unassuming settlers in the form of a Tiger. The pooja offered to the goddess is yet another interesting aspect since its been written in an interesting mix of Arabic and Bangla that sounds almost authentic! The way the story of the land flows and twists in the second half is extremely believable and at no point was I bored even though the narration maintained a steady pace. Another interesting character that played a pivotal role was Fokir, the local crab-catcher.

With a hint of a love story at the end in the otherwise serious structure of the tale, Amitav Ghosh has also attempted to spice up the life of the villagers. What impressed me was the way he has woven a conscientious subject as the conservation of Tigers, another endangered species of mammals- The Irrawaddy Dolphins and the Crocodiles of the Sundarbans.

'The Hungry Tide' is not your typical fiction novel but one that has deviated from stereotypical mainstream to emerge as one-of-a-kind read!
I would say if you are looking for a different reader's experience and love to learn more about the diverse Indian cultures, traditions and lands then this book is a MUST READ!

Feb 16, 2010

55 fiction #3

As I stared deep into her eyes she said something.
Her lips curled to mouth three words animatedly.
And I nodded a 'YES' vehemently.
Yes, I've been deaf all my life!

Feb 14, 2010

R.I.P.German Bakery

Yet another black day in Indian history!
Today, would have painted the town red with love but that was not on destiny's mind. The red that we are seeing is of bloodshed. 26/11 grazed Leopold's at dear old Mumbai and last eve' terror ripped one of our beloved Pune city's favourite landmark, The German Bakery.
A gory, ghastly sight had replaced the usually hustling- bustling merriment.
We can now only reminisce those beautiful cups of sweet tea sipped at those creaky tables. The bushy- brow, toothy smile helper bringing out the fair from its mouth-watering display like a magician opens his bag of tricks!
I would greedily bite into the cheese-filled croissants and devour the pastries. It was a Saturday ritual to lug home a big bag of goodies from the bakery. Apple Crumble pie, Plum cake, Cheese cakes, Tarts and what- nots! Sometimes in boxes and sometimes in bags. I can still feel the cinnamon aroma of hot bread waft into my nostrils raking up a rumbling hunger in my tummy.It was a pleasure to hold the crisp brown bags in my lap on the drive home and then rip open the neatly sellotaped paper-bags to lay out the breakfast table with an array of multi-grain breads, puffs & rolls.
The show was forced to stop last eve'. For forever! Never again will we see the same wholesome fare from German Bakery on our table. They've blown our smooth sailing life to bits!
And what can we do about it? Nothing? Yes, NOTHING. The sad, blatant truth is NOTHING will be done about it....
Death has struck terror in our hearts yet again but we can do NOTHING about it. We will just sit again before our TV sets discussing, speculating, worrying and waiting for more news to come!

Feb 12, 2010

Yo Dude! Wazzup?

In the 70's the word mouthed by many at college was 'bugger' and my Pa uses it sometimes till date. In the 90's and at the beginning of this Millennium I noticed that my college-mates used a lot of  'Man' while addressing another. In this decade the 'Dude' seems to rule the roost! Used liberally at the beginning and at the end of each sentence, its very much in vogue.
When a teenage friend of mine called me that, I rebelled, and aghast she goes, " Dude you're so Old World! Chic your language up dude!" I could almost feel a tuft of silver, sprout from mid-ramp at my head and lunge towards my temple. I have got to chic my language and then my wardrobe and ofcourse my hair,  like she has!
  " ...But that's not you! Do you have to act like your classmates do? " I pleaded.
And she rolled her eyes at me and said " Duh?!" 
She wouldn't be caught dead looking like a bhenji!
The irony is that they have to drape a sari and wear a Salwar Kameez to class which she said they shed as soon as possible after class. Before she joined this BIG business school she was quite normal, OK as per my belief but now shes evolved into a cool, no kewl avatar!
"..but doesn't all this spell artificiality?" I continued to argue.
She only kept glaring back at me as if she was about to give up on me!
Another BFF of mine is only at school and she's already this chic thing. Her flicks are streaked a bright red. I'm supposed to call them Bangs!
My school days, we weren't allowed bindis or mehndi or any other such embellishments. Today, its all totally cool with the 'Princi' dude. I'm just hoping the Convent schools are still strict in these matters but then again my expectations are so Old World.

I'm inspired to coin a 2 liner in this situation," dude, dude, dude, dude...
Dude hai wonderful, dekh sakhte hain roz classful dude, dude, dude, dude, dude!" 
I know these are not original lines. I've tweaked the lines from a popular ad' but that's what this age is all about. Isn't it? Original is out, Artificiality is IN!
In an attempt to go with this flow, I've switched over from my straight fit Jeans to the skinny fit! 
First it was the British Raj and now its Amreekanisation.
I can't afford to stay like an 'Abhoriginal', can I?
I cannot deny that there's a positive side to this too. The English taught us to shift from the sari and don the pants. Maybe America will take us from pants to Hot Pants!
Interesting eh?

PS: If this piece has offended anybody's sentiments, its definitely not intentional. I've just taken the liberty of the freedom of expression, dude!

Feb 10, 2010

The Jungle Babbler

Again as identified by Dr. Ajay Pradhan this bird my lens captured is The Jungle Babbler, Turdoides striata, a gregarious bird found mostly in South-Asia .
An interesting feature about this bird is that it usually forages in a group of 6-7 birds and hence has acquired its Hindi nickname 'SaatBhai' or 7 brothers....
The Jungle babbler  is a non-migratory bird and has a harsh nasal call...Read more about the bird at Wikipedia.
My observation is that its grey-brown body helps it camouflage in the urban surroundings and the trees but its noisy habit of  mewing calls, continual chattering, squeaking and chirping keeps it from being inconspicuous...

Feb 8, 2010

55 fiction #2

After  Swamiji’s teaching “ Learn to let go of that which you fear to lose!” Sumitra had freed her pet parrot. As the Doctor walked towards her with a grim face, she went cold all over.  Sitting outside the ICU where her mother was admitted Sumitra now fully understood the purport of Swamiji’s words!

Feb 2, 2010

Celebrating Motherhood

For Sarah it felt like only yesterday that once again a Martian was born to another Venus!
Boys are a whole lot different from girls. That’s what was taught to her as a child and that she understood better only after she’d got married.
So when the doc’ announced, “It’s a boy!” Sarah’s immediate reaction was of dumbfounded ambiguity.
“How am I going to play my role well? Will I be able to understand him better than I understand his Pa?”
However, no sooner was the little 3.3 Kgs, fair, bundle of joy in her arms that all her doubts and apprehensions about her maternal instincts went out the window.
Her son nuzzled in the crook of her neck and snoozed in the cradle of her arms. That beautiful, perfectly chiseled face in deep peaceful slumber seemed to award her ‘The best place on Earth!’ title and Sarah gladly accepted it with a ‘Thank You!’ speech that mentioned GOD. “My son, my trophy!” she gloated.

This was at 3 Am. - the wee hours of the last day of the 1st month, last year.
Sarah had gone into labor at 6Pm.a year ago.
At this very moment, a year ago she was standing on the scales showing a good 4kgs increase in weight from last week as her Ob-Gyn’s assistant peered over her shoulder and took notes on a yellow sheet. The Ob-Gyn’, also a mother to a 2 year old was an amiable lady generally very easy to talk to. She now stared at Sarah’s extremely large belly from her table. Unlike most other docs her table was uncluttered and she was always in control of her dual life as a doc’ and a mother. She had to be on her feet constantly because her residence was right above the maternity ward in the same building. 
The doc’s shrill yet stern voice snapped Sarah out of her reverie. “You should have been more on the alert about your health” she admonished her “…After all, this is the final week of your pregnancy and you have to be ready for what’s coming!”
The Doc’s specs were perched on her petite nose and she was acting unusually edgy, almost unnerved. 

Sarah’s hubby, Jacob sat across her table with a half worried, half scowling face. He was the one most troubled over the past couple of days with his beloved, a to-be-mother, throwing tantrums and acting stubborn like a child herself. Sarah had been acting really difficult and had refused to leave the comfort of her snug bed to arrive at the Doc’s clinic for the routine checkup. He had had a tough time in coaxing her out that chilly December evening. Had he not, Sarah would have been in deep trouble!

She tiredly dropped into the chair besides her hubby, with swollen feet and sunken eyes, out of lack of sleep over the past couple of nights, dazed and jittery. “It would help if someone gave a smile right now!” she thought and did it herself, at that moment a little too oblivious of what was to happen within the next 8 hours.

Doc’ just responded to that smile by lifting her off the revolving chair, gently by the elbow and guiding her towards the Ultra-Sonography room. With great difficulty and with the help of the stubby assistant & a foot stool, she hoisted herself up on the bed and lay there with bated breath.  She could hear Jacob hurriedly scuffle after them. Once the Doppler tests were over and the fears of a breach baby were out of the way, tension waned from everyone’s faces.
Moments later, she was being led to the labor room and now it was Sarah’s turn at draining color to look like a whitewashed board when Doc’ declared suddenly out of the blue, “As I’d guessed, you’re already into labor dear!”

Then the real drama ensued. Jacob, obviously unprepared for the sudden turn of events, looked far more flustered than Sarah. Though he was the one, more eager to have the baby as soon as possible, he wasn’t ready for it right away! Flitting in and out of the labor room, he reminded Sarah of a butterfly. Restless! But something you couldn’t help falling in love with.
The labor room was impeccably clean, well-equipped and well-ventilated, thankfully! Sarah could look out of the window and see the streetlights switch on. The nurse at her aid was also in a cheery mood. She took all these as positive signs to fight the fear that was slowly rising in the throat.  The doting hubby darted in with a bottle of ORS water, bringing Sarah much needed relief.

The antenatal stress testing machine, by now, had its straps wrapped around Sarah’s swollen tummy like a seat belt and she set off on the journey of her lifetime. The rhythmic beep of the machine was telling her that all was well. Sarah now surfed through one painful contraction after another. The clock on the wall behind was ticking, its face showing 7.30Pm. The beat seemed to grow louder as the intervals between the contractions lessened. Hours flew by as she swiftly grew delirious out of pain. The nurses told her later that she’d not screamed as much as other birthing mothers had.

Sarah’s exceptionally good hearing brought to her ears, from between all the excruciating pain, bits and pieces of a dialogue between Jacob and the Doc’ standing right outside the door of the labor room. It was unmistakably her Ob-Gyn’s trademark shrill voice enquiring, “Could you give me the details of her Insurance or Medical cover?” and being a man of tremendous order, Jacob answered affirmative, going ahead and providing with the details.
“ He must have had the data saved in his Blackberry!” thought Sarah weakly. All the pain couldn’t keep her from brimming with pride for her superbly organized hubby. “ Aah ! I’m truly blessed to have the security of such a wonderful hubby around!” She continued her soliloquy.
The doors swung in and as Jacob walked in she couldn’t hold it anymore.  She burst into tears, enquiringly hysterical, “Am I going to die?”
The expression on his face was worth watching!
Though he’d reassured Sarah that nothing like that was happening, her imagination was running wild and the clock on the wall went on to strike 12.
Like a cuckoo from the clock, the Doc’ popped in and gave a throaty “ hrmmph!”
Sarah tried to decipher the encrypted language while continuing to concentrate on the huffing and puffing.
“Its time!” the Doc’ had plainly put it, preparing her crew of motley nurses who busied themselves around Sarah.
She had to now give the final heave and push. She did just that with all her might until she heard her baby’s wailing. It was sheer music to Sarah’s ears!

And it must have meant a lot to the Doc’ too ‘cause Sarah’s Ob-Gyn was all smiles, end to end, finally!
The Doc’ had seemed very proud of her and the nurses in awe of her grit and strength in bearing the pain.
The proud father, Jacob burst in and scooped his little son into his arms. After the initial euphoria and declaration, “My son looks totally like me!” he realized that a new mother was waiting. The beaming Pa proudly presented Sarah with their son and planted a kiss on her tired, sweaty forehead.
As Sarah held her suckling baby close to herself, all previous fears, ideas and notions about a boy-child were replaced with unprecedented love for the baby.
Sarah wondered why people said it’s a rough journey to get to this beautiful place called motherhood.  “And even if it was, it was truly worth every bit of pain!” She concluded.
Sarah was head over heels in love again and her heart was pumping with a plethora of feelings she’d never known before!

A year later from then, today Sarah undoubtedly believes motherhood suits her. “Fits me like a glove!” It has truly given more meaning to her womanhood. “My son has shattered all my previous notions. He’s proved that mother’s love sees no gender bias, knows not the Mars-Venus argument, loves any sun-sign or star-sign her child maybe!”