Sunday, December 7, 2008

Do you have both fun and earn! while you Run? We did it at IISc

"Are you in 55+ or other category?" asked one of the volunteer at the registration disk, engrossed in a document with the ticked list of registered participants, not looking at us. That was a surprise question to both of us. Me and my cousin looked at each other, though we are aged, but certainly not to the number that volunteer mentioned, smiled at ourselves and paused for a while as we could not digest it or probably in search of a fitting reply on a chilling Sunday morning. Probably annoyed and irritated by our no response or by the mounting pressure from the antline behind us, the volunteer got up from the seat and was about to say something to us, just in time saw our faces and uttered in complete disbelief "oh..oh...sorry! sorry! Sir, I did not mean in that sense, but if you tell your category that would be fine for us give you the specified ribbon, along with a t-shirt".

We smiled at the volunteer, got blue ribbon for both of us (orange for under 15, red for 35-55, green for 55+), a t-shirt and a green seal pressed on to our wrist as a token of registering ourselves. The organizers have requested us to assemble at 7:30am, since we knew that this is going to be a gala event, made ourselves at the spot by 7:17am. Even at that time, the antline to which we joined was well over 100 in each and was meandering like a river. Later, the number turned out to be well over 1500. With such an overwhelming response, and still hundreds in the line, naturally the event was delayed by an hour. As there were drums of tea and coffee to offer, for researchers like us, its more than enough to spend next 'few days' in that place. This was quite evident, even when the organizers told the registrants to assemble back at 9:00am, no one moved from the place or willing to do so. Such an electrifying, rich and charged atmosphere we had. We both put our t-shirts on, got camera from lab and within few minutes, a mini 'Club of CES' was ready with Alka, Boomi, Durgamadab, Hari, Rohini, Supriya and myself, additionally Aravind, Gowtam and Rajat too.

After having National anthem, few welcome notes and two minutes of silence for the recent trauma at Mumbai, run started at 9:00am sharp for our category with flagging off by G. Padmanabhan, our ex director. Subsequently with 5minutes gap for other three category. A total of 3.5km for us and for others, it was 1.5kms.

To me this run was merely for fun or at most to prove a point or two too for myself. After my school days, this probably my first official run. So, I was pretty much visualizing and bringing in that school composition into me, hence was highly excited. More so, with aging body, I was in self doubt whether I could run or not? This takes me into a recent movie, Cheeni kum, where in Tabu asks Amitab to run up till a tree, to show that he still is capable of. As field biologist, we have strenuous trekking, nature walks etc, but as an athlete the scenario is completely different, though the strain might remain the same. First two kilometer was real good to run with lots and lots of people seen in front of us, making us to push a bit more. It was more of a fast walk, since one cannot leap, in worst scenario we might stumble and lead to stampede. Fortunately, nothing happened like that. In all these length, our mini CES club was almost together. As the length progressed, I was left with Boominathan, and all others from our team either slowed down or took break. Few photographers at the corners, water bottles at our disposal, a videographer on a bike and importantly, claps and cheers from Mohan Reddy and co., have certainly added a few more calories for us to run.

It was last 1km, that took almost all physical energy and stamina from me, what was remaining was my will power. My body said, stop and walk, mind was supposed, but I blocked it. I said, come on, few more meters to go and that's it. Pushing literally, a foot by a foot, step by step, finally, I completed the run, without break in approximately 19 minutes 50seconds (which might look too odd for the professionals). Body asked for a complete rest and relax! Mind said "you did it". An Appy/Fruity at this instance was more than what one seeks at the end of a run and that's exactly what the organizers have provided. With every passing minute, one after the other entered the ground, completely burn out, yet bubbling with enthusiasm.

24 prizes were won. It was a strange delight when you see kids and elderly go to the podium and receive the prizes. That too when intellectual giants like Dr. Duttaguru, Dr. Balakrishnan, Dr. Balaram and Dr. Padmanabhan showing such enthusiasm in participating in the event as well as in prize distribution, I thought to myself, this is an event to remember for rest of my life. All these giants, at the fag end of the ceremony showed why they are called so, in announcing that "A gift coupon worth hundred rupees to all who ran". I was just touched.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Drushya, Hasya and Lasya

Mrs. Vani Ratnakar gave me an invitation, saying "Do not miss it! Its not typical, it has some thing different and a new trail too". I simply accepted her invitation and said I will make it. After having a very good cup of strong filter coffee, I bid farewell to her. I extended the invitation to my mother too, 'surprisingly' she too accepted it and we were at Kuvempu Ranga Mandir, precisely at 6:00pm on 8th October. The Event was " Yaksha-Drushya-Hasya-Lasya" - a special Yakshagana programme picking up comedy scenes, organized by 'Abhiruchi' - a cultural organization to mark its 5th annual day.

The programme began with an young boy, Sripada Hegde, doing "Harikathe" on Bhakta Sudhama. For a boy of 8years, the presence of mind, clarity in thinking, proper utterance of words and above all the confidence in communicating the delicate social issues to the public was just mind boggling. Here is an excerpt of his Harikathe. His Harikathe must have put many into trance.

After harikathe, next two hours was nothing but laughter, laughter and laughter. Sridhara Hegde Chapparamane, hails from Sirsi (Sneha balaga), settled in Shimoga and runs a pan shop for livelihood, was the key artiste. In search of lake hidden Duryodhana by Vyadha and Bhima, was the first part. Sridhara played Vyadha's role. My mother amidst of such humour, was constantly telling me to lower my volume of laughter. Second part was Bedarakanappa and Poojari, where Poojari was by Sridhara. It was an amazing performance by Sridhara, who is an actor par excellence!! It was also unique attempt in Yakshagana. I am far more happy for the very reason that I could able to make it along with my mother. Instead of putting my words to describe, here are the clips for you to enjoy. Thanks to Abhiruchi, for arranging such a wonderful programme.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Choice or Chance! or Just Made in Heaven?

Mate selection in human are non-random, for that matter in any living being. To put it in simple terms, it is 'by choice' we find our partners and not 'by chance'. I got very inquisitive on the issue very recently, thanks to my age or an evolving mind!! Google guru, my brother, and a paper in The Public Opinion Quarterly of 1953 have all provided sufficient gum for me to chew.

I started off with an approach of thinking globally and acting locally. At a larger picture, especially in the West, finding a partner is more individualistic, while here, its more societal or familial affair. As male or female attains certain age, the family decides that its time for marriage and search would soon start, in the relative circles. At this instance, let me presume that the male to female ratio in the society is 1:1 and also that for a female there exist a population of suitable males and vice versa. In other words, the probability of getting a mate is 'one'. As my knowledge and understanding on the other than Hindu religion is very limited, I restrict my self to this religion, which is one of the key variable in mate choice too. If mate choice so easy, I think, even myself would not have tried on writing this piece. As we start scaling down ourselves, the complexity increases, so also the variables.

I tried my level best to put major variables in to two broad categories, Family and Individual. At the familial level, the key variable is religion. Followed by caste, sub-caste, gotra and pravara. Other important variables are family background, parents, siblings, tradition and region, but over the years, with the advent of nuclear families, these variables are losing their intial charm (In a way good, increasing the probability!). Individually, Janma Kundli (Jataka), at religion level and age, height, education, occupation/salary, complexion, at personal level forms key variables. The important point here is that, with the addition of each variable, the probability value starts dwindling, more so each variable are not uniformly valued. The weight to each of the variable is decided again by the family, an example would be, a traditional and orthodox family might give higher weight to caste, sub-caste, gotra, jataka etc, while it may carry least weight in an unorthodox family.

Whatever may be the weight, ultimately, with almost 10 major and 6 minor variables, the probability value of 1 decreases drastically. In some castes in India, this has gone to zero (fortunately, probability does not give negative values, otherwise it could have been -1 too), in the sense, there is no way of having a 'choice' of partners as there are no partners at all. Similarly, each of the variable has a threshold value, below which probability is on a higher scale, where as after breaching the threshold, the probability diminishes exponentially. An example is age (again this is not equally weighted and cannot be between male and female), 23-28 for male is considered prime, and so is his probability. Once you touch 30, its the danger mark of overflowing dam and beyond 32, the dam breaks! and probability is near zero.

At the outset, what looked as non-random selection, finally when it boils down to marriage, looks exactly the opposite of what is said, its purely a chance! and nothing else. In India, after 'Monsoon', Marriage is said to be the second only 'chance' Indians bet on (pers. comm. chandrakantha). Amidst all these, some sensical and some nonsensical variables, key set of variables called 'heart/mind/feel' were never considered at all and were no where in the picture too. These variables, which determine the entire after life of marriage, of a male or a female, should have been the prime factor, putting all others in the dust bin, during mate selection. Otherwise, we have to accept that mate selection is random, marriages are made in heaven and keep our fingers crossed!

Friday, November 21, 2008

ಯಾರು ಹಿತವರು ನಿನಗೆ ಈ ಇರ್ವರೊಳಗೆ? (Who is better among the two)

Love! they do, truly, though one way, but passionate . They are behind me from the day they learnt that I love forest and would run into a nearby one with slightest opportunity. One exclusively in Monsoon and the other in Winter/Summer. They must be having a greater understanding of niche partitioning, which makes me wonder and think of a ecological niche modeling for better insight on 'shared love'. Over the years, I heard that love loses its lust, but here it has deepened further and this year, it was much more than what I anticipated? I think, only here, I got beyond what I aimed for!

Oh...I forgot to introduce, please meet my beloved friends, leeches and ticks. At least I can tolerate leeches, certainly I cannot with the other one. Though both have some similarity when they approach me, the difference lies when they depart from me and that too after a day or two. Ticks would literally push me to depression, would occupy both my mind as well as my body, unlike leeches. There were more than 20 rashes in very strategic positions! on my body, this I counted after 4 days of field work from Dandeli. Rashes followed by itching...oops...puss formation...irritation...and invariably during night I will scratch one or the other and again it bleeds. That is too much of ticks. Leeches on the other hand, though very large and scary than ticks, but are silent killers. They crawl up your feet, cling and suck the blood and drop as soon as they have drunk enough for next few months. The difference is that, you will not feel the itch or rash like that of ticks. Unless one has seen it crawling and tried to pull leech from the wound, leech seems to be gentlemanly parasite.

Recently Vijay Cavale was asking me, what repellent I use for ticks? I said 'nothing'. And unfortunately, in a kind of giving out more information, I uttered about KFD (Kyasanur Forest Disease), a deadly viral fever from tick bites in the region of Sagar, Kumta, Bhatkal. Vijay became very restless and I over heard him telling 'no one has informed me about such disease can occur from ticks or at least about the vaccination'. He started asking every villager or village boy he met, what will happen with this tick bite? Any disease? Do they lay eggs beneath the skin where they bite? Do you people know KFD? etc etc. It took two long days for me to explain that nothing will happen with this tick bite, its the larger tick that causes KFD, and for KFD there is vaccination and I have taken twice while working in that region. On the next day, I was sensing some smell from Vijay, he had put some repellent and was telling me that he will not have tick bite any more. For me, a simple tick bite can give sufficient food for thought, for entire life and I would prefer leech over tick!!! and what about you!?

Vijay - The Cavalry

"Gururaj, This is THE best micro lens in the world, its Nikkor 105mm, 1:1 and this is one of the best Cameras in the world (Nikon, D2x). Take this and shoot what ever you want to! All images are yours and do not hesistate. This is 'on' button, just focus and click" with these words, the middle aged gentleman, who drove all the way from Kulgi to Syke's point at 6:30 in the morning, handed over the camera to me, with his ever lasting smile and charm on the face. I was really touched!!! For the first time in my life, some one offered his Digital SLR camera, that too on his own. Hats off to you Vijay Cavale for that kind gesture!

The camera weighing more than a kilo, my intial photographs were blurr! I even tried, stopping my breath to take a few pictures. After a few clicks, I could able to hold the camera properly, but infront of this camera, my own Sony DSC-H2 appeared like a peanut!! (I stared clicking DSC-H2 with one hand). He asked me to carry the camera with me even after our morning session at Syke's point. Since I was new to micro lens, I went very close to take a frog's photograph. This gave a very low depth image of my frog, which Vijay shot later with a distance more than two meters away!!

For the next two days, Vijay was my teacher, friend, philosopher and guide in many issues under the sun, starting from photographic lessons to leading a fruitful life. Words fail to express my sincere thanks to Vijay - The Cavalry. To know more about Vijay Cavale and his passion, visit

The King's Gambit!!

STOP...stop...stop...stop...stop! I screamed to CR Nayak. We were on two wheeler, heading towards Dandeli along Kulgi-Dandli road, had come just a kilometer from Kulgi toll gate. Surprised by sudden scream, Nayak pressed hard, both the foot break as well the front one, to get the bike stop at least 10 meters from the spot from where I screamed. Still in his surprise, he looked at my face, with an expression, why did I do that?

"King cobra"...I yelled at again and started running back. He followed me, now a bit more confused. I stopped nearly 5-6 m away from the on looking King, dropped my back pack and started searching for the Camera! Literally pulled out from my ever packed bag, my DSC-H2, shot one and for safety clicked one more. What a sight! He was simply majestic. Nearly a feet and a half lifted from the ground. To me, his had the grace of a tusker, looking both ways for the clearance for easy passage. I too was mesmerized with its shimmering black colour, size and the majesty. In fact, I forgot to click more or move closer to have better shot.

Mean time, it was Nayak's turn to get stunned at the sight and he intended to go near the King. Fortunately or unfortunately, a scooty came along and its line of arrival was like ours, me and Nayak started signaling those guys to move towards right. In next, few seconds, the King layed flat and started moving back. Since Nayak was very close to the king, my visual estimation of its length was about twice of Nayak's height (around 12ft) and almost 8-10inch in girth. Even in its exit, King showed why he is called 'King' Cobra.

It took almost 10minutes for both of us to realize what we had seen. We looked at the path, it was hardly 5 feet from the King's head. Nayak was praising me for my sight and was surprised why he could not see? I told him that both of us were fortunate to see The King in this region 'live'!!! and 'Long live the King'. With a very happy and "achieved" kind of feel, we moved towards Dandeli. This King has etched his image in my memory for very long years to come.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ekalavya, Drona and Lightening Kid

Score read 6-3, I started feeling a bit uneasy, more so for the reason that I have to be in the same state for next 48hrs or so. A rare kind of breathlessness, may be similar to those few anxious moments before the final hooter, when India leads against Pakistan in world cup finals (I wish, my dream come true in coming years at least). It is not about Hockey, our national game (which has now become 'neighbours pride and owners envy') or some scene of Chak de India. Its about a game, which was born in India, adapted in Europe, dominated by Russians and brought back to India with great pride, single-handedly like Bhageeratha who brought Ganges.

You guessed it right, I am talking about chess and 'our' world champion, Vishy. On Wednesday night (game started at 3:00pm local time at Bonn, Germany, which is +1:00hr of GMT, means +4.30hr or 7:30pm in India), I was anxiously following the moves on internet of this tournament format of World championship. With the Sicilian defense, I felt Anand had advantage on the board and was discussing the same with my colleague Karthick. Vishy agreed for a draw on 24th move, and won the World chess championship by 6.5 to 4.5 with a game to spare. I gave the sigh of relief, as though I fought and won a wrestling with a Dutch! I was jubilant, overwhelmed and touched. So far in my life, the most admired sportsperson is Vishy, although I like Kasporov's moves and thinking (much more than what Vishy is), Tendulkar's batting, Schumacher's driving, and Ronaldo's kicks. For me, no one matched a sportsman like Vishy. The humbleness, the gentleness and above all the patience, that's what makes him quite different.

I wish to call Vishy, a modern Ekalavya, at a time when we know more of Cricket and a bit too less about hockey, and nothing about Chess, he survived the pressure and won World Junior Championship in 1987. Somewhere at the period, my brother introduced me to Chess, but this teenager having a yellow gray striped full arm tea shirt with one hand folded and other supporting his cheek and chess board in the front, has become my idol. This ekalavya is Dronaacharya to me in Chess.

I wish Vishy great chess career ahead, at least till that time, when one more better Vishy is found.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I was touched by Ganesh H Shankar's article on Dead baby and Mother. Untold emotions and feelings were brilliantly narrated through those portrays. In fact, if it were to be a research article, with plain words, I would n't have read beyond first few lines. Thanks to Ganesh's approach, his photographs have explained beyond words. I always feel that 'words' alone fail to express the feeling.

This particular article has etched in my memory so strongly that whenever I try to take photographs, I try to feel the subject first and then look through the camera viewfinder, can I get that emotion? I did a similar thing, when I went to Nandankanan Zoological Park on 24th October 2008. There were troops of free roaming Hanuman Langurs in the park. Light flashed!!! in my mind. First few snaps were that of few sub-adults and their activity. After a while, I caught up with a female. She looked very familiar to me. Especially her eyes! Very expressive. She was telling me something. She seemed to be middle aged. I stop here! No more words...feel yourself what she must be feeling.

Cycle track! This city is the Bench Mark!!

I could not believe my eyes! when I saw a board titled "CYCLE TRACK". I checked myself twice, was that wrongly spelled for "Cycle Stand"? 'Bhayya, ye board kyun laga huva hai?' I asked a passerby to verify myself. Indeed, it was meant for cycle and it is a cycle track.

No...I am not in Canada, US, Germany or UK to get astonished to see a cycle track or Bicycle lane (I have not been to any of them so far). I am overwhelmed to say the least, that, it is in fact in India, and that too in Bhubaneshwar, state capital of Orissa state, one of the adversely hit state over the years with natural calamities, most malnutritioned state and not 'so called' tech savvy. I saw this board on Janapath (the main road in Bhubaneswar) and on the way towards Nandankanan Zoological Park. More importantly, people are using this track and tracks are really good too.

Those who have peddled their way in Bangalore would agree with me for the need a cycle track. I peddle down from Sanjaynagar to IISc, through 60ft road and then New BEL road. Often I feared of cycling in this road, not because speeding vehicles would crush me, but for the traffic jams that I might create at the speed in which I move (2.4km in 9min), and at places where I have to crossover. In Bangalore, in such conjested city, even 'thinking' about cycle track becomes a crime. Few months back, we had an 'auto lane' on this road, now the roads have got a face lift, yet there is no sign of a safe cycling track.

But what an eye opener I had from Bhubaneswar. Its not poor or rich, nor its tech or not-tech or high-tech, its only the 'mind set' that brings about the change. My hearty congratulations to Orissa Government for showing the way to many across the Nation that if the Government has real concern towards people, it would certainly do.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Four men in a boat

Many thanks to a marriage ceremony, more so to the punctuality of it, a typical of Udupi district, we were free after 1:30pm on that day and had plans to execute, especially to visit 'St.Mary's Island' near Malpe in the Arabian Sea (West coast of India). After having a sumptous'25±2' varieties in a single meal (seems pretty less! compared to a typical Udupi lunch!!), none of us were in the mood to do any thing, apart from a nap. In fact, Karthick and Sudhira took a brief nap too. Adding more to what seemed an near impossible mission was a mention of 'no boat service in the evening time'! But when the people are born positive, they find some thing in impossible too.

Finally, with quite a bit of networking with Aravind, Guruprasad and Kamalesh, we had a good flash news awaiting us! '4:00pm is the last motor boat to St.Mary's island'. As Amit had gone to Sri Krishna Math, myself, Karthick and Sudhira were anxiously waiting his return. Finally at 2:55pm, we left Sri Kathyayini Kalyana Mantapa of Kadiyali and started walking. There was a kind of 'strict' information from Guruprasad, 'not to get into auto rickshaw' as it is waste of money, since there are city bus service for every two minutes towards Udupi bus stand. So we got into a city bus as soon as we stood in the Kadyali bus stop. In next 8 minutes we were in Udupi bus stand.

I searched a bus with a board indicating 'Malpe' as its destination with 'via' places. All four got into a bus that read Malpe, lo, bus could not move. There was some air block in the engine! Time was ticking or rather I was very conscious about it (a week back my sister presented it to me), it was showing 3:06pm. Four of us were seeing each others' face, but there was a killing smile on all. Next two minutes, one more bus came and in next one minute, we were off towards Malpe.

Its worth mentioning here about the bus service in Udupi. Amazing, awesome and accurate! Extra-ordinary control over the vehicle, sense of timing, above all providing good service. As per the instruction from Aravind, we got down at Malpe bus stand (otherwise bus will go to Malpe beach!which is far off). Took two water bottles and asked the shop keeper about boat timings and way to reach. Time now was 3:32pm. Shop keeper said, the last boat is at 4:00pm and only if stipulated head counts of 30 is reached. He also said to us that we should come early in the morning, so as to see and enjoy this island leisurely. Otherwise, we have to return by 5:30pm as the last boat that brings us back starts from the Island at that time. So we will be having hardly an hour to spend at the Island (about 20-30min is required to reach the Island). We spoke to a autowallah to take us inside the Malpe harbour! Reply was the same old story, but with lot more elaboration (Udupi accent of Kannada! Very melodious to listen)!!

Sudhira led us from the front and we started walking! On the way saw the fisher man folding their fishing nets and unforgettable 'fishy' smell all over the place!! A thought that came to my mind was, even if we miss this trip, nothing to worry!!! Mainly because, as one is on the sea shore, there is always plenty to see, think, watch, observe, photography etc. Later Karthick and Sudhira told me that they were also thinking the same! What a mind match!!

We took an entry pass into Malpe harbour (Rs.1 each), reached the ticket counter. A gentle man was waving his hand to us as to get into the boat very fast. Again, invariably my eyes followed my mind, the time was 3:52pm. My tight lips gave a strange smile to myself! it was similar on others too. The lady at the counter said, Rs. 70 each and totals to Rs.280. We paid the amount and got into the boat. We placed ourselves at the rear end of the boat. Plenty of people, yet the head count was 21!! In another 7 min, a group of 12 arrived and boat started at 4:03pm.

Engine started releasing a blue coloured gas, which went straight into my nose! Then I realised why people did not sit where we were sitting! But as the boat moved, from the shore, there was no sign of this gaseous plume.

As we started moving further into the sea, the dock yard started appearing as a big industrial building, the Malpe beach as an yellow strip along the bluish green sea. I saw the boat going up and down, cutting through the greenish blue water. I also saw that there are ditches and potholes and my god! mini large pond like depressions in the sea. From a distance, sea appears quite, calm evenly surfaced water body (except for those high tide times and during rough monsoon time) and its only when you travel at least a kilometer from the shore, one would realize what actually a sea is! Saw many Brahminy kites circling above, a few Terns, Brown headed gull, a flock of over thousand waders on one edge of the St.Mary's Island. I could able to make it as flock of waders for the very reason that they flew up, took a round and sat again on the same stony shore!

In another 20min, we reached nearer to St.Mary's island. Our boat did not go near to the Island, I thought we have to walk in the water, as I did in Chilka lake during December 2004. Fortunately, boatman did not give enough time for me to ponder over these issues, one more boat came and picked us up and went straight to the island through a roap way system. This is what I really like the people of coastal region (especially from Mangalore and Udupi). In this system, there will be an anchored boat having a rope from it towards the Island (tied around a rock over there) and the other end of the rope is pulled by our boatman, so that our boat reaches the shore. Wonderful! Still we could not completely land on the Island, but made an effort to not get our foot wet! The boatman categorically warned us that we should be back by 5:30pm. I checked my watch, it was 4:30pm. We have 60min to roam on the island. First we thought of going to the place where we saw waders, but as soon as we landed, our mind went hey wards. Indeed, there were at least 10 'young' ladies, welcoming us (In fact, they wanted to leave the place!!)! In a way, we cursed our timing, to quote, Sudhira 'Is this unfortunately fortunate or fortunately unfortunate?' Soon my mind vanished into the title song of 'Kaho na pyar hai', only to be brought back by those standing brilliant rock pillars of the Island.

Next 60 min on the Island is an experience, I cannot express with these limited words of the language. We could able to cover only the north half of the island. The west shore was completely covered with varieties of shells!!! I saw at the end of the trip a guy was carrying at least few kilograms of empty shell in a polythene. What was more exciting to me was the rock formations in the island. Straight pillar like formations, clubbed together with a hexagonal pattern (when you view from the top) to them. I was struggling a lot, as any shot of the rock was against light, in addition, drizzling to ensure, I must keep my camera back safely in its pouch and secure it in my backpack. I simply obeyed the nature's command! but not very soon.

We took some photographs! and started walking back from the eastern shore. This shore line is sandy! unlike the western shore and few people were enjoying the water. We saw a plover on one of those rocks. Took some pictures again. By this time, we heard loud honks from the boat far off from the shore, still it was 5:20pm only. We hurriedly got back into the boat and drizzling got intense. I thought my laptop will get wet and hence stood under a blue tarpaulin of the boat. Soon that tarpaulin tilted and water came pouring on my head! Thanks to my cap! Only he got wet and not me!!

People started pouring in and two boats were full. We were dropped in to the major boat with which we traveled and this bridging boat was simply tied to our boat. Again applause to these boatman for saving the fuel of their boat. Mean time, I saw few more people still on the shore! At this point, my mind again went back to 'Kaho na pyar hai', and started thinking what would those people be thinking...will they get a boat to come back! Or they have to pay more for some private boat!!

As boat started back towards the Malpe shore, drizzling stopped and we were getting wonderful rainbows and sun light from our back. I took out my camera, and started clicking as though to capture everything in next 5min. Finally, we reached Malpe dockyard by 6:30pm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Auto fare and 20 more!!

I am a regular commuter of one of the best mass transport system in India, the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) bus. Once in a while, as change to routine, instead of BMTC, I do go in Auto Rickshaw. This time it was on Sunday (12th October 2008), I was returning from N.R.Colony towards IISc, at around 7:20pm.

I generally 'request' autowallas, whether they are willing to come towards my destination of interest"? This I have learnt over the years that nearly 80% of the time, there will be destination mismatch, if you ask!! As an example would be, if you ask for Basavanagudi at KR Market, he would say 'Yashwanthapura' (for general information, Basavanagudi is in south Bangalore, while Yashwanthapura is in north Bangalore, with an aerial distance of about 8km between them). So instead of asking, I started 'requesting', thinking that at least request might have an impact on listener.

So, I 'requested' quite a few and the kind of responses I got were really cases for psychological studies. May be a doctoral thesis can be made on this subject. Some look at your face, from top to bottom, as though I spoke to them in Latin or like why this beggar is getting into my auto? or will he pay the money as he gets down? Other kind of response are like as though they have not listened to you, or releasing the clutch so that the vehicle moves and you should make out that he is not interested. Not to list only the negatives, there are some times overwhelming responses, with smile, and advising me that I should not 'request' and it is the very duty of every autowallas to carry a passenger where ever he wants to go and so on. In all these cases, I have no issues at all. But the kind of response, which I am narrating now, is really annoying and feel like taking them to task. For my request this autowalla responded, "ಮೀಟರ್ ಮೇಲೆ 20 ರೂಪಾಯಿ ಕೊಡಿ ಸಾರ್! ವಾಪಾಸು ಖಾಲಿ ಬರಬೇಕ್ಕಲ್ಲ, ಅದಕ್ಕೆ!!" (Translation: Pay Rs. 20 more on meter charge! as I have to come back empty!!). Though my fuse was blown out, I tried to convey him that I will not pay a single rupee above the metered charge, with stiff voice. One of the best demonstration of voice modulation and its utility can be given in such conversations. Probably going by my voice and native language, he accepted me into his auto, but started murmuring as I was about sit. I got down and said, "I do not want to create scene as I get down near IISc, more over I will not pay a single rupee more even if you do all kinds of drama there". He accepted me again and sat in the auto.

If there is any slogan that unites autowallas, then the above one can be rated as the best. There is one more to their slogan list, that is "ಒನ್ ಅಂಡ್ ಹಾಫ್" or "ಡಬಲ್" ಕೊಡಿ!! (Translation: pay one and half or double). Once, I just landed from Delhi at Yashwanthpur and 'requested' an autowalla for a drop at IISc (I walk down the distance from Yashwanthpur railway station to IISc, when I carry very less luggage, it is hardly 2km). He said Rs.80 for it. I lowered my voice and told him, I needed only his auto service and not his 'personal service'. I think he could not make out my wit there.

On the way, this autowalla started speaking about the problems of autowallas, family, traffic, commuters, police, tariff, meter, gas, potholes, etc. He was talking every thing under the sun and finally tying it with autofare. I do feel for the autowallas, but the issue here is about service. Since its being programmed that for every kilometer the rate is Rs.7, it includes the Gas, service, etc. There is not point in asking for more. I do not understand 'for going back empty' we have to pay. Money is given for the service provided and not for service anticipated!! If some one gives as TIPS, I have no issues. But demanding TIPS from all is unethical. There are people who are economically under privileged, for them going in auto itself is very demanding. In fact, if they reach the nearest destination from where BMTC service is available, they would go only up to that point. For them too, if Rs. 20 over the meter is asked, where is the ethics!?

Finally, I reached IISc. The meter read Rs.70, I paid the same and in addition gave him 'THANKS'.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ಆ ದಿನಗಳು!Wildlife week 2008

After being an activist for two days, I managed to come out that state of mind and even from Karwar. Rao, Karthick, Durga and Amit moved towards Kumta, while myself, Dhaval, Shrikant, Tushar and Vishnu started towards Dandeli. The plan was to drop me in Dandeli to have a discussion with DCF and field work for two days (all alone) and others would move towards Yellapura.

Since it was 7th October, the last day of wildlife week, chances of meeting DCF was more than 100%, my only concern was whether he will be able to spare time for me! After having a cup of tea at Kumbarvada, I took driver's seat and reached Kulgi nature camp at 1:30pm. It was, in a sense, perfect timing, as lunch was being served on the occasion of wildlife week. Without any second thought, we all took our positions in the que and started having our lunch.

In the mean time, I met Dr. Bhat from forestry college and Sri. Balachandra Hegde. They asked few pictures of frog for the quiz competition. In next few minutes, I was in their tent with three photographs and three movies and at the back of my mind was my days in these wildlife week quiz! I turned a bit nostalgic, recounting the interesting event that made me to get into these quiz competitions.

It was in the year 1990, when I was studying 9th, I happened to attend a wildlife week interactive session held at ATNCC (Acharya Tulsi National College of Commerce) auditorium. There was one middle aged, short but stout person, telling about bird watching, what needs to be done, how one has to dress, what to bring etc for the next day's field visit. (He was none other than Prof. A.S.Chandrasekhar, Principal (retired), Sahyadri science college, under him I graduated from that college). In the same bench, was a senior friend from Ravindranagar locality, Purushotham (now Doctor) holding a book - A Pictorial guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent. As a inquisitive boy, I asked him what is that book and how to use? He was probably overwhelmed as it was a prize he got in the quiz and not really bothered about my questions. But one good thing happened to me...I thought if I too win a prize in this wildlife week quiz, I will also get the same book and there will not be any struggle for me to search for bird information (I used to visit Balavana library, in the erstwhile Minizoo, where forest department has kept 'the Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan', to cross check which bird I saw on that Sunday, and these books looked too heavy for my size, even the librarian was looking at me as though I would be crushed under its weight). This is probably the turning point in my life to attend quiz programs. Only hurdle was, I have to get into college to participate in Quiz as there was no quiz for high school students.

In the next year, our entire family got involved in various competitions of wildlife week, and got as many as five prizes, of which two to me (essay writing and slogan) and one each to my dad, brother and sister. Unfortunately, from that year onwards, the prizes were not Bird books, which I was aiming at, but books by C.H. Basappanavar's on tigers.

My first quiz program in the wildlife week was with my fellow senior friend Mr. Harish N.S., in 1993, I was in my second year Pre-University and he was in first year Bachelors. I still recount that event, quiz master was Sri. Raghavendra Rao, Teacher from Jayaprakash Narayan Highschool near McGann Hospital, shimoga. First two rounds we were struggling to get past 2o points, in the visual round, we gained 110 points and at the end of the event, we won with more than 130 points from the second place. It was my first ever, first in Quiz. Harish and myself became so good partners and we were regarded as nightmares in any quiz competitions held in the region.

Coming back to Dandeli event, I requested organizers, to have some prize for the audience too. As usual they made provisions for chocolates. First round first question was on Nilgiri tahr and chocolate came straight to me! After three chocolates, organizers said, you had taken enough and they provide only 'applause' for me! I changed my seat sat next to some forest officials, made them also to have some chocolates!! I felt as though my days of college is back and I am attending a quiz with the same zeal and enthu!

Thanks to DCF, Bhat and Hegde to accommodate this fully grown child in the quiz event and making me to cherish and relish those wonderful days of my college.

Catching up the Rajdhani

'Jumping a road divider, squirming through speeding vehicle, cursing railways for putting the very train in last platform and making me run that entire length like a 100m dash of life, screaming at the porter for not catching up with speed at which I am running and finally making into a running train' - this is neither a script of any movie nor a heroic story of a passerby. Above all, I always thought that such things can happen only in films (filmy eshtyle: father and son chatting all the issue on the globe, and only as the train starts moving, father runs the entire platform to handover the ticket that was kept inside his pocket) or in dream or after marriage (if so fortunate!). Surprisingly, this came a package to me on 13th August 2008, seeking all experience, energy and mind, and finally to keep my track record still straight and clean; I have never missed a train.

My supervisor is known for packing, not the luggage but persons. He seemed to be well experienced in putting frogs into weighing pan!! Five of us, Amit Yadav, Rao, Ray and Vishnu were forced to fit into an Ambassador, with all our luggage (at least 2 for each). Poor car, it looked as though it was directly taken from ICCU and ready give its last breath on the way. Interestingly, the driver too looked the same to me. A 60+ man in his all white uniform, putting all his energy to show that he too can survive in Bangalore. The way in which he was struggling to putting our luggage in the dickey, we joined our hands to help him out. Finally, we started off, towards railway station.

The car was so emotional, I think it had sixth sense and very well knew that this will be the last trip, that it did not want to go out of the campus. To me, this journey appeared as a battle between two senile elephants, not for selecting a mate, but to know who will die first. As the elderly man wanted to change the gear, the car never accepted it at the first instance, it protested violently (as though some has pinched the bottom), shook the body, almost ready to stop and say 'I am dead'. Evenly poised and reluctant was the driver, he also wanted to prove a point or two. So he used to bring down the gear and push the gear up twice, amidst these protests, the car finally accepted gear number two, as though she has to chose good among the drunkards. I was feeling that we were having an evening walk in the car along the busy streets of Bangalore.

With all these scenes, we managed to come up to the main entrance of the railway station, but were supposed to take a roundabout to reach the railway station. There was a huge traffic and driver was telling us it would take another 30 minutes to clear. At this point of time, it was 8:14pm according to Station time board and Rajdhani was supposed to leave at 8:20pm. In another, 4 minutes, the car moved only 4 feet. So we took a decision, to jump out of the car, jump the road divider and ram into the railway station. Ray, Rao, Amit and Vishnu picked up their luggage, and I was about to do the same, the driver came hurriedly and said, "sir please put your signature, otherwise I will not get the money". I was about to shout at that fellow, instead put my signature and did all other things in a filmy style. Only thing was a heroine missing to accompany me!

Strange feelings started pouring in my mind, as I started running through the platform, I felt as though I am running for my life, if I miss this train, I may not live? or how to get it canceled and book another train? above all how, to face the Supervisor? Can he make out this situation? or for at least today, can the train start a bit late (as it happens with other trains!)? These few minutes were really tough, not because it drains physical energy, but drains my mind too, which is far more strenuous to me than running a mile.

With all push, pull, struggle, jiggle and a bit of scolding too, I managed to reach the guard's cabin, which has already started moving. I asked him, Can I put my luggage here and will pick it up in the next station? His experience is more than my qualification is, in a calm but strong voice, he said, some one has pulled the chain, so get into the cabin to which you belong, train will take another 5minutes to start!!!

Finally, five of us put our luggage into a bogie and stood for a minute or two to take our breathe and Rajdhani started moving. Did our hi fives, shook hands, congratulated each other, saying we made it. It was a sigh of relief, more for not giving reasons, how we missed train! I took out tickets and inquired with a pantry car fellow, with his answer I was about to faint! We landed in B1 and were supposed to go to B9! that means we have another mile to walk within train with all our luggage on! Incredible India and Incredible Indians.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Driving in the darkness - From Kemmanagundi to Chikkamagaluru

Our official driver, Mr. Shrikanth had viral fever and the Doctor advised him to take rest with a course of antibiotics and some paracetamol. This is the blessing in disguise to me!!! From past 3 nights, I was asking Shrikanth to allow me to drive in the high altitudes of Bababudan hill ranges and he denied every time. But today, I finally made him to take rest in the lodge where we were stationed, and started off with Mr. Dinesh of ZSI, Calicut and our evergreen hero from Kumta, Mr. Vishnu D Mukri at around 3:00pm. We have Mahindra CL 550 from the Department, a vehicle suitable for two, but we carry as many as 6-8 in it.

I took the road that leads to Bababudan hills. This possibly the oldest hill formation in south India (of Archean type) making a semi-circle attachment to the long standing Western Ghats. We were at Attigundi at around 4:00pm and had a nice cup of tea and kodbale from hotel Bismilla! Rain started as we started moving up, at K. Kindi, where we cut across the Ghats and move to the other side of the hill range, the breeze was too heavy and fog reduced the visibility to just 2/3meters. This is just amazing and I have no words to explain apart from few snaps. I felt the whole stretch to be very romantic, especially for the chill, breeze, fog and greenary. Simultaneously, it was seeking my knowledge on geology, vegetation and faunal components.

By 8:00pm, I really had tough time in driving. Heavy rain, plus fog and added to it are potholes, for every one hole, three are free. Thanks to Mr. Dinesh, for regularly cleaning the glass for me and to Mr. Vishnu for constantly telling me that a guy is sitting behind. We reached Chikkamagaluru by 10:00pm via Lingadahalli. More on the field visit in the next blog.