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.