Wednesday, November 19, 2014


My son has identified some thirty different birds which show themselves around our house. Some, like the common Crow, Pigeon, Bulbul, Robin, Koel, Koucal, Sun bird and the kingfisher are fairly common and we see/hear them every day. Some are seen occasionally (Green barbet, Minivet, Horn bill) and some rarely (Oriole, Coppersmith, Parakeet, Hoopoe, Owl).  The whistling thrush is heard every morning this time of the year but never seen.

Almost all the commonly seen birds have already got into my camera, often devoid of a feather, beak or feet and then have settled in this blog. The Kingfisher, however, had escaped. I see the bird on the power line (its favourite perch) almost every day when I come out for a walk, but whenever I have the camera in hand, the bird is not on the line. And since I am always at a lower level, there has been no chance of getting the full bird.

The other day I saw the Kingfisher on top of the house when I was returning from the walk and it remained in place till I got into the house and then came onto the balcony with the camera. Camera in hand I tried to climb up the ladder very slowly, without making any noise, for a closer look and a chance for a picture. I think my back brushed against the ladder. I did not hear anything. But the bird looked down (may be with annoyance) and the next second it was gone. Looked like it did not want to have anything to do with us humans after the disrepute brought to its name by one of our fellow humans. This is all I got to show for my effort and photography skills.

This afternoon I finished my siesta and casually looked out of the window and saw the kingfisher sitting on the power line directly across me, its head, neck, feathers, beak and even the eyes in view. Since I was looking out of the window and had the window grills to support my hands, got some fairly good pictures with full zoom. It sat there for a long time turning this way and that and in general posing for the picture.

When I went to the balcony in the evening the KF was again in sight, this time on the tree, its colours in contrast to the dark green back ground. Again it waited till I got the camera out and clicked a few pictures.

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May be it understood that this human is different and posed for the photos providing me with a chance to get my best bird photograph till date.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

DharmasankaTa In Dentistry

 I do not know if there is an equivalent in English for the Kannada word ‘DharmasankaTa’. It is difficult to explain the meaning of the word. It is a sort of dilemma. May be an ‘Ethical dilemma’. I am not sure.  It is actually a situation you find yourself in. You are required or compelled to do something or act in a particular way. While it is not wrong doing it, it is not exactly right/moral/ethical either. You experience ‘SankaTa’(suffering?) because what you are required to do may not exactly be ‘Dharma’. Pricks your conscience, so to say.  I do not know if I am talking sense but this is the best I can do to explain ‘DharamasankaTa’, assuming that I have understood the term in the first place.

I found myself  in DharmasankaTa recently. In my practice. Nothing serious, just concerning a decision whether or not to squeeze out my fee from one of my patients.

Dhaku Gaonkar came to the clinic holding a broken denture in hand. He said that I had made the denture about a year back or may be two years at the most, and it broke.

 “It was very good. Was fitting very well and I could eat everything with it. It was just about a year old and it broke. Do dentures break like that?”

Usually they don’t. I asked him if he tried to bite something very hard? (Some people get carried away with their new found ability to chew up things and end up with a broken denture).
He looked a bit sheepish. “I was washing it after dinner when it slipped and fell down. Before I could pick it up, my wife stepped on it.”

So, I was off the hook. Relieved, I went over his record. I have the bad habit of writing down everything that I do for my patients in a card and preserving it. (Why I call it a bad habit - I will explain some other time)  Going over his record, I found that his had been a particularly troublesome case and that I had to put in considerable efforts to overcome the difficulties and prepare a set of dentures for him. He had mentioned about some financial difficulties and had requested me to allow him to pay my fee in installments. I had not only agreed to his request but had also charged much less than usual. I had paid for the services of a specialist and the lab, from my pocket. He had paid a little more than a quarter of my fees and had taken the dentures. That was ten years ago and he had never come back!

I was annoyed but one cannot openly express annoyance (shout at a patient I mean) in the clinic. I expressed my displeasure at what he had done and he gave the usual explanations and vague reasons for the lapse on his part. “I did come to pay your fees but your clinic was closed” and “someone in the family fell ill and had to be taken to Bombay for treatment” etc etc.  I have heard these umpteen number of times in my profession and am used to my door being closed, somebody being ill, a lady being pregnant and a student having exams for years together. 

Anyway, his broken denture had brought him back to my clinic. Having got used to his dentures over a decade he was unable to eat anything without them. It had to be repaired or new dentures made. A god given chance to recover my fees. That was my first thought.  But  when I saw the fellow sitting in front of me, forlorn, holding his broken dentures in his hand, I realised that it was not going to be easy.

He was employed in mining, some small job, and with the mines closed down, even that had gone. He was old and weak. And with his dentures broken, not able to eat properly. He knew that he had cheated me and that I was not kind towards him but now, he had to seek help from me again. He was in a pitiable condition. I could force him to pay my fee but he being in that condition and the dentures now broken - making  whatever service I had rendered meaningless - was it right on my part doing so?  

At the same time, I could not forego the fee for a service for which I had not only put in considerable efforts but had actually spent quite an amount from my pocket. I run a practice, not a charity establishment. What the fellow had done was in fact cheating. He had used the dentures and had obtained all the pleasure out of my work for ten years.  And he had not paid me in spite of the concessions given to him.  I should actually demand my fee with interest.

Should I or should I not? That was my ‘DharmasankaTa’.

After a bit of thought I decided up on a compromise. I decided to forego a major part of what he owed me, charge him just a little more than what I had actually spent from my pocket, and repair his denture free.

Bad for the business but good for the conscience. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ponda Scenes On A Winter Morning

The notice said “Members and RCC trainees of Ponda Swimming Pool are hereby noted that there is leaks in filter pipe and filtering is stopped.”  This was our swimming pool management telling us that they are NOT closing the pool but you better not use it.

So, I went for a walk. In fact the winter mornings are better for walking than swimming. It has just started getting cold and it is very pleasant to walk along the empty road while the world around seems to pull the dense fog around it tight and sleep a bit longer. I feel the fog makes the usual scenes look better and I get carried away.

As the sunrise is late and the early sun is not very bright I hoped to get a picture of the rising sun and carried the camera. While the sun was not as co operative as I  expected him to be, I got about half a dozen other things which I felt look good. Here they are.

This tree, covered by fog, is the point at which I turn back during my walk. I somehow like it a lot. I might have posted a picture of this earlier. But this scene, I feel,is always worth another look. 

Preparations are on for the annual ‘Jatra’ (temple festival) of the Sateri temple which is on my walking route. The colourful ‘pandal’ erected for the purpose and decorated with lights makes a good subject for my camera 

 The close up of the entrance of the temple festooned with bunches of Coconuts, areca nuts, plantains and pumpkins. The temple is ready for the festivals but the devotees are yet make an appearance.
The cemetery opposite the church - freshly whitewashed for the recently held ‘all souls day’, provides a contrast to the colourful Sateri temple. The souls have had their time and are resting again peacefully.
 The mango tree next to the cemetery.  Full of fresh green leaves looking happy and healthy again provides a contrast to the white of the cemetery wall.

The sun is too dull and I wait patiently for him to rise a bit more and  get a bit brighter. Just then he is partly covered by a cloud and when he reappears he is too bright. My camera either captures  nothing or just bright streaks. Noted the correct time of the sun coming between the branches yesterday and spent half an hour waiting for the right moment today. Not very satisfactory but the best we (me and my camera) could do. I am done with the sun. No more sun pictures.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Passport - New Experience

My passport was due to expire and I wanted to get a new one. To get a new passport I had to visit the passport office. By past experience I knew that the Panaji passport office is a nightmare. The nightmare usually went like this.

You enter the passport office after managing to shoo away the touts hovering around the entrance and you find yourself in a hall with three or four counters. None of them have any sign boards on them but each one has a line of about twenty people in front of it. You ask few people standing in the queue why they are there and each one gives you a different reason. You try to go near the window of the counter and find out if that is the line you are required to join. The window is placed too high and if you are of my height you have to jump up and call for attention. You make a few attempts. The fellow inside the counter ignores you and the fellow outside, waiting for his work to be done, is annoyed with you. You give up, randomly select one of the three lines and wait. After about an hour you reach the window. You stand on your toes  (which is very inconvenient) and tell the man that you are there to get a new passport and he directs you to the next line to obtain your forms.

You stand in the next line and inch forward till you have only two people in front of you. Then the clock on the wall strikes one and it is lunch break. You stand in front of the closed counter and spend the lunch break hungry, cursing the passport, passport office and everything else that comes to your mind. The counter opens at quarter past two, fifteen minutes late. You get your form at three and go home.

You follow the printed instructions to a dot and fill your form, attach photo copies of the all the documents mentioned, paste your photograph at three places, staple additional copies, and go back to the passport office with your form. Your luck is with you and you select the right line at first attempt. After an hour in the line you stand on your toes again and push your form in. The person, without even touching your papers, asks you to put them is a file, tie them with a tag and bring them back. Fortunately for you the file and the tag are available in the office itself for sale and you fulfill the requirement. But you have lost your place in the queue and start at the back again. 

You reach the counter after another hour and push your form in confidently because you have followed the instructions perfectly. “Attach copy of ration card, paste another photograph at the back of the form, get all the copies signed by a gazetted officer and enclose a self addressed stamped envelope” is what you hear. You tell the fellow that those instructions were not printed on the form and that it clearly said that the copies only have to be self attested.  “That is why I am telling you now. Complete the form and bring it” comes the reply. You feel like throwing the bunch on his face and going home but you can’t do that. You follow all his instructions, go back another day, stand in many more lines for verification, payment of fees, submission, so on and so forth, tolerate and overcome all the hurdles thrown at you from various counters (all the time fighting other enraged and impatient people who try to butt in and complete their work) and heave a deep sigh of relief when you are done.

Since I remembered this experience vividly I was very much wary of another visit to the passport office. But you can’t just evade the issue. If your passport expired you have to get a new one. I gingerly stepped into the office, now renamed ‘Passport Seva Kendra’- PSK for short.  A security guard at the door stopped me. I told him that I was there for a new passport. “Go to the second floor” he showed me the stairs. Went up and found myself in an air conditioned hall having a counter boldly labeled “ENQUIRIES” and  two people in front of it. I joined the line and was face to face with the fellow manning the counter in three minutes flat. “Fill the form online, pay the fee through credit card or net banking, take a printout of the receipt and bring it along with your old passport on the date shown on the receipt. Are there any changes?” I said that my address has changed. “Then attach a copy of your voter card or any other proof of address and bring the originals for verification”.

Filled the form online, paid the fee through net banking and printed the receipt. It said - Appointment 12.15 PM, Date 30.10.2014. Reporting time 12.00. I was at the PSK at 11.45. This time I was prepared.  My bag contained, apart from the print out and copies of the required documents in a file, everything from my birth certificate to the relieving order I had received on my retirement. And since the instructions clearly said ‘Do not attach photographs, photograph will be taken at the PSK’ I carried four photographs, glue and stapler. The guard at the door looked at my print out and asked me to sit in the waiting area and wait for my turn. Since my appointment was at 12.15, I had carried my lunch which I intended eating at 1 PM and a book which would last at least 2-3 hours. I settled in a corner and opened the book.

I had not even reached the third line when I heard the announcement “Everyone with 12.00 noon reporting time please proceed to the second floor”. On the second floor there was just one lady in front of the ‘pre verification’ counter and I was the second. Pre verification took all of two minutes and I was directed to collect a token from the token counter situated next to the PV counter. I entered the next room carrying my token which was numbered N71 and gave it to the person manning the door. He looked at the token and said “Go to processing counter B5”.

B5 had a pleasant mannered girl who took my photograph and finger prints. She  gave me a print out of the application that I had filled on line and asked me to check the details again.  Then she put the form along with other documents in a file, punched it with a punch (usually they keep a rusted nail for the purpose ) tied it with a tag, handed it to me and asked me to wait in the waiting area for my turn for verification.  In less than five minutes the big screen in the waiting area beeped and flashed ‘N71 - counter C3’. Another courteous man in Counter C3, the verification counter, verified the papers and I was back in the waiting area in no time.  After ten minutes the screen again flashed ‘N71 - APO 1’. Assistant passport officer -1 took less than a minute to cancel my old passport, put his seal, hand me an acknowledgement and say “Exit please”. 

At the exit I was given a feedback form in which I ticked ‘Excellent’ in front of all the coloumns without reading them, exited highly excited, drove home and ate my cold packed lunch with pleasure.

I had heard about such services in other countries from my friends and relatives and I used to feel very very inferior thinking about our establishments. The pleasant experience at the PSK Panaji made me feel proud of our government establishments for once and I decided to record it. I do not know who is behind this and how they could bring about the change. Anyway, I congratulate them and wish the rest of our country functioned like the PSK!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Betal Tekdi and Chorla Ghat

I usually sleep early and get up early in the morning. Sometimes as early as 4 am. Well, nothing wrong in that. ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ goes the saying. But I believe some researchers have shown that people who sleep late and rise later are wiser and wealthier and the early risers are fit for nothing. There was no need for them to take the trouble of doing research. They could have just taken a look at me and come to that conclusion.

What I wanted to say was that this habit of mine is troublesome when I visit someone for an overnight stay. If the household contains one or two unfortunate ones like me who can’t sleep long, it is fine. The family will be used to the disturbances created by the early risers. If it is a family of late risers I am in trouble. I will be wide awake at four and to stay in the bed would be a torture. If I get out of the bed I am bound to switch lights on, make some noise or the other and be a nuisance to those fortunate ones who would be enjoying their beauty sleep. I can get out of the house for an early walk but it involves requesting the lady of the house for permission to enter her bedroom and take the front door keys from under her pillow. 

When I visit my brother in Pune, I am fine. He is an early riser too and usually joins me for a walk. I visited them recently and we went  to ‘Betal tekdi’ near his house early the next morning.  Betal tekdi, called so because of the presence of a small shrine of ‘Betal maharaj’ at the top, is a hill range extending from  Kothrud to Chatushringi in Pune.  It is a lovely place and I had been there earlier. This time I carried my camera and got some pictures. I was intending to go there the next morning also and explore the other side of the hill but it started raining. We dropped the idea.

It was raining when we left Pune and it rained the whole day. The effect of some depression in Arabian sea.  We drove through the rain all the way back to Goa. But the clouds cleared up for sometime just as we were descending the Chorla Ghat between Belgaum and Goa, and the view from the top of the ghat was breathtaking. Both the sets of pictures are here.

The view of 'Betal Tekdi' as we started the climb  - from  behind the Loyola High school, Pashan Road. 

The path runs through a wooded stretch, very pleasant early in the morning.

The sun appears behind the shrubbery as we reach the top.

The plateau at the top

A view of the city of Pune - as seen from the tekdi.

Another wooded stretch on the way down

My sister in law lights some lamps and flower pots to celebrate Diwali 

The clouds  hug a section of the Sahyadri - one may easily mistake the look for the waves of the Arabian sea breaking on a hill slope.

If one can extend the imagination, one may even imagine the Himalayas

Clouds part to allow the camera to capture small stretches of tilled land in Sattari taluka.

Such a wonderful sight. Feel sad to think that we are bent up on destroying it

The final shot before Iam back in the car. 

But not before capturing these way side flowers enjoying the unexpected shower.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jayalalithaa The Goddess

As expected ‘Puratchi talaivi’ J Jayalalithaa  has been released on bail and as expected AIADMK supporters are dancing. The fact that The Supreme Court has been quite stern in its remarks about their leader and that it has asked the High court to dispose the case in three months has not marred the celebrations. People lined the road from the jail to the Airport in Bengaluru to see their leader free once again. I heard that the roads in Chennai were lined by ladies holding ‘Aarathis’. My sister who told this said that she would not have believed it had she not witnessed the sight herself and ended by saying ‘stupid people and a shameless creature’.

I wondered what makes these people (Not just Jayalalitha’s supporters. Laalu yadav’s people do the same in Bihar and Yedyurappa’s men do it in Bengaluru) overlook the misdeeds of their leader and stick to them in spite of the overwhelming evidence against them.

We have had a centuries old tradition of being ruled by Kings and queens. A king is expected to be wealthy and exhibit his wealth. He is expected to live in a palace. Wearing a crown studded with diamonds and a dress embroidered with gold threads is normal for him. Nobody asks the king where and how he got his money. He may indulge in all sorts of excesses but he is still just next to god. “Raja pratyaksha devata”. We carry that sentiment in our genes and now we have ‘devathas’ in the form of our ‘Netas’.  Tamilnadu, with its temples of MGR and Jayalalitha, is the best place to witness this sentiment.

Jayalalithaa is not just the queen but a goddess. It is nothing for a goddess to have 10000 sarees and 30 kilos of gold. Nobody grudges that.  In fact, we rejoice over that fact and wish to see her in all her bejewelled glory.  Now, on top of that this goddess is a very generous goddess. Her ‘prasadam’ in the form of a plate of Idli sambhar costs just one rupee and a ‘thali’ of ‘Mahaprasad’ is just three rupees or five. She showers mixer grinders, TV sets, bicycles, clothes and what not ‘chappar phadke’. She is actually everything that we expect a goddess to be. If some ignorant people call her corrupt and put our goddess in a jail it enrages us but we swallow it. This is ‘Kaliyuga’. People tend to do such things. But when our goddess is back amongst us, nobody can prevent us receiving her with ‘aarathis’.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Going Crazy

But for a very few flowers of ‘Nandi battalu’ or the ‘Ananta’ , which flower through the year, my flower bowl has been empty for the last three months. I think rainy season is the time for the plants to rest and relax. It has not rained for a week now and there is bright sunlight. The plants are back in action. My bowl was full today. It is a sight which ‘makes my day’ as we say. The pleasure is twofold when there are a lot of ‘parijata’ (some call it the ‘night flowering jasmine’) flowers. I get to enjoy the sight as well as the fragrance. It sort of fills my soul (assuming that there is one in my body).  

The flowers are for the daily worship. My worship is the shortened version - lighting a lamp and placing the flowers on the idols. We offer the fruits and flowers to the lord and take them back as ‘prasada’. But in my case the lord gets the flowers only after I have enjoyed the sight and fragrance. I enjoy the fragrance when the ‘parijaata’ buds start flowering at night and then enjoy the sight of the flowers on the plant in the morning. I enjoy picking them and also enjoy the sight and smell of flowers collected for worship. Only then the lord gets them. I hope he does not mind.

He shouldn’t actually. He was the one who told Arjuna “Pick up your bow and kill. It is my will. Actually you are not killing and they are not dying. I am the one who is killing and I am also the one who is dying. I play this game and all of you are just pawns.”

If and when I get to talking terms with him he is sure to say “You fool, you are not enjoying the fragrance. I am. I made the flower fragrant and I gave you the senses to enjoy it. In fact, I am the very essence of that fragrance also” or some such thing. Incidentally the parijaata is supposed to be his favourite. 

(My wife usually does not read what I write, which explains how I have my limbs intact till now. She was attracted by the picture of the flowers and read this post. She has an explanation - Every flower is first touched by the wind, that is, 'Vayudevaru' or 'PraNadevaru' as wind is known in dwaita philosophy. PraNadevaru is supposed to be in a constant worship mode. 24*7 if you understand that better. So, the moment a flower is touched by 'Vayudevaru' it is said to have been offered to the god. What we get is always the seconds and we offer it to the lord again just  for our satisfaction.) 

Parijata flowers, I feel are the embodiment of the word ‘delicate’. They start flowering late in the evening. They remain on the plant till early morning and then fall to the ground. Try to pluck them before they are ready to part from the plant and the delicate petals get torn. When they fall to the ground, even if there is as much as a drop of water/dew on the ground, they get wet / soggy and are spoilt. The same happens even if there is a light shower after the buds flower. If you want them in good condition, you have to gently separate them from the branches just before they get detached (Hoovu 'biDisodu' as we say in kannaDa. Not 'keeLodu') or pick them up as soon as they fall to the ground. Very difficult to time it. 

I remember one of my neighbours who had a parijata plant in her compound. She would spread a bed spread under the paarijata plant every night to make sure that the flowers did not fall on the mud. She would come down early in the morning, shake the plant gently to bring down the flowers stuck between the leaves and gather all of them. I used to think her crazy going to such lengths to get a few flowers.  Now, I understand her and in fact, that is what exactly I do. I am getting crazy!