Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Nice Trip to 'Sode'

Amma keeps moving between Pune, Ponda and Chennai, shifting camp often, and will easily qualify as a frequent flier. But once she reaches camp, her movements are very much limited. Until recently she used to accompany us once in a way for a casual outing or a music concert or some such program but since the last two years or so, compelled by the compulsions of her system, she refuses all such offers. As a result she is restricted to her room and sometimes does not step out for days. While she is wary of any public transport including flights she is always willing to try travelling distances if the conveyance is a personal vehicle. “nanagEnappa illi  kootirOdu kaaralli kootirteeni ashTe”.  So we decided to try  taking her to Sode which is about 200kms from here. It is a travel of about five to six hours, which could get shortened to four if the driver happens to be Ashwin. We planned an overnight halt at Sode. One may book a room provided by the Vaadirajamutt  which comes with an attached bathroom/toilet and contains a bare cot and two mats. ‘No frills’ is an understatement here. Since we felt that we would not be able to manage with such bare essentials we decided to stay in a hotel at Sirsi, which is at a distance of twenty kms from Sode. Amma manages very well with avalakki, mosaru, chatnipuDi and baaLehaNNu  - jagalur diet, and so, a packet of avalakki and two cans of Amul dahi were packed with other stuff.  With these  preparations we left Ponda on a very warm summer morning at half past ten, half an hour late than the scheduled departure. Sushma, who  was visiting Goa, joined us and made the trip memorable. You are invited to Join us for an arm chair travel.

Having left at 10.30, stopped in front of a small, clean, locked forest office, between Ankola and Kumta, (under the kaju tree) for lunch. Kaju fruit for dessert.

Attracted by the greenery I move away a bit with chapati palya in hand

Since the nature around looked good,stopped for a few minutes on the ghat road to Sirsi. Spent the next half an hour trying to get the nature (in the form of giant flies) out of the car

Once got in, amma stays put in the car. We reached Sirsi at four and she only got out there. She says usually her body does not listen to her commands but it is amazing how  she can make it follow her wishes once she wills it to do  so.

Since we had spare time we decided to visit a  Bird sanctuary called 'Mundigekere' near Sode. Asked directions from a dozen people and were lost for the fourth time.

Left the path and tried to trek through the fields in the general direction of the sanctuary.

Mnaged to get a glimpse of the watch tower next to the pond but could not reach there in spite of trespassing through many private properties. But the owners did not seem to mind. They gave directions which we could not follow (due to lack of clarity) and offered refreshments which  we could not accept (due to lack of time.)

Turned back as it  was getting dark and as we did not intend spending the night in the forest. Met an animal  which we identified as (in that order) a wolf, fox, wild dog and a domestic pet.

Bird's eye view of Sri Vaadiraajamautt. Sri Hari is said to  have accepted offer of grams and jaggery 'naivedya' from the saint, appearing in the form of a horse.

Something catches amma's attention while  walking down the ramp leading to the mutt.

Ajji being ably (and affectionately) assisted by her grand children

In front of the 'Bhutaraaja's corner'. Bhutaraaaja (demon king) was an avatara of 'Rudra' devaru who went to Sode on Sri vaadiraaja's behest to control the minor demons. (bhuta, pishaachaas -original residents of the forest around the remote mutt) 

Ajji, mommakkaLu share some amusing conversation

Bhutaraja - in rangoli spread by a faithful soul.

Waiting for, what else? 'Prasada' -  which is usually served before twelve in the afternoon. Had a fairly free run of the premises as there were not many people.

Amma enjoyed the trip thoroughly and here she takes a satisfied nap during the journey back. Ashwin saw to it that we completed it in four hours.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Good Deed Done

The days are getting hot and I prefer to go for my walk when the morning is still cool. Accordingly, one day last week, I left at five in the morning and half an hour later I was walking back. A couple, early risers like me, crossed me and I noticed a bulging plastic bag in the hands of the husband. I knew what it was. The previous day’s garbage, being carried in a carry bag, to be thrown by the side of the road into the bushes. Usually I curse such people silently and walk away. That day I decided to give them a piece of my mind. I changed course and followed them. They turned into the bypass road and as soon as the vegetation turned a bit thick, the husband, in one smooth great swing, threw the bag into the bushes. I stepped faster, crossed them and addressed him.  It is not easy doing that. Imagine accosting a stranger and telling him what he was doing was not right. But that day I felt sort of compelled and I did.

“Good morning sir. If you don’t mistake me may I say something?”
“Yes. Go ahead” (“han Bolaa” - in Marathi)
I am not fluent in Marathi but I can manage a sort of chow chow of Marathi, Konkani and Hindi. I tried to keep it as polite as possible.
“I saw that you threw your garbage in to the bushes just now. May I request you not to do so?”

The reaction that I was expecting was one or all of,

1. “Who are you to tell me what I should do with my garbage?”
2. “Is this your father’s property”
3. “This road belongs to me as much as it belongs to you”
4. “Go and tell that to all others who are doing so”
5. “Are you the municipality?” etc etc.

I was surprised to hear a very apologetic tone
“Oh, I am very sorry.”

Since he seemed to have taken it in the right spirit I thanked him and gave a very short talk about why it should not be done and we parted ways. He seemed to get it but I did not believe that he would heed my request. Usually nobody cares.  

I saw them again yesterday after a gap of about a week. Even before I could get near them, the husband called out to wish me.
“Good morning”
“Good morning” I replied and said “I am happy to see that you have not brought your garbage”
“You were right. What we were doing was wrong. Now I have made a pit near my house and dispose our waste there”

It was an unexpected result!  I was happy that I was successful in converting at least one amongst the hundreds who keep littering our public places.

“Have a good day” I wished sincerely and walked away, with a nice feeling of having done a good deed. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bulbul - Concluding Part

Exactly thirty six hours after I mentioned that the baby Bulbul may fly  in another two days, I found lot of excitement near the nest. The baby had climbed out and the parents were flying in and out. One of them might have given the final pep talk and the baby stood ready on the edge of the nest poised for take off. But it stood there for a long time. Since we humans are not as lucky as the birds and have to do things according to the clock, I went in for breakfast. When I came out, neither the parents nor the baby was seen. I waited till evening and climbed up to check. The nest was empty. I presume that the baby is flying somewhere around my house and that it is a happy end. 

Flying lessons?
Should I jump?
Jump. Don't worry. I am here

Empty nest - but a happy end? I presume so. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Update On the Bulbul Family

With me hovering  in the vicinity of their nest, the parents were a bit anxious and kept fluttering around. After they realised that I was only a nuisance, flashing some irritating light mow then and do not mean any harm, they went away on their errand. 
One of them return carrying a juicy worm in the throat
"Don't jump you stupid. Get back.Don't you know what happened to your brothers" 

"That's better. Now say aaaaaaa. Don't hurry. Eat slowly"
"Done? Now come out and sit with me. Uncle wants to take a picture"

After the parent went away I went closer for a picture of the baby resting  inside the nest. 
My wife saw me climbing gingerly onto the wobbly stool with the camera in hand - "If your idea is just to have some of your bones broken, why not simply climb onto the roof and jump down? You will have better results and also save the camera." 

One of the parents return for the night shift. With the baby growing there is not much space in the nest now. 

And it made itself as comfortable as possible for the night. 
The gap between the two closeups is just forty eight hours and look at the baby's back. The bald back is covered with feathers! It may attempt to fly in a day or two. Hope to witness and record it. Will get back if I do. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

'Biscuit Rotti' Sentiments

Latha (my wife) attempted ‘Biscuit Rotti’ after a long long time. She made a few which very much looked like, and tasted almost like, BRs that Amma (my mother) used to make. Though they were not as light and crisp, it was a pleasure to bite into one and recollect the memories of our childhood. Latha said that she used wheat flour (atta), butter, dry coconut and sugar. Amma said that she was using maida (refined wheat flour), rava (semolina), fresh coconut, ghee and sugar, all of them mixed and pounded to make a smooth dough. I very well remember that she used to give us some dough to be pounded in the ‘oraLu’ (grinding stone with a depression in the center) using a ‘haare’ (a heavy metal pestle) and it used to take a very long time to pound it to her satisfaction. In between we could just take out small lumps of the dough and stuff them into our mouth. Even the raw dough was tasty! After the dough was ready, amma would light the kerosene stove, and sit in front of that with the rolling pin in hand, rolling the dough into small ‘rottis’ and roasting them, on low flame. It was painstaking job and it would be hours before one big and one small ‘SWAY’ (soap powder) boxes were full of crisp, light, golden brown BRs, literally  ‘Melting in the mouth’.

Amma says that she usually started after packing us off to school, around 10 am and would finish by the time our father came home for lunch - usually 3 pm. Five hours in front of the stove! Sometimes there would be a post lunch session too. Our school was a full day affair, 10 AM to 5 PM, and by the time we returned from school there would not be any signs of amma’s toil. But the lingering fragrance of roasting BRs informed us about the goodies and lead us to the ‘Sway’ box. We got an idea of the work involved in preparing BRs when we witnessed the process during holidays. But even then, after pounding the dough, we just left amma for herself in the kitchen and were occupied with our ‘Golis’ (marbles), ‘Buguris’ (tops) or ‘chinni -danaaDu’ (a game played using two wooden sticks, the smaller one with tapered ends to be lifted and stuck with the longer one) or simply chatting with Datta (a gift of a friend - two years elder to me but equally friendly with me, my brother and sister who were younger to me by three and six years respectively. No childhood memory is complete without Datta) in the shade of our guava tree. Now, when I think of her toiling in front of the stove the whole day, alone, and we enjoying ourselves with games and friends, I feel guilty. But that’s childhood, taking our parents for granted. Still, I wonder what made her take up such tasks and spend half her life feeding us? Was the sight of her children greedily stuffing things into their mouths so rewarding?

Now at eighty six, shrunk and frail, she sits on her arm chair all day, reading something or the other and says that she has to put the book down every now and then and rest, as her hands ache holding the book. You mention rolling and roasting hundreds of BRs and she says “I sometime wonder if I really did all that”?

‘Biscuit Rotti’ tasted wonderful on its own but smeared with a thick layer of butter, it was heaven. The trouble was that butter was not always available. It was expensive and was brought home only once a month or so for preparing ghee (clarified butter). Amma would usually keep aside a small bowlful of butter before heating it and incidentally if BR was also there, we got to enjoy the combination. By god’s grace we have plenty of butter at home now, but the same god has also graced us with plenty of cholesterol and we are only allowed just a look at the big bowlful of butter twice a day! But if Latha succeeds in gathering enough will and patience, attempts and gets the BRs perfect the next time, butter sandwich it is going to be! Cholesterol be damned.

PS: For the benefits of JKs: There were two schools of thought about preparation of BRs. Indrakka’s and Buchchakka’s. Amma followed Buchchakka’s recipe. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Corporate Hospitals - A Boon?

By god’s grace, I do not have much experience of the corporate hospitals which are supposed to be the shining (literally) symbols of India’s advancement in health care. I have visited them a few times for consultations, the outcome of which, have been very satisfactory. The fact is that the hospitals had nothing to do with the outcome. What mattered was the doctors whom we consulted. Had we consulted the same doctors in places other than these hospitals, I would have saved a hundred or two on consultation fees but I will not grudge that. The hospital provided comfortable parking space, waiting space and most importantly, clean toilets, and I consider these facilities worth the extra money spent.

Quite a number of my friends and relatives have visited these hospitals for surgeries and other procedures and have expressed satisfaction. At the same time almost all of them have mentioned the fact that they have found the hospitals very expensive. Some of them have complained about unnecessary investigations and procedures but that is part of the ‘health care business’. I have no idea about the economics of these establishments but even as a layman I can see that maintenance of these establishments must be quite expensive. Obviously, to recover their cost plus profit, the hospitals must charge the patients a lot. And since they have to maximize profits they find different ways of charging the patient. Recently I heard about the changes in functioning of the dental clinic in one of the corporate hospitals in Goa and if that is how the other departments are also run, one need not wonder why they are so expensive.

This hospital had a dental clinic and had appointed a dentist on a monthly salary. But for the fact that the clinic is located in a swanky building with a big name, the dental set up is the same as any of the hundreds of dental clinics run by individual dentists in any city. For some of the procedures beyond the capabilities of the ‘in house’ dentist, the hospital called a specialist, who was paid on 'per case' basis.

Let us consider a surgical extraction for which the specialist is called. The procedure done in an ordinary dental clinic, by a visiting specialist, would cost the patient about Rs 1500 - 2000. The same procedure performed by the same specialist in this hospital was being charged Rs 3500. The specialist would get Rs 1500 and the rest went to the hospital.

Now, the hospital decided to outsource dental services. A company which is in the business of running dental clinics in corporate hospitals all over the country has taken the contract. The company sets up its own equipment, maintains it and also appoints a dentist. The hospital gets a fabulous rent - 3 lakh if what I hear is right - for the space provided for the dental clinic. The company has retained the same specialist who used to attend the hospital earlier, but, it now charges Rs 7000 for the procedure which was being charged Rs 3500. The specialist gets the same Rs1500, the company keeps Rs 2500 and the hospital gets its share of Rs 3000! This is apart from the rent.   

The company running the clinic banks on the name of the hospital and the volumes generated by running such clinics all over the country. The hospital provides its name to the clinic but has nothing to do with the quality of service. It just collects a tidy rent as well as a share of the fee. The hospital exploits the company and the company exploits both the dentist and the patient.  

If you ask me what is that I am trying to convey here, I have no answer. I am just placing here a fact that came to my notice. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pleasing The Planets

Tulsi - Holy Basil

I got up earlier than usual and since it felt very pleasant outside, decided to go out and water the plants. I stood there watering the plants and enjoying the fragrance of jasmine when my neighbour’s gate opened with a clatter and his wife came out.

“May I take some ‘Tulsi’ (holy basil) from your yard?”

I have plenty of Tulsi around my house and I asked her to help herself. She came in. Usually I see her in the compound around six in the morning but now it was not even five. I was wondering why she is up so early when she spoke “We are doing a pooja today and it has to be done at the right time to be effective. The ‘muhurt’ is very early.” She paused and answered the question that was forming in my mind. “You see, our daughter is in twelfth standard and she is not getting good percentage. Maths was bringing the percentage down. So she stopped maths and opted for psychology. Still there is no improvement. So we have had her ‘patrika’ (horoscope) examined and ‘Bhatji’ said that some of the planets are not favouring her studies. He suggested this pooja and we hope that she will do well after this. Let us see. Twelfth standard is the turning point no? We have to do all we can.” She collected enough Tulsi to satisfy all the gods and planets and left.

Now, some of you may say that it is all nonsense. Don’t say that. The planets are really helpful if only you know what to do with them. They have helped ‘Bhatji’ and others like him a lot. If you have any doubt just switch on ETV Kannada or Udaya TV  between eight and nine in the morning and count the number of diamond rings on ‘Guruji’s fingers!   

Disclaimer: I have only stated facts and do not intend hurting anybody’s sentiments. Religious, planetary, monetary or otherwise!