Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Monsoon!!

One week into the monsoon season and the grass, weeds, ferns and creepers
around my house have grown with a vehemence and covered almost all of the
ground. I don’t mind the bushy growth. In fact I love them. The problem is that
the snakes around my house also love them. And the venomous Viper, in
particular, is known to come out for a walk in the early morning, when it is still
semi dark and that is the time when I set out for my walk too.  

Today I decided to clear the overgrowth and create a path for me to go to the gate
and got a taste of nature’s way of protecting itself. Since it was grass mostly, I
started plucking it out with my bear hands and in no time had dozens of pricks
and scratches on my hands made by the unseen tiny thorny growth co existing
with the grass. I retreated, wore a pair of gardening gloves and returned. A little
progress and then I had my hands tangled amongst the creepers spreading on
the ground which just wouldn’t budge. I went back for a cutter and got to work.

With in minutes my hands were messy up to the elbow and that is when the
mosquitos decided to come to the rescue of the flora. They were almost of the
size of a tiny bird, and they descended on the most unapproachable spots of
my body. No amount of shaking and wiggling would get them off and I had to
swat myself in ten places before I hit one mosquito. In the process I was
generously garnished with mud and bits of grass and an occasional swatted
mosquito providing a contrast of red colour.

As I was busy swatting mosquitoes, I did not notice the red ants which had
silently crept onto my legs and the very next minute I was found dancing in
my front yard hitting and scratching myself all over.

My neighbour, Mr Raikar came out walking his dog and asked “Doctor, what

“Enjoying the rains” I said, “Happy Monsoon!”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Winged Neighbours!

I have a neighbour, who has a large car and parking space enough for two cars. But his car is always parked on the narrow road in front of his house blocking two thirds of the road. This irritates me. There is another, whose habit of burning plastic bags in front of their house, irritates my wife no end. There is yet another, whose pet cat thinks that my scooter seat is there only to satisfy its scratching urge. And my patient's two wheelers, often parked carelessly in front of the clinic, obstruct the road and bothers all three of them. So, It is tit for tat or give and take or whatever, and we live accepting the irritations as part of life.

In contrast, we have these winged neighbours, the Barbets, Bulbuls, Coukal, Cuckoo, Hornbills, Robins, Sun birds, Warblers and a few others not introduced to me yet, who are a pleasure to have around! They enliven the mornings with their twittering and enliven the surroundings with their flittering. The Bulbuls sometime destroy the  Chikoo fruits in the tree and help themselves to a share of Bananas from my kitchen but the pleasure that I get from them is certainly more than the sustenance they get from me!

Now and then I try to get their pictures but they are not used to sitting and posing for cameras. That being the case I was very much surprised to see the family of Hornbills who reside in the tree opposite my house, sitting on the coconut leave next to my window in the morning. I usually hear their harsh call but rarely see them. Once or twice they alighted on my balcony for a few seconds and once they tried to break my window! Today they spent a lot of time sitting there relaxed, calling to their friends and preening themselves. Since I have tinted glasses in the window, I could see them clearly but they were not aware of my presence.  Had I opened my window, I could touch them! I spent an enjoyable half an hour looking at them and got a good many pictures. Few of them are here.

The Bulbul's yearly family building programme is on. The nest this year is on the loops of electric cable hanging above my clinic door. They seem to have an affinity to electricity! Probably they select places which the cat can't reach!

The Family - one parent and two siblings

The child in full splendour!

The parent and child - Having opposite views?

Another pose.
The site of Bulbul's home - the year before
Remnants of the last year's home !

Mother providing warmth of love and putting the off springs to sleep, after feeding
Managed to get the picture of the hatchlings when the mother was not around!

This year's nest, in the coil of power cable above the door. And it was an adventure, risking my limbs, to photograph them. I had to keep one foot on the railing another on the window sill and use both hands to take the picture!

After a long time I tried posting a video - the Hornbills preening and grooming themselves!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Lick Your Fingers And Be Ready!

When I was in second standard I changed my school and joined one which was a little away from our house. It wasn't very far but at the same time not a 'walkable distance' either. Then I started to take a city bus to go to school. I usually purchased a monthly concession pass but on occasions when it was not renewed in time, I had to buy a ticket. The ticket then costed five paisa and the conductor usually pocketed the coin and never issued a ticket. This, in fact was a blessing for me because, when he did issue a ticket he usually licked his finger, tore out a ticket and pushed it into my hand in a hurry. The ticket sometimes had a generous coating of his saliva and it even wet my hand. This was very disgusting for me and hence I usually hesitated before accepting the ticket and tried to get hold of a part of the ticket which was not soiled by his spit. Usually the end at which the tickets had been pinned together. In the process I dilly dallied and got scolded by the conductor for delaying him. I gingerly held the ticket by the tips of my fingers and dropped it as soon as I alighted from the bus.

I always tried to catch hold of this end of the ticket!

Unfortunately I turned out to be a dentist and was forced to spend a life time in other peoples mouths  enjoying cooling sprays of saliva on my face half a dozen times everyday, but my disgust towards finger licking has only steadily grown.

I go to the reading room and see at least half  the people reading there absentmindedly licking their fingers before turning pages. The finger lickers usually turn the pages by the right bottom corner and so, I have developed a habit of turning the pages of a borrowed book always from the top right corner!

I give a set of sheets to the xerox fellow to make copies. He gets the copies, licks his fingers, counts them and hands them over to me. Sometimes I object and try to tell him that he should not do so but he is usually surrounded by half a dozen people who are licking their fingers to check their copied sheets. I shut my mouth, accept the sheets and do whatever I can to assuage my disgust.

It is the same situation when I have to accept change from hawkers/shopkeepers and even when my patients pay me. In fact it is even worse in the clinic. Apart from the habit of finger licking to count cash, my patient's fingers are always in their mouth after the treatment either confirming that an offending tooth is not there any more or a filling has really been done! Sometimes I send them to wash their hands before paying me. But it is hopeless. So, all the notes that I receive from my patients invariably go into the formaldehyde vapour steriliser and I retrieve them after few hours!

Since most of the finger licking is for counting cash and turning pages, our banks used to be the best places to observe the habit. Every one of the workers there used to be either counting cash, handling paper slips or turning pages of a ledger! Now with  ATM machines handing over cash and ledgers having been replaced by computers, I had thought that there is not much scope for finger licking in the banks.

I went to the bank this morning for some work.  I was a bit early and the counter clerk was just then logging on to his computer. Before he logged himself in, the manager had to authorise his logging and he requested the manager to do the needful. The manager in turn had to confirm his identity by pressing his thumb on the electronic thumb print recorder attached to the computer. He pressed his thumb on the panel once, twice, thrice. Nothing happened. Then he casually licked his thumb and pressed it on the recorder and voila! There was a flash and a beep and it was done! Now I am curious to see what the ATM machine is going to do next!

Whenever I go to renew my driving licence or passport I am asked to press my thumb on this recorder and I always pressed without thinking twice. I understand there is a plan to incorporate Adhar number while buying air and train tickets and you will be required to register the thumb impression before entering the airport/ railway station. Now that we have sensitised our electronic gadgets to accept only licked thumbs, I hate to think of my fate. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Writing Itch And My Telephone Line

Have you ever tried to reconnect a severed telephone cable? Not many would have.
And why should any one do that? Most of the people are 'wireless' these days.
Unlike me. I am still attached to the good old BSNL landline and every now and then 
find myself holding the cut ends of a telephone line. If you continue reading this you
will know why I end up with that. But before that, a bit about re connecting the cut 

Please see the picture. If you intend re connecting the ends, first you have to cut 
through the outer black insulation and remove it with out damaging but exposing 
the inner red and green coloured wires. Then you have to separate them and cut 
through their thin plastic covering exposing but not cutting through the very thin 
copper core. once that is achieved, you can join the copper wires by twisting them
together. Sounds easy but not very easy.

I invariably cut through the whole thing half a dozen times and the red
and green wires twice or thrice before I get the copper core out safely. It is a 
frustrating business, and most of the times this will have to be done balancing 
myself precariously on the compound wall in pouring rain or hot sun. I hate to 
attempt it and usually I manage to catch hold of the lineman who is an expert. 
(And the fact that he has bad teeth is a blessing) But I am forced to attempt it 
now and then for some reason or the other.

Given below is the story of my telephone cable.

It is more than two decades since I got my landline telephone connection,
“OYT Special” (Own Your Telephone - and 'special' because I was a dentist
in the Government Hospital and got it through a special quota!) along with a brand
new instrument. I still have it (the connection, not the instrument) and it is through
this landline that I get my internet connection, the so called broadband, which is
just broad enough for my needs. My house is in a place where no 2G, 3G, 4G,
Soniaji or Modiji penetrate and hence my landline is my only contact with 
Google Guruji.

This landline, which mostly runs underground, comes overground one street
and two houses away behind my house and after having run its course over
Mr Braganza’s balcony, through Mr Deshpande’s Mango tree and on top of
Mrs John’s compound wall, passes around Mr Bhatikar’s coconut tree and
then enters my window. The picture underneath gives a fair idea of the terrain
over which my landline (seen here next to the coconut tree) runs.

That being the situation, the line is often disturbed by acts of man,
animal and god and since we have a cordial relation with the BSNL
lineman covering the area, I manage to get the connection restored without
much delay. We keep a constant watch on the line and clear up dead 
plantain leaves and mango twigs fallen on the line as soon as we notice them 
and also hasten to shoo away the monkeys which repeatedly invade Mr Deshpande's 
mango tree. Once the line was hanging low and got entangled in the horns of a stray 
cow which had made a casual visit to the empty plot next to my house and after 
some very anxious moments we managed to to lure the cow closer to our 
compound with some bananas and tactfully release our broadband with the help
of the special implement which I have kept for use in such contingencies!

One of the heavy coconut leaves fell on the line last week and the telephone cable was
cut. It was repaired by the lineman. Yesterday I found another leave fallen on the line. 
Since the base of the leaf was still attached to the coconut tree, the line had been 
pulled to one side but not broken.I wanted to avoid more damage to the line and so, 
using the cement fencing material stacked against the compound as foot hold

and risking my joints and ligaments, I climbed on to the high compound wall, managed to
get hold of the fallen leaf, gently separated it from the tree and in an effort to throw it as far
from the tree as possible, threw it squarely on the telephone cable, which I was 
trying to protect!

My stupid act severed the line very efficiently. I called the lineman but he was away
on leave. With some difficulty I recovered the two cut ends and was overjoyed to see
that the cable had been cut in such a way that about half an inch of inner copper 
wire had been exposed nicely on both the ends.

I have managed to join them temporarily and have been able to send this post 
across. Hope the ends hold till the line man returns from his leave.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Port Said - Ismalia - Ras el Bar

I stayed in the city of Port Said, Egypt for four days. There wasn't much to do, other than the short visits to the neighbouring cities of Ismalia and Ras El Bar. The trip to Ismalia by train had been planned to fulfil my wish to see the movement of ships in the Suez canal. The train track from Port Said to Cairo runs right next to the Suez canal and provides a wonderful opportunity to see the canal close up. I went up to Ismalia and it was a very enjoyable one hour train ride. The train seemed to be a very popular mode of transport. It was packed to capacity and the un reserved compartments were overflowing.

A Container ship in the Suez Canal, photographed through the 'not very clean' train window. 

The new Ismalia city built around the triangular Timsah lake, is a beautiful city with wide roads and parks. There are pathways, benches and picnic areas all along the water front and people were picnicking and enjoying themselves. We took a drive around the city on our way back from Ismalia to Port Said. I wish I had more time to spend there.

The entrance to the Agricultural University in Ismalia.

Another view of the  City of Ismalia

Another short trip was to the tourist place of Ras El Bar - the northern most point in Egypt.  River Nile joins the Mediterranean sea here after a long flow of 6695 kms, and provides for an enchanting waterfront area. Ras El Bar is a triangular projection of land with river Nile on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, both of them joining at the tip where there is a light house.

The light house at Ras el Bar

The water front pathway at the time of sunset.

 The plaque needs no explanation.

River Nile, at a place called Damietta, just before joining the sea at Ras El Bar

A group of conservatively dressed locals whom we befriended at Ras El Bar. Almost every stranger whom we met during our eight days's stay was very civilised in behaviour, very friendly in attitude and expressed lot of regards towards India and Indians. One of the girls in the group could manage a smattering of english which was enough to express the feelings and develop an instant friendship.

(Though I love to write and maintain a record of my trips on the blog, it takes considerable time and efforts to select pictures, upload them, set them at right places and post them. I loaded all the pictures of Port Said in this post by mistake and have no patience to take them off and place them in another post. Hence I leave them here with the captions. please bear.)

Port Said - the last two days. 

I was on my own most of the time and spent a lot of time walking around. I could walk from one end of the city to the other end in about forty minutes.  Other than the two major thoroughfares all other streets were narrow, criss crossing and and full of parked cars. Still there were no traffic jams!  Port Said is named after King Said Pasha, who signed the agreement for construction of the Suez Canal. I walked for hours along the canal, the beach and also the streets and have posted some pictures giving my impressions of the city.

The historic government building where the decision to construct the Suez Canal is said to have been taken. I went closer for a better picture but was shooed away by the  security guard.

 The Panoramic view from the balcony of my cousine's 6th floor apartment. Suez canal starts behind the building at the right hand side.

Picture of a ship entering the Suez canal taken from a shack on the beach. Later I went for a closer look of the canal, disturbing a pair of love birds who were sitting next to an abandoned old boat. I did not want to annoy them and walked away from the place. But they followed me and were eager to talk to me! The girl knew a bit of english and was the interpreter. An instant friendship developed and the girl - who did not want to be included - took our picture. By then a security guard arrived there and wanted to know what was happening in the restricted area. He wanted to check our identity but I did not have my passport on my person. The girl explained to him that I was from India and touring Egypt. On hearing 'India' he smiled and allowed me to stay there with the restriction that I should not take any pictures. In this confusion I forgot to save their numbers which I had noted and the new found friendship ended there! The Name of the girl Yara, and the picture of the boy will remain as memories.

Looking like a pigmy standing next to the handsome young boy whose love affair I disturbed.  By the way this was the closest I could get to the Suez canal.

I do not know what these conical things are. They are some meat preparation which were seen roasting in front of almost all eateries.

The ferry which runs all the twenty four hours carrying passengers from Port Said to Port Faud, on the opposite bank of Suez canal.

Port Said as seen from the ferry.

One of the thousands of Taxis that you find on the streets. You can get one almost anywhere and it costs seven Egyptian pounds (about 25 rupees) from one point to any other point in the city.

A typical internal street in the city.

The Church of Virgin Mary. The churches are under tight security due to the constant threat from the 'Muslim Brotherhood'.

The Al Salaam Mosque located close to Suez canal.

Under the pillar is the Egyptian Museum Of Modern Art and all around the monument are the government offices. This can be considered the centre of the city.

The City is full of cars and hardly few two wheelers. Fuel is cheap - Seven EGPs, about twenty eight rupees a litre. We find plenty of old cars of all makes and many on the verge of junking still being used for transportation of goods.

Person selling the staple Arabian 'Pita' bread at a street corner.

A very popular variety of Sun glasses. I found almost all young girls wearing these types of coloured sun glasses of different shapes. Everyone is fashionably dressed in jeans, T shirts, jackets and shoes and wearing these glasses when in sun. A cigarette between every youngman's fingers complete the picture. Smoking is rampant but I did not see anyone spitting on the streets. 

Khaleed and Ahmed whom we nicknamed Laurel and Hardy because of their build and bumbling nature which they sometime exhibited - probably due to their inability to communicate effectively. Both of them very polite and affable. Thy drove us around Egypt.

Sunset witnessed from the light house at Ras El Bar on the last day of our stay in Port Said. A beautiful end to a beautiful trip!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cairo - Giza - Pyramids and Museum.

The road from Alexandria to Cairo is supposed to be the best stretch in Egypt but we covered the distance after dark and could only feel the smoothness of the road. I wasn't able to see anything other than the burning outlets of natural gas. When we entered Cairo from Alexandria it was nearing ten at night. Cairo is supposed to be the 15th largest city in the world and along with its suburbs has a population of about 15 million. Our hotel was at the other end of the city and it took us about 45 minutes to traverse through. Though the traffic was heavy we hardly spent anytime at traffic signals and the flow was smooth. 

I had a better look at the city in the morning. While the areas housing the important establishments like the military academy, consulates and major government offices appeared spread out, well planned and maintained, the interiors of the city were narrow, congested and dusty.  Cars, trucks, and horse/camel carts vied for space. But traffic discipline seemed to be much better than what I see in my country. Most of the buildings were multi storey residential buildings constructed with bricks, but I could not understand why none of them were finished with cement plaster or paint!

The Giza area where the great pyramids are located seemed to have been handed over to self proclaimed tourist guides and touts. With these people trying to serve their own interest, and misguiding people, it wasn't easy getting through. We had to ask for directions at half a dozen places before we could reach one of the seven wonders of the world!

I was expecting the Pyramids, with the status that they enjoy in world history, to be treated with due respect and regards. But no. Once you buy your ticket and enter through the gate after the cursory security check, it is a free for all. I was appalled to see hundreds of people climbing on the outer surface of the pyramids over the crumbling and disintegrating stone blocks. There was no one in authority to guide or control people and their activities. We had bought tickets to go inside the pyramid but I was in half a mind. Entry is allowed into only one of Pyramids, the four thousand year old Pyramid of king Khufu, the biggest amongst the existing pyramids in Giza. It is the one at the extreme left in the above picture. My wife was firm about her intention to see the interior of the Pyramid and  since I could not let her go alone, I had to follow. 

You enter and pass through a narrow but tall passage for about fifty feet and the going, though steep, seems easy.

Soon after the passage becomes a tunnel of about 3*3 and you have to crouch and move ahead. This passage as another fifty feet in length but when packed with people in front of you and behind you it could get very stuffy and claustrophobic. ( the above picture is from the net. usually you wont find it like this) After covering about half the length, my wife, who was very firm about seeing the interior of the Pyramid had second thoughts but it was too late. So, we decided to move ahead and after some uncomfortable time reached the chamber which housed the tomb. 

Except for the empty tomb (and lots of positive energy - as they claim) there is nothing in the chamber. The mummy and other artefacts have been moved to the museum in Cairo. 

The Sphinx - the biggest existing in Egypt- about which nothing is known for sure. It is supposed to be protecting the Pyramids seen in the back ground. It might have done its job protecting the pyramids from evil spirits. But how effectively is it going to protect them from civilisation is to be seen! It sits by the side of the road as you exit from the pyramids enclosure and one may even miss it amongst other broken structures if not pointed out!

I think my narration is getting monotonous and I have difficulty moving the pictures where I want them to be. I will just finish with captions for the pictures in the random order in which they have been uploaded to the blog.

The above instruments are the four thousand year old dental instruments exhibited at the Egyptian Museum Cairo. I sent the pictures to my classmates group and got the response "Oh, they are the ones we had in our college!"

The Al Hussaini Mosque near Khan Khallili market Cairo. 

The interior of the mosque. I understand people come from distant cities both in and out of Egypt, to visit this sacred place where the head of Hussain, the son of Prophet Mohammad is believed to have been buried. Some were praying silently, some aloud, some were singing while some just sat or slept. I had a very similar feeling to what I would experience looking at the different ways of worship the devout perform in our temples. Incidentally this was the first time I entered a mosque!

The Zarih - An ornate lattice structure which encloses a grave - inside the mosque.

The oldest coffee shop 'El Feshawi'  stablished 1797 - inside the Khan Khallili Market

The Mosque and the market after it is dark.

Stone blocks - varying from 2 to 18 tons - used to build the pyramids.

View of Cairo from the River Nile. We went on a cruise on the river which reminded me of the cruise on the Mandovi in Panaji- Goa. As good or as bad - based on your taste, but nothing great.

The court yard of the Egyptian Museum at Thrir Square, Cairo.

The Containers used to store the internal organs removed from the mummified bodies.

A section of the Ground floor viewed from above.

Instruments used to take out the internal organs from the mummified bodies. 

There are one lakh and twenty thousand exhibits in the museum. I am overwhelmed by the fact that almost all of them are  2000+ in age! And many of them have actually been used!  It will be foolish on my part to attempt to write more  about them. I only posted some pictures which I felt like, for no particular reason.

I think I should not test your patience further and hence end here.