Sunday, July 13, 2014

Empty Nest And 'Harichitta Satya'

I will begin this post like a letter from/to a government department.

Ref : My last post about bird watching. 

Much before we went bird watching on the road to Diwar island (last Sunday) one of our tiny winged friends had been watching us keenly and based on the intelligence gathered by its tinier brain, concluded that the folks around were not foes and decided to use our front yard for the propagation of its tribe. 

Ref: another of my previous posts about ‘Ajja,’ the old man who comes to tend to the grubby shrubbery that we call our ‘garden’.

My wife was out in the garden during Ajja’s latest visit giving him instructions (which he was sure to ignore / misinterpret) and I heard an excited shout “Look here, there is a nest in the ‘Parijata’ plant.” (Parijata -  nyctanthes arbor-tristis).   I went out eagerly and there indeed was this beautifully sewn nest, built by sewing the leaves of the parijata plant with fibres to form a cup and then using the cup to hold the eco friendly building materials to make a cozy looking nest there. We have two tiny birds which visit our garden regularly, the sun bird and the tailor bird. When I explained the nest to one of my experienced bird watcher friend, he said that it must be a tailor bird nest.

This was the second nest that we were seeing in our garden. Few years back we had found the first nest in the other parijata plant close to the present one and with lot of excitement had followed the construction process, daily chores of the occupants, the stork bringing the eggs followed by the hatching and hatchlings, only to find, to our horror, the same activities being watched, with more interest, by the stealthy cat and the crooked necked crow. One gloomy morning we had found the nest empty and the parents flying around agitatedly. We do not know which of the higher ups in the eco system got the hatchlings but we were heartbroken.

So, I was trying to keep the excitement level low and was just observing the nest with detachment as advised by Lord Krishna in the ‘Bhagavadgita’. But this time the nest remained empty ever since we found it (nearly a month back) and we have not noticed any activities there.  I do not know who had built this nest, the husband or the wife but I can almost hear the other one chirping when it came to see the future home “What have you done? Look at the location. So close to the ground.  And on such a slender branch. This may not survive even a week in the rains. And any of our foes can just reach out from the road and pluck out our kids. I am sorry but we are not living here.”  Just like my wife who had expressed her opinion in no uncertain terms on seeing the fourth floor flat (without the facility of a lift) that I was intending to buy once.

The nest is exactly at the center of this picture
It is either that or the builder built the nest even before it could marry, hoping that the house may attract a partner, if his/her own charms were not enough to do the trick. Like what we used to hear about the bachelors in Mumbai.  An ownership of a small flat in one of the suburbs (or even the possession of a rented one )being a very strong point in the portfolio submitted to the parents of prospective brides.  But many a hopeful groom ultimately ended up with just the flat and not a wife, this point portrayed very nicely by Sri Purandara dasa  in one of his devotional songs ‘Harchitta satya’.   “Sudati makkaLa bhagya bayasodu nara chitta, maduvyaagadiruvudu harichittavayya”  (The hopeful human may will to have a wife and children- but Sri Hari’s, that is, god’s will, - that you remain a bachelor - prevails!). 

The Empty nest

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bird Watching Walk.

The post on face book said “The Goa Bird Conservation Network is organising a birdwatching morning on the lovely island of Divar this Sunday, the 6th of July. The walk will begin at 7:00 am at the Ribandar-Divar ferry jetty, take the ferry across the river to Divar, and go along the road to the village through prime bird habitat. If it isn’t too rainy, expect to see lots of waders, skulkers, shorebirds and raptors. And if it is too rainy, we’ll just enjoy the rain! The walk is free and open to all. Bring along your cameras and binoculars if you have one, and rainwear if you don’t like getting wet. Also note that we may be squelching around in the fields along the road, so wear suitable footwear.”

 It sounded good and I decided to go. Birds or rain (which we lack this season) I was OK with any.  We (self and son - who was generous enough to give up his Sunday sleep for the sake of this walk) arrived at the jetty at seven on the dot and found most of the group already collected there.  

 It was a very pleasant, though cloudy morning with the sun vainly trying to break through the clouds. The river made a pretty picture from the jetty.

The ferry blew its horn and the walk, rather the float began. It was time to exchange pleasantries.

The Gynaecology department of the old medical college building looked nice and peaceful from the ferry. With the wards overlooking the soothing Mandovi, many a peaceful mother might have given birth to a contented baby here. 

Soon after, we were walking along  the road to Diwar and had identified some Munias and Ashy prinias (which were too fast and small for my camera) when we got the first photographable bird, the Cormorant in the typical position of drying its wings. Yes, the black spot you see at the center of the greenery is the cormorant. It did look like a  bird when viewed through the binocular. 

The walk continued with the enthusiastic participants exchanging information and trying to spot more.

The next one to be spotted was the lonely looking Adjutant stork perching on a bare branch (right hand upper corner in the picture) half a kilometer away and then the black headed ibis (white spots in the picture), three of them, on the ground below. I hope that your eyes are better than my camera and that you do not need me to direct your sight to them. 

Some birds which were flying around were identified as the Yellow bittern, Night heron, Common Kingfisher, Egrets, Lapwing, Bulbul, Brahminikite and so on, all of which looked similar to me but for their size. Like the aircrafts observed from the ground. And then someone pointed to this bird which looked like a real bird to my eyes without the aid of the binocular and which, my camera also agrees looks like a bird. That is the Baya weavever. (in the middle - if you are worse than me) 

We walked merrily in the pleasant weather, pleasant surroundings and the much pleasant company. I would have loved the walk just because of the road - forget the bird and the rain.

And like all good things in life the walk came to an end near the culvert where some local people were involved in a much more useful hobby of angling for fish for the Sunday special. 

We walked back to the ferry and the group posed for a picture in the ferry and for a fuller group on the jetty. 

Then it was back to my daily grind of cavities, fillings and RCTs - unlike the fortunate others, who could just go back, lie down and ruminate on the enjoyable bird walk, I work half a day on Sundays.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Toes And 'Totapuris'.

My wife sprained one of her toes which made walking difficult. (It happened at the height of summer and came in handy as an excuse to avoid her evening walk, which was getting very uncomfortable) She complained about it (the pain I mean, not missing the walk) and I said offhandedly “Reduce weight, use soft footwear, give some hot fomentation and avoid long walks. If the pain is unbearable take a pain killer. It will take some time but it will be OK.”

“You are least bothered about my difficulties, you don’t care if I am suffering and you don’t have the courtesy of offering to take me to a doctor.”
“I know it is nothing serious” I said “Can you move your toes”?
“Can you pin point the source of pain?”
“Does it hurt when you are resting?”
Is it better when you use a soft footwear?
“In that case, I can tell you with confidence that it is nothing serious. Just leave it alone and it will be OK.”

“Do they teach about feet and toes in dental college?” (wife)
“In that case you stick to your dentistry and don’t offer unwanted advice about my feet. If you don’t care about my suffering so be it. I will suffer silently and will not tell you even if my toes come apart.”

We left the matter there. She limped a bit and limped a bit more when I was in sight. I pretended that I did not notice anything wrong.

But when the pain spread to MY knees I had to take cognizance. Wait, don’t correct me. I haven’t made a mistake. The pain did spread to MY knees. I will explain.

Since the last two years I have been experiencing mild pain in my knees when I climb a slope or stairs. When it remained for more than six months I consulted my orthopaedist friend. He took a cursory look and said “Oh, it is early degenerative arthritis. Don’t do anything that may worsen the condition like running, excessive bending and fast climbing. If you don’t mind losing few rupees every day, swallow some calcium and vitamin E. Not that it will help much. By the time the situation gets worse and reaches the stage of joint replacement you will have crossed seventy five. If you live till then let us see.”  That is where I had left my knee pain. It neither increased nor decreased and had remained as it was. 

I am losing few rupees everyday and hoping that I will not live beyond seventy.

Now my wife had reduced her movement and she said that it hurt more when she climbed the stairs. So, she stayed put on the first floor, where we live. I had to climb up and down when the post man came, courier boy brought a parcel, paper boy or the cable TV fellow came for collection, gas cylinder was delivered, people came selling children’s encyclopaedias and for umpteen other reasons. My knees took the brunt and the pain increased.  I had to do something about my wife’s foot.

I surrendered my ego and talked to my wife about consulting the bone specialist. I received a sarcastic reply “What is the urgency?  Let us wait till I am totally lame” but I managed to coax and convince her. I haven’t spent thirty years with her for nothing.

Our orthopaedist’s consulting room faces his front yard and the gate. He saw us approaching and called out through his window. “Hello, what brings you here? Come in”. My wife sat in the chair in front of him and poured out her woes.
He took her leg in hand and pressed her toes one after another.
“Does it hurt when I press?”
“Your pain is only when you put weight on it right?”
“Can you point out the source of pain?”
Does it hurt when you wiggle your toes?”
 “Now press against my hands.----  Does it hurt?”
“It must be a ligament tear. Use soft footwear, give some hot fomentation and avoid long walks. Try to reduce your weight. If the pain is unbearable take a pain killer. It will take some time but it will be OK.
I gave her a meaningful look. But she averted her eyes. We came out. I forgot to offer him his consulting fee.

“You don’t have to be conceited.” She hissed. “He might have said the same thing as you, but he is qualified, competent and knows what he is saying. And unlike you he was concerned about the pain. I feel much better after meeting him.  Now, don’t look at me like that. Why didn’t you offer to pay him? And you did not even thank him. I feel so embarrassed”.

Before I could say anything we heard my friend calling through his window again,

“Hey wait” He came out “How were the mangoes that I gave you? (He had brought us a dozen alphonso mangoes grown on his tree.)
“I am so sorry. I forgot to mention. They were wonderful” I received another scornful look from my wife and he continued “Do you eat ‘Totapuri’?” (Totapuri - another  variety of mangoes) and without waiting for my reply he pulled me up the stairs “Come, Take some.” He took us to his rooftop garden. He is a keen horticulturist and has many varieties of mangoes. He has grown a Totapuri tree on his terrace. He plucked half a dozen fruits within reach, just about to ripe, and handed them to me. “If you like them come anytime and take more. We are not fans of this variety. I will be very happy if you could use them.”

We came home. The Totapuris were large and attractive. My wife was very excited and happy. She loves Mangoes and during the season her lunch/dinner is not complete without a serving, no, many servings, of the fruit.

It is about a week since we went there. The mangoes ripened and tasted great. They were so big that just one would satisfy the whole family including my wife. Now the last last one is remaining.

“Just one more ‘Totapuri’ remaining. Should we visit our orhtopaedist for a follow up?” I asked my wife.

“Shut up. You have no shame. You do not offer him his fees and not even thank him for his kindness. He had taken the trouble of coming to our door to give us Mangoes and you did not even have the courtesy to mention that. He had to remind you. I feel ashamed. I can't face him again.” 

Then she looked longingly at the remaining 'Totapuri'. “I will not come with you but if you are going that way meet him and tell him that I am better. Here, take this bag.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Summer Storm

I was having a peaceful post lunch siesta when I heard a distant rumbling and this is what I saw when I looked out of the window. Sun shining on the tree tops near my house and dark clouds above the nearby hillock. 

By the time I took the picture from the window and went to the balcony  half the sky was dark

It was already getting darker and few drops had started falling when I went on to the terrace.

In a minute it got very dark and the birds were getting disoriented. There was lot of lightning and thunder and I wanted to get a picture of the lightning. But I was barefoot and it was like standing on a frying pan on the terrace. I rushed down.

It was pouring the next minute but it lasted just a minute. 

The rain wet the ground, increased humidity and the power supply got cut for an hour because some where a branch fell on a line because of the wind.

That was all the benefit we got from the summer storm which made a big noise, blew a lot of wind, created lot of excitement and petered away just as fast.

I hope the Modi tsunami does not turn out to be a summer storm! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

'Raayara Mahime'

I recently wrote a small article in Kannada (avaravara bhaavakke avaravara bhakutige) based on a personal experience and posted it on my blog, maatu-kate for my kins to read. The kins who read the piece seemed to have concentrated more between the lines and seemed to have detected ‘Rayara mahime’ (greatness/miracle of ‘Raayaru’) in the article which I am sure was not there when I wrote it. That certainly must have been ‘Rayara Mahime’!

Since I found considerable enthusiasm amongst them in discussing ‘Rayara Mahime’, I thought that I would make it the subject matter in this piece and provide more food for their thoughts. And so, here I am.

Disclaimer : I am only the narrator of this ‘Ghatane’ (Incident) as told to me by Anni (we called our father ‘Anni’) and do not vouch for the veracity of the incident. (And I do not think Anni made it up just to pull my legs.)

Before I proceed, for those who may need some basic information:  Raghavendra Teertharu or Raghavendra SwamigaLu  or ‘Raayaru’ as he is popularly known as, lived between 1595 - 1671, and was called Venkanna before he accepted ‘Sanyasa’(renouncing of the worldly affairs).  He is said to have refused Sanyasa as he was married and it would not be fair to his wife and child. He is supposed to have relented after goddess Sharadadevi appeared in his dream and asked him to be a ‘Sanyasi’ and provide spiritual guidance for the  betterment of this world. He was initiated into ‘Sanyasa’ by his guru Sri Sudheendra teertha and was named Sri ‘Raghavendra teertha’. After the time of Sri Sudheendra teertha he assumed the leadership of the Matha  (an organization meant for spreading spiritual knowledge)  which later became popular as ‘Raghavendra Matha’. He effectively undertook the task of spreading the Dwaita philosophy (Of Madhwacharya), was a great scholar, author and musician. He chose Mantralayam, a village near Adoni in Andhra Pradesh as the place for his Matha and Brindavana. (The final resting place or a sacred tomb for the Pontiff or the head of a Matha).

Raayaru is said to have entered the Brindavana alive in 1671 and while doing so, said to have mentioned that he would continue to be alive in his physical form inside the Brindavana for the next 300 years and then in a subtle form for another 400years. The day he entered the Brindavana is the day of his ‘Aradhane’(special worship) and in this context the 300th Aradhane held during 1971 assumes significance.

‘Raayara Aradhane’ is a big day in any Raayara Matha (subsidiary or a franchise of the Matha in Mantralayam - hundreds of them all over India) and more so in Mantralayam.  Lakhs of people visit Mantralayam during Aaradhane which falls in Shravanamasa of the Hindu calendar, usually July - August, during rains. There was great excitement and enthusiasm amongst the devotees during the 300th Aaradhane, a very huge crowd was expected to visit Mantralayam and suitable arrangements were made. I must have been in 10th standard during the time and remember having read/heard about it.

Mantralayam in 1971 was not what one sees today. The infrastructure was limited and communication, poor. I believe many temporary shelters had been erected to accommodate the large number of devotees and the overflow was expected to accommodate itself on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, which flows close to the Matha. Since the Aradhane is performed over three days, people were staying  overnight and a large area around the Matha had to be illuminated. One of Anni’s relatives, a prominent devotee of Raayaru and an electrical contractor, had taken the task of lighting up the area.

I understand that arrangements had been made expecting a big crowd but by the afternoon on the first day of ‘Aaradhane’ it was evident that the organizers had underestimated Raayaru’s influence on people. Rather, people’s faith in ‘Raayaru’. The arrivals were already double of what was expected and the second day being the most significant, it was going to increase further. The organizers tried to do their best and Anni received a frantic message from his relative, the electrical contractor, to get there by next morning (second day) with as much of wiring, fittings and tubes as possible. (For those who do not know Anni, he was employed with a dealer of electrical goods and was capable of organizing the material at short notice.)

Anni left for Mantralayam by evening carrying the goods and a bag containing a towel and a dhoti for himself. (Anni always travelled light. If he was going to any other place, he would have added a shirt to his personal luggage but he felt that there was no need for a shirt in Mantralayam as one does not wear shirts in a Matha.)

He arrived in Mantralayam the next morning much to the relief of his relative and immediately got involved in the task of installing the lights all the way up to the river. He was so much involved in his work that he did not have the time to stand in the long line to enter the Matha and offer his respects to Raayaru nor he had time for his lunch. He finished the task by late afternoon and was terribly tired and hungry. It is customary that those who visit a Matha for Aaradhane have their lunch there but it was long past lunch time and so Anni went to the river for a bath and was hoping to be able to just enter the Matha for ‘Darshana’ (traditional viewing of the idol) before trying to find something to eat in one of the small eateries in Mantralayam town.  He came to the Matha and was surprised to find that there were a large number of people who were yet to have their lunch and that the food was still being cooked. 

I understand that due to the unexpectedly large crowd, the food grains stocked for Aaradhane was inadequate and the food prepared for lunch was exhausted by the time half the people had eaten. The organizers were desperately trying to procure more grains but Mantralayam being a very small place there was not much hope. The prospect of thousands of devotees going without 'Prasada' (food served to devotees after the traditional offerings to the lord and Raayaru) was looming large when a truck carrying a load of food grains had arrived - a contribution to the Aaradhane from one of the big traders in Andhra and the food was being cooked with renewed enthusiasm. People waited patiently. Since there was time for lunch, Anni stood in the line for Darshana.

By then the arrangements for lunch began. ‘Patravalis’ (plates made by stitching leaves together) were spread on the ground in the tents erected for the purpose and people rushed there and sat waiting for the lunch to be served. So did Anni. ‘There is no god greater than the stomach god’ (ಹೊಟ್ಟೆ ದೇವರಿಗಿಂತ ದೊಡ್ಡ ದೇವರಿಲ್ಲ ) goes a Kannada saying. There was a mild drizzle outside. Just as the food was brought out to be served, the mild drizzle turned to a torrential downpour and water started flowing on the ground carrying with it the patravalis. Traditional serving was abandoned and people were asked to pick up their ‘plates’ and stand up to receive the food. 

Most of the patravalis (which were also in short supply), had been washed off and there were many without a ‘plate’ to hold their food. People stood cupping their hands together to receive the food and crowded around those who were serving. The situation was getting chaotic. The food that was poured into the hands was freshly cooked and hot and people had to juggle it in their hands, to prevent burning their hands. Then they had to eat it fast without burning their mouths and ask for the next serving. But nobody complained. They felt lucky and happy that they received the ‘Prasad’of the 300th 'Aaradhane'. 

Anni had no intentions of fighting through the crowd to get his 'Prasada' and so, while the concentration was on the ‘Prasada’ he went for the 'Darshana', offered his respects to Raayaru but decided to cut short his visit and return to Bangalore the same night. The bus stand was a little away from the Matha and there was still time for the bus. So Anni decided to spend time on the river bank  and  go to the bus stand in time for the bus, eat whatever was available in the local eateries and catch a bus. He went to the river, away from the crowd, and sat on a rock contemplating on the recent happenings.

He was sitting there lost in his thoughts when he heard a voice “Son, take this. You must be hungry”.  (ಹಿಡಿ ಮಗು, ಹಸಿವಾಗಿರಬೇಕು ನಿನಗೆ.) He opened his eyes to find an old man standing in front of him with a container in hand. As if by reflex, Anni cupped both his hands together and held them out and the old man poured some ‘HuLiyanna’ (rice mixed with vegetable curry) from the container into his hands. Anni was very hungry and he began eating eagerly without even thanking the old man. It did not take long to finish what had been put in his hands. Anni looked up holding his hands out for another serving but there was no old man anywhere in sight! And even though Anni had eaten just a few mouthfuls he felt strangely full and contented. He did not want anything more!

Anni found a place to sleep in one of the makeshift tents erected along the river bank, had a sound sleep, participated in the Aaradhane celebrations of the third day, had a memorable lunch in the Matha and returned to Bangalore by the night bus.

This is what he told me. Did a stray old man carrying Huliyanna really come looking for Anni that evening? Who was he? Was Anni so hungry and tired, that he hallucinated? Did he make up a story just to pull my legs? Am I making up a story to pull your legs? I leave the answers to avaravara bhaava, bhakuti and brains. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Short Story Contest - My View

The Hosts, My Pocket Story, Tell A,

It was nice of you to think of and organize the short story writing contest, My Pocket Story. I participated in the contest and have enjoyed the process. The conditions and the time slot made the contest interesting. I congratulate Tell A Tale for putting this up.

While I enjoyed the process of writing for the contest I have my reservations regarding certain aspects of the same. First, the extension in timings announced when the time slot was about to end. It is a letdown for those who stuck to the time limit and sent the stories on time. Rules cannot be changed halfway through the game. If at all there was any compulsion, the contest should have been scrapped and a new date, theme and set of words  announced.

Now, about ‘promoting’ my story. According to the instructions I am required to announce the link to the contest on all the social network sites I subscribe to and request my friends to vote for my story. More votes, more chances of winning. It is obvious that those who can reach more friends through these sites get more votes, immaterial  what is written. Now, what is the contest about? Is it about the literary abilities of the writer and the quality of writing or the ability to gather friends who can click ‘like’ on request?

In fact, the organizers should have prohibited writers from canvassing for votes through their social networks. If reader feedback was essential for judging the stories, the visitors to the website should have been requested to go through the stories and rate them. What is being followed now is the viewer vote system of TV channels the intention of which is to increase viewership. I agree that we have to change with times, but not in contests like this if what you are looking at is good literary abilities.

Well, that is what I feel.  Sorry for questioning the hosts instead of being busy garnering votes.

With regards


(I was very happy to note that my concern was addressed by the hosts immediately. their reply is also here).

Thank you for your feedback.

Addressing the 2 issues that you have raised one by one:
1. Changing the timelines mid-way - This was done to accommodate many writers who had registered for the contest but who contacted us saying they were unable to write within the stipulated time period since Saturday was a working day for them. As organizers, we felt that it was our duty to enable all registrants to participate. So instead of questioning why they registered if they had to work, we extended the deadline to include Sunday as well. Since multiple entries were allowed, this would also give time to those who had already sent in their entries to improvise (if they wanted to) or send in another entry. If this caused any inconvenience to you, we sincerely apologize.

2. Promoting the story - Social voting has been included as a fun round to get readers and writers involved in the judging process. The social voting is in no way a screening round, neither contributes a major share to the final score. We have a panel comprising of judges drawn from different age groups and different streams within writing and publishing who will be judging the entries. You can go through their profiles on the website at this link:
Additionally, it is only readers on the website who can vote for these entries. E.g. if you share this post on your Facebook wall, and get a 100 likes for it, they will not add to your score. But if your entry gets a 100 likes on the website, that adds to your score.
The final score will be a combined score, with judges' score carrying higher weightage. 

I hope this addresses your concern.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Election commission Of India.

Went early to vote this morning as I did not relish the idea of waiting for half an hour in the hot sun to vote for some undeserving fellow. All of them are undeserving but I have to vote for the best of the worst. I did. 

I had reached there by fifteen minutes past seven hoping to be amongst the first few but there were already about twenty five people in the queue. People smarter than me. I stood in the line mentally preparing to be there for at least forty five minutes (Based on my past experience). Pleasant surprise. I did not have to wait for more than fifteen minutes. The line moved very fast, I was done in no time and I came back wondering at the orderly conduct of polling and the efficiency of Election Commission of India.

I had been following the exchanges between the ECI and the West Bengal chief minister for the past few days and had noted the audacious statement of the CM, WB. It was gratifying to read that she had to bow down to the ECI and follow orders.

We hardly have any institutions in our country worth being proud of. I feel ECI is one. A big LIKE from me for our Election commission.