Sunday, August 31, 2008

It is a week since I returned from the trip to Badarinath. I had many things in my mind which I intended putting on print. One week is gone and so have most of the matters that I was intending to post. Now I feel that there was’nt anything that was worth typing down. Few thoughts still remain.
All these years our movement have been only between the states of Goa and Karnataka, my work place and native place, wandering into the neighbouring maharashtra and tamilnadu where my brother and sister reside, once in a while. This trip gave a chance to atleast pass through MP,UP, haryana, uttaraanchal, rajasthan, gujaraat and Delhi.

Spent 5-10 minuts in many major railway stations. Was glad to see plenty of trains connecting all parts of our country. Every train had 3-4 general compartments which carried more passengers than all the remaining compartments put together. That’s the way it has been always, but looking at the plight of those passengers felt guilty travelling AC 3 tier.

I was glad to see vast improvement in the way food was being served on the trains. Neat packages of main course with little packets of salt, pickle, jam etc etc and even a plastic tumbler full of water well packaged. Felt sad to see the empty packets being heaped in the vestibule connecting the compartments, before being dumped on to the track between the stations.

Travelled by road from Delhi to Badarinath. One need to have a lot of imagination to call it a road. It is a major road in uttaranchal. I heard that vehicular traffic is not allowed on the road between 8pm and 6am. So you know how it is. If I were the CM of Uttaranchal I would have ordered closure of the road for five years- for repairs, giving a nice chance for the opposition to politicise the issue and pull me down.

We were forced to halt overnight in a small township called Joshimath because of a land slide further ahead. We stayed in a hotel on the main road. I woke up very early as there was a lot of commotion out side. It was still 4 am. I found a number of students in neat uniforms moving around with lot of excitement. I was wondering what was going on when I realised it was 15th of August. Almost all the students from various schools were collecting on the road for a march towards the place where the Independence day was to be celebrated. They were very neatly dressed, looking very happy and excited to be there. They were arriving at the spot from various paths coming up and down the hilly terrain. All of them invariably entered the temple closeby, came out and touched the feet of the teachers who were standing in groups, before falling in line and marching off. The scene impressed me very much. I present some pictures I clicked of Independence day in Joshimath. My relative, Wing commander Srinath, who was with us, made it a point to attend the flag hoisting ceremony held in front of the hotel, along with his children while we hung around the balcony with tea cups in hand. All these made me feel that we haven’t lost everything yet.

The holy shrine of Badarinath is like any other piligrim center. One temple, with overflowing faith and the surroundings with overflowing filth. I was touched by the first one while despising the next. You have the magnificient hills with mist hanging around, river Alakananda flowing rapidly in the valley, small and serene temple overlooking the valley, Lord Badarinath in the form of saligram stone, hot water spring right next to the icecold Alakananda and all these spoilt by the shabby constructions and petty shops and tea stalls surrounding it.

“Worship that entity which people revere with affection, even though they never see it” is the crude translation of the first verse in Mankuthimmana kagga by Sri.DVG. I prostrated before lord Bdarinath and felt good.

Felt relieved to be back in Delhi after traversing through the same road but with more land slides and traffic jams than what we experienced during onward journey. Halted at Hrishikesh and Haridwar, two famous places which are enroute. Wondered at the faith people still have in the river Ganga. Thousands collect for aarati by the side of the river in the evening at Haridwar giving the local people an opportunity for doing brisk business and further dirtying the surroundings.

Saw Delhi after 25 years. I went there for the interview. I had seen only the railway station, my friend’s house and the UPSC office. Made it a point to see the usual spots of Delhi this time. Nothing worth mentioning about.
Was very much impressed by the Aksharadham temple. The neat and orderly way the activities are conducted and the way the toilets are located and maintained is unbelievable. I do not have an aesthetic eye. I appreciate the beauty and grandeur but praise the mundane, more.

Goa is excited about Ganesh chathurthi. People in service are happy as they get two days holidays. Business class is happy as the biggest salesman lord Ganesha is helping them out in filling the pockets. Children are happy as they have a week’s vacation and parents are too busy to bother them about homework and studies.
Dentists sit in empty clinics as chaturthi is a reason for people to postpone dental treatment. For that matter, in Goa, chathurthi comes in handy to avoid/postpone anything from two days to a week.

Have to end this post on a sad note. The family of the tailor bird – four hatchlings- disappeared overnight. The nest is empty today. The culprit could be the snake, rat or the crow. The forlorn parents hovered around the nest whole day and left. That’s the nature. I believe it is the fate of almost 80%-90% offsprings in the wild, but was hoping our hatchlings form the rest. It was not so. Can’t help feeling sad.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Few unconnected lines for my post.
I was happy to return to a bright and sunny Goa last evening.
The eggs of the tailor bird have hatched. I was told that there are four hatchlings. One of the parents is always around. Managed to get one in the frame. I have been barred from going anywhere near the nest.
Head line in TOI is “Beijing bows out with a BANG”
There is an item called Quote of the games. One female swimmer makes a comment about a rumour of an affair with Michael Phelps. “eww, that’s nasty. I have never, ever hooked up with Michael phelps… come on, I have really good taste” I do not know if there is any animosity between them and if so for what reason. But I feel it is a nasty statement and really shows her taste.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No posts, no dentistry, no routine for the last ten days. Lord Badarinath decided that I should visit him at his abode Shrikshetra Badarinath -590 kms from Delhi and so I did. With his will and our driver's skill put together (both in large quantities) we returned to Delhi yesterday. I am not keen on pilgrimages. I decided to undertake this pilgrimage as I thought that being close to Himalayas it would be full of new sights and experience. Indeed it was. And I do not want the experience again. The Gharwal range, with its peaking green mountains covered in mist, and the Alakananda flowing rapidly at the bottom, is a feast to the eyes and fills the heart. Provided your heart is not filled and overflowing with the fear of landslides and the chance of losing your life. We performed a journey of about eight hundred kms chanting narayana- narayana all the way and earned enough "punya" (god's goodwill?) to last for two lifetimes.
I had heard that the journey to Badarinath is risky even in summer and that the risk increases during monsoons. I had read about land slides and accidents on the way. But it was from very far. I had no idea how it could be, when you are on the spot. Now I know. It scares you like hell.
Almost all the way from Hrishikesh, the road is narrow and very bad. Distance of approx 350 kms. There is hardly enough space for one vehicle to move but we have two way traffic. The whole of the mountain range is sort of rubble and boulders- fist size to truck size- loosely held by sandy mud. Continuous drizzle washes the soil off and huge masses of boulders and mud come sliding down. The boulders fall randomly from thousands of feet above. If you are in the way, you get crushed or you go down along with the mass into the Alakananda flowing thousands of feet below. FEARFUL. (If you avoid the landslide you get into the chaos and traffic jam that follows which is not less fearful.) In most places such slides take down part of the road with them and the wheels on one side are right on the sliding margin. Few inches out of the way and you are on your way into the ravine. The driver needs to watch the heights for falling stones and manage to avoid the ravine at the same time.
I have not experienced extremes of fear or scare. I can remember two or three occasions which have scared me a lot. One was when I was learning to swim. I had beaten my legs till they could not move any more and then tried to stand in waist deep water. The floor of the pool was slippery and I slipped on to the floor on my back. I tried to get up resting my hands on the floor and they slipped. I tried to roll and my back slipped. I do not know how I managed to get up but I did at last. It was scary but lasted few seconds
But here, I had a scare every km or two, lasting two to five minutes each, over a distance of 300-400 kms. The road is winding and looping continuously. I saw a huge land slide from afar on the opposite side of the valley. It looked fresh. I casually asked the driver- who had made dozens of trips on the route, if he had seen slides of that magnitude on the road too. He said that the road we were travelling, loops and passes right in the middle of the land slide I was pointing at! I started asking him about the tyres, brakes, and the time required to pass through the slide etc etc. He answered as best as he could with out causing further scare, and added “aap ko yeh ek din ka rastaa hai saab. Hum hafte me do bar aate hai. Chinta mat karo badarinathji par viswas karo” There was nothing else I could do. Even if I got out of the vehicle and walked back, I would have to pass through all those slides walking. So I kept the faith in badarinath as advised and performed the journey to and fro. The pictures here give a zhalak of the landslides and the fate of the car that was ahead of us which though got hit by the boulders was lucky enough not to go into the Alakananda. When seen live on the spot they were enough to shake any faith in any god. I have many things to write about our trip and badarinath. But after the trip, landslides were pervading the the mind and I put it down first.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

fast forward

our tailor bird is on fast forward. it is adding one egg everyday to the nest. we did not go near the nest for the last three days since we did not want to cause un necessary distress to the bird. when i first saw the nest three days back there was one egg. today there are four. i peeped in today as i was too curious and was reprimanded by my son. no more bird-nest-eggs till the hatchlings are out.
during one season when the magpie-robin was building the nest in our old house, we had, for some reason, moved one small bit of rag which was a foot away from the nest. the bird abandoned the nest. we will be more careful with this one.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

can not beleive

To start with, I can not believe that the tailorbird chose this lone plant to build a nest when there was a choice of abundant variety- better camouflage, larger leaves, denser foliage and what not -right next door as seen in the picture.
The next unbelievable thing is that we found an egg in the nest today.
Sounds like Solomon grandy born on Monday. Hope the end will not be so.

one more name to drop

One more name to drop.

In my earlier communication, I had hoped that our guest, the mag-pie robin would also return. Well, it has not. May be it has got wiser. But it did recommend the neighbourhood to its less fortunate friends who could not afford a better place. There is this place- I am not keen about it-see if its OK for you –sort of thing which we do. As a result, I found this nest nestling amongst the foliage of the plant we call as “paarijaata” in our garden. A grandiose name for a bunch of well watered but otherwise ill maintained plants trying to take root amongst rubble and construction debris that pass for soil, around our house. I was hoping against hope to find a flower bud or the signs of one developing in the plant when this came into view. The nest though well built and had withstood torrential rains and wind for the last three days, was empty. I was wondering who the owner was and if it is going to be occupied or meant as an investment (human mind after all), when I heard this frantic chirping a little distance away and turning towards it, noticed the owner. A cute tiny bird, which we need to watch longer to identify correctly. it is either a sunbird or the flycatcher.To prevent further distress to the little thing I went into the house and observed from the window. Flying down from its perch, it alighted on to the small tree closeby, took time to make sure I was nowhere near, came onto the compound wall, onto the plant and went into it’s nest. We have decided to keep away from the spot and see if the bird lives there happily, here after.

PS after considerable discussion, and consultation with the great salimali's birds of india, it is concluded that the bird is neither the fly catcher nor the sun bird. it is the tailor bird. its nest is described as "a rough cup of soft fibre, cotton wool and vegetable down placed in a funnel fashioned by cleverly folding over and stitching along edges one or more large plant leaves. usually under 1 mtr up." nesting season april to september. hats off to the bird man.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Kya aap BDS pass se tez hai?

I would certify you so, if you have already identified the object in the photograph. It did take me a few minutes to get its true identity, even though I was the one who had made the object.
It is a set of few artificial teeth. What we call as a removable partial denture. I made it some years back and one of the teeth broke when its master thought that he had mastered its use and bit a chicken bone with overconfidence. He was to leave for his job abroad, the next day, and so I had an emergency call. I assured him that there is no need to panic, replaced the tooth then and there in front of him, and bid him bon voyage. At that time, that denture consisted of three teeth.

He came on a vacation after two years, requested me to make a new set for him and showed me this set with which he had been managing for the past two years. Now, it consisted of seven teeth and four of them were natural teeth! In my experience of twenty years, all I had heard and seen about, was one set of milk teeth, the next set of permanent teeth and the third type – the set of artificial teeth which we prepare- if one is careless enough to loose the god given free sets. This combination of plastic and natural teeth was new to me. That’s why it took time for me to believe and identify what I was seeing.
This gentleman had collected and saved his remaining natural teeth as and when they fell out, and having seen the way I repaired his denture, had cut them to size using I don’t know what, and had stuck them at the appropriate places in the denture using god knows which adhesive. I should have got the name of the adhesive from him. It would have been useful. This was ingenious. I had not seen anybody doing it before-nor have seen afterwards. I would not have hesitated to recommend him to head the department of prosthetic dentistry in any dental college.

I do come across some such cases once in a way. But the above one was a class of his own. There was one who said that having got fed up with his fillings repeatedly falling off, he stuffed the cavity in his tooth with a mixture of flour and quickfix and that it remained for two years. There was one who shaped a mass of chewed up bubblegum and stuck it on to the broken stump of his front tooth when the cap that had been fitted broke. He had managed with bubblegum for a week before he saw me.
There was another who had come to have his shaking tooth pulled out. I gave him the numbing injection and asked him to wait for a few minutes outside. He had told me that he had attempted to pull out the tooth himself but it hurt. I should have been alert. Now that there was no more pain, he pulled it out himself in my waiting room and walked off, saving himself my fees.

Thank god that their number is small. Or else by now I should have joined the birds and beasts around me and got the label ENDANGERED.

Politician on the prowl.

The bulbuls did regain their birdie qualities. Unlike we humans who keep repeating mistakes, they put to use what they learnt from entering our room yesterday and remained outdoors flying around the balcony. Not to deprive them of their food, I kept the fruit on the balcony wall and the next moment this ever vigilant politician on the look out for opportunities and always eager to snatch away goodies meant for others, swooped down and carried it away.
His colleague, watched from a height to see if I am going to repeat my foolishness in emulating our government, and produce another fruit, in spite of observing the goodies never reaching those to whom they are intended.
All the while, just as the majority of us do, this flock of pigeons sat at a safe distance occasionally taking an indifferent look at what was going on. It was none of their business.