Black gold

The desire for gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Being a woman, as I am expected to go ga-ga over gold, I chose a different colored one instead. Black gold. No, I don’t have any slick oil deals, but I stick to good old home-made compost. Rana and I were introduced into the world of solid waste

3 tier Kambha (small)

management when we worked with the dedicated teams of Citizen Matters and 2bin1bag. We haven’t stopped talking trash since then. One of the many things we learned in this journey was to keep our wet waste with us. Since we were planning to move homes, I thought of using a guinea pig – my father. He went in for a  home composter, the smallest earthen Kambha set from Daily Dump.

It has been fairly smooth sailing for him. He proudly says that not even a single curry leaf has left his home. The initial bag of remix powder (cocopeat) lasted him for nearly 12 months. In terms of investment, it has been quite minimal, even if you consider INR 140 for a remix bag! This is a system of aerobic composting, where the

Curry leaves and lemons harvested from my father's garden

Curry leaves and lemons harvested from my father’s garden

pots have holes in them, allowing for movement of air. Once you “prepare” a pot – that is, add a layer of newspaper, dry leaves and a few handfuls of remix powder or mature compost- all you need to do is add the wet waste and layer it with remix powder. No stirring required. You can do this ritual every day, or whenever you gather about a few handfuls of wet waste. He keeps his composting unit indoors, so that he doesn’t have to take extra precaution during rains. There is decent ventilation at home, and hence, there is no smell near the Kambha.

While he was midway into this journey, we shifted homes. We were looking for a unit for a four-member household and I thought of going in for

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Notice the holes on the sides

two 55 ltr drums from Shudh Labh. This comes with a bottom tray, and the process is similar to Daily Dump’s Kambha, as this is also aerobic. One layer of “greens” (the wet waste) needs to be topped up with a layer of “browns” (microbial cocopeat, in this case). You might ask me, “Hey, but these drums are plastic!” Yes, of course, but this isn’t a single-use disposable. Just imagine, after every use, if I begin to throw these drums!

 

IMG_20161105_130727This was our first harvest of black gold, the mature compost – its fragrance reminding us of the wet earth after the first rains. We sieved it, because we thenIMG_20161105_133413 began to gift our compost. My mum-in-law says that in her days, she would prepare sweets, or sambar powder, or a special dish to gift her loved ones. Times

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Half-done compost tells tales, of who sneaked in groundnuts while nobody was watching

are a-changing, and she now collects idli batter covers to gift compost 😀 The usual practice in any Indian home is to take guests around and show off our place. In our family, we show off our garbage. I mean, we show them all the wet waste that has been sitting around for months.

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Mature compost, sieved

But this wasn’t without hiccups. My dad was layering wet waste with compost and saving

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My mum-in-law cutting peels, to hasten the composting process.

on money. “Oh, you think I can’t do the same?” said the thought bubble in my head. So, at home, I advised everyone to use a mix of microbial cocopeat and mature compost for the layer of browns. They say, “penny wise pound foolish”, and for a good reason. After one of the drums filled up and we parked it aside for it to

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White fungus on top, a sign of healthy compost

mature, it began giving out leachate in the tray below. The tray is there for that reason, but that didn’t necessarily mean we had to ensure it was used! What followed next was an exercise of drying out the half-done compost, adding a lot of extra microbial cocopeat to hold the moisture, and splitting this into two drums. In the process of trying to beat my father’s low spending, I ended up spending more money and time in fixing problems. Of course, we were rich with experience. I now gift free advice, tips and tricks along with home-made compost.

The time had come, again. Do we try a different method? I was still hell bent on cutting

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No holes. What are friends for, if you don’t exchange composting bins? 😉

down on cost, you see. I was discussing these with my friends, gathering tips. Just then, my friend, Anjana, said she had moved to leave-it pots by Daily Dump. She offered to let me borrow her Trustbin bins. Now, this is a system of anaerobic composting, where the container doesn’t have any holes. You prepare the bin by adding a handful of jaggery, and place a tray on top of it. Add your wet waste, press it down to remove any extra air, and layer with two tablespoons of bran for every inch of wet waste. After a bin is full, keep it aside for a minimum of two weeks, where the wet waste ferments and gets “pickled”. This, is the first stage of the bokashi method. If you open the bin, you will get a strong, vinegar-like smell. You might take a bit of time getting used to it, but this is probably a point to be wary of, in this method.

 

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Palak in our kitchen garden

In the second stage, you go back to aerobic method. Take out a layer of fermented pickle and add it to the aerobic container. Layer it with an equal quantity of already mature compost. I had a lot of the latter, anyway. So right now, I am using a combination of Trustbin containers for the first stage, with Shudh Labh drums for the second stage. Yup, I layer with mature compost and even then, the

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Mum-in-laws green thumb, aided by home-made gobbara

pickle turned to black gold in just about two weeks! That was real quick 😀 I tried the second stage in a Daily Dump leave-it pot as well – the earthen pot absorbed not just the moisture, but also the rather strong smell of the fermented pickle.  Don’t try this combination, though, of using Daily Dump along with Bokashi.

Oh, you must be wondering about the jaggery. It has a role to play.  The anaerobic bin begins to give out a leachate – a liquid which gets generated from the wet waste, in combination with the bran. This liquid is highly nutritious and concentrated. You can harvest this “brew” once every few days. Mix it in a proportion of 1:30 and water your plants with it. Or, use it undiluted to de-clog your drains. I am testing out the brew in our kitchen garden and my father’s garden. Oh yes, our tomato plant is growing way out of control, and I don’t know if we should blame the brew 😉

Our composting journey has been fulfilling, and I must say I am addicted to it. I am proud to say that we keep all our wet waste with us. I prefer the daily dump earthen pots to the plastic drums, because by nature, the earthen pots absorb more moisture. In fact, sometimes they absorb so much moisture that your compost could be dry! In terms of

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Lovely, beautiful white fungus in the bokashi unit.

cost and the fact that I am not always around to do firefighting of drum leakages, I would recommend either the Kambha or smaller drums (if you prefer plastic). The khamba is prone to breakage if you walk clumsily and knock it down. At the moment, I am enjoying making the brew and seeing the compost maturing so quickly. I must also add that after we shifted to bokashi, we have not seen any maggots in our compost. Note that maggots are absolutely harmless to humans, and are great for your compost.

If you are planning to get started on your composting journey, don’t think twice. Start right away – check SwachaGraha for more info 🙂 Please feel to ask questions, or share your tips and tricks in the comments section.

Sugandhi

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Maya Bazaar

posterBangalore Little Theatre (BLT) is back with yet another production, an original English language adaptation of 1950’s movie, Maya Bazaar. My father was a die-hard fan of the movie, and naturally, we watched it – not once, but several times. The original was in Telugu, a language I don’t understand much, but the movie had such a connection with its audience, we just connected with it. But it was then. Today’s audience cannot go ga-ga over S V Ranga Rao’s magic, or N T Rama Rao’s style or Relangi’s tomfoolery. This is exactly what drove BLT’s Sridhar Ramanathan to present the story in a modern context.

I admit I had my reservations. My mind said, “No, nobody can do justice to SVR, NTR, ANR and Savitri.” Last evening, I watched Maya Bazaar at Alliance Francaise – and, it was just awesome!

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img_20161204_165230What an adaptation! Dang, I cannot reveal anything! Because you must watch it yourself to enjoy the production in all its glory. Superb comic timing, fantastic connections with current issues, and img_20161204_163742great performances. It is hard to pick a favorite, because everybody gave his/her 100% – including the percussionist sitting in the corner without a spotlight on him. But I cannot resist – I have to say that I absolutely loved the bird – the actor brought the bird to life, in looks and behaviour. My other favorite characters were Hidimbi, Ghatu and Lakshmana – had he been around, SVR would have joined the chorus of his evergreen song, this time in English, going “ta ding ta ding ta ding ding” 😀

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Maya Bazaar, the epic fantasy film, is an adaptation of a popular folk tale, Sasirekha Parinayamfrom Mahabharata. It is set during the Pandavas’ exile or Aranya Parva; and hence, features in our blog 😉 The production gives out relevant messages to care about our environment, and needless to say, that’s close to my heart. Yet, I do have a small request to the team – if you can just replace some of the important props in the play with reusables (instead of disposables like paper cups, tissues and straws), your message will become that much more stronger and credible 🙂img_20161204_175512

There are three more shows in Bangalore – don’t miss them. You can book them on bookmyshow. Sit back and laugh out loud. Get lost in the magic of Maya Bazaar. And, here’s a special shout out to two friends in the production – Poornima Kannan (production and PR) and Anand Rajamani (actor, playing Ghatotkacha).

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Behind the scenes of Maya Bazaar. Image credit: BLT

EDIT: The Maya team updated me today that they reuse all the paper cups, straws, tissue papers and every prop, across all the shows. During rehearsals, they bring their own reusable cutlery. Anand, the actor playing Ghatu, says,  “Our backstage team cribs if the articles are not found. The tissues are meticulously picked up by co artistes during the run of play. The crushed tissues double up to stuff the bag and make it appear bulky while it remains light.  And we printed the script just 8 or 10 copies for individuals who struggle to read off devices.”  —- isn’t that super cool?

Kudos, team Maya Bazaar. And thank you for this update – you guys made my day 🙂

“Sugandhi

Einstein: A Stage Portrait

You must be wondering what Einstein has to do with the theme of our blog, Aranya Parva. The “Man of the Century”, Einstein, also wondered why he had to do anything with the ‘Bomb’! The stage was set, and we watched Albert Einstein in his study.

Saturday are always hectic in Bangalore, because of Rana’s theory (of relativity) – some of the IT folks who use office transport – bless them – own cars and need to use them. So they get the cars out on Saturday and strangle the Bangalore roads. Despite that, Saturdays can be great, like the one that just went by. We reached St. Joseph’s College auditorium, said a quick hello to our good friend, Poornima Kannan, who was ushering in the audience for the play Einstein: A stage portrait. Bangalore Little Theatre and Azim Premji University, in association with St. Joseph’s College, have brought this play to Bangalore.IMG_20151205_193124728

The only thing missing was a glass of whiskey in our hands, because the whole experience felt like Einstein was sitting across the table, narrating the story of his life to us, in person. At the end of the play, it was hard to decide whom to appreciate better, the playwright or the artist. Williard Simms has woven the story of the Einstein in an intimate and riveting way, transporting us to a different world. The

Image credit: Ashwini Visuals/BLT

Image credit: Ashwini Visuals/BLT

playwright has drawn details from Einstein’s letters to his son and daughter-in-law, and has presented every relevant detail in the manner of an intimate conversation. From the days when Einstein chased butterflies (Poornima would have definitely loved this part of his life story), to the days when he wrote to Roosevelt, Simms gives us the many facets of Einstein’s character that we would hardly know about. The scientist was charming, witty, funny, sensitive, and maybe sometimes selfish, arrogant, and most important of all, humane.

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Image credit: Ashwini Visuals/BLT

When a playwright does such a fantastic job of characterization, an artist can only hope to do justice to the role. Tom Schuch does that, giving his everything to it, including his age. Delivering 46 pages of script is no mean feat, and to do that flawlessly with a slight hint of German accent takes not just dedication, but passion for one’s profession. Being a drama artist of All India Radio, and having had a brief stint with theatre/TV, I understand what goes behind portraying a role. All I can do is tell the artist, take a bow, for we stepped out of the auditorium with a feeling of having met the scientist himself. The reviews are spot on – that he is an actor’s actor and that this play is a “drama-logue” par excellence. Watch the trailer here. If you think the hair and make-up look awesome, listen to Tom laughing – I just loved it 😀

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Image credit: Ashwini Visuals/BLT

One of Einstein’s quotes says, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”. This brings the connection to our blog. Watch the play to understand and appreciate the man’s connections with what was happening around him and his train of thoughts. When he talks relativity again and again, you can’t help but think of the various projects that are being done at such a rapid pace, with little thought on their impacts. Remember, Einstein also said this: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space … Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

albertviolin_AFP_BIGThere are different shows scheduled for specific audiences across Bangalore. If you know it is scheduled in your organization, be there half an hour early 😉 Wherever in the world you are, if you hear about this play by Spoli Productions International in your locality,  don’t miss it! There is an additional bonus at the end of the play – a question and answer session with the actor and the playwright. Ask away and enjoy 🙂

 

Sugandhi

 

Sarus

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By Balasaheb Pratinidhi (Chitra Ramayana) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The death of a bird led to the birth of Valmiki’s Ramayana. Sage Valmiki headed out to take a dip in the river Tamasa. He decided to take a stroll before his bath, soaking in nature’s beauty. A little distance away were two birds, a male and female, completely engrossed in one other. Even as the sage watched, a hunter’s arrow killed the male. Overcome with grief (shoka), Valmiki uttered these words, which, even to his surprise, came out as a shloka – a verse perfect in rhyme and rhythm – and was the first ever Sanskrit verse.

मां निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः।
यत्क्रौंचमिथुनादेकम् अवधीः काममोहितम्॥

mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhāṁ tvamagamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
yat krauñcamithunādekam avadhīḥ kāmamohitam

http://ozcranes.net/images/valmiki.jpg

Source: ozcranes.net

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A Pelican and Other Birds Near a Pool, known as ‘The Floating Feather

The verse roughly translates to, “Oh hunter, may you repent for life and suffer, find no rest or fame, for you have killed one of the unsuspecting, devoted and loving krauñcha couple.” Of the several interpretations, one says the hunter is the demon Ravana, who separated the loving couple, Sita and Rama.

My Sanskrit teacher in school, Mrs. Sulabha V Hubli, explained ma nishada in great detail with its many meanings and interpretations, imprinting the epic scene on my memory. A few months ago, I had attended Shyamal’s talk, where he discussed Melchior de Hondecoeter’s 1680 artwork, Het drijvend veertje, one of the most accurate representations of the Sarus Crane. The Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) at the center of the frame got me thinking about this verse again.

Was it the Sarus that Valmiki referred to? In different literature, the  krauñcha has been described as a dove, flamingo, swan, snipe, curlew or even a Demoiselle Crane. The wiki for Demoiselle Crane has a reference to krauñcha and Valmiki. However, more recent studies have established the identity of Valmiki’s krauñcha pair as Sarus Cranes.

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Sarus Cranes in a grassland, Keoladeo National Park

As the story goes, the female lamented with a pitch and tonal quality so deep in emotion, that compassion welled up within Valmiki. Julia Leslie’s paper, A bird bereaved, does an exhaustive study of the verse, considering thirty two separate species, and eliminating all but one, the Sarus Crane.

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Sarus Cranes in Keoladeo National Park

Literature says the name Sarus came from the Sanskrit word sarasa, pertaining to lake, water. Sarasa explains the habitat of the crane – wetlands, grasslands, marshes and [un]cultivated fields. Another study talks about the word relating to any crane or waterfowl, but it also translates to crying or calling out.  In Tamil, the word sarasa is closely related to dance – which relates to the “dancing” movements of these birds, not only during the breeding season. They are famous for their fascinating display, with perfect poise and calling in unison. They jump, bow and circle around, stand in front of each other, swinging their necks. One may jump and descend flapping its wings. Oh, how I wish I could see this someday 🙂

We did see this graceful pair foraging in the fields at Lesser Rann of Kutch. How time flew, we never realized, for they were a treat to watch. That they decided to call, was an icing on the cake.

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http://indiapicks.com/Indianart/Images_MP/Mughal_Cranes.jpg

Source: Gallery of Indian miniature paintings, National Museum, New Delhi

While Valmiki’s Ramayana gave a poetic introduction to the tallest flying birds, Emperor Jehangir pioneered in noting its behavioral ecology and natural history, in early 17th century. Again, one of his notes also refers to a crane’s pining, its mournful notes, after its mate was predated. Although all cranes bond for life, it is the Sarus that is a symbol of marital fidelity. The Emperor was so interested in these cranes that he had also gold-ringed a few of them on their noses and legs!

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An etymology of krauñcha says that it is the one that gives out calls. This bird with its grey plumage is described as the one with the red head (raktamoordha). In fact, Valmiki’s description of  tamra sirsa (coppery head) aided in identifying the krauñcha in his story.

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There are references to instances where bereaved Sarus Cranes have pined away to death. You may call this poignant episode and the female lamenting as anthropomorphic. Maybe it is, maybe it is not. All I can say is,  most of mankind has transformed into a more vicious form of the hunter of Valmiki’s story. To make our lives better – be it in the form of more money, better infrastructure, real estate, agriculture – we destroy  homes of not only the Sarus Crane, but of many other wild citizens. We kill them without giving a second thought. The Sarus Crane will continue to lament. There are people who narrate those stories. But will the audience read, listen and care?

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Sugandhi

References

Celebrating art and natural history

Everyone would love to draw or doodle. If you master the art, every boring class or meeting can suddenly become that much more interesting. However, it’ll be better if you draw or sketch for the love of it, for you can create something you’ll cherish for a long time to come. SugSketch0002Apart from playing book cricket in classes or doodling during meetings, I enjoyed sketching. Of course, I hadn’t mastered it, I would only copy the masters. Bill Waterson, for example – as a tribute to the master, this one hung on my cubicle wall. The scan looks a bit yellowed, and sure enough, indicates that this is an “antique” artwork 😉

It was more fun to draw animals, though, but my sketches were mostly those of bears (Barney Bear), pigs(Porky Pig), Looney Tunes or stuffed tigers

SugSketch0003Apart from a postal course in art from Santhanu’s Chitra Vidyalayam, I didn’t dabble much with sketching, other than the occasional doodling while dawdling. Things changed, when I began watching birds. We learnt from experts and ornithologists; a common point everybody mentioned was to draw. Watch the birds, draw what you see, note down the details. Obviously, you may not be able to replicate the bird, but you can definitely observe its posture, the colors on its head, wings and beak, whether it walks or hops and a hundred other things that a bird can do. So there I was, back into sketching. My sketches were horrible, but that didn’t matter at all, because all that mattered was the learning.

This year, National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru (NGMA) was celebrating art & natural history, on the occasion of World Environment Day. It was a three-day event with two 20150606_110529workshops, a film festival and a conversation on animal illustrations in India. I was thrilled, because one of the workshops was for adults. Finally! I would get jealous of the kids who get to learn nature journaling from Sangeetha Kadur and Shilpa of Greenscraps – both very fine nature and wildlife artists and wonderful teachers, but who haven’t yet agreed to many of our requests to conduct workshops for adults 😉 At NGMA, there was a two-part workshop on scientific drawing of animals conducted by Ms. Tatiana Petrova. She is a Russian wildlife artist and 20150606_110800ornithologist, who recently completed her dissertation on the history of ornithological illustrations of Indian birds in lithographs of XIX century.

A few of her works were on display at the NGMA library.  Shyamal L and MB Krishna guided some of us through the display which ranged from watercolors and woodcuts to lithographs and oil pastels. Later, Shilpa explained what goes into making some of them, and that was an eye-opener. The cats, birds, geckos – mind-blowing art. I was glad I didn’t miss the event.

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During the workshop, she took us along the timeline of the history of art in the natural world – from imaginary creatures and crude drawings to precise representations, art in nature and wildlife has come a long way. She told us about the very same techniques that our mentors had taught us earlier, of how to draw the key features and a bit of the habitat, while on the field. Additionally, she introduced us to “schemes” – more like skeletal line drawings for insects/animals/birds – on top of which one can develop the final sketch.

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My incomplete sketches from the workshop: bird anatomy scheme, bird expressions and Khaleej Pheasant (while watching a video clip)

She said, most people make the mistake of drawing the legs from the belly, or the tail seems to be “growing” out of the wrong place. There were important points that she drove home – like the joints on the limbs which make for a much better sketch – simple techniques, simple because she made them look so but points which we would otherwise fail to note.

Day two involved an exercise of sketching while watching videos of animals and birds in action. Wow, doing a simple copy itself was a big task and this seemed impossible!

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Marmots from my A4 pages – drawn while watching a video clip played in a loop

But she gave us a few tips and tricks. More than the sketching experiment, I enjoyed watching her in action. She was fast, observing even the smallest details and producing art of the finest nature. Later, some of us (participants) exchanged “notes” and it was great fun to admire each other’s art 😉

The event ended with the ‘Drawn to the Wild: A Conversation on Animal Illustrations in India’ by  Shyamal and Tatiana. It was a journey they took us along, bringing to us the art that we don’t normally get to see. I am not qualified to even go ga-ga over Shyamal’s research and knowledge, but all I can say is that if you haven’t heard him yet, you really haven’t done the right thing. During the talk, Shyamal and Tatiana discussed many images, one of which was the one below. Note the Sarus Crane in the middle – I am mentioning this in particular, because two of our upcoming posts relate to cranes – Demoiselle and Sarus. Stay craned!

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Melchior de Hondecoeter Birds in a Park 1680″ by Melchior d’Hondecoeter – Art Renewal Center – description. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Sugandhi

Further reading:

Painting the town red, green, yellow and every other colour

It is habba (festival) time in Bengaluru, with our city celebrating Neralu, the festival of trees. I got this opportunity to write about my experiences at Neralu for Citizen Matters. Thank you CM! Here is the link:

http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/painting-the-town-red-green-yellow-and-every-other-colour-neralu-bengaluru

I am posting the contents of the article here.

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It is that time of the year when some fellow Bengalureans will together paint the town red. Or yellow, purple, orange, pink, violet; name it and you’ll see the colour. Those Bengalureans are our beloved trees, getting into bloom, making namma Bengaluru look vibrant and pretty.

It was a nippy and chirpy Saturday morning, with the White-cheeked Barbets calling tirelessly. Being a ‘true South Indian’, I had to complete my ritual of one cup of strong filter coffee, even at the risk of getting late. I still managed to reach in time for Neralu’s opening activity, Katte Parichaya by Kiran Keswani and team at Doddamavalli Katte. If you thought this city doesn’t wake up early on weekends, you should have been there to see the crowd gathered in front of the Ashwath Katte, intently listening.

_46A2651Kiran and team spoke about Katte and the trees (that sounds a bit like ‘Swami and friends’, doesn’t it?), sharing interesting stories and facts, such as the Hindu divine trinity, paganism, the innumerable uses of the Peepal tree, community space, and even the ‘marriage’ between Peepal and Neem! Tree lovers gushed with pride, pointing to the crowd to crane their necks and have a look at the Mahua tree standing tall next to the Bisilu Maramma shrine. I smiled at the canopy, at the green leaves fluttering against the pleasant blue background.

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Business was as usual at the santhe, but this time, with a difference, because the vendors and customers had lent one of their ears to Neralu. The Parichaya was an interactive session, with many experiences exchanged, from Kattes in different parts of the country and ‘somari (lazy) Kattes’ to college Kattes.  It took me back to my school days, when we, siblings, had to gather the fallen twigs of the Arali mara (Peepal) once a year, for one of the rituals at home. For the twig-gathering, we would visit three Kattes nearby, the ones near Dodda Ganesha temple, Bull Temple and Mallikarjuna Swamy temple.

The Neralu team had made these colourful Katte postcards to be posted to friends and family, inviting them to Neralu. What a lovely concept! Kids rushed to write on their cards and post them in the cute little Neralu letter box.
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This old lady, frail and beautiful, picked up a card and examined it for a long while. Could she send it to someone? Did she keep it for herself? I’ll probably never know, but I’ll cherish the memory; that she had a Neralu card with her.

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I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out to National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). It was so open, so inviting, and so green. It was indeed festival time! There were maps to guide us to different ‘in-tree-esting’ activities, and friendly volunteers were running around, just like busy ants on trees. I even got my wrist stamped with Neralu.

The first floor had me soaked with information and titbits, as I walked in awe, looking at the selections from a larger exhibition on the lesser-known flora and fauna of the Western Ghats. Sigh, I wish I had at least nine lives to see all of those in person. My family and I walked over to the photo project. Over 40 photographs were on display, each telling a different, lovely, picturesque story about trees. One of the photographs was mine and Rana’s. I quietly danced a little jig! 🙂

My next morning was again a Neralu morning at MN Krishna Rao Park. The Kaleido group ran around the park, announcing “Banniri banniri, natakava nODiri”, inviting everyone to watch their play. The artists clad in red and black entertained the crowd, with witty dialogues and thought-provoking concepts. We didn’t need a laughter club that day to laugh out loud! I felt my eyes going moist when the artist said he moved out of Bendaluru to Neraluru. With my garden city boiling and baking, the name Bendaluru hurt.
pic_article_Neralu_Sugandhi__3_
pic_article_Neralu_Sugandhi__4_The crowd split into two groups for the tree walks. I joined the one led by Narayan. He made it very interesting, sharing stories from his grandparents, and asking us to name the trees based on what we felt, telling us how to differentiate between the Teak and Kanaka Champa. He took us to the Mast tree and asked, “Which tree is this?” Pat came the answer, “Asoka”. He asked, “Do you think Sita would’ve had any shade under this tree?” Now, that question made sure that nobody from his audience will ever mistake the Mast tree for the Asoka!

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I had to excuse myself at this point, for I had to run to one of my favourite Neralu activities – Yoga under trees. The instructor, Namrata Sudhindra, was brilliant. She taught us asana after asana, without a break, and I didn’t realize how time flew. It was peaceful under the shade of the trees, and as she promised, I can still feel the energy flowing through me. [Image courtesy: Sudarshan Gadadhar]

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One of the vendors at the Katte Santhe

Unless we know about trees, we will never learn to respect or treasure them. We need to celebrate trees and our natural heritage. Neralu is becoming addictive, a habba that we all look forward to. This is the second year in succession that Bengaluru is celebrating trees. Here’s kudos to the team bringing this festival to us. Do catch the rest of the Neralu activities on February 14th.

Sugandhi

2 bin 1 bag

Bengaluru, once known as garden city, is now notorious as the garbage city. Thousands of tons of solid waste are generated in our city, everyday. Have a look at these shocking images from Mandur landfill. The residents protested enough and their voices were heard. 20141203_164556Dumping has been stopped at Mandur. But the day isn’t far away when some other area becomes a Mandur, unless we take responsibility.

That’s exactly what proactive citizens from Bellandur ward in Bengaluru did.  They formed a group called Kasa Muktha Bellandur, KMB, began managing their waste responsibly and are also being humane to people who handle waste. They began a citizen initiative called 2bin1bag, to segregate garbage at source. The entire process is well documented on their website, the formula itself is very easy and it instantly cuts down on plastic bags. It also ensures that very little goes to the landfill, because if we manage waste, then 95% of it can either be recycled or composted. They have tied up with other groups and vendors who manage garbage – which means that a vendor would actually *pay* to collect dry and/or wet waste from your homes!

So, our blog is Aranya Parva, and what does the “book of the forest” have to do with garbage? A forest definitely doesn’t have to do anything 20141203_170112with garbage, but the sad reality is that forests are being taken over for garbage dumping. We cannot write about the forest if forests no longer remain. And hence, this blog post.

Sugandhi and I got an opportunity to work with  the KMB team  on a short film that explains how easy it is to segregate 🙂 We made the film in English and Kannada, with one professional artist and some first timers, including a very smart young boy and a lovable, well-behaved puppy! There were two Malayalis who managed to speak well in Kannada, and there was one father-in-law, mine. I’ll stop the description there 😀 It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience where we learnt a lot. Please watch these films, share them widely, and more importantly, begin segregation 🙂

We are also in the process of gathering volunteers in our ward. Hopefully, our street will hop onto the 2bin1bag bandwagon soon. Until then, adios!

English version:

Kannada version:

Please take a moment to sign this petition and help the KMB volunteers take this plea to BBMP to ban plastic in Bengaluru.

Rana

References:

The two-headed snake, not!

We were at Dholavira, one of the five largest Harappan sites. The details that had gone into planning and building the city are mind-blowing. However, I’ll save it for a different post, because something else caught our eye in the dry and arid region.

It was slithering and shining, the sun rays dancing on its reddish brown body. It didn’t stop for a moment, disappearing behind the scrubby vegetation. It seemed to live up to its characteristic feature, almost saying “timid and shy and scared am I, to face a world of men”. _46A8506Obviously scared, because men (read: humans) aren’t really being nice to it.

“Domuha saab, domuha!” shouted the driver. One of the local names, in Hindi, for the Red Sand Boa is do-muha, meaning two-headed snake. That is exactly what it is not! This snake has a rather blunt tail,  which cheats the onlooker to believe that it has two heads, one at each end. The tail is usually slightly darker than the rest of the body.The tail

The burrower that it is, it went in and out of burrows, until it finally decided to stay put in one. Red Sand Boa is said to be nocturnal, but we don’t have an inkling into why it appeared in broad daylight.

Did you know that this is an ovoviviparous snake? The eggs hatch inside the female’s body. So what’s so interesting about a slithering beauty, that isn’t venomous, and does not even have a record of having bitten anyone till date?

I started reading more about the Red Sand Boa.

Kerala 2014. Chennai 2014. Hyderabad 2014. Mumbai 2014. Coimbatore 2012. Bangalore 2010.

These are just some of the dates when harmful creatures (again read: humans) were captured, because they had in their possession these absolutely harmless Red Sand Boas. These are instances when action was taken, but who knows how many cases go unreported?

A report says that at a time when the real-estate business took a hit (yes, such a thing does happen sometimes in India), the businessmen began looking out. Not for an alternate profession, not for alternate strategies, but for Red Sand Boas! One of the many myths surrounding these snakes is that they bring luck. Yeah, right. Its “luck” can barely save its own life! Oh wait, luck is not the only reason. The gullible, senseless, heartless people want the snake as an aphrodisiac. Every animal in our forests seems to have “aphrodisiac powers”. And then there are the black magic practitioners, who promise that these snakes act as guides to find hidden treasure.

“Do you want a juvenile, or a hatchling male?  Maybe a pair?” “Does anyone have a Double Engine? I want 4.5 kgs, any number of pieces that you have.” “I want it for agriculture.” “I want it as a pet.” “Call me on *******, name your price.” These are comments that appear on websites that trade in snakes, and even on YouTube. Just Google for Red Sand Boa and be ready for a shock on how open this trade is. People readily give away mobile numbers, stating their eagerness (desperation ?) to sell or buy.

Here’s one of the weirdest myths. According to some retards, a long long time ago, an iridium isotope fell on earth. Somehow the iridium made its way into the tissues of the Red Sand Boa. Voila! You have instant access to a bit of magic and supernatural powers. This “bio-iridium” doesn’t stop just there. It now automatically becomes a rice puller. “Rice what ?” did you say? Rana and I sat with our jaws touchingRPcoin the floor, reading all this material. The “story” goes that around 1616, the East India Company manufactured crude coins. Made of copper-iridium, these coins were rice pullers, literally pulling rice. While these coins are the “most prized rice pullers”, supposedly there are also utensils, jewelry, statues and Red Sand Boas.

But why would anyone want to “pull” rice? The superstitious fools equate it to pulling wealth. Iridium-based alloys are said to attract rice or any cereal, due to the inherent property of iridium being able to attract the negative charge in the hydrocarbons. I am not stating any fact here, this is what I have read. And the poor snake is caught in this baloney. I haven’t found any scientific reference for the presence of iridium in boas.

Frightening to read these? It has been scarier to write about it. There are huge gangs operating around this scam, conning people that they can become rich overnight. The price for a snake runs in lakhs if sold locally, and crores internationally. If you thought poaching was only about tigers, think again. People are taking to illegal wildlife trade to make a quick big buck. Though the Red Sand Boa is listed under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, it is one of the most sought after._46A8513

I have written more about the dangers it is facing. This is with the hope that when you hear about such superstitions, you will educate people against  illegal wildlife trade. You may hear about someone wanting more wealth, or your maid may give away her plans to make some quick money, or your native village maybe abuzz with this business. Please educate them. Please report any such occurrence.

Thank you. Wish you a happy new year and a great 2015!

Sugandhi

References

Our iceberg is melting

If you are fighting for the environment, they’ll brand you a “boring activist”. If you are fighting to bring about policy change, they’ll yawn and say, “No please, no gyaan!” These are tough subjects, tough to get people to listen to you, tough to draw their attention to see the problem. But someone in Bangalore has found a fun way to do just that!

Iceberg-is-melting2Rana and I got front row seats at ADA Rangamandira on Saturday evening. Oh wait, we had to a fair bit of fighting to get there, fighting against traffic, and glad to be on time to watch Bangalore Little Theatre’s annual production, “Our iceberg is melting”.

play3

Pic courtesy: Poornima Kannan

This lovely musical took us into a land of snow and ice, where the penguin wobbles and the seagull flies. A jolly group of young Emperor Penguins goes about its daily routine, while one of them, Fred, notices a rather alarming situation. Their home is melting and something has to be done, immediately, before winter sets in. The play is about the challenges Fred faces in getting his community to understand the problem. Do the penguins get together and find a solution? It is for you to watch and find out!

This musical is an original adaptation, based on Harvard professor, John Kotter‘s well-known management parable by the same name.

play5

Pic courtesy: Poornima Kannan

This is the time when all global leaders are talking about climate change, and this musical couldn’t have asked for a better time! Whether you are interested in tacking climate issues, or understanding how to apply the lessons the penguins learnt in your own situation, this musical is for you. We could face challenges at our workplace or at home, where we know that a problem exists. While some might see the magnitude of the problem, some won’t see any problem. It is one challenge to see a problem, help others see and feel, but it is another mammoth task to arrive at a solution. The musical throws insights into how that can be done.

Here is a promo video for the play. We enjoyed that evening of song 20141115_193209and dance, matched with a great laser show and Chris Avinash’s catchy tunes. Young and old joined the penguins in their plight and partying. The show is on for the rest of the Fridays and weekends of November 2014. Do book your show and be there. Kids will love this, because this will most probably be their first close encounter with cute penguins, some tall, some chubby, some chatty and some naughty!

play2

Pic courtesy: Poornima Kannan

 

 Sugandhi

 

First day, first show

Rana and I wanted to be there; first day, first show. We landed up at the matinee instead, thanks to a meeting. I can’t resist quoting Murphy here, “A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” But hey, we still managed to be there on the first day. It wasn’t a movie, it wasn’t a play, it wasn’t a concert. Or was it everything? 🙂

I’ll come to that show in a while. I have to tell you that having grown up with Tintin and Tom & Jerry, singing the Looney Tunes, “reading” The Jungle Book with a “Tinkle” in my eye, I loved cartoons, naturally. More cartoons entertained me, enlightened me; be it those of R K Laxman, Bill Waterson or Maya Kamath.

_46A7680One of my favorites today is Rohan Chakravarty, a.k.a Toonie, cartoonist and conservationist. Yes, these two words can and do go together in this case! “Behind every successful male, there is a female” – is true in Rohan’s case also. He watched a gorgeous tigress bathing in a pool at Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary. That was the beginning of many wild things to come. _46A7677

It is his exhibition that we were at, for the matinee show on September 13, 2014.

Venue- Indian Cartoon Gallery, No.1, Midford House, Midford Garden, near Kids Kemp, Trinity Circle, Bangalore- 01
Date- 13th to 27th September, 2014.
Timings- 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

I requested our friend and award-winning artist, Rohan, to share a few insights with us. (All artwork below is property of Rohan Chakravarty).

sustainuance9

Since you are a foodie, let me begin with asking you about your experience of having roast socks for dinner at Eaglenest! (For those of you curious to know more, here are excerpts from the Arunachal Bird Festival).

Hahaha! Thank you first of all, Sugandhi, for choosing to feature me on Aranya Parva. I was in search of the Wedge-billed Wren Babbler near Sessni Camp at Eaglenest WLS, and there was a huge puddle which the guides called ‘Hathinaala’ ahead of us. Soujanyaa, the younger and the more acrobatic among us jumped right across it, but I being the clumsier of the lot, had to get my shoes wet (also, I missed getting the bird). Thankfully, Ushma who is studying hornbills in Eaglenest had a fire ready for her khichdi, which I simultaneously used to dry my socks. Ushma saved me from a definite frostbite that evening. I think I owe her roast socks for dinner some day.

grnh140909Congratulations for Green Humour becoming the first cartoon and comic strip series from India to be distributed by an international syndicate, Gocomics. What issues would you like to highlight at Gocomics?

Thank you! Gocomics has an essentially American readership and while I am always trying to portray issues concerning wildlife all around the world, not being limited by geographical bounds, I would like the west to be acquainted with both facts about animals from India, as well as the conservation threats they face, through my Gocomics page.

Any cartoon (yours or someone else’s) that would aptly describe why mathematics haunts you? 🙂

maths

I did this cartoon for a slideshow design firm from the USA, but if you replace ‘Powerpoint Presentation’ with ‘Mathematics lesson’ in the cartoon, it pretty much sums up the effect math had on me as a kid.

Animal blindfold

 

The notes that accompany your cartoons are well-researched. With mathematics haunting you, how do you still manage to read scientific publications, especially with having a scientist for a brother?

I never read the oh-so-scientific bits, I like to stick to the romance of it! My brother and I are constantly sharing notes on birds and other creatures we’re constantly on the lookout for, being fellow-twitchers. The fact that he isn’t one of those stats-obsessed ogres (no offence!) but a natural history enthusiast also helps.

vulture worries copy Why is the Jungle Crow so special to you (although you don’t really enjoy the constant cawing of a crow)?

Firstly, the Jungle Crow in my view is exceptionally handsome. I’m sure you’ve observed murders of crows from your balcony several times. The very disdain with which they speak about us humans amongst themselves is what makes me respect them. They are shrewd, rowdy and it seems to me that they’re always conspiring to take over the planet. If the throne of the earth rightfully belongs to a single animal, it should be the crow! And if you’ve ever happened to compare the cawing of a crow to that of a human baby, you’ll realize how melodious the crow actually is!

asian-elephant

How was vectoridae born and where do you plan to go with it?

The conception of Vectoridae was actually impromptu. The beauty of vector illustrations is that they can be reproduced on any medium, in any size, with no distortion or loss of quality. I was looking at stock images from several artists around the world, on wildlife, just to check if species-specific illustrations were available. While the more famous ones (Pandas, tigers, blue whales) find representation in all kinds of media, vector illustrations of, let’s say, a Black-bearded Tomb Bat, are impossible to find unless someone’s really willing to sit, read, gather images and prepare illustrations of these animals who get neither the daylight nor the limelight! That’s when I said to myself, “this must begin right away… How about tomorrow?”

With Vectoridae, I hope to contribute vector illustrations to as many conservation-related media as I can. Since the images are royalty free and available for a lifetime usage, I am hoping it would strike a chord with scientists and conservationists alike.

A caricatured map of Pakke Tiger Reserve must have been so challenging! What were your most memorable moments from that project?

I must really thank my friend Nandini Velho, who is doing her PhD on the impacts of logging around Eaglenest and Pakke, for introducing me to Arunachal Pradesh, India’s ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. I’ve never really visited Pakke, so that remains a regret I hope to remedy in the near future. My most memorable moment with respect to the project was the final result- seeing pictures of kids from Seijusa at the Pakke interpretation centre, looking out for little details in the map. Nandini informed that one of the shyest kids who never communicated, suddenly erupted with his list of favourite animals from the map on seeing it. I think representing animals in a delightful manner has a profound impact on young minds, and evokes compassion. map web

Which are your favorite movies and books in the humor genre?

the pangolinasanaI’ll begin with movies. King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese) cannot be categorized essentially as a humorous movie, but I absolutely love the dark humour in it. I also love the work of Woody Allen, especially Annie Hall. Amelie, again not a comedy, but full of subtle, gentle and tasteful humour remains my all-time favourite film. Closer home, my favourites would be Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Angoor’ and Rajkumar Santoshi’s Andaz Apna Apna.

As far as books are concerned, I can go on and on about the cartoonists I admire. Gary Larson’s ‘Far Side’ collections, Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts, Calvin and Hobbes by Watterson and Scott Adams’ Dilbert are a few of these. Other than that, I love reading Gerald Durrell and the work of Edward Hamilton Aitkien, who blend humour and natural history like nobody can!

What message do you want to provide people and children through your artwork ?

“Hey, ever even imagined that you share space with these marvellous creatures?!”

——

A big thanks to Rohan for giving us an insight into his wild life. To know about what prompted him to take this career path, do read Green Humour and the links in the references section.

And make sure you don’t miss ‘Wildlife the Toonie Way‘, an exhibition-cum-sale of wildlife caricatures, by Green Humour in association with The Indian Institute of Cartoonists.

Watch wildlife in a fresh, new plumage!

 Sugandhi

References:

 

 

 

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