Tuesday, November 30, 2010

People I meet

This blog has been pending for almost four months. I had promised this person that I will blog about him, just when I said bye.

To tell the story, I badly wanted a nice hairstyle. This time in Bangalore, my sister in law suggested a guy who is supposed to be super awesome. Everytime, she would tell me to go to this guy. I thought let me try. I told her I am very wary of anyone who cuts my hair..She was like, dont worry, go!

So I land up at this spa on Indira Nagar. Looked posh. I went around looking for Aashik. Yeah, he was the guy. Went and said hi to him. He gave this nice wide smile when he saw me. Nice place, I said. And hey, before you pick that scissors, let me tell you, pleassssssssssse dont chop my hair. I am growing it. I went to naturals last time and they chopped it and I came home depressed. Dont worry he assured.

As we started talking, he was talking in Tamil. I soon started talking to him in local language. So, where are you from? I studied in Chennai and he started. So, how did you become a hair stylist. Well long story he said. And he started off. I did my grad in Chennai. My dad was a doctor. In college, I used to do make up styling and hair styling for movie artists. That used to help me with my pocket money. Soon, I realised that was my interest. When I told my father, he was shocked. He almost abandoned me. I left Chennai and came to Bangalore, in search of my destiny. I did not have much money too. I once remember I walked from ITPL to Indira nagar because I did not have any money. I just looked at him stunned. He looked quite young. He continued his story.

He later took a job as a stylist and started working. Slowly, he built up a client base. Then he started this spa. I just breathed hard. Wow Aashik!! Awesome! He smiled.

You have beautiful hair, he said. Thanks, but please dont chop..please!! Dont worry, he said..Later, I asked him how his name was Aashik. Said his grandfather was in the army and they lived all over India. His granmom chose this name.

He said one important thing to me-money is like bird, today its on one tree, tomorrow on another. It sounded so much like me. I agreed with him. Then he was asking about me and his eyes popped out..wow writer!! I have never met someone like you..and we started talking more. He said he loved to travel and his business kept him so occupied he seldom had time.

After a great two hours I got hold of his card. He said he will never forget me and will keep in touch. It was nice. It was a new learning from someone new. I went back satisfied with my new hair style..and more happy hearing his struggle tale. Some people have a lot in common.....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the valleys

I just called Ranjini, who was doing her Ph.d in urban birds at Sacon to check if I could meet with her in the weekend. It was then she came up with the idea of..why not stay overnight at Sacon..This sounded good to me..it meant being with nature..and something that could rejuvenate me completely. I reached Sacon gate by 5.30 and wandered around watching birds..
Later, as I waited for her, I got talking to the guard and his life and soon couple of more people joined me..one girl who was doing her research on spot billed pelican and a guy who was doing his thesis on Indian python..we sat outside the canteen watching the mountains as evening faded..with a hot tea in the cool mighty winds, the conversations were gripping..

Soon, R came in and she said, come lets go walk..we walked around the beautiful campus when it was dark..we went to the lab and the rooftop..the clouds were all there, we could not see stars..but I saw something bright and shining..and it was a planet...slowly as clouds cleared, I could see valleys and the winds blowing...and the air turning cold. I was lying down and looking at the vast sky and looking at stars that filled the sky.. It was becoming very cold. We then walked up to have some dinner and then had a long chat..which ended at 2 am. Speaking about cats, dogs, astronomy, swami vivekananda, functioning of brains, birds, animals, travel, dance, personal life, guitar and what not. Felt like before she opened her mouth, I knew what she was about to say and vice versa..it was long since I had this conversation..we tossed some ideas as well.
At that point I did feel she was a different scientist..than others..she was like me..insane loving everything in life..its like the world is full of knowledge and take everything you want to and can..no one stops you..We also had a discussion on how minds of people like us worked..people who loved everything..thats when I realised when it takes time for me to accomplish a 'goal', all the other things in my life only give me the energy to do so..if i was focused on one goal and constantly work on it, it would never be my best..rather if im restless to paint it means something is waiting to get off me..to give me the energy to do that important work..everything means something..

I feel like this solitary tree on a patch of open land...with roots spreading wherever I can find space..absorbing all the elements, the energy to make myself more strong, learn and do things that we can..I realised its so much in tune with how nature functions..

After a very intense talk, I dozed off. The morning was beautiful. I opened the balcony and found mountains covered in mist and valleys looking verdant green..I sat out..Later, we pushed off to have breakfast and there met an old uncle who wanted a feedback on his nature project. I was like..wow, you did this? It was an amazing collage on information and pictures on nature. I was stunned. The old man could barely walk. I asked him, how do you find time for this? He says I dont have any other job and he smiled. He was a member of Sacon nature club.

Me and R left for Mangarai..we walked through sacon, a different route, watching warblers play. It was then I spotted a beautiful blue faced malkoha..and its long tail and blue eyes was enchanting..As we were walking, it started drizling. We walked to a small stream where we found fresh elephant dung..R said..the elephant came here, it was alone..broke this tamarind tree, drank water and walked this way. I was like..how do you know? See the foot prints..I was learning.

We got a bus to Mangarai and when we reached there, we went to the forest guard's house. It was pouring. We thought trek would be impossible. We walked into their house and his 3 year old daughter became friends with me. His wife soon got us black tea..it was amazing for the weather. I was talking to them about where they lived and all. It was great to hear their stories. Soon, the little girl pulled my hand and said, you wanna see the waterall..come I will show you..I tip toed to the backyard, my feet cold..and saw this waterfall..I could hear the stream flowing..it was a sight!!! I stood there for sometime hearing elephant tales..

After a lot of time, the kid's mom invited us for lunch but we poilitely said..next time. She was suprised how her kid got attached to me..said she never mingles with anyone..I said kids usually gel with me..And this girl came and hugged me, it was very sweet. She refused to get off my lap...I absolutely loved her..

Soon, we decided to walk back..We were hungry..but when we walked out..we saw this mountain fully covered in clouds..it looked so picture perfect..we saw the clouds moving by..we could not go further..we spent half an hour just watching the mountains and getting soaked in the rain..As we walked further, we saw an emu farm..we went there, saw the birds and walked back...

When we hit the main road, we were hungry..we walked into this small roadside shop..akka, whats there to eat..we are hungry..we pounced on her..she had those boiled channas with loads of chillies and ginger..we went into the store and had that and one ginger coffee..which was out of this world in true style..we had one more round..and then I noticed this strange thing..Next to the line of God images, there was an image of an elephant which was worshipped. Had never seen something like this before...

We stood there for the bus..and then I got off back to Coimbatore. My jeans was all drenched and I was feeling colllllllllllldddddddddddddd....finally reached home, a nice shower and a great sleep..I got back into my dream world..it was a beautiful day...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Celebrating Salim Ali's birth anniversary

I had just returned to Coimbatore day before yesterday. Was scrolling through mails when I saw someone from the birding community mentioning about Salim Ali's birthday on November 12. I was wanting to ask Dr. Pramod, the principal scientist who was heading nature education and outreach at Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) if something was happening in Coimbatore. I realised it was late to call him, just then saw him online and said hi to him. He told me to come for the celebrations today at Forest College.

Must tell about Dr. Pramod, he is the most wonderful and humble person and extremely friendly. I met him some five months back and the first day we met, we spent the whole day at SACON, talking about different things and life. He is a great teacher, no wonder kids love him. When I first met Dr. Pramod, he thought I was just another person with temporary instinct to work. Later, when I started reaching out and communicating and met him again, he said now I know you are serious Sharada. Good! I never expected to see you again! I said, sir, I love nature and yes want to work with you.

So, when he invited me, I jumped and went today. I met the IAS and IFS officers today who promised to do something for the wetland conservation in coimbatore. When I entered the hall, I went and sat there next to a lady, who looked at me and smiled. I smiled and she started a conversation with me. She was Dr. Maya, a Ph.D in forest ecology from SACON, working for Godrej in Bombay. We went into long conversations and she passed me her card inviting me to visit her in Bombay..

Soon talks began and Dr. Azeez, Director of SACON spoke. The topic of the day was Wetland conservation and ecology in Coimbatore. Coimbatore has about 12 wetland area where birds thrive, but sadly due to effluent discharge and dumping of waste, the wetlands are filled with plastic and rubbish, spoiling the ecology. So our discussion was on how to tackle with it and approach.

We had some eminent people like Rajesh from the NGO Siru Thuli (They have done phenomenal work in restoring wetland ecology), Sukumar from Sulur, a person who works for the tax dept, was a bird watcher by hobby and then penned a book on nesting habits of birds in coimbatore..His hobby became serious and now he is restoring birds from the shackles of ruthless fishermen...it was great to listen to his talk. Mr. Kalidasan from Osai (another NGO which does great work with wildlife and environment) gave a talk that was full of enthusiasm and energy. His talks are always like that. He is so passionate about environment. Says, when your mother is ailing, you can sit next to her, but do have to do something. That should be the approach. Rajesh spoke about how great theories came up from Rishis in the forest. Like the theory of infinity..says forests have the power to inspire, invoke thoughts..I can totally relate to it!!

Insightful session there. We took a small break for tea where I saw this school girl and started talking to her. So, what do you do I asked her and it triggered. Her name was Sriranjani, student of 10th at Air Force school. She was so dedicated to wildlife conservation. She said this is what she wanted to do in life.

Hey arent you a journalist, she asked me. I was surprised. Yes, I am I said.

I have seen you before at the screening of truth about tigers, shooting questions on mike at Shekar sir. I laughed, yeah it is me! I do wildlife journalism. Good memory girl, you remember me!!

She won the young scientist award from the competition conducted by Zoo Outreach programme. Wow, i said, at such a young age. Said, she wants to do a project on birds and I told her I would help. As I was engrossed, someone came and hit me. It was Dr. Pramod, come sharada, next session is beginning, bring everyone. I smiled. Quickly gathering people, I walked into the hall. Dr. Pramod came and sat next to me and was asking where I disappeared. After few minutes of talk, I went and spoke to Mr. Kalidasan. Told him Osai website content is not updated. Why dont you do it Sharada? Ok, sir, I will take the responsibility. I love working for committed people. Kalidasan sir was one of the most dedicated people, green leader in the country, well known among photographers and conservationists for his work. After the session, he came back to me and took my number again. Please come to office, he said. I gladly agreed. Meanwhile, I met a few more people and started talking.

By the end, Dr. Pramod came and said..Sharada, have a lot of work for you. Come to SACON..Sir, but when are you free? I am always busy you know, but you can come on 16th..I am off to Andamans after that. You better come. I have 5 appointments that day, but you can drop in at anytime, no need to ask. Its you right? I was really humbled. I will be there sir. I am supposed to be writing a book for him. Yes! I need to push him to write :)

Sriranjani's mom dropped me back home and we had this great conversation on how this girls grandfather did not want her to be a wildlife biologist. No one will marry her, he said. Aunty said, she did not care and will support her daughter. I felt the girl was lucky. Sri said, who wants to get married, anyway, all I want to be is to be with nature. This is what I felt since three years old. I smiled at her. Could see her passion for nature. There is no plastic in her house and she eats only in banana leaves everyday. I was amazed. You know, I am the only girl in the whole school who wants to get into wildlife. That's alrite, I said.

My task lists are huge ..but I feel nice meeting such wonderful souls in my life, people who understand my passion and give me an opportunity to work.

Dr. Azeez was leaving. Dr. Pramod introduced me to him. This is Sharada and I dont know what to tell about her. What should I tell sharada, he asked me and I burst out laughing. Well, she is a drop out journalist. LOL. She has a great website and blog on wildlife and she writes a great deal, he said with an element of seriouness. I smiled at Dr. Azeez.

I am now waiting to head to SACON now. Birds fluttering, singing, butterfliess..am already dreaming!! To step into this protected biosphere reserve!!

Perur temple and Coimbatore history

My uncle and his business partner Dr. Sridhar had come down to Coimbatore for the maha kumbakishekam of the Perur Patteeswar temple. Known to be the famous Shiva temple, on the banks of Noyyal river, this temple is 2000 years old. According to legend, Karaikal Cholan built this temple. That is what I read too. It was only yesterday I got to hear the real story from the real people.

Dr. Guhan, director of the cancer institute here and his wife Dr. Chitra took over the responsibility of organising this event which happens once in twelve years. It was great that I had an opportunity to interact with Dr. Chitra. Dr. Guhan, I had met him, three years back. At that time I came to know how much of social service he did for rural areas.

My uncle Dr. Ramachandran and his partner Sridhar uncle run this company called Macromol which provided paint and other stuff to renovate the temple. So, we had the privilege of seeing the temple as VIPs. Though I have been to this temple many times, this was the time I spent almost three hours there. My uncle who knows a lot about mythology started telling me interesting things as we sat near the temple pillars. Me and Sridhar uncle started conversing so well and bonded over in a matter of minutes..

We went ahead to see some sculptures there. There is one sculpture which completely took me aback. It was Shiva in a dancing pose. It is believed that Shiva and Parvati had an argument on who was a better dancer. That culminated into a dance performance by both Shiva and Parvati to decide who was the winner. The battle went on for long but there was no result. In the end, Shiva took one of his earring and dropped it on the floor. He took the earring by his foot and wore it on his ear. The pose actually shows Shiva's leg touching his ear. Parvati could not perform this feat and she stands defeated. There is a scuplture of Parvati which shows her defeat so clearly, her emotions in that moment. Seems so real! It was so beautifully scuplted. Architectural masterpiece!!

As I walked around the temple, I found beautiful paintings on the roof. I wondered how people actually did that!
When I met Dr. Chitra, she told me about the history of the temple. She said it was actually Kovan Karaikal who built the temple first. It seems he was wandering in the forest, when he saw a cow digging the mud with its horns. When it dug deeper, the Shiva Linga came out. Kovan Karaikal then brought this idol and built a place, Kovanputhur, in the middle of the forest. The name slowly became Coimbatore with time. This is a reason why Coimbatore is surrounded by hills. Apparently, if one looks at the idol carefully, you can see the mark of the cow's horns on the idol.
This was a new story. I was thrilled. I told I would want to do a story, or still better, get some great photographs and write a coffee table book on Coimbatore and its history.

It was 3 great hours at the temple and I learned a lot!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Princess Diya

This has been a post that has been pending from so long..its more than 2 years since Diya came into my life..

A call from my brother excited me..when are you coming to Bangalore? At 10.30 pm on july 20th, happiness came back into our family. It was just two months since dad left us and then Diya entered, giving us some light and sunshine in life..

I called my boss in bangalore..when are you coming here? Even I am excited..two stories to finish..two days and i will be there..hey you work from Bangalore for next three weeks..i was glad i had a boss so understanding and that is also when i realised the advantages of a journalism job..i could work from any part of this country or world..

my brother was impatient..two days for you to come..i want you here..amma was in the US then..trying to recoup with appa's demise..she cried softly on phone..i wish appa was there..he would have been so happy..I also had tears..
I could not wait to see my bro..and then I saw this pretty angel..held her in my arms..her eyes tightly shut..trying to sneak open a little..i held her tiny fingers..and i was overwhelmed with emotions..my niece..my princess..child in the family does bring in so much happiness...

from then till now, i have seen my princess growing up...i could see an emotional sensitive child in the making..i kept telling my brother..keep your short temper at bay..dont talk to her the way you talk to me..dont treat her like that..i wont he promised..there were a couple of occasions when i sat with him and spoke about child psychology...you dont have to have a child or get married to know these things..dont raise voice..she has to be scared of me, my bro said..No, why introduce child to fear..she can listen to you..without you scolding, beating..in a nice gentle way..communication can do magic...

i always had a great relation with princess..no sooner she would she me, a smile lights up her face..lovingly..once my brother and sister in law were talking that i was coming to Bangalore..and from then on..whoever rang the doorbell, she said athai..my sister in law was like..please come soon, she is torturing us..

today, after long, i was baby sitting her..and i spent beautiful moments together..i taught her so many things..birds, animals, nature, how to eat...talk about her school and her friends..i listen to her..every word with rapt attention..amused..was this the little girl i held? athai..dance with me..she picks my phone and puts on music..and holds my hands..swing swing she says..i just try jive with her and she picked up so fast..i was astounded..and she always enjoys dancing..in the morning, she comes to my room..she sits on lap and watches squirrels and birds..i have tried teaching her birds..and she can say kite, macaw, koel, parrot, so clearly..everything i teach goes into her head...its amazing!

we sit for long hours in the balcony, watching various birds, butterflies, people..talk about people, life..and beautiful things. i show her the life out of house..as i feed her food..she takes a spoonful of rice..'athai should eat' she says and lovingly feeds me..realised how gentle my princess is..she runs around in the house, singing rhymes, embracing me in a hug..planting sweet kisses..out of the blue..she is my first daughter..a prized posession...