Friday, April 29, 2005


Birder/photographer Susheel Kapadia called me today with appalling news. Apparently, the heat over the missing tigers in Sariska and elsewhere is getting too much for the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Loath to suffer even more egg on face, the ministry has invoked a draconian piece of law and has blanket-banned wildlife research in India’s forests. Down to Earth reports:

A ministry circular has asked all state forest departments to stop giving permission for any kind of research that entails ‘handling’ of animals (touching, holding or even wire-tripping them for a camera shot). The ban is a blanket one: across forests, protected and otherwise, and across species.

Read the whole thing. Shocking.

Back from the dead

The ivory-billed woodpecker isn’t gone after all. Sixty years after being filed under ‘Extinct’, Campephilus principalis has been sighted beyond doubt in Arkansas. Most reports are hysterical with delight, for instance this report from Planet Ark but Birdlife is more measured, and also has an artist’s impression of the woodpecker. You can’t tell from this, but it’s supposed to be gorgeous.

Goody! Now, if you'll excuse me, I’m gonna find me a pink headed duck.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Birding in KBR

Finally, a birding session after nearly two months! Summer birding can end in a nasty heat stroke if you’re not careful, but this Sunday morning in Hyderabad was conveniently cloudy and cool.

The Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park in Hyderabad is well within city limits. Earlier the Chiran Fort Palace Grounds, it is now a walled protected area of about 300 acres. The vegetation is typically dry deciduous and thorn scrub forest. Many experts believe that this park, with its variety of big and small bushes, and grassland areas, is the last tract of the indigenous flora of the Deccan. Over 110 species of birds, 20 species of reptiles, 15 species of butterflies, 20 species of mammals and numerous invertebrates. Also home to Forest Cats, Palm Civets, Wild Boars, Hares, Mongoose, Monitor Lizards, Pythons, Cobras and other snakes.

Not all is hunky dory, though. The problem with this ‘National Park’ is that it is popular with Hyderabadis for recreational walking. Indeed, we saw that at once. Our group – about 18 persons – gathered at the gates and the entrance to the KBR park wore a distinctly ‘mela’ like appearance. Being a Sunday must’ve upped the attendance considerably. Not a parking space available for yards and hundreds, hundreds of people. Conservationists have tried to limit walking within the park but determined walkers have held sway.

The park has other problems too. Pitta’s editorial (the monthly newsletter from the Birdwatching Society of Andhra Pradesh) from September 1998 discusses it: “The latest catastrophe is the planting of trees all along paths and in grasslands. Does the management not realize that once these trees grow, they will shade out the grasslands? The loss of grasslands in KBR will lead to the disappearance or drastic reduction of populations of a host of birds, small mammals and insects that are dependent upon this habitat.” Read the whole thing here.


We managed to have a nice time though. By 7.00 am the sun was high enough to clear the park of most people. Among the highlights of the trip was a good look at a sparrow hawk and for me, my first clear sighting of Tickell’s Flowerpecker, the smallest bird in these parts of the world. There was also a quail that disappeared in the undergrowth before I could get a decent look; it was the rain quail, Coturnix coromandelica, I think, but I’m not sure. Of course, there were peafowl everywhere: it will bear saying again – what handsome creatures these are, and what a blue it is.

We saw a Shikra as well; it’s a relatively smallish bird of prey, and Priyank and I were wondering what it was about this bird that so alarms the others? A lot of raptors aren’t greeted by such a flurry of calls. Then there were the others: bee-eaters, spotted doves, little browns, common babblers, a pair of white throated kingfishers, coppersmiths, a long tailed shrike, a black shouldered kite, purple-rumped sunbirds, minivets, a very handsome iora… all this topped by a good look at wild boar.

fursat ke raat din

Remember reading about a sun dial once - a lovely stone sun dial, set in a garden with the inscription: 'I record only the sunny hours'. This blog should carry one saying, 'I record only the idle hours'.
Been busy, be back.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Fida over Fana'a

OK, I’ve tuned in late again. But my god, Fana’a! What a brilliantly put-together song – I saw it for the first time the day before yesterday and (proving the funda that what has hit you once will hit you again) I happened to catch it again yesterday. On the surface, it’s a trance-disco number, obsessive, repetitive, beautifully shot and edited – I have never seen Kareena look lovelier.

Point is, AR Rahman never ceases to surprise. He’s obviously deeply spiritual, but what is amazing is that he manages to get his falsafa to piggyback popular vehicles, oh so neatly. He serves two masters, apparently irreconcilable and delivers to both. I mean, look at Fana’a. No light word, this: it can mean annihilation, extinction, destruction, transience… in sufi terminology, it means “a cessation of ego-awareness in various degrees or at various levels or depths" or "the sense of loss of self in mystical experience.”

hone do dil ko fana

hone do dard ko tabah
udne do har ek woh tamanna
aao na, aao na, aao na, hona hai fana

In case you think it a flash in the pan, a random word inserted by lyric writers to sound vaguely profound, no! The rest of the ‘lyrics’ bear out the mood:

ulfat ka hai dariya
ye jaan ek qatra
dariya mein hai qatra
ya katre mein hai dariya

saaya hai badan ka
ya tan me chhupa saaya
dono mil gaye to
kya tan kya saaya

Straight out of the sufi masters. This isn’t the first time Rahman has done this – listen to Menda yaar milade saaiyan from Saathiya. The very same yearning for divinity that the sufis are known for. And he churns out hit after hit after hit.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Much confusion about the actual date – we thought it was on Monday but navmi finishes sooner than we thought, apparently. So the pooje happened today, kosambri and paanka follow tomorrow.

Ramnavmi is a bit of fuss in our colony. Money is collected, an elaborate pooja is done, and the idols are taken on a procession, preceded by the vaalga ie, the nadaswaram and the mridangam. The chariot is not fancy, just a utilitarian bandi with a canopy. Evening, a classical concert and dance by young students on a side road under a shamiana.

This morning the procession came around as usual. As mum waited with offerings of grain, I surprised myself by feeling all warm and nice. The little procession was a few houses away and the musicians particularly good. At every gate, people stood thalis in hand, waiting for the idols to be brought nearer. Aunties, with signs of having just finished their own poojas, standing with their daughters, daughters-in-law; the men a little more discreetly in the background. A raddiwala cycled past, curiosity writ in every line. He stopped, stayed a minute with head bowed and went his way.

I don’t know what exactly it was that moved me. Being part of a community, or being involved in the culture of it all… the flowers, the music and the faith? All of it, I suspect.

Indian Idol Diary

Poor Abhijeet Sawant.
Nish, Tot, remember that Mary Burchell we liked? Where composer Oscar Warrender takes Promising Voice Anthea something under his wing and then refuses to let her sing commercially till she's fully trained because they would ruin her voice and corrode her soul? That is what has happened to this young man. SET India clearly is determined to extract full value from its creation and he’s much the worse for it. He appeared on Jassi last week, part of the Jessica Bedi launch hoopla – strained, unhappy and belting out notes without soul. I’m beginning to think Amit Sana was luckier.


Sowmya has lent me her Indian Idol CD. (I’m a bit late reacting to it – it’s been out for months, but hey, this ain’t no magazine or newspaper now, see? I feel like, so I write. Yippie!)
I have no idea how the album fares on its own merit in terms of music worth buying, but since it was an offering from singers whom we the voters have practically nurtured, I felt a certain materteral interest. Rahul Vaidya, of course, exhibits that fine control we’ve become accustomed to from him with Woh hain zara khafa khafa. Rahul Saxena too comes up with a nice version of Meri bheegi bheegi si. Prajakta Shukre’s Rangeela re disappointed a bit, mostly because Leslie Lewis clutters the background with a very ‘remixy’ concoction of sounds.
Naturally, which song makes a difference too – Sawant, for instance, gets Dream Girl, which I’ve never really cared for, while Harish Moyal draws the RD Burman classic Tum Bin.

But the surprise and the delight of the lot, to me, was Vishal Kothari. He sings Ye dil diwana hai, which is a brilliant song in the first place – soft, romantic, whimsical. Plus, Lezz gets him to do these fantastic muezzin-like vocals in the background. Superb. What a pity he went out so early in the contest.


Have you seen the new Aapka Abhijeet Sawant video? It’s the unfortunate Mohabattein lutaunga again, which I hear features twice in the album. "Main bhool ise na paunga?!"... how awkward is that! Try saying it, leave alone singing it and you’ll see what I mean.
The video isn’t much better. Indian Idol on beach, bheegoing in the rain, dancing with women swathed in yellow billowing garments, signing autographs and whatnot. Hmmph.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Floating a wish

I mention The Far Pavilions yesterday and then find out that the West End musical produced by Michael Ward premieres today. Hadley Fraser plays Ashton and playback singer Gayatri Iyer essays Anjuli.
Wonder how the book translates - can't wait to read the reviews.

The Far Pavilions is special to me. I was visiting my friend Anu in Himachal Pradesh a few winters ago and she lent me her copy for a little bedtime reading. So here I was with the Dauladhar range across the backyard, ensconced in an army cantonment reading a book set right there. It was magical.
To hero Ashton, growing up amongst a hybrid of cultures blurs his religious beliefs. Finally God, to him, embodies the mountains he looks upto every day - door khaiman, the far pavilions. I felt it too - God is there, in those mountains.
The book is so vivid, so edgy in my mind... it would be unfair to expect that from a mere musical. But from a purely academic point of view, how might they have dealt with the complex storyline? An arm and a limb to be in West End tonight. Heck, to see it sometime this lifetime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

So near...

If it ain't meant to be, it ain't meant to be.
Hotfooted it to the YMCA book exhibition last evening after tipoff from Deepa.
Mountains of books, falling dusk and no electricity. The failing light grudgingly gives me a half hour to peer at the stacks, and all too soon oozes out of the cavernous hall. They bring on candles but it's hopeless.
"Aap kal aa jaaiye," urges helpful man at counter. I dither over MM Kaye (do I want to own The Far Pavilions?) but finally bring home Margaret Atwood and one Lowell.

Upper: eyeful of lusty young men playing basketball at the Y.

Inzamam ul Haq... such an absolute darling. It’s odd that I can admire/respect someone so much and still feel they need protecting from the big bad world.

And I want to smack Charu Sharma. Hard.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Kabhi yun bhi to ho

dariya ka saahil ho
poore chaand ki raat ho
aur tum aao
kabhi yun bhi to ho

pariyon ki mehfil ho
koi tumhaari baat ho
aur tum aao
kabhi yun bhi to ho

yeh narm mulaayam thandi hawaaen
jab ghar se tumhare guzre
tumhaari khushboo churaaein
mere ghar le aayen

sooni ghar mehfil ho
koi na mere saath ho
aur tum aao
kabhi yun bhi to ho

yeh baadal aisa toot ke barse
mere dil ki tarah milne ko
tumhara dil bhi tarse
tum niklo ghar se

tanhaai ho, dil ho
boondein hon, barsaat ho
aur tum aao
kabhi yun bhi to ho

kabhi yun bhi to ho

--Javed Akhtar

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Point, counterpoint

Amit Varma recently posted on the Chinese threat to Indian hand embroidery; he advocates a ‘live-and-let-die’ approach and I felt the issue wasn’t as cut and dried as that. Survival of the fittest is a good thumb rule with most things, but tigers and handicrafts… they need a bit of help. Amit was kind enough to include my mail to him here.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Bashkul is standing upright – no wall, no table, no paati… all by herself.

It’s her new trick for the day – Homo erectus. Both hands held at ear level, waving them in the air in this curious circular motion she’s picked up from Narsamma, as if needing the propulsion to stay balanced. A moment later she ever-so-slowly subsides and plonks on the floor.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Khoyi khoyi si

How sexy is Sanjay Dutt’s voice. Just been listening to Khoya khoya sa from Shabd as much for the Deadly Dutt as for Sonu Nigam’s velvet croons.

Kahin aag aag, kahin dhuan dhuan
Kabhi aas paas, kabhi yahan wahan
Kabhi shor ho tum, kabhi maun ho tum
Kaun ho tum?

Men reciting poetry… and men like those too…
Kho na jaaun teri baaton ki baahon mein….

Saturday, April 02, 2005


I’ve realised that I’m even more possessive than I thought. Note emphasis, even more than I thought.
I can feel possessive about anything at all – concepts, spaces, places, my reading nooks; notional spaces/places… the list stretching to but not limited to the TV remote, my water bottle, pens, pencils and other stationery (I’m not possessive about people, ain’t that odd?). But of the other, I want control over anything I see in my mind’s eye as MINE. Like, the KITCHEN when my mother is away.

Ok this is what’s bothering me now. Mum left me in charge, alright? IN CHARGE, get? So the kitchen for this week is mine, ok? I decide what will be cooked, in what order, what will be disposed of and so on. Mum has left detailed instructions of how to make Idli hittu and I am all excited about trying it. I have a secret feeling mine will turn out petal soft. But not yet. Mater will be back next week, so I want her to eat them as well, plus idlis are damn convenient when people are due to arrive from grimy trains. So I’ll start the process, say Tuesday, so she can have it Thursday morning for breakfast. Beautiful.

Saturday – father is home. Wakes up annoyingly early. Unbeknownst to me, has soaked double the quantity of urad dal needed for approximately four weddings. Has brought out mixie and made the hittu. Has put back in the fridge the dose hittu I’d put out for breakfast, instead has taken out chapati dough (meant for lunch!) and eaten that for breakfast. Has also used up boiled potatoes in fridge to make curry for which I had lovely lovely plans. Has also gone to trouble of making rice, cabbage curry and rasam. (Aww, I hear you say, that is so sweet... hmph).

I wake up, discover intrusion by mere-male-and-lowly-serf and do a bit of brat-like yelling. He’s mystified, poor thing, previous experience having taught him that industry was always to be rewarded. I get that, but I’m still miffed.

A little later
It belatedly occurs to me that the word isn't possessive so much as territorial. But what with ideals of never rebreathing breaths, I'll leave it as it is. After all, these were belaboured angry gusts.