Animal Musings

The other day, the OH and I were out with Bubboo when we came across a donkey.

Bubboo hadn’t encountered a donkey before that, ever. So, we turned around this way and that, pointed to the donkey, with excited shouts of ‘Look, Bubboo, that is a donkey! That is what you call a donkey!’. There was absolutely zero reaction from Bubboo, but that is not the point of this post. 🙂

The point of this post is that I immediately went on to feel guilty about our actions. Pointing fingers at the donkey, making it feel like an oddity – wasn’t that what we were doing? How would I feel if the donkey had pointed us out to its kids and shouted – ‘Look, humans! Those are what you call humans!’.

The OH, as usual, was super calm and there was no reaction from him to any of my rants. Gah!

Okay, I probably over-reacted a bit there, but I surely didn’t over-react about what this particular incident led me to think about – zoos and circuses.

I started hating zoos for this very reason – they make objects out of animals, pull them out of their natural habitat, all the while not even treating them right – once I became a conscious person, a more aware traveller on the path of life. Circuses are even sadder. But then, zoos are indeed great ways to teach little ones about different animals and birds that they might not see commonly around them. Of course, there’s always the fact that we could take Bubboo to Gir to show her lions or to Africa to show her zebras, but then, is it really a practical thing to do? Does that always happen? And this has to happen when the little one is still a toddler, curious and absorbing things like a sponge, right?

How does one draw the middle line?

Your thoughts, please?

Balcony Tales

Balconies have always been important to me. I love balconies. I think they are windows to the world outside, from where you can look out, all the while sitting in the safe comfort of your own home. They are sanctuaries, where you can grab a few moments of peace over a cup of tea or a plate of bajjis. They are in-between, neither inside the house nor outside, a place where you can escape to when the chaos inside the house gets too much for you, and you don’t really want to get out of the house. They make the house outward-looking, I think. Without a balcony, a house would be isolated from the rest of the world, cut off, very inward-looking – of course, my own two cents only, meaning no offense to anyone else. For this very reason, I do not like balconies with grills – they make a house safe, yes, but they also close out a lot of light and action and air and love and make the house, well, suffocating.

I especially love balconies that do not face dead, overgrown plots of vacant land or the back of someone else’s house. I like my balconies to look out onto a road, possibly, where there is a little action – just enough action, mind you, not too much. My ideal balcony is one where there are plants (flowers and a small patch of herbs and some vegetables), a swing and a little nook where I can sit and think and create.

Considering my love of balconies (thankfully, the OH shares a bit of this love), a road-facing balcony was one thing we always look out for while we are looking for an apartment to live. We had three balconies (three! yes, a rarity these days) in the place we used to stay in earlier, and a long road-facing one in the place we shifted to last year. It took us quite some time to set up the balcony garden in the house we presently live in, but now, I can safely say we are almost 70% done. The garden still needs a lot of work to bring it to the shape I want to bring it to, but at least there is some semblance of a garden now, there is a sanctuary in the house for me to go to, there is a little place that fills my heart with joy.

I am happy to say Bubboo seems to love the balcony as much as I do. It is the first place she heads to, as soon as she wakes up in the mornings. It is where she sits and watches the older boys and girls in our apartment play in the evenings. It is where I sit and talk to her about the different kinds of things that we see around us – from dogs and cats to vegetable vendors and trees and flowers. It is where Bubboo sits and watches the rain. She often eats sitting out on the balcony. I sometimes read to her there. We like basking in the sun on the balcony, on days when it is not too hot. We like watching as our neighbours wave to us in the balcony, and waving back to them. We like watching as butterflies and squirrels run in and out of our plants, searching for food. I could just go on and on and on!

Balconies have always, always been a place of solace for me. Our balconies have seen a lot of action. They hold a whole lot of fond memories for us. They have been a place of sharing our own kind of love, of bonding with each other. They have been places of sustenance for us, providing us with some home-grown ingredients for our food.

This new place is slowly, very slowly, beginning to feel like home. We are apart from the rest of the OH’s family now, very far away, but we are slowly finding friends here, bonding, building up relationships. I hope, with all my heart, that we soon forge friendships and relationships of note here, and that our balcony here goes on to witness a whole lot of special, little memories.



The Flower Of Patience And Hope

I love sunflowers. I have always loved them.They are special to me.

I love their bright, cheery yellow and their soft black centres. I love the way they signify hope. I love the way they turn towards the sun always, turning their back to darkness. They never fail to make me smile.

I have always wanted at least one sunflower plant in my wee garden at home. I searched high and low for sunflower seeds, but never found any that were suitable for home use, till the Krishi Mela happened in Bangalore last year.

The seeds lay forgotten in a drawer in our house for long, and were accidentally discovered by the OH a couple of months ago. I planted some in some flower pots and kept watering them diligently. I was not really sure if I would really see the flowers growing in my home some day, but they did.

About a fortnight ago, we saw a sapling grow from one pot and go on to become taller and taller. I continued to care. A few days ago, we noticed two little buds on the sapling. One of them remains tightly closed, like a baby’s fist, while the other one continued to open bit by bit every day. Yesterday, it revealed a seedy centre and hints of yellow around the edges. Today, after years of patient waiting, we have a lovely little sunflower looking admiringly at the sun, in our balcony. It looks like a little sun in itself.

Like a spot of bright yellow after several days of cloudy, gray skies, the bloom brings us courage, hope and love. It is magic for us. The magic of nature.

I am reminded of Pia’s words

When things don’t make much sense, when the news is a constant flow of abject misery, I look at sunflowers. Sunflowers make sense. Their orbs are filled with positive, yellow purpose; you can see why the world would need them. And you can see why a man who cut off his own ear, and later shot himself dead, needed to paint them. Sunflowers are made of hope.

I couldn’t agree more.

An Afternoon At The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp

My blog posting on the occasion of World Elephant Day last week triggered some more memories – of a beautiful trip to Kerala that we undertook a couple of years back. One of the high points of this trip, at least for me, was a visit to the Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp in Guruvayoor. Our entire family had travelled to Kerala then for a wedding, after which we visited the Guruvayoor Shree Krishna temple and the sanctuary. Little did I know, when the trip was planned, that I would end up loving the camp so much that I would yearn to visit again even years after the trip!

The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp is located just 3 km. away from the Guruvayoor temple, and houses the elephants that belong to the temple. When we visited, there were about 60 elephants housed in the camp. Not only are the temple’s elephants housed and maintained here, but also trained to participate in the various festivities undertaken in the temple. Most of the elephants here are offerings made by devotees to the temple, at one point or the other.

It was a sunny, but pleasant afternoon when we entered the camp. I still remember the sight that met our eyes then, and the collective gasp that escaped our mouths. Lush greenery all around, a number of elephants – some walking, some standing, some eating, some drinking, some bathing, some just sitting. Overall, an extremely beautiful sight. Considering that we are an elephant-crazy family, we started snapping away with our cameras as we explored the little sanctuary, my brothers-in-law chatting away, nineteen to the dozen, to the elephant keepers there.

The pens built for the elephants

We learnt that some elephants were kept in pens, unchained for most of the day. Some others were a bit ferocious, and had to be chained. Some were recuperating from diseases, and hence had to be kept in seclusion. It was rather sad to see the ones that were chained, but we were told it had to be done for certain animals. Overall, the elephants did look happy and well-maintained, and the place was quite neat and clean.

An elephant, chained to a tree
An elephant being walked inside the sanctuary
Feeding, again!

We were utterly fascinated to see some of the elephants being bathed. The mahouts use bits of brick and coconut fibre to scrub them thoroughly, and then hose them down with clean water. It was such a beautiful sight! The elephants seemed to be revelling in the experience, soaking in all of it!

Look at the way this elephant has lifted his trunk to enable the mahouts to clean under his chin! Cute, no?

The camp is located in the grounds of Punnathur Raja, a former ruler of the place. The complex also has a traditional Keralite home, which used to belong to the Raja. Presently, this house is used as a training school for mahouts. (We were too fascinated by the elephants to take any pictures of the home, in case you are wondering why there aren’t any!)

All in all, the elephant camp is one lovely place, a must-visit according to me. Definitely one of the lesser-known places in Guruvayoor. Don’t miss it!

On The Occasion Of World Elephant Day, 2014

I just got to know that yesterday was World Elephant Day 2014. I had never come across such a thing before, and was intrigued. I went on to read a bit about this day on the internet, and was quite surprised at what I found.

When did the day originate and why?

Apparently, this day was first launched in the year 2012 to draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Asian and African elephants. Though this magnificent creature is much loved in general, there are a number of evils that have taken the elephant world in its grip – including poaching, ivory stealing and mistreatment of the animal. All of this together has resulted in a sad state of affairs, with the elephant population almost on the brink of extinction.

Recent figures indicate that there are only about 4,00,000 African elephants remaining worldwide, while this number is only 40,000 in case of the Asian elephant. Overall, the population of elephants has dropped by 62% in the last decade, with hundreds of animals being killed every day for illegal activities.

Doing our bit

I love elephants. I love how they are huge, yet so graceful. I love how they are gentle, yet strong. I love the tales about their memory and love that I have heard so many times over from people. I didn’t even know that they were on the brink of extinction, though. Sad.

However, I have decided to do my bit for the beautiful creatures now. Do you want to help as well? Here’s how you can, too:

1. Be aware

Be aware of the various evils perpetrated against elephants, and be ready to raise your voice against them. Read up about the injustices meted out to animals and vow that you will not support them, come what may.

2. Pledge your support

Pledge your support to organisations that are working to eliminate poaching of elephants, illegal trade of ivory, protecting the natural habitat of these animals, and finding solutions to areas of conflict between humans and elephants. You can help out either monetarily or physically.

3. Do not consume ivory

Do not consume ivory. Or any other product that you know has been procured by harming an animal, for that matter.

4. Do not support elephant use for entertainment or profit

Do not support organisations or people who mistreat elephants, harm their natural habitat, or use the animals for entertainment or generating profit.

5. Spread awareness

Spread awareness about the plight of elephants whenever and wherever you can. Encourage more and more people to become elephant-conscious, and to pledge their support to the conservation of these animals.

6. Buy fair-trade products

As far as possible, ensure that you buy fair-trade products, which have not led to destruction of forests or mistreatment of animals in any manner.

7. Support organisations that promote elephant-friendly products

Extend your support to those organisations that produce and sell elephant-friendly products. Help in spreading awareness about such products as well.

8. Visit elephants in their natural habitat

If you wish to observe elephants, do so in their natural habitat, in as non-intrusive a way as possible. Choose eco-tourism operators who can take you to places where you can see elephants being treated with dignity and love.

9. Brainstorm

Brainstorm with your friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family, and come up with ideas that you can practically implement to conserve the elephant population.

10. Support cultures that have lived in harmony with elephants

Study about cultures that have lived in harmony with elephants since generations. Do your best to support such cultures and practices.

References: World Elephant Day

Gulmohar no more?

One of my earliest memories of Bangalore is gazing at the beautiful orangeish-red flowers of the gulmohar from the windows of my aunt’s house, whenever we came down to the city from Ahmedabad for the summer holidays. We would usually visit during April-May, and the gulmohars would be in full bloom then, in all their regal glory. Now that I live in Bangalore, I eagerly wait for the summer (not for the summer heat, though!) so that I can get to experience that prettiness again.

The gulmohars all over the city are in bloom now, and it is a majestic sight, indeed. It is a treat to walk/drive underneath the red canopy formed by these trees. I am like a little child at such times, mouth agape, face turned to the window, taking in as much as I can of these beauties.

This article in the papers, a couple of days ago, came as a shock to me. No more gulmohars in Bangalore? I don’t know about the good or bad effects this will have on the city’s planning, but it surely is sad. Bangalore will lose something which is such an integral part of its charm. I know of many who look up to trees such as these to bring a smile on their faces as they battle traffic jams, among other things, on their way to work. These orange-red beauties often make the long, long commute bearable. What will we do when there comes a time when there are none of these gorgeous trees in the city any more? Will my children never know the joys of an orange-red splattered Bangalore?

Of boats that grow on trees

Did you know that there are trees in Bangalore on which boat-shaped structures grow? I didn’t, till the husband showed some to me, when we were newly married. They were duly forgotten all about till recently.

Can you spot some boats on the dry branches?

It is the season of the boats now in Bangalore, and many of these trees around the city are sporting them. I brought home one yesterday, and the OH and I had a wonderful time playing with it.

This reminds me of the country boats that we saw in Kerala

Apparently, this tree is called Coloured Sterculia, and it has beautiful, bright orange flowers. The boats appear on the trees when the flowers have gone out of season. (Source)

The OH told me stories of how he and his brothers used to pick up scores of these boats from off the roads when they were kids, put toy soldiers into them and float them in large tubs filled with water in their bathrooms or in rainwater puddles on the streets. What a grand time they must have had! 🙂 I, being a thoroughly city-bred child brought up entirely in an apartment complex, missed out on these little joys of life. Sigh!

Floating in water

Nature has enough to offer to spur one’s imagination, to keep one occupied for hours on end. Only if one looks closely enough.

I hope I am able to instill in my children a love and for these nature-made boats, and to teach them to appreciate its gifts.

Because it is a lovely day

It is a beautiful day in Bangalore after a long, long time. It rained yesterday night, and today is cloudy, yet crisp and bright, as I have seen the days here can be.

For a change, I cooked lunch in my kitchen with the balcony door open, without sweat dripping off me, gazing out the lovely day. I had the music of birdsong with me as I cooked.

I got lost in the carrot-onion sambar for a bit, and when I came to, it was drizzling. There is something almost magical about cooking a meal in your kitchen when it is drizzling outside, I find. People in the streets, too, were smiling, finally happy after the hot, dusty days.

I went downstairs to pick some curry leaves for the sambar, from the small communal plant that we have in our apartment.

The drizzling had stopped by the time the sambar was done, and preparations for cauliflower curry began. The day was still lovely, though.

I responded to some mails and read a couple of blogs while the curry was cooking, only to realise, after 15 minutes, that I had left the flame on high. I rushed to the kitchen and rescued the curry – thankfully, it was still at the stage where it could be rescued. The part that had got burnt infused a kind of smoky flavour to the rest of the curry. Quick changes to the recipe were made, and some ingredients were added to make it taste like a cauliflower grill masala. It tastes good now, actually.

My hands smell of curry leaves and onion, and my house smells of clean air, sambar, and no sweat. I love that.

Was it the magic of the day that rescued the curry? I like to think that yes, it is indeed the type of day that rescues curries from getting totally lost.

I can hear a koel in some distant tree, cooing away to glory. I haven’t heard one in ages. Maybe, like me, it is singing about the glorious day today.


The honge mara is in bloom…

… all over Bangalore!

Though popular by the name of ‘Honge Mara’ in Kannada, this tree is also known as the Indian Beech Tree. Its scientific name is ‘Millettia Pinnata‘. The various parts of the tree are used for different purposes,  including the making of soaps and oils. The tree provides dense shade, and one can experience quite a bit of coolness if one stands underneath it.

What attracts me to this tree, apart from its pretty flowers, is the smell of these flowers. It is heady and heavenly!

If you are in Bangalore at the moment, don’t miss stopping by one of these trees and taking a minute or two to smell the flowers! 🙂

Snapshots from the Krishi Mela, 2013

I’m late in posting the pictures we took at the Krishi Mela that we went to in the GKVK campus, some time back, but better late than never, eh?

The fair was super-duper crowded, and we weren’t able to see a thing. What did we do? We let the sea of humanity move us to the flowers-and-vegetables-growing-area in the campus, where there was no crowd. It is a permanent fixture within the premises, I think, but I am not sure. Anyways, we had a very happy time clicking the giant sunflowers and cauliflowers and cabbages there. 🙂

For your weekend viewing pleasure, here are some of the snaps. Enjoy!

Rows and rows and rows of sunflowers – what’s to not love?
One of my favourite flowers!
See how big they are? They were taller than us!
Huge cauliflower – love!
Ridge gourd and bottle gourd on the plant
Knol-khol or turnip
One of the biggest cabbages I have ever seen!
Red pumpkin on the plant
Ragi – I had never seen the plant before!
Pigeon peas in the making