Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Small Green-billed Malkoha

I don’t even recall when was the last time i spotted Malkoha, must been at least 12 years if not more. Malkoha is not an agile bird, it’s about the same as Coucal in its behaviour except that you won’t find these birds on the ground. A rather sedentary bird that could be seen making its way through branches and bushes with great skill. These birds have a strange habit of freezing to evade detection when spotted in open. They are found only in India and Sri Lanka, a bigger specie is found across east Asia.

This blog happens to be my hundredth!!! I actually started this site with the intention of snapping 100birds and it took me about two years. Along the way i included poets and so on, not intended just happened and i am surely not complaining. It brings birds, poets&poems, photography (though it’s not my forte and nowadays the technology is so advanced that you just have to focus and click!), travelling, and of course writing (i seem to be enjoying this- to convert images into words). First hundred birds looks like a relatively easy task, it’s going to get tough from here on as i move towards rarer species. Further the poets and poems i discuss needs some time, since i believe you got to thoroughly understand them before venturing to write. So my blogs are going to get fewer, though i will try to keep up with it. I found from the stats that few hundred people visit the blog every week, considering that my posting averages one per week this isn’t really bad, but more than numbers i prefer people who show concern for nature. Also i love it when i find people from far countries visit, it’s a very special feeling.

How this blog will change in future i wouldn’t know, hopefully it’s going to be much interesting. Recently i did try to include bit of travelogue, i realise giving logistical detail is not enough. I found that when i searched for places i wanted to visit there aren’t many websites and whatever description is rather sketchy. Also i would like to upgrade my lens, it can be really be frustrating when you reach a place after much travelling and then lucky enough to spot a bird but not able to get proper pictures, it has happened many times. Matters of money though are dependent quite firmly on my chances at turf club!!

I am leaving this blog with something from ‘books’ that are an influence to millions and millions of common people through the ages not only at the level of faith as also ideas and written words. In my mid 20s i flipped through Bhagvad Gita as also Bible, difficult to say whether there was an influence but yes insightful, definitely perspectives one never gave much importance. The other day i spend lots of time going through these (for the purpose of this blog, i really want it to be done before the year ends!), and found some new meanings. At level of written words these really are spectacular. Here a shloka from Karma Yoga (Chapter 3, verse 21), and Proverb 3.13-18 from Bible. Of course there are many insightful lines but i leave with these long then and a happy new year to all the readers of this blog

“Whatever action is performed by a great person, common people follow in his or her footsteps. And whatever standards he or she sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues”

If only elite section understands their responsibilities in an overwhelmingly poor country, Indian political leaders follow a bit of this than snarling at each other for short term gains. Sometimes this blogger feels people don’t deserve Bhagvad Gita as much as spirit of Bible has nothing really about Christianity. Indeed there is an attempt to look into these through market requirements and management needs!!

Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honour.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy
(Bible: Proverb 1.13-18)

a scribble...

How often have i seen you in my garden
in all shades of colours and moods
sulking in winter, joyous in spring,
trifle upset in humid summer
all the while about the same
in my sight
even when cut and offered as love
or sliced into garland for the god.

Monday, December 27, 2010

White-Bellied Woodpecker

I must say i am getting exceedingly lucky with woodpeckers, the reason could be that woodpeckers make that characteristic tapping noise which is hard to miss and once spotted they seem more bothered in their own business, so it is possible to sneak quite close undisturbed. This one was few feet away from me, busy extracting some grub as also defending quite furiously against a persistent squirrel. Then it saw me and hid behind the trunk to peek- really was quite funny, it flew away rather irritated. White bellied Woodpecker has all the characteristics of a woodpecker except that its flights are not undulating, much larger in size they are striking to look at. Also referred to as Great Blacks, the nominate species habitat Europe. White bellied extend from peninsular India to east Asia right up to Philippines. The other day I saw in TV that woodpecker while they tap the tree take in force that is equivalent to 20 times the knockout punch in boxing bout!!. They are able to do that with special adaptation in the skull.

Sanskrit : a classical language that gets sweeter with age

Sanskrit is an ancient language and a melodious one that but unfortunately was misused by the ‘Brahmins’ to create division and misery, the reason why it couldn’t thrive or reach its rightful place in modern India. Rarely has a language suffered because of the misdeeds of few. Sanskrit does survive in other languages though, for instance Malayalam has a major share of Sanskrit in it. Indeed Malayalam is a confluence of Tamil (Dravidian) and Sanskrit (Aryan). You can easily imagine the beauty of Sanskrit poems by listening to recitation of Malayalam poems. I always loved listening to Malayalam poetry, did had cassettes of it sometime back, and have attended few programs while in Kerala. Malayalam poems are so very musical, a pleasure to listen. Rarely is a Malayalam poem frivolous, deep tenor, rendition one of the finest- an art in itself. It’s immensely satisfying to listen to Malayalam poetry recitation; there are also programs in TV channels. I also have strong liking for renditions of Tamil poems too, it brims with energy and passion.

The word Sanskrit means ‘refined’...i wouldn’t really agree to that, it would imply others have shortcomings and that’s unacceptable. And yes God had better things to do than creating languages, every language is deva vani. Considering the socio-cultural context i would even call it pretentious. Language is a language nothing more or less.

I need point out here that there are some who make audacious statements like Urdu being only language for poems...they get away with these dumb and rather chauvinist statements i guess under the guise of secularism. Everyone loves their mother tongue and finds it no less poetic. And yes I have listened to Urdu and haven’t really found anything special, irritatingly sinuous sometimes (i have a word for it- zamzamahat!). Though i have nothing against Urdu and do like some of the poets- in particular Faiz, but exaggeration by pretentious people is where the problem is. There is also a sinister attempt to classify Urdu as Muslim language! A language has no religion, as much as Sanskrit doesn’t belong to Brahmins. I happen to visit Mattur a village near Shimoga that is being tagged as Sanskrit village...well this blogger didn’t find anything worthy here other than bunch of arrogant threaded types who call themselves Brahmins and pass it on to their offspring as culture!. If obnoxious Brahminism is what they are trying to bring back under the guise of Sanskrit then it will be resisted, this blogger even brand this as blatant casteism (the pic is that of two students observing the river).

Kalidasa: Bhaso hasah, Kalidaso vilasah (Bhasa is mirth, Kalidasa is grace)

The water lily closes, but
With wonderful reluctancy;
As if it troubled her to shut
Her door of welcome to the bee.

Undoubtedly Sanskrit has one of the richest collection of literature, some even elevated to the status of holy. Where Sanskrit really enchants is the poems, Kalidasa in particular, he writes (i found this fine English translation, difficult since Sanskrit poems followed strict metre and has complex sound patterns).

Is poetry always worthy when it’s old?
And is it worthless, then, because it’s new?
Reader, decide yourself if this is true:
Fools suspend judgment, waiting to be told.

Other Sanskrit poets of repute included Bhavabhuti, Bhartrhari, Varahamihira, Dandin, Sudraka and so on (by the way even King Harsha), but it is Kalidasa who stands out, he was a master poet. A genius of sort, he was one of the most read Indian poet for fifteen hundred years. Look at these insightful lines (again only half as charming in translation):

Who was artificer at her creation?
Was it the moon, bestowing its own charm?
Was it the graceful month of spring, itself
Compact with love, a garden full of flowers?
That ancient saint there, sitting in trance,
Bemused by prayers and dull theology,
Cares naught for beauty: how could he create
Such loveliness, the old religious fool

How charming!. This is where Sanskrit really belongs, not some ritual pit that it is being reduced to. How about this one

If a scholar thinks what matters most
is to have gained an academic post
Where he can earn a livelihood, and then
neglect research, let controversy rest,
He’s but a petty tradesman at the best,
selling retail the work of other men.

Kalidasa lived around 4th century and was considered as ‘nine gem’ in the court of King Chandragupta Vikramaditya of Ujjain-a great patron of art. Some of the other nine gems were also poets, others represented science—astronomy, medicine, lexicography. Details of Kalidasa’s life is rather sketchy, in ancient times writings was contribution of passion and pleasure than aggrandisement the reason he rarely mentions himself, thus making it difficult. Indeed he mentions himself in the prologue of three plays with much reluctance and modesty!!

Kalidasa is known for epic plays like Malavikagnimitra, Shakuntalam (i have listened to that story many times as also had a copy of Amar Chitra Katha). Kalidasa also wrote two epic poems titled Kumaarasambhava and Raghuvamsha. As also very popular lyric poems Meghaduttam (cloud messenger) and the Ritusamhara (description of the seasons). Meghaduttam is one of the finest works; the beauty of Sanskrit is unmatched. Kalidasa is about love- between man and woman, the nature and not to miss the children. Love as natural instinct. It was 7th century poet Bana who wrote

Where find a soul that does not thrill
In Kalidasa's verse to meet
The smooth, inevitable lines
Like blossom-clusters, honey-sweet?

A minute observer of nature, Kalidasa describes mountains in detail, the trees, river, flowers (indeed he is the only Sanskrit poet who has described a certain flower that grows in Kashmir). I quote these lines from Shankuntalam.

Learn first, O cloud, the road that thou must go,
Then hear my message ere thou speed away;
Before thee mountains rise and rivers flow:
When thou art weary, on the mountains stay,
And when exhausted, drink the rivers' driven spray.

Though thou be pledged to ease my darling's pain,
Yet I foresee delay on every hill
Where jasmines blow, and where the peacock-train
Cries forth with joyful tears a welcome shrill;
Thy sacrifice is great, but haste thy journey still.

Drink where the golden lotus dots the lake;
Serve Indra's elephant as a veil to hide
His drinking; then the tree of wishing shake,
Whose branches like silk garments flutter wide:
With sports like these, O cloud, enjoy the mountain side

The ashoka-tree, with sweetly dancing lines,
The favourite bakul-tree, are near the bower
Of amaranth-engirdled jasmine-vines;
Like me, they wait to feel the winning power
Of her persuasion, ere they blossom into flower.

Small as the elephant cub thou must become
For easy entrance; rest where gems enhance
The glory of the hill beside my home,
And peep into the house with lightning-glance,
But make its brightness dim as fireflies' twinkling dance.

Himalaya's breeze blows gently from the north,
Unsheathing twigs upon the deodar
And sweet with sap that it entices forth—I embrace it lovingly; it came so far,
Perhaps it touched thee first, my life's unchanging star!

Kalidasa was an inspiration to generations of people throughout the centuries. The painting of course is by Raja Ravi Varma and happens to be one of my favourite, how beautifully he captures nuances of these lines by Kalidasa about 1400 years later!!. Spellbinding, art its best.

Although she does not speak to me,
She listens while I speak;
Her eyes turn not to see my face,
But nothing else they seek.

When I was near, she could not look at me;
She smiled—but not to me—and half denied it;
She would not show her love for modesty,
Yet did not try so very hard to hide it.

When she had hardly left my side,
"I cannot walk," the maiden cried,
And turned her face, and feigned to free
The dress not caught upon the tree

Ravi Varma did his own modification, i guess since south indian women during those days didn't wear loose cloths that could get 'caught upon the tree', he makes it a thorn on the foot that she fakes!. I love everything about this painting. How charming.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pied flycatcher Shrike

A tiny tidy looking bird about the size of sparrow, purely arboreal they are seen in pairs or small parties sorting from one branch to another foraging for insects. They have characteristics of Shrikes-dark eye bands, moving in groups; as also the ways of Flycatcher-insect catching sallies, the structure of bills. Found in jungles and bushy terrain. I am seeing this bird after quite a long time. Spotted this one at Gudavi Bird Sanctuary. Gudavi is a great place to be in, it reminded me of Bharatpur with its spread out shallow lake and swarming avian species (don’t forget the binoculars). Another thing about Gudavi is that it is located in quite a remote region so there aren’t many people around, a man at the gate slept also saw an old woman who seemed to talk to herself. The place is maintained rather well- in particular the pathway through bamboo groove-but be careful there are snakes. Since it is spread out across acres of shrubby jungle you could locate both arboreal and water birds (sighting Malkoha and tiny Jungle Owlet was dream come true, these were eluding me for many years! Will write about it in later blogs). Gudavi is a must in the itinerary; i stayed at Sagara-a small town near Sirsi- about two hours from Shimoga. I recommend you stay opposite to private bus stand since early morning about 6to6.15 there is a direct bus to Gudavi-it takes about 3hours through verdant vista. Return journey could be a problem since buses aren’t frequent, don’t crib it’s a great place to walk (I walked few Kms till i got the bus, it’s better than waiting. When you are in green surroundings its quite difficult to stand still, you walk on your own, there is always some kind of excitement). Alternatively you could go to Surba from here there are frequent buses to Sagara. And yes those who give too much importance to matters of stomach, there aren’t any eateries in and around Gudavi. I though haven’t heard anyone dying of not ingesting for couple of hours, indeed i only had light dinner for two days! Body stores food as fat for these kinds of situations, the reason i prefer body to work it out and do what is expected. After travel i am generally down by 5to10 Kgs, back to city and life on laptop body switches off for mind and accumulating fat. In last many years my weight has fluctuated between 60 to 90kgs!!. More like birds when you accumulate enough body weight time to fly!!


I am not yet
may never be
my future
on several
to come

AK Ramanujan (1929-1993) was born in Mysore he did his studies in India and later shifted to US, he took up teaching assignments. He was also translator, folklorist and a linguist. Ramanujam happens to be one of my favourite Indian English poets (it is strange that some of my favourite Indian English-indeed the best- poets Kolatkar, Moreas, Ezekeil died on the same year: 2004), he was also fluent in Kannada and Tamil. There is something ethereal and mythical about his poem, yet the sight and smell is so familiar. This blog is never going to be enough to talk about his poems (my earlier scribble ‘Carbon units’ has some elements of influence from Ramanujan).

Though this blogger partly agree with ‘context sensitive’ Indian way of thinking that differentiates from westerners, but would argue that these ‘contexts’ are elitist (read brahminical conception) that didn’t quite percolate but were imposed. Ramanujan- a brilliant man no doubt, suffers from MN Srinivas’s Sanskritisation, that inflicts quite a few social scientists. These are partly true understandings that have some serious generalisations, and arising from certain section could even be patronising. People at the lower strata generally are more practical- not because they are born that way it is that they have to face realities at the harshest, therefore despite the imposed impediments of ‘contexts’ they have negotiated their life remarkably well all these centuries. Religion at the level of lower strata is utilitarian for existential purpose while for elite it is utilitarian for power. Very few have religion for spiritual or egalitarian reasons.

Ramanujan’s father, Srinivas Ramanujan, was a famous mathematician. He describes his father: “He was a mathematician, an astronomer. But he was also a Sanskrit scholar, an expert astrologer. He had two kinds of visitors: American and English mathematicians who called on him when they were on a visit to India, and local astrologers, orthodox pundits who wore splendid gold-embroidered shawls dowered by the Maharaja. I had just been converted by Russell to the 'scientific attitude'. I (and my generation) was troubled by his holding together in one brain both astronomy and astrology; I looked for consistency in him, a consistency he didn't seem to care about, or even think about”.
This poem "Astronomer" is an attempt to make sense of his father's seemingly contradictory image.


Sky-man in a manhole
with astronomy for dream,
astrology for nightmare;

fat man full of proverbs,
the language of lean years,
living in square after

almanac square
prefiguring the day
of windfall and landslide

through a calculus
of good hours,
clutching at the tear

in his birthday shirt
as at a hole
in his mildewed horoscope,

squinting at the parallax
of black planets,
his Tiger, his Hare

moving in Sanskrit zodiacs,
forever troubled
by the fractions, the kidneys

in his Tamil flesh,
his body the Great Bear
dipping for the honey,

the woman-smell
in the small curly hair
down there.

On death of a Poet

Images consult

a conscience-

and come
to a sentence.

A River

In Madurai,
city of temples and poets,
who sang of cities and temples,
every summer
a river dries to a trickle
in the sand,
baring the sand ribs,
straw and women's hair
clogging the watergates
at the rusty bars
under the bridges with patches
of repair all over them
the wet stones glistening like sleepy
crocodiles, the dry ones
shaven water-buffaloes lounging in the sun
The poets only sang of the floods.

He was there for a day
when they had the floods.
People everywhere talked
of the inches rising,
of the precise number of cobbled steps
run over by the water, rising
on the bathing places,
and the way it carried off three village houses,
one pregnant woman
and a couple of cows
named Gopi and Brinda as usual.

The new poets still quoted
the old poets, but no one spoke
in verse
of the pregnant woman
drowned, with perhaps twins in her,
kicking at blank walls
even before birth.

He said:
the river has water enough
to be poetic
about only once a year
and then
it carries away
in the first half-hour
three village houses,
a couple of cows
named Gopi and Brinda
and one pregnant woman
expecting identical twins
with no moles on their bodies,
with different coloured diapers
to tell them apart.

Extended family

Yet like grandfather
I bathe before the village crow

the dry chlorine water
my only Ganges

the naked Chicago bulb
a cousin of the Vedic sun

slap soap on my back
like father

and think
in proverbs

like me
I wipe myself dry

with an unwashed
Sears turkish towel

like mother
I hear faint morning song

(though here it sounds

and three clear strings

through kitchen

like my little daughter
I play shy

hand over crotch
my body not yet full

of thoughts novels
and children

I hold my peepee
like my little son

play garden hose
in and out
the bathtub

like my grandson
I look up

at myself

like my great

I am not yet
may never be

my future

on several

to come

The Black Hen

It must come as leaves
to a tree
or not at all

yet it comes sometimes
as the black hen
with the red round eye

on the embroidery
stitch by stitch
dropped and found again

and when it's all there
the black hen stares
with its round red eye

and you're afraid.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Malabar Pied Hornbill

What a sight!! Malabar Pied are next only to Great Hornbills in its spectacle. A substantial casque above the beak differentiates these from grey hornbills (in my earlier blogs i had discussed Grey and Malabar grey). Other habits remains the same and they could be found on tall trees of the forest in company of Barbets, Mynahs, Green pigeons and so on. A noisy bird, their calls are quite a shriek-i am being murdered here kind of a urgent cry-quite disconcerting. They also have a loud flapping flight. Malabar Pied Hornbills is a ‘Near Threatened’ specie according to IUCN

Dandeli: the hornbill country!
There were reports in the Net on sighting of Great Hornbills in Dandeli, i had been postponing my plans to Hubli for long time now so decided to pack my sack. There are lots of trains from Bengaluru (Bangalore) to Hubli- it’s about 8hours journey, but whatever the trains they are all always jam packed and you could be lucky to get few inches of space!. An hour from Hubli (don’t forget to drop into Kamat for breakfast, it’s just opposite the railway station) is Dharwad. From Dharwad you will get frequent buses to Dandeli, it is about two to three hours. I suggest you stay a day at the lodge opposite the bus stand, it may look old and run down but is surprisingly clean (i chose the cheapest room for 140R, it was basement room triangular in shape as it was under the stairs!!. Late into night i spotted a cat on my bed, but when i thought i experienced something wriggling i decided this is it. I was sure it was a snake. The room boy dazed from his sleep-well it was 2am- didn’t agree. He said it never happened before. I said something got to start somewhere!. So got my room changed!!. As much as i like Steven Austin programs on TV, you don’t expect to get excited over snakes in the middle of the night!). Early next day i walked to Dandeli forest range office, there is a paper mill near that emits some putrid gas later into the day. But it is quite a place to be in, lots of trees and lots of birds. You will find all types of hornbills in here, though i couldn’t spot the ‘Greats’. It’s a wonderful place to walk around. Dandeli forest Department Office is also the place to book room in case you want to stay inside the nature camp (in Kulgi-about an hour from Dandeli, you will have to take the overcrowded ‘trax’) Ph no: 08284231585. There are cottages, tents and dormitory (i stayed in Dormitory-100R. Except for monkeys who expertise in opening bag zips there wasn’t much issue), food is cheap, good and homely. Don’t forget to pick up the free Field guide on 100 Birds at Dandeli office, they have done it well. There is also private luxury Cottages in the jungle. For back packers and those looking for value for money i strongly recommend Kulgi Nature Camp. Get up early morning and walk about 3hours on the tarred road, later mud, through the jungle you will reach a hamlet next to a river. It’s a great place to stroll. The camp also has trekking facility, guides and so on, but i thought of going it alone, not ready to get stuck with some bunch and it surely was worth it.

Joyce Kilmer

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree

It was on the wall of Kulgi Nature Camp i read these beautiful lines (the full poem is there in the pic above, i am also reproducing it below). Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918) was a poet whose poem celebrated Nature and Catholic faith. The poem ‘Tree’, from which the above lines are taken, that he is much remembered and celebrated. He served as Sergeant in the Army and was killed by a sniper bullet in France during Second World War.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

What a lovely poem that one. There is a parody based on the above poem by none other than Ogden Nash that i came across in the Net
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.

I like that!!

Main Street

I like to look at the blossomy track of the moon upon the sea,
But it isn't half so fine a sight as Main Street used to be
When it all was covered over with a couple of feet of snow,
And over the crisp and radiant road the ringing sleighs would go.

Now, Main Street bordered with autumn leaves, it was a pleasant thing,
And its gutters were gay with dandelions early in the Spring;
I like to think of it white with frost or dusty in the heat,
Because I think it is humaner than any other street.

A city street that is busy and wide is ground by a thousand wheels,
And a burden of traffic on its breast is all it ever feels:
It is dully conscious of weight and speed and of work that never ends,
But it cannot be human like Main Street, and recognise its friends.

There were only about a hundred teams on Main Street in a day,
And twenty or thirty people, I guess, and some children out to play.
And there wasn't a wagon or buggy, or a man or a girl or a boy
That Main Street didn't remember, and somehow seem to enjoy.

The truck and the motor and trolley car and the elevated train
They make the weary city street reverberate with pain:
But there is yet an echo left deep down within my heart
Of the music the Main Street cobblestones made beneath a butcher's cart.

God be thanked for the Milky Way that runs across the sky,
That's the path that my feet would tread whenever I have to die.
Some folks call it a Silver Sword, and some a Pearly Crown,
But the only thing I think it is, is Main Street, Heaventown.


A few long-hoarded pennies in his hand
Behold him stand;
A kilted Hedonist, perplexed and sad.
The joy that once he had,
The first delight of ownership is fled.
He bows his little head.
Ah, cruel Time, to kill
That splendid thrill!

Then in his tear-dimmed eyes
New lights arise.
He drops his treasured pennies on the ground,
They roll and bound
And scattered, rest.
Now with what zest
He runs to find his errant wealth again!

So unto men
Doth God, depriving that He may bestow.
Fame, health and money go,
But that they may, new found, be newly sweet.
Yea, at His feet
Sit, waiting us, to their concealment bid,
All they, our lovers, whom His Love hath hid.

Lo, comfort blooms on pain, and peace on strife,
And gain on loss.
What is the key to Everlasting Life?
A blood-stained Cross.

These lines from the poem Old Poets

There should be a club for poets
Who have come to seventy year.
They should sit in a great hall drinking
Red wine and golden beer.

They would shuffle in of an evening,
Each one to his cushioned seat,
And there would be mellow talking
And silence rich and sweet.

There is no peace to be taken
With poets who are young,
For they worry about the wars to be fought
And the songs that must be sung.

But the old man knows that he's in his chair
And that God's on His throne in the sky.
So he sits by the fire in comfort
And he lets the world spin by.

Citizen of the World

No longer of Him be it said
"He hath no place to lay His head."

In every land a constant lamp
Flames by His small and mighty camp.

There is no strange and distant place
That is not gladdened by His face.

And every nation kneels to hail
The Splendour shining through Its veil.

Cloistered beside the shouting street,
Silent, He calls me to His feet.

Imprisoned for His love of me
He makes my spirit greatly free.

And through my lips that uttered sin
The King of Glory enters in.

The air is like a butterfly
With frail blue wings.
The happy earth looks at the sky
And sings.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rosy Pelicans are happy to be here

I recall writing about Spotted Pelicans after a visit to Kokkrebellur, the number of Pelicans here have increased dramatically thanks to the effort of Mysore Naturalist Society. Rosy Pelicans are migrants to North and North West part of the country, can be classified as partly migrant partly resident. They are known to breed in colonies of millions in Burma. Like all other pelicans these too are found around water bodies in great congregations, they are social birds even hunting in groups. Though they have rose tinged plumage the fledglings are black. The long beak gives an impression of stretched chin as if grinning, it looks quite happy to be here swimming and generally having a great time!

Miroslav Holub: when Poet met Scientist

Here too are the dreaming landscapes,
lunar, derelict.
Here too are the masses,
tillers of the soil.
And cells, fighters
who lay down their lives for a song.

Here too are cemeteries,
fame and snow.
And I hear the murmuring,
the revolt of immense estates.

This poem In The Microscope is a rare poem it is a confluence of Science, Poetry and Politics. Miroslav Holub (1923-1998) probably is one of the most translated Czech poets, he was an immunologist by profession and a poet by passion. He endeavoured to achieve symbiosis of art and science. According to him, art and science should mainly help people to become better, humanize them and give them optimism. “The task of art is to depict the whole of the world”. His poems are unique fusion of the poet's and scientist's perspectives on history, culture, suffering, and folly. Holub survived first Nazism, then Stalinism giving depth to his poetry. He travelled to US during 1960s as a scientist, his impression was not very positive but on his later visits his admiration of Americans particularly in the field of science increased. He writes in his travelogue “A car is something which is taken for granted; something which belongs to the American life that often does not recognise the slightest journey on foot – except walking to the car itself....Department stores are over packed with goods that one gets almost lost in them. But it’s difficult to find the cities inhabitants. They disappear in never-ending queues of bumper to bumper cars, on motorways”. Holub copied graffiti from walls which make part of his poem, he called such poems “found poetry”.
After Velvet revolution marked the end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, he travelled widely.

The rampage

The last time
there was a genuine rampage,
herds stampeding
with the zest of hurricanes,
with the pulsations of a storm,
and the force of destiny,

when the road went up
against the villous ceiling,
when the stronger ones
pushed forward to the cruel
thunder of whips while the zombies
fell back into permanent darkness,

the last time
the cavalry charged
across the whole width of the enemy line
into the gap between life and death,
and not even one single droplet of misery

the last time
something really won
and the rest turned into compost

that was when the sperm
made the journey
up the oviduct.

This was 'to be or not to be'.

Since that time we've been tottering round
with the embarrassment of softening skeletons,
with the wistful caution
of mountain gorillas in the rain;
we keep hoping for the time-lapse soul,
marital problems and
a stationary home metaphysics

against which
the adenosine triphosphate of every fucked-up cell
is like the explosion of a star
in a chicken coop.


That’s how it goes.
The crowd-walker has arrived,
making his way on the heads of the masses,
his wooden steps echoing on their skulls,
and already the shaking hands
pour out from their sleeves,
from two, seven, thirty sleeves,
broken necks crawl out of collars,
the bacchants grow luminescent,
words are shredded on mute sandpaper,
blood soaks into socks.

He arrives like a bull with ten testes,
like a muscular mighty moleworm
shining with silvery mucus,
and we know no spells
against moleworms.
And in our heads, spermias
of all future crowd-walkers echo.

That’s how it goes.
Because man’s no career.
Moleworms are.


Seven cities contend to have harboured his cradle:
Smyrna, Chios, Kollophon,
Ithaké, Pylos, Argos,

Like a lamb he strolls
through marine pastures,
unseen, unburied,
unexcavated, casting no
biographical shadow.

Did he never have trouble with the authorities?
Did he never get drunk? Was he never bugged,
not even when singing?
Did he never love fox terriers, cats,
or young boys?

How much better the Iliad would be
if Agamemnon could be proved to bear
his features or if Helen's biology
reflected contemporary facts.

How much better the Odyssey would be
if he had two heads,
one leg,
or shared one woman
with his publisher.
Somehow he neglected all that
in his blindness.
And thus he towers
in literary history
as a cautionary example
of an author so unsuccessful
that maybe he didn't exist at all.

Some scribbles...

Carbon units
Mother’s egg and father’s sperm
Carbon Oxygen Hydrogen and thoughts
laboratory of experiences.
A destination on the map
cannot be reached by train or bus
nor on bullock cart.
Watch each step
also the vanishing last.

(the title Carbon Units is influenced by Star Trek movie I was watching few days back, wherein the aliens referred humans as carbon units !)

The bust of Buddha meditate on the
far end of my study table
Contentment is the only expression
at my fluctuating gay and gloom.
I like to think
Buddha keeps his Eightfold path aside
care my destiny, correct my steps
keep vigil
act as my saviour
everyday or at least on weekends.