Thursday, February 24, 2011

Watch out for Chestnut bellied Nuthatch

Nuthatches are the birds to watch out for, it is tremendously satisfying to sight a Nuthatch, and the bird doesn’t disappoint. A small active bird that is slaty blue and chestnut below these are dexterous climbers, like Woodpecker they are able to climb the bark of the tree but without any support of tail. They achieve this feat as they have highly developed hind toe while the front one is dwarfed, it makes them enormously agile than any other bird i know about. It goes about the business like a motorised mouse, sideways, upwards, upside down...a restless bird indeed. And though this bird was few feet away from me (which was an amazing stroke of luck since they prefer taller and older tree, sightings are rare) i found it exceedingly difficult to take pictures. Gosh this one did check my wits, mostly i was trying to focus refocus and checking where exactly the bird has vanished! The pressure of rare sighting and taking a picture did take its toll and i could only manage these. Disappointing but not really a bad effort, the fun was definitely watching these exquisite species. It did make my day and i shouldn’t be complaining.

Al Ma’arri: An amazing Arabic poet philosopher

But some hope a divine leader with prophetic voice
Will rise amid the gazing silent ranks.
An idle thought! There's none to lead but reason,
To point the morning and the evening ways

Al Ma’arri (973-1058) was a Syrian Arabic poet, a rationalist who questioned religious dogmas. It is interesting since despite being blind (he lost his eyesight due to smallpox) he could see what the world couldn’t.

The Prophets and the Priests
The Prophets, too, among us come to teach,
Are one with those who from the pulpit preach;
They pray, and slay, and pass away, and yet
Our ills are as the pebbles on the beach.
Islam does not have a monopoly on truth:

The blogger will add that what is true for Islam is also true to all religions. No religion can have a monopoly on truth. Al Ma’ari rejected claims of any divine revelations. He was a philosopher and ascetic, for whom reason provided moral guide, and virtue reward. "Men of acute mind call me an ascetic, but they are wrong in their diagnosis. Although I disciplined my desires, I only abandoned worldly pleasures because the best of these withdrew themselves from me." He saw religion as human institution invented as a source of power and income for its founders and priesthood, who pursued worldly ends with forged documents attributed to divine inspiration. Here is a small gem of a line (amazing since it is as true even after thousand years)

The Scoundrel’s Plea
Make not, when you work a deed of shame,
The scoundrel's plea, "My forbears did the same"

Al-Ma'arri believed in the sanctity of life, urging that no living creature should be harmed. He became a vegetarian and opposed all killing of animals, and the use of animal skins for clothing. Read these poems and experience how immense the man was. With the rise of fundamentalism and intolerance these poems stand out as beacons of sanity even after thousand years. Al Ma’ari is someone who should be read by all, he should be part of school curriculum.

Fools Awake!
O fools, awake! The rites ye sacred hold
Are but a cheat contrived by men of old
Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust
And died in baseness-and their law is dust.

A Little Doubt is Better
Traditions come from the past, of high import if they be True;
Ay, but weak is the chain of those who warrant their truth.
Consult thy reason and let perdition take others all:
Of all the conference Reason best will counsel and guide.
A little doubt is better than total credulity:

Creator of Wrongs
If criminals are fated,
It's wrong to punish crime.
When God earth's ores created,
He knew that on a time
They would become the sources
For sword blades dripping blood
To flash across the manes of horses
Iron-curbed, iron-shod.

Scenes that Stun Introspection
For his own sordid ends
The pulpit he ascends,
And though he disbelieves in resurrection,
Makes all his hearers quail
Whilst he unfolds a tale
Of Last Day scenes that stun all introspection.

Death's Debt is Paid in Full
Death's debt is then and there
Paid down by dying men;
But it is a promise bare
That they shall rise again.

A Spoken Lie Enforced by Blood
Had they been left alone with reason,
they would not have accepted a spoken lie;
but the whips were raised to strike them.
Traditions were brought to them,
and they were ordered to say,
"We have been told the truth";
If they refused, the sword was drenched with their blood.
They were terrified by scabbards of calamities,
and tempted by great bowls of food,
Offered in a lofty and condescending manner.

Creation Reveals A Lack of Sense
You said, "A wise one created us ";
That may be true, we would agree.
"Outside of time and space," you postulated.
Then why not say at once that you
Propound a mystery immense
Which tells us of our lack of sense?

Since i couldn’t find any proper pictures of Al Ma’ari on the Net i am putting the picture of cosmos-i guess that is appropriate. People like Al Ma’ari don’t die they become part of universe, they are eternal.

Some scribbles from my writing pad...


When all what you feel

you couldn’t even tell yourself
What would you do?
Collapsed houses, buried dead
A man keeps looking under the rubble
A woman mumbles to herself
Alphabets, words, sentences are sterile creations
to fill the void.
Silences forlorn
Metaphors vain attempts
Thoughts are but slight substitute
for realisations immense.

Mind a cosmos with black holes
Suck all that we know
Bereft of even a hint of loss
We carry on with our life
‘Time will heal’
the vacant space infinite thoughts
all naught.

(On devastating earthquake in New Zealand)

It is going to deteriorate from here on
The creaks will get louder
steps shorter
One of these days i will have to cease my adventures
annihilate all hopes
call for the taxi

Something always interferes with the routine
‘It could be the end of all what we know’ screams the newsreader.
The distance a crisis travels for the solution.
Exhausted marathon runners enter the stadium
No audiences not even the officials
Winners don’t exult, losers don’t cry
In trance they carry it home
to feed their children

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brown headed Barbet

All barbets are mostly similar; they are strictly arboreal, leafy plumage with larger head, thick bill that have bristles. They are characterized by short and strong legs with zygodactyl claws (two facing front two facing back). Short wings and weak flight they could be seen devouring fruits. Brown barbets have chocolate brown head and darkish yellow bill, conspicuous orange patch around the eyes.

Aboul- Qacem El chebbi: a revolutionary poet

Darkness will disappear, chains will
certainly break!
When the people wants to live, destiny
must surely respond

Aboul- Qacem El chebbi (1909-1934) is one of the most revered Tunisian poet, the above stanza was added by him into the national anthem of the nation. He wrote poetry on various topics from early part of this childhood. His concerns seemed to be revolved around the nature of patriotism. Though i couldn’t get many of his poems on the Net but this poem To the tyrants of the World became a popular chant during the recent protests not only in Tunisia but also in Egypt. He therefore acquires significance, a poet whose words can still move generation of people across the social spectrum to join hands to ouster despots and dictators, lines that can create revolution across nations. That is astounding. What makes it incredible is he was only 25 when he died.

English translation of the poem "Ela Toghat Al Alaam" (To the tyrants of the world)

Hey you, the unfair tyrants...
You the lovers of the darkness...
You the enemies of life...
You've made fun of innocent people's wounds; and your palm covered with their blood
You kept walking while you were deforming the charm of existence and growing seeds of sadness in their land

Wait, don't let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you...
Because the darkness, the thunder rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash
Who grows thorns will reap wounds
You've taken off heads of people and the flowers of hope; and watered the cure of the sand with blood and tears until it was drunk
The blood's river will sweep you away and you will be burned by the fiery storm.

In original Arabic

ألا أيها الظالم المستبد
حبيب الظلام عدو الحياه
سخرت بأنات شعب ضعيف
و كفك مخضوبة من دماه
و سرت تشوه سحر الوجود
و تبذر شوك الاسى في رباه
رويدك لا يخدعنك الربيع
و صحو الفضاء و ضوء الصباح
ففي الافق الرحب هول الظلام و قصف الرعود و عصف الرياح
حذار فتحت الرماد اللهيب
و من يبذر الشوك يجن الجراح
تأمل هنالك انى حصدت رؤوس الورى و زهور الأمل
و رويت بالدم قلب التراب اشربته الدمع حتى ثمل
سيجرفك سيل الدماء
و يأكلك العاصف المشتعل

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Little minivet: birds on flame

A colorful sprightly little bird, the plumage color in male gives the impression that the birds is on flame. Females are paler and yellowish. A common bird along the well wooded country side they are seen in small parties. Found this one on the outskirts of Dandeli

Sarojini Naidu: The dearest nightingale

Once in the dream of a night I stood
Lone in the light of a magical wood,
Soul-deep in visions that poppy-like sprang;
And spirits of Truth were the birds that sang,
And spirits of Love were the stars that glowed,
And spirits of Peace were the streams that flowed
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.

If you ask anyone in India as to name any woman involved in India’s freedom struggle i think in most likelihood Sarojini Naidu will top the list. People interested in quiz will remember her as the first woman Governor. Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949) was born in Hyderabad after her schooling in madras she was sent to England for higher studies, a kind of child prodigy she took up writing quite early in life. After some health issue she returned to India but in the meantime had acquired recognition as a poet. After meeting with Mahatma Gandhi she immersed herself into freedom struggle, a major figure alongside Gandhi right from Dandi march to Quit India. After independence she became the governor of UP. She wrote once "I am not a poet really. I have the vision and the desire, but not the voice. If I could write just one poem full of beauty and the spirit of greatness, I should be exultantly silent for ever; but I sing just as the birds do, and my songs are as ephemeral."

Autumn song

Like a joy on the heart of a sorrow,
The sunset hangs on a cloud;
A golden storm of glittering sheaves,
Of fair and frail and fluttering leaves,
The wild wind blows in a cloud.

Hark to a voice that is calling

To my heart in the voice of the wind:
My heart is weary and sad and alone,
For its dreams like the fluttering leaves have gone,
And why should I stay behind?


Children, ye have not lived, to you it seems
Life is a lovely stalactite of dreams,
Or carnival of careless joys that leap
About your hearts like billows on the deep
In flames of amber and of amethyst.

Children, ye have not lived, ye but exist

Till some resistless hour shall rise and move
Your hearts to wake and hunger after love,
And thirst with passionate longing for the things
That burn your brows with blood-red sufferings.

Till ye have battled with great grief and fears,

And borne the conflict of dream-shattering years,
Wounded with fierce desire and worn with strife,
Children, ye have not lived: for this is life.

To a Buddha seated on a lotus

Lord Buddha, on thy Lotus-throne,
With praying eyes and hands elate,
What mystic rapture dost thou own,
Immutable and ultimate?
What peace, unravished of our ken,
Annihilate from the world of men?

The wind of change forever blows
Across the tumult of our way,
To-morrow's unborn griefs depose
The sorrows of our yesterday.
Dream yields to dream, strife follows strife,

And Death unweaves the webs of Life.

For us the travail and the heat,
The broken secrets of our pride,
The strenuous lessons of defeat,
The flower deferred, the fruit denied;
But not the peace, supremely won,
Lord Buddha, of thy Lotus-throne.

With futile hands we seek to gain
Our inaccessible desire,
Diviner summits to attain,
With faith that sinks and feet that tire;
But nought shall conquer or control
The heavenward hunger of our soul.

The end, elusive and afar,
Still lures us with its beckoning flight,
And all our mortal moments are
A session of the Infinite.
How shall we reach the great, unknown
Nirvana of thy Lotus-throne?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Black-headed Babbler

A rather quiet but active babbler found foraging in small parties on ground as well as in foliages of bamboo thickets along humid valleys. No marks for guessing how it gets its name. As a rule it rarely ascends the trees and keeps to the undergrowth, in case it has ascended too high they drop like fallen leaf into the thicket if alarmed. Quite a common bird found in the forests of Western Ghats particularly Coorg and Wynad region. This specie also has a remarkable habit of making ‘cock nest’ that is used for roosting, no effort is made to conceal while the real nests are hidden undergrowth and is more tightly and neatly woven.

Sri Aurobindo: a life divine

One day, and all the half dead is done,
One day, and all the unborn begun;
A little path and the great goal,
A touch that brings the divine whole.

Hill after hill was climbed and now,
Behold, the last tremendous brow
And the great rock that none has trod:
A step, and all is sky and God.

Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) was born in Calcutta to an upper class family, he did his higher studies in England, he cleared ICS but refused to join and immersed himself in understanding India and was drawn to freedom struggle. He was known for his radical views, and for some time was one of the foremost leaders of the time. He was incarcerated for a year in Alipore Bomb case. His shift to spiritualism happened during this period, with British authorities still considering him a threat he shifted to French colony of Pondicherry. Here he developed his own vision for progress and human evolution. Central theme of Sri Aurobindo's vision is the evolution of human life into life divine "Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of nature's process." He wrote essays on Bhagvad Gita, Vedas, Upanishads, he also wrote the epic poem ‘Savithri’ apart from writings on issues of philosophy and so on. After his death in 1950 ‘The Mother’ (read about her in the main blog) carried his work forward by creating Auroville.

The Blue Bird

I am the bird of God in His blue;
Divinely high and clear
I sing the notes of the sweet and the true
For the god’s and seraph’s ear.

I rise like a fire from the mortal’s earth
Into a griefless sky
And drop in the suffering soil of his birth
Fire-seeds of ecstasy.

My pinions soar beyond Time and Space
Into unfading Light;
I bring the bliss of the Eternal’s face
And the boon of the Spirit’s sight.

I measure the worlds with my ruby eyes;
I have perched on Wisdom’s tree
Thronged with the blossoms of Paradise
By the streams of Eternity.

Nothing is hid from my burning heart;
My mind is shoreless and still;
My song is rapture’s mystic art,
My flight immortal will.

The Cosmic Man
I look across the world and no horizon walls my gaze;
I see Tokyo and Paris and New York,
I see the bombs bursting on Barcelona and on Canton streets.
Man’s numberless misdeeds and small good deeds take place within my single self;
I am the beast he slays, the bird he feeds and saves;
The thoughts of unknown minds exalt me with their thrill;
I carry the sorrow of millions in my lonely breast.

These few lines-the original poem is quite long- from the poem The Dwarf Napoleon (Hitler. October 1939) is insightful as also brilliant in its characterisation. Keep in mind it was written in 1939 much before the full scale of Hitler’s atrocity came to light.

Far other this creature of nether clay,
Void of all grandeur, like a gnome at play,
Iron and mud his nature’s mingled stuff,
A little limited visionary brain
Cunning and skilful in its narrow vein,
A sentimental egoist poor and rough,
Whose heart was never sweet and fresh and young,
A headlong spirit driven by hopes and fears,
Intense neurotic with his shouts and tears,
Violent and cruel, devil, child and brute,
This screaming orator with his strident tongue,
This prophet of scanty fixed idea,
Plays now the leader of our human march;
In his high villa on the fatal hill
Alone he listens to that sovereign Voice,
Dictator of his action’s sudden choice,
The tiger leap of a demonic skill.
An energy his body cannot invest,-
Too small and human for that dreadful guest,
A tortured channel, not a happy vessel,-
Drives him to think and act and cry and wrestle.
Thus driven he must stride on conquering all,
Threatening and clamouring, brutal, invincible,
Until he meets upon his storm-swept road
A greater devil-or thunderstroke of God.

Journey’s end
The day ends lost in a stretch of even,
A long road trod-and the little farther.
Now the waste land, now the silence;
A blank dark wall, and behind it heaven.

In an essay The Future Poetry, Aurobindo writes about the significance that art and culture have for the spiritual evolution of mankind. He believed that a new, deep, and intuitive poetry could be a powerful aid to the change of consciousness and the life required to achieve the spiritual destiny of mankind.