Saturday, December 14, 2013

Photography + Scanner = Scanography

A few results from my experiments with scanography....

** Photographs in this article are the property of the author. Kindly do not use them elsewhere **

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Pelican’s final journey

During an evening walk at Kukkarahalli Lake everything seemed beautiful as usual until I turned around a corner. The water was full of algae and a pelican was stuck in it unable to fly or reach solid ground.
I have seen how gracefully pelicans swim in water. But this one didn’t seem ok. Its beak and wings were painted green due to the moss. Should I help it, or call someone to pull the bird out, or was it just taking rest? Then it tried to flap its wings, but in vain. I called a journalist friend and a friend at People For Animals (PFA). Both initially thought it was normal for pelicans to stay still for a while when floating but after describing the scene both were convinced and promised help. Minutes later a wing of the Fire department dedicated to rescuing animals reached the gate. I guided the fire engine to the spot. The personnel wasted no time as one of them pushed the bird towards the bank with a branch and another wore a pair of gloves, picked up the bird and placed it on the grass.
By this time a crowd had gathered around thinking we might have found a ‘body.’ Once they realized it was a bird a few lost interest and left. The Fire personnel needed water but everyone was busy clicking pictures. I rushed to nearby tents set up by workers and requested water. A man was kind enough to give a pot of water and another helped carry it. The officers poured water on the tired bird and washed the moss out. However they didn’t know what to do next and had to leave to attend to another call. After 15 minutes the PFA ambulance arrived, picked the bird up and took it along for treatment at their shelter.

The bird was in safe hands. Once back home I got a call from PFA saying the bird was very old and tired. They had given it painkillers and fish and were doing their best to save it.
The next morning I went to PFA’s shelter hoping that the bird would have recovered. My friend there had a different story to tell though. At around 9.30 pm the previous night the bird ate one fish, stood up, tried to flap its wings, but threw up what it had eaten. And sadly it died the same night.
Our only comfort was that it didn’t have to die covered in algae water where it could have been attacked by a crocodile. It had a peaceful death.

Pony tale

One evening a friend, a senior journalist and I were on our way to a meeting when we spotted a horse lying almost still on the road side. It was a quiet residential area and the occasional passersby ignored the horse thinking it may be sleeping. We stopped the car and checked on the horse. It didn’t want to move and seemed to be in pain. My friend tried contacting a government veterinary doctor and I called a friend who works at People For Animals (PFA). Meanwhile the senior was petting the horse hoping that it may ease its pain.
After a while, a volunteer from PFA arrived with a vet. They got the horse on its feet only to discover that it had a growth on one of its back hoof. It was not able to walk. The vet gave it a painkiller and they called for an ambulance to take the horse to PFA shelter.
That night I got a call from PFA saying the horse was pregnant. She gave birth to a male pony soon. We were elated. We went to the shelter the next day to adopt the pony and the mother. They hadn’t operated on her hoof since she was feeding the pony and it was not a good time for medicines.
It is almost three months now and the pony is growing up healthy, thanks to PFA. And the mother, though limping a little, is much better. My PFA friend says he has named the mother and pony after me and my friend!

My friend wrote a news article on the rescued horse and the birth. We thought that the news would help make people aware that they too can and must help such animals in need and that PFA’s number will help them in doing so. But what we heard from PFA was the opposite. People had started calling them demanding that PFA take their pets (even healthy ones) as they could not care for them anymore.
And worst of all was that as many as 20 people had contacted PFA saying they were the owners of the horse and that they wanted to take only the pony (since it was a male). PFA however did not yield to their pressure and argued that if the horse was really theirs then they would not have left her to die.

It made us realize that we have a big role to play in changing the mindset of people and we still have a long way to go in achieving it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Sculptor’s Masterpiece

Bust of Chamaraja Wadiyar at Mysore Zoo.

During 1992, the Mysore Zoo saw a series of animal deaths causing serious concerns. Amidst these tragedies, on Oct. 10, 1992, a mithan gave birth to a male calf. The mithan had been brought from Manipur four months back. This silver lining appeared just a day before the centenary celebrations of the Zoo.
The Mysore Zoo was setup by Chamaraja Wadiyar in 1892 on a 10-acre area and was called Palace Zoo. In 1909, it was made open to public and was renamed as Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens. The royal family handed over the Zoo to the then Department of Parks and Gardens after independence. It was later brought under the Forest Department in 1972 and was entrusted to the Zoo Authority of Karnataka in 1979. The Authority became the first autonomous body in the country to manage a Zoo.
Today, the Mysore Zoo is spread over an area of 78.9 acres. It houses around 164 species totalling to 1,351 specimens. It also has spacious enclosures, a veterinary hospital with quarantine, operation theatre, etc.
Much of the credit for the success of this Zoo goes to its founder Chamaraja Wadiyar (1863-1894), son of Sardar Chikka Krishnaraj Urs and Rajkumari Puta Ammani Avaru. He was the 23rd Maharaja of Mysore and ruled between 1881 and 1894.
Under his rule, Mysore saw many developmental activities like priority to women's education, industrialisation, agricultural banks and life insurance for government employees etc. He also sponsored Swami Vivekananda's journey to Chicago in 1893. Prominent landmarks like the Bangalore Palace and Lalbagh Glass House, Oriental Research Institute, Maharaja College, Maharaja's Sanskrit School, Lansdowne Building, etc. came into existence during Chamaraja Wadiyar’s time.
He was a great music patron and artistes like Veena Subbanna, Veena Seshanna, K. Vasudevacharya, Bidaram Krishnappa adorned his court. The Wadiyar also provided violin accompaniment to the above artistes.
The Chamarajendra Circle (1902) in front of Palace North gate and the Chamaraja Wadiyar statue (1908) in Lalbagh, Bangalore were erected in his memory.
To honour the King, the Zoo, as part of its centenary celebrations installed a bust of Chamaraja Wadiyar on Oct. 11, 1992, which was unveiled by scion of the royal family Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar. The function also saw the inauguration of the present arch gate by the then Chief Minister S. Bangarappa. Forest Minister E.T. Shambunath and Food Minister T.N. Narasimhamurthy were present. The government had sanctioned Rs. 35 lakh for the centenary celebrations.
The Wadiyar’s bust was sculpted at cost of Rs. 1.1 lakh by city’s sculptor B.S. Yogiraj Shilpi of Brahmarshi Kashyapa Shilpa Kala Shaala near Gun House. He is the fourth generation of sculptors and is the son of award winning sculptor B. Basavanna Shilpi. Presently, his sons are also accompanying him in the family tradition.
Every single detail from the designs on king’s peta to his moustache, jewellery and medal, has been meticulously sculpted. The intricate designs and embellishment on his robes are a testimony to the sculptor’s expertise.
"It took me almost three months to complete the bust made of Krishna Shile. It is one among my best works and has given a lot of satisfaction," says a proud and deserving Yogiraj.
Even though the many species in the Zoo are its star attraction, if one takes a few minutes to observe the beauty of this bust, they will realise that it is not just a work of art but a sculptor’s masterpiece.

(Published in Star of Mysore dated Sept. 12, 2011)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembering Neer Sab

Abdul Nazeer Sab
Ask any individual for their opinion on politicians today and you are bound to get an answer in the negative. True, our nation is engulfed with scams, corruption etc., at every level and the citizens are angry with the government. But it was not the same in the past. Our country has seen many pro-people politicians whose work has benefitted the society to a very large extent. Among such politicians is Abdul Nazeer Sab.
Born on December 19, 1934 and a native of Gundlupet in Chamarajanagar district, he was the pioneer of Panchayat Raj system in Karnataka.
Nazeer Sab was a President of Town Municipal Council, Gundlupet and Organising Secretary of Congress Committee, Mysore. He quit Congress (I) after completing his term as MLC during Gundu Rao's regime and joined Janata-Ranga alliance.
Ramakrishna Hegde was the Chief Minister of the State when Janata Party came to power in 1983. His government was committed to social welfare and rural development. Nazeer Sab was appointed as the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister and he said that his aim was to make pure drinking water available to every village of the State.
During that time, the Indian Institute of Technology had come up with an unpatented innovation of hand pump or borewell. After having talks with them, Nazeer Sab got the required technology and equipment to Karnataka. He got a minimum of two pumps installed for villages with a population of about 600 and one pump for those with lesser population. He was able to motivate a lethargic bureaucracy to provide drinking water to every village in the State which earned him the name Neer Sab (neer meaning water in Kannada).
In his tenure, an effective Panchayat Raj Institution was brought to power. He believed that governance from Delhi should be stopped and Panchayat Raj be put in place to strengthen democracy at the village-level itself. For this he used to say, "Halliyinda Dillige" (from village to Delhi). He was the prime mover behind the constitution of Mandal Panchayats and Zilla Parishats in the State.
According to this concept, power was divided at two levels — Zilla Parishat and Mandal Panchayat. The Zilla Parishat President had the status of a Minister of State and was projected as the District Chief Minister. Also the Chief Secretary was given more power than the Deputy Commissioner of the district. In this way, all issues could be taken up at district and taluk-level instead of State-level. Hence, the Tahasildar at taluk-level and DC at district-level lost power but this however put an end to their corruption and dominance. The Mandal Panchayat President was called Pradhan and projected as the Prime Minister of the village. Apart from a few departments like tax, transport, Police, registration, industry, irrigation etc., rest came under the control of the Parishat. With this move a total of twenty-seven departments were brought under the Zilla Parishats.
All villagers above the age of 18 were members of Gram Sabha. Beneficiaries of govt. schemes could be decided at the Gram Sabha and sent to the government. Panchayats also got the power to distribute ashraya houses, water and power due to which MLAs lost power.
The Mandal Panchayat (now Gram Panchayat) and Zilla Parishat (now Zilla Panchayat) was his brainchild. Nazeer Sab called this 'power to people.' Even the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was impressed with the system formulated and implemented by Nazeer Sab.
Abdul Nazeer Sab believed that "such a system of devolution of powers would improve governance" and that he had "witnessed a real awakening in the people when they realised that they could share power at the lower level."
The political and policy framework for introducing people's participation in development was the introduction of the Panchayat Raj Bill in 1983, which was approved by the President in 1986 and passed as an Act in Karnataka in 1987.
The President withheld assent for nearly two-and-a-half years when the Panchayati Raj Bill was sent to him. However, assent was given when Nazeer Sab threatened to stage a fast-unto-death before the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, aware of the implications of decentralisation of power, directed all CMs to implement the system and amended the Constitution to give power to people.
Neer Sab at work
According to Nazeer Sab, "the Four Pillar State — Village, District, State and Centre — was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. But when Karnataka set out to implement this, it was realised that within the limitations imposed by the Constitution, this ideology could not be implemented by a State government on its own and without a Constitutional amendment these intentions and efforts may not be as fruitful as one desired." At a seminar organised by the Institute of Social Sciences in Delhi in 1985, he pleaded with intellectuals to ponder over his question and to create a public debate on the necessity of a Constitutional amendment.
Within four years, on May 15, 1989, the 64th amendment was introduced in Parliament to give Constitutional status to Panchayats.
During his tenure, Nazeer Sab was diagnosed with cancer. Behind all the success of Nazeer Sab was the support of Ramakrishna Hegde. He made arrangements for treating Nazeer Sab in America and even sought help from Mumbai. During his last days, Nazeer Sab wished to visit his native Gundlupet and Hegde at once arranged for a government helicopter for him.
Nazeer Sab was admitted to Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology in Bangalore. He breathed his last on October 25, 1988. At that time he was survived by his wife, four daughters and a son.
Abdul Nazeer Sab's bust at ZP Office, Mysore
To immortalise this great socialist leader, who was one of the most outstanding politicians in the history of free India, a bust of Neer Sab was installed at the Zilla Panchayat office in city on May 7, 2005. K.C. Balram was the Zilla Panchayat President at that time. The then Deputy Chief Minister Siddharamaiah unveiled the statue. His words "Authority and wealth must be distributed equally among all. Even the last person should be given first priority," have been etched below his bust along with other quotes of Mahatma Gandhi.
The bust, made of Krishna Shile (same as those used in Belur and Halebid), is the work of B.S. Yogiraj Shilpi of Brahmarshi Kashyapa Shilpa Kala Shaala on Chamaraja Road in city. He is the son of National and State-level award winning sculptor B. Basavanna Shilpi. It took almost a month for Yogiraj to complete the bust which he says is acid, fire, weather and rust proof as it is made of Krishna Shile.
The Abdul Nazeer Sab State Training Institute for Rural Development, established in 1989 in Mysore, offers training in areas of rural development and decentralised governance for elected representatives of Panchayat Raj Institutions.

(Published in Star of Mysore dated Sept. 6, 2011)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spotting the Spotted


Recent newspaper photographs of a tiger with its cubs in Bandipur tempted me to go on a trip and test my luck. While the tiger never showed up even after circling the jungle for nearly two-and-half-hours, Bandipur did not disappoint me as I got a chance to spot the ‘spotted.’ Warning sounds by animals indicated the presence of a predator nearby and suddenly out of the bushes sprang a leopard which climbed a tree within seconds and seemed to survey the surroundings.

Yummy: A common langur munching on fresh leaves.

Hats off mother nature: Words can’t adequately describe the beauty of this peacock in Mudumalai Forest.
A whole new world: A redwattled lapwing chick explores the forest.

Hup, two, three, four...: This picture will remind anybody of the famous ‘Elephant March’ song from the movie ‘The Jungle Book.’
Gotcha: Our guide was keen enough to spot this mongoose from a distance. Waited till it came close and froze it forever. 

[Published in Star of Mysore dated June 28, 2011]

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Building a New World... on Sand & Frond

How great were the summer vacations of yesteryears. All the children would retreat to their grandparents' place. Kids of the colony would get together and play the entire day regardless of the scorching heat. The children playing ‘mane aata,’ setting up homes and, in it, kitchens with miniature kitchen sets. Those games would be like dramas without scripts. The street was their stage and the story would weave itself with each passing minute. Kids would imitate their parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents and drown in their own magical world where anything was possible and they could be anybody they admire.
Now we just look back at those days and wonder where they have disappeared. With TV entering not just halls but also bedrooms and computers & video games becoming a part and parcel of daily life, children barely know of these games. Also, a variety of summer camps, coaching classes, tuitions etc., have started mushrooming to keep kids busy even during their vacations. Parents look out for those camps which will keep their wards most occupied. And the most shocking feature of the camps is that they even give children homework! Though there is nothing wrong with the camps, it is depriving the children of those innocent games which is by itself a learning process and creates a whole new world for them.
However, while walking down the streets of Saraswathipuram, we came across a bunch of kids who were spending their vacations in a different way. Cousins Dinakar Nandakishore and K.R. Madhukeshwar, 5th std. students of Amrita Vidyalayam, build a different kind of ‘house’ every day using whatever little items they may find, but with a whole lot of imagination and creativity. The foundation and flooring for these houses is the sand pit located in front of their house. If one day it looks like a tent, the other day the house goes ‘green’ with coconut fronds and the next day it looks like a temple.
The Foursome.
"During PE class in school, instead of playing football we would make teams and build houses at a sand heap located near our school. Whoever would complete before the class got over or who ever built the biggest structure would be the winner. That is when we got the idea to do the same here," say the cousins.
The duo are occasionally joined by cousins Tejas, 7th std. and Adithi, 2nd std. of Bangalore and Mumbai respectively, who have come down to their grandparents home in the same area.
Their first construction was using coconut fronds put up in the form of a tent. It started with just one frond and then they started collecting some more to make their tent better. Later on they started using wooden slabs and plastic sheets. Once the kids even went to the extent of buying chocolates from a nearby shop and started selling the same to passersby at their tent. However, on their parents advice, these little ‘entrepreneurs’ had to stop their ‘business.’
When asked if they prefer summer camps or what they were doing now, Madhu-keshwar said "In camps we have to do whatever they ask us to. But here we do what we like. That is why I did not join any camp. I don’t like restrictions. Here we can spend the entire day making different kinds of tents."
It is surprising to see that such a culture still exists among the children of this generation. At a time when parents scold kids for even playing in sand and soiling their clothes, these little 'architects-cum-builders' are attracting other children like them to join hands and just have some fun.
Children are by nature innocent. Let us not take away this innocence by introducing them to more of computer, TV, video games and other such distractions. This age once lost will never come back. So do allow kids to be kids.

(Published in Star of Mysore dated May 28, 2011)