21 May, 2014

Desk Evolution

Below are a series of pictures depicting the evolution of my trading desk since 2010. Started out messy with 3 computers/3 screens, went to the other extreme with just a single 12" laptop, am now comfortably settled with this dual-monitor setup. One window has a journal, trading platform, and skype while the larger screen has charts that I cycle through. I think I shall eventually end up adding another monitor soon for more charts and less scrolling. So much for simplicity. Meh.

The goal is to get to something like this and not be lost. :-)

Nolan tributes Coppola

Has anyone caught Christopher Nolan's tribute to The Godfather II in the scene where Bruce meets Falcone? Local mob boss (Fanucci and Falcone), restaurant, light-coloured suit, young punk in wool overcoat, all check!

06 May, 2014

The different types of "maal"

The Adventures of Dhingu continued...

The day began auspiciously enough with a clear, crisp morning. Tuesday, the 10th of November 2009. Not a weekend, not a holiday, no festivals, nothing. I was expecting the Ramnagar bus to be empty. Especially since I was leaving at eleven in the morning. I walked the 300m down to the temple where the Marchula main road met the dirt road leading up to Camp. I began my 2km walk to Mohaan knowing that with my abysmal luck the bus would've probably left, but no, I heard a bus approaching. It was, indeed, the right bus, and it was, indeed, empty! Phew!

Safely deposited at Ramnagar (I saw a jackal on the way!), I now tried to find the right bus that would take me to Kaladhungi. Things would've been easier if the buses had signs saying where they were headed, but the local way to do it was to go to every bus and ask where it was headed. If it was headed the way you were headed, you were in luck. After a bit of asking around, I was directed to a green mini-bus that looked like it had seen better days a long, long time ago. Probably 1969. I hopped on board and bought myself a ticket to Kaladhungi, Jim Corbett's home for most of the year. Inside the bus were lots of local movie posters with names like, "Saali meri Seema" and "Teri Yaad Aayegi" and more such interesting names. Anyhow, back to important things; the seats were too small for me, and I had to sit with my feet sticking out into the passage area, causing everyone who crossed to trip over and send curses my way.

Kaladhungi arrived quickly enough (thankfully), and I changed buses for Nainital. The bus struggled up the ghats to Nainital, covering 60km in a little over 3 hours. Nainital revealed itself to be quite a nice and unhurried town-city if one discounted the tourists. I had lots of recommendations for awesome food in Nainital and headed straight to highly recommended Sakley's for some pastries. I ordered their eggless pastry which on that day was a vanilla-chocolate double-decker with chocolate cream and cardamom. It was quite okay, nothing to rave about, nothing to complain about. Perhaps it was their egg-full stuff that was worth raving about? Next, I walked the Mall road up and down and then up again and returned to Sakley's via Thandi sadak. It is quite thandi and a great place for birds (feathered and non-feathered, both kinds being very friendly). Saw my first Wallcreeper here!

So, another bit of info I had from friends was this particular place in Nainital where the weed was exceptional. Though not someone who indulged regularly, but being the man of fine taste that I was, I had to check this out to see if this was indeed true. I followed the directions I had been given and ended up in a dump of a provision store run by two dirty men. I had been instructed to ask for "maal", so I asked the one who seemed to be in charge, "maal hain, kya?" He nodded and beckoned me to follow which I was immediately uncomfortable with. I mean, who acts so suspicious selling only weed? He walked into a nearby house, and I followed him into the sitting room thinking that would be where he would hide the stash. He then went into a bedroom. I stayed in the living room. He came out immediately and was surprised I didn't follow him in. I protested and he said, "koi baat nahi, andar aao." Being the first rate idiot that I am, I went inside. There was a young woman sitting on the bed, dressed in a blouse and a thin white skirt. My brain was still processing all this when the shopkeeper said, "1500, theek hain na?" I looked at him, then the woman on the bed, then back at him and ran out and away from the house stumbling and mumbling, hot in the face and all. Some of my "friends" were having a great laugh, I was sure.

20 April, 2014


In the winter of 2009, I used to work as a guide in Corbett at a safari lodge.  It was a small lodge with nine employees and a max capacity of 24 guests, give or take.  The lodge was neatly tucked out of the way in a 6-house village with no electricity and forests on all sides.  All employees save for me and another naturalist were local.  Prakash was one such 20-year-old who was being trained by us to ID birds and speak English with guests.  He could also drive, so we were keen to send him out on safari too.  We felt it would be great if he could stay in touch with the guests after they'd left (most guests end up becoming good friends with their guides), so I was helping him open his first email account outside the kitchen.  We were hunched over the computer, filling in all his data for the registration process.  I was asking him his DoB and other details, and then for the security question, asked him where he was born.  Rinku (chef's assistant) and Pooranji (accountant) who overheard us, both asked, "Kundli bana rahe hain, kya?"  They know what online matrimony is but don't know what email is.

27 August, 2012

Save Our Snakes

The following appears in the Annual Directory of the neighbourhood of Kovai Gardens Association in Kovaipudur, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Sankes are some of the most gorgeous creatures of the natural world and have taken millions of years to evolve and fill their ecological niche.  It would be a disaster for humans if snakes are brought to the point of extinction despite all the scientific and ethical reasons for their conservation.  Snakes form an integral part of our ecosystem—both as predator and prey—and have a very important role to play in pest control.  The media are happy to publicise and sensationalise cases of snakebite but tend to ignore the larger picture: that snakes are a major factor in keeping agricultural pests (especially rodents) at bay.  The alternate to eating food that is riddled with toxic chemicals and pesticides is to leave these magnificient creatures alone and let them perform their natural duties and work as nature intended.

Snakes are found everywhere: in the forests and deserts, in villages, in towns and cities, in water and on land.  Some snakes like the ornate flying snake of Asia have even conquered the domain of the sky: gliding from tree to tree!  The only reason we don't see them so often is that they do an amazing job staying out of our way.  The occasional times we do cross paths, it is best to stay as far away as possible without causing them any distress and let them remove themselves to safety.  They want to avoid confrontation even more than you do: imagine encountering someone more than 5 feet tall when you're relegated to crawling a few millimetres off the ground.  Snakes bite only as a last resort, for their personal safety, so it does well for us to go about our daily activities with some consideration for the reptiles that share our lives: do not put your hands and feet into nooks, crannies, under rocks and bushes, or other places you can't see into, and always watch where you are treading when you walk, especially so in the dark.  Simple, isn't it?

Out of the over 270 species of snakes in India, the bite of only 4 of these is deadly to humans, yet snakes continue to be violently persecuted in most parts of our country.  Despite being the symbol of the Hindu god Shiva, it seems that most of us are happy to worship the idol and kill the first live snake we see.  Another reason to avoid killing snakes is to stay out of legal trouble.  Snakes are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and warrant a non-bailable arrest.  Depending on the species of snake killed, one will be sentenced by the Schedule under which it comes under.  For example, in the eyes of the law, killing a python is equal to having killed/hunted a tiger or elephant, all of which are protected by their Schedule I classification.

If you do encounter a snake within the confines of your home or workplace, don't try to chase/beat/scare/kill it.  A majority of snake bites occur during these times.  Call your local snake rescue expert (or the fire department/police) who can safely capture the snake and release or relocate it into its natural habitat.

Those living in and around Kovaipudur can call Arthur Steele at 934 483 3274, S.R.J. Arul at 934 410 1111 or Dhaval Momaya at 989 444 3871.

Those living in and around rest of Coimbatore can call K. Ratish at 978 733 2814 or Sabri at 951 992 6729.

Compiled by Dhaval Momaya, N. Lakshminarayan (WCS India) and Arthur Steele.

04 June, 2012

Just spent the last two hours on the phone trying to convince two dozen veterinarians to euthanise a stray dog hit by a car and most of them said that was "not possible" point blank and hung up.  None were willing even if I agreed to pay a premium on their fee and offered to pick them up and drop them back.  Frustration was growing into anger.  One of the vets could make out my displeasure despite my best efforts at being polite, so he justified his refusal by saying he didn't work with strays because they weren't vaccinated and he didn't want to "catch anything" in case he got bitten.  He advised me to stay clear of strays too.  Watch out animal lovers of Coimbatore: veterinary whores abound.

25 April, 2012


I was walking the dog this evening, in the wilderness outside my village where the land is gently undulating and covered with knee-length grass with rows of thorny scrub in the depressions. The weather was great for a walk; the sun mildly shining through a curtain of thin cloud. As I walked, I could smell the fragrance of tulsi as my feet crushed some plants that were spread out among the grass. The resident locals of the village and neighbouring villages had already collected most of the year's wild tulsi harvest in February, but these were new saplings that had come up with the summer showers, I imagine.

It was nearly dusk when the dog suddenly jumped backwards and pricked up her ears, her nose to the ground, twitching away trying to smell the life out of something that was obscured to me. As I tried to get closer to see better she kept pushing me away and growling at whatever it is she was looking at. I finally managed to pull her back and hold her and saw that she had stumbled across a small Russell's viper (Daboia russelli) lying quietly in the grass. Such are the times when I mentally slap my forehead for being too lazy to bring the camera out on the walks, but the point I want to drive home in this little essay is that time and again, I've witnessed my dog being defensive when she encounters a live venomous snake. This has previously happened four times with Russell's vipers in our yard at home, more than half a dozen times with the spectacled cobras (again, in our yard) and once with a saw-scaled viper that we encountered on a similar walk years ago. On occasions when she finds a live non-venomous snake (she's managed to find three wolf snakes, two green vine snakes, countless rat snakes, and once, even a cat snake), she merely attracts our attention to the snake and goes her way doing what she was originally doing. No growling, no ears upright, no straight tail, nothing. (She even let a green vine snake live in our curry leaf tree for a whole year after pointing it out to us.) I wonder how she knows the venomous ones from the non-venomous. Can she smell the venom in their venom sacs? I sure would love to know.

04 November, 2011

Morning in the Mountains

It's been just about five years now since I shot this picture in the Siruvani hills of Coimbatore.  I've put it up on my flickr stream, my website, various online photography fora and whatnots, but no one has ever noticed it.  No one has ever said, "Woah, wait a minute, I know that from somewhere."  I guess nature/landscape photographers today don't know their art history like they used to.  Or that this was a lousy execution at trying to copy a great romantic landscape painting.  Meh.  Anyway, on its fifth anniversary, here is why I personally like it.

Caspar Friedrich: Morning in the Mountains (1821-23?)

01 August, 2011

Form over Content? Blasphemy! (?)

I followed a friend's link to this page on Blake Andrews' blog and was a little miffed that the winner of the Form vs Content poll (in a photograph) was, in fact, form. Iconic images of our times immediately jumped to my mind (man blocking tank in Tiananmen, little Vietnamese girl running from her village being napalm'd, the recent picture of a couple kissing during the Vancouver riots, McCurry's Afghan girl, ...), but before I could mentally send a flurry of vile words in some of the choicest language I know to all the voters, my brain hammered sense into me. The above pictures, iconic though they may be, aren't 'great' images. When it comes to the great, the buck stops at Monsieur Cartier-Bresson. Aquila from 1952; Behind St. Lazare station, Paris; Brasserie Lipp 1969; are all 'everyday' images with only the photographer's composition elevating them to greatness. Even many of Ansel Adams' works are these 'everyday' images (Jeffrey's Pine and Church in Mexico come to mind immediately).

Continuing with this train of thought, I realised that painters can get away with getting truly captivating scenes of everyday sights whereas photographers have to work quite hard at finding that something 'extra' that really catapults the image. (Of course, painters do have the harder job in the first place by nature of their work.) I can't find a finer example of this than Johannes Vermeer's "Street in Delft". A true masterpiece which in photograph form would simply be relegated to the 'good' pile. I would put Albrecht Durer's "Large Turf", Vermeer's (again) "View of Delft" and Correggio's "Portrait of a Man" in the same pile as masterpieces with no amazing/awesome/stupendous shit happening in them. I'm sure I could come up with a tonne of other stuff that support the form argument if I cared to run more web searches, but I don't, so there.

Johannes Vermeer Van Delft - Street in Delft
Can you picture yourself caught staring at the brick-work if this were a photograph?

Damn, I wish I could paint like that.

28 May, 2011

Temple elephants

I first saw an elephant at age seven. It was a temple elephant (from the Perur temple) that was taken house to house, and it was visiting ours. The idea was to donate some money to the temple, give the elephant a banana or sugarcane, and receive the blessings of lord Ganesha. I was a little scared but was mostly astounded by the animal's size, and I still remember looking into her eyes and wondering what she was thinking. When she dropped a load of dung right outside our gates, all the village kids immediately set upon trampling it with their bare feet because it was said to increase your intelligence! My next interaction with another temple elephant happened much later in Vellore during 2008. I handed her a banana and a five-rupee coin. She ate the banana and stretched out her trunk to hand the coin over to her mahout. When the mahout reached out to take the coin from her, she swiped it back. She did this three more times before the mahout lost his patience and shouted at her, and then she obliged.