03 November, 2008


One upon a timing, in a land not very far far away, live dhingu. dhingu was be unasuming and had small mouth too and big ear also, but possessessed untold power. one morning, dhingu go to school, and in the play ground big smely rufian steel his name and run. dhingu sad, dhingu cry, dhingu go to class and slap teacher. teacher shout 'DHAVAL!'. and dhingu get new name DHAVAL. just look at pichar of dhingu, it are mesmerizing na?

dhaval do many powerfull activity. he wash face, tie shoe lace, vanquish legions of beast. and did we mention wash face? dhaval aura have strange sound like nuclear reactor core. it haunt all cultist at night. hence reason for insomnia. but tis good. then dhaval t shirt. they having powerfull cryptic mesage, even simple 'f#%k you' writen in anshunt script. example - "awesome!". dhaval able to dodge bullet, yezdi, yamaha, jawa, sound wave, bag of puke, question in board exam exetera. do not laugh on reading above text the great one will swalow you whole.

one night dhaval being insomniac was wanting to going to explore the jungle round dhaval's home. but night being dark and dhaval not having light waiting for fool mun. so that one night, the fool mun one, dhaval gotten up and snake out of house. dhaval roamed jungles all night in hoping to watch legions of beast. but beasts know dhaval coming and scared and hiding. in searching dhaval running into litle boy from querila. little boy say he lost. he roams jungle day and night. in fact, last night he stumbling upon a temble in the jungle. the temble was having stachoos of big demon that make litle boy from querila tremble. he tremble so baad that dhaval taking pity on litle boy from querila and took home and give hote kowfee. when litel boy trembling stop dhaval resume interupted quest. soon dhaval grow tired and sitted by a stream to resting.

.. to be continued.

28 August, 2008

Performance anxiety.

It was evening and the forest canopy over the national highway running through Bandipur and Mudumalai NPs provided enough shade to warrant headlights. Traffic was intermittent.

It is not unusual for people to have pulled over their cars on the side of the road to better see any wildlife that they had been lucky enough to spot. In fact, it is the norm to slow down when approaching a car that's pulled over and try and see for oneself the elusive wildlife that the first driver was fortunate to see. One stumbles upon elephants, bears, leopards and even tigers in this manner. There was one such queue of cars on the side of the road, and inherently, we too slowed down to check out what it was that had been spotted this time. We kept driving and slowly passed the three or four cars lined up behind the lead car that had stopped. Crawling up to the lead car, we realised what it was. Not a too uncommon sight usually, but getting undeserved and embarassing attention this time: the driver of the car that had stopped first had to pee, and now, unfortunately, was doing so in the glare of at least four pairs of headlights upon him.

07 August, 2008

Trip Report - Nilgiris 2nd August 2008

I was having dinner with my friend Suraj Kumaar, of the DiscoverWild Foundation (www.discoverwild.in), and we were discussing how we had absolutely nothing to do on a Friday night. So, without further ado, we decided we'd hit the Nilgiris right then and there to see how our luck turned out to be. After all, unearthly hours of the morning before sunrise are always the best for wildlife viewing.

We left Coimbatore at about 11.30pm and hit the foothills of Mettupalayam around 1am of the Saturday. We proceeded up to Ooty via the Burliar-Coonoor road and made slow progress. Traffic was unbelievable at that unearthly hour with a vehicle crossing almost every 3 to 5 minutes. Sometime between 2am and 2.30am when Suraj was catching up on a nap, about 4-6km before the town of Aruvankadu (the Cordite factory) I saw a leopard cross the road in front of us, having come up from a steep slope, almost a drop, on our left. I turned the car around on the road to try and continue seeing it, but by then it had climbed the slope to our right and was making its way up through the undergrowth. Suraj awoke on feeling the car slow and only got to hear the sounds of bushes parting and leaves swaying indicating the cat's progress. This leopard was about average in size, that is all I could conclude. We didn't have a spotlight with us, so the car's headlights were our only source of light.

Continuing up towards Coonoor, we refuelled and decided to keep heading toward Ooty as originally planned. Once at Ooty, we proceeded toward the Sighur ghat road and went down all 36 hairpin bends of the 17km to Masinagudi in just over an hour. It was still only about four in the morning so we drove on toward Theppakadu and Kargudi. (The road from Masinagudi joins up the Mysore-Ooty NH at Theppakadu; on the left lie Kargudi, Gudalur, Ooty and on the right the NH goes on to Bandipur and towards Gundulpet and Mysore.) Between Theppakadu and Kargudi we spotted a male gaur and his brothel contentedly chewing grass in the clearings on either sides of the national highway. Then came a resort jeep loaded with tourists who used blinding camera flashes and spotlights to drive the herd into the trees and undergrowth. Finished with that, we turned around and headed toward Bandipur. En route, we made many sightings of Sambar, usually loners or couples. We then came across a whole herd of them, at least four juveniles and four adults and more in the bushes on either sides. At the Bandipur reception centre, it was still dark and at 5.30am, we were at least a half hour away from any kind of safari. So we decided to drive on until the end of the Bandipur NP & WLS and return in time for the first safari ride. On our return, about 30m from the Bandipur reception, a very beautiful, healthy (fat, even), shiny, young male leopard crossed the road from our left, went to a tree on our right, sniffed at it for a while and then marked it and went off into the bushes. Again, Suraj had to be shaken awake and in his sleepy excitement, he got a picture only of the leopard's aura. You wouldn't believe it but the highlighted part of the picture is the leopard, or rather, his aura. :D

I wanted to shoot and record the fellow too, but just seeing him all shiny in the headlights, going about marking his territory, paralysed my brain into sluggishness regarding anything to do with taking my eyes away from him.

It was six by now and we were issued our safari van ride tickets to a fully packed van filled with kids and wannabe wildlife photographers who wanted a crash course on nature photography in 5 minutes from us, probably fooled into thinking we were real pros and veterans simply because we were the only quiet ones on board (my pioneer beard would've helped too). After a much uneventful van ride (sightings being only of spotted dove, wild boar, spotted and sambar deer, coromandel grey langur and peacock), we came across a ruddy mongoose (who also could be comfortably termed fat), who scurried away because the van driver went too close to it. A few metres down the road, we spotted another ruddy mongoose who also scurried away because he was of the very nervous disposition kind. Then, nearly at the end of the van ride in the park's eastern parts behind the reception centre, we spotted a pack of wild dogs—eight of them —out for the hunt. They were headed west, which we didn't realize at the time. As soon as we got off the van at the end of the safari, we wanted to get out of being amidst so many noisy people and got in the car and raced off south towards Mudumalai but had to come to a complete stop in a couple of kilometres because we saw the same wild dog pack now crossing the main road, going to the western part of the park. After the crossing they decided to hang around and have a little play session on the grassy sides of the muddy park road that runs perpendicular to the main NH passing through Bandipur and Mudumalai (that tourists aren't allowed into). Mock fights ensued for a while after which I guess hunger calls couldn't be left unanswered so they resumed their hunt, walking off into the forest.

Next up on our plates was a small herd of elephants, all female, two adults and one sub-adult. One of the females was very emaciated and weak-looking, with a modified gait too. We kept a distance of about 20m and they were peaceful enough, despite fast-paced trucks crossing their paths. This herd then moved off into the eastern parts of the teak plantation about 4km south of the Mudumalai reception at Theppakadu.

Our safari ride at Mudumalai was uneventful except for one quick sighting of a male gaur, who, for some unknown reason, decided to bolt on hearing us approach, and also a lone barking deer who also bolted, as is the case usually with their kind. The van driver stopped the van at the MGR watchtower on a cliff which gave a wonderful view of the Moyar falls and river.

The rest of the day was uneventful, and as we headed back we decided to take the Manjur-Karamadai road down to Coimbatore. Before Manjur comes the village of Chamrajnagar. Chamrajnagar's claim to fame used to be its temple and boarding school but all that took a backseat when I had a sip of their most amazing Assam-blend tea at the Chamraj tea estate's official tea shop. I'm not usually a fan of Assam-blends but this one had me floored on the first sip. The tea is sold 20% cheaper than MRP at this little shop, which sits by a shola on one side and the tea factory on the other, the beautiful aroma of tea being processed wafting up at you as you wait for your tea to be served. We also spotted a Besra Sparrowhawk (probably female) that was kind enough to visit the tree opposite the tea store while we having our chai.

The rest of our journey to Manjur was uneventful except for the usual array of jungle crows, pied bushchats, indian robins, great tits, house sparrows, hill mynas, brahminy starlings and oriental white-eyes. About 10km before Manjur village we came across the body of a bonnet macaque, his skull crushed by a passing vehicle.

This is what happens when wild animals are fed by humans. And this is why speed limits in forest roads should be strictly enforced.

The road from Manjur to Karamadai takes one through a variety of habitat, starting with tea cultivation and ending with scrub jungle at Karamadai, with moist and dry deciduous patches in-between. Very uneventful all the way to Coimbatore, except for the fact that most village men we encountered on the road in Karamadai were walking in drunken stupor. It was festival time, we learnt, which explained all.

Route: Coimbatore-Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Ooty-Sighur-Mavanalla-Masinagudi-Mudumalai-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Masinagudi-Mavanalla-Sighur-Ooty-Lovedale-Chamrajnagar-Manjur-Karamadai-Coimbatore.

24 July, 2008

It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the things it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot, it cannot be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better. There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell for a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only, are this man's lawful prey.

- John Ruskin

14 July, 2008

Mosquito repellent

Right, so I was riding to office as usual, except it was close to seven in the evening. There's a lot of farmland that I ride past if I take a shortcut, which I did. Now, near one such farm appearing to grow what was tobacco (Coimbatore does have a few small farmers cultivating tobacco as a seasonal crop, but very limited amounts as the major crops are almost always sugarcane, paddy, bananas, coconuts and maize), I saw what was a huge bonfire with a lot of smoke coming from it outside the huts of the peasants who work on that farm. On going closer it smelt familiar, yet I couldn't put my finger on the smell. When I was upon the fire I recognised that one of the peasants was stoking it, adding more leaves into it. Tobacco leaves. When I asked him about the leaves with a look of stupendous amazement, he said green 'baccy leaves are great mosquito repellents! I didn't hang around to argue that since the whole village got high this way, a few mosquito bites wouldn't go noticed. No sir, not at all. This would be a guy who, despite being nearly at the lower end of the financial strata of society, would still have access to newspapers at his local chai and grocery store. Don't vernacular newspapers carry stuff such as how tobacco is harmful to health?

09 June, 2008

Brain infection

My teenage cousins have been visiting and they've been eating my brains for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So nothing to blog for now, take a look at the evolution of the Tamil script from the anshunt times to now if you're interested.

From the government museum at Fort Vellore, Vellore, Tamilnadu, India.

17 April, 2008

The Snake Who Went To Hell And Came Back

There's a great story behind this picture. It gives us an insight into the amazing conditions that can be tolerated by these amazing reptiles. Except for the destruction of habitat and killings by humans.

We were travelling down a hilly road in Nelliyampathy, a small hill town in Palakkad district of Kerala. Nelliyampathy is a plantation town with coffee and cinnamon and orange orchards and limited amounts of tea. Nelli has vast tracts of forests interspersed with this cultivation. It's also contiguous with the forests of Top Slip and Parambikulam and very much a part of the Anamalais. The north-western part, to be exact. So there we were, coasting in the car slowly amidst a terrain of mostly rock and grass with patches of moist deciduous shola in-between. The road was narrow and had room for only one vehicle. It wasn't blacktop or with any kind of pavement, just a couple of worn out mud and rock tracks with a strip of grass down the middle. All of a sudden there's a green vine snake lying in the middle of the road, seeming to be the innocuous stick broken off a green shrub. So we get off and get a brief photo session but before we can get more shots, there's a jeep approaching from the opposite side. Not only do we have to get off the road to give the jeep room to pass, we also wanted to make sure it didn't run over our green friend. So one of our group members who is a professional herpetologist tried to catch Mr. Green to relocate him to a safer place. Before that could be done, the approaching jeep and it's horn scared the snake away somewhere. Once the jeep had passed we looked all over but couldn't locate him, it seemed like he'd just disappeared. We resumed our journey greatly disappointed and headed downhill, back to the town of Nemmara which is the jump-off point for accessing Nelli from Palakkad/Thrissur. On the way down, about 30km into the journey, Mr. Green decides to make himself visible again. He's just gotten out of the wheel arch and is making his way up to the windshield/bonnet junction, where the wipers are at. All this, while we have been running the car downhill! So we stop the car and by that time this fella is scared of all the commotion (the exclamations) we're making and tries to get into the panel gap between the sides of the car and the bonnet lid. Our daring herpetologist comes to its rescue and frees him from that dangerous spot. We have a field day with the cams on the snake since he's being handled, he can't run! After about 20 harrying minutes for the green fella we're done and let him go into the shrubbery near a stream.

It's only logical that he was under the bonnet all the while right from our encounter with that jeep. For all of 30km. Temperatures in the bonnet can exceed 70 degrees C especially when you're in hilly terrain since the car has to be run in lower gears. It's a wonder and a miracle that he wasn't toasted to death or that he didn't get himself entangled with any of the mechanicals down there.

Green Vine Snakes are commonly found throughout the subcontinent and other parts of South and South East Asia. They do have venom but it isn't very potent when injected into humans, although some people develop an allergic reaction to it. There's a widespread misbelief in Tamilnadu that these snakes attack you and inject poison in your eyes which results in death. This is due to the fact that these snakes spend most of their time in the trees (arboreal snakes), hanging down many a time. So in the event of an encounter with a human, the head would naturally be in-line with the snake's head and the eyes being the most prominent part of one's geometry, would naturally be the place the snake decides to attack.

For those interested, here's a small video of Nelliyampathy:

15 April, 2008

08 April, 2008


One's activities in life should be like an elaborate French meal with wine followed by the Spanish siesta instead of the Big Mac drowned by a gallon of Coke that it is now.

18 March, 2008


After many sets of diapers, baby clothes and clothes, many pairs of shoes, many houses, many cars, falling for many girls, many cameras, many pairs of glasses and many years of living, I've realised that I've always gone to only one barber shop.

11 March, 2008

Commitment vs Committed

When you start going steady with someone, it's called commitment. When you're sent to the nuthouse, it's called committed. Makes one wonder...

28 January, 2008

Dr. Sleeploss, or How I Learned To Stop Hallucinating And Love Paranoia

Did you know you can get an amazing high by just not sleeping? It never struck me before when I was regular with missing sleep but now that I got a chance to stay awake thirty-six hours and driving all the while non-stop (it's been quite some time since I hadn't hadn't slept), I realized I was into another world after twenty-four hours of no sleep and only four from the day before. I remember being extremely happy, not with myself or with the world or with anyone in general, just happy. My speech was slurred, I stammered and broke sentences awkwardly and had bad grammar too. I'm sure my vocabulary had decreased to that of a four-year-old's but I can't vouch for it because my memory was playing up and was exaggerating my previous jungle exploits to my friend who was with me on this birding/nature-spotting trip to Mudumalai NP and Bandipur NP.

The plan, basically, was to just keep going up and down the main road of the two national parks hoping something would turn up in our headlights. But that was not to be so. The main road that runs through these parks is a national highway connecting Mysore and Ooty, and it being a weekend, a Republic Day weekend to add, traffic was heavy. Now, how heavy can traffic be on jungle roads in the middle of the night? Well, ask us. There was not a moment when we were alone on the road. There were vehicles of all kinds (bikes at three in the morning, Maruti 800's overstuffed with people, trucks overloaded with goods and what not) passing us as we were crawling around at low speed, vainly in search of elusive creatures of the night. There was either a vehicle overtaking us, or someone's headlights blinding us from the front or lights blinding me reflected off the mirrors (god, I hate people who don't dip lights in traffic). The only sightings we could manage (when we were not giving way and being overtaken) was a female Sambar with calf, a lone male Gaur (who was least bothered by our very close presence and our headlights on him), and an elephant who'd decided that he was invisible to us because his head was in thick bush and his (rather large) butt was the only thing sticking out of it.

After staring at (rather large) elephant rear anatomy for about ten minutes, we decided to get moving as we thought he wasn't exactly going to turn around for us and pose (photography being possible only with a 50mm f/1.8 lens with the camera cranked on ISO 1600 and shutter speeds being in the range of 1/16th to 1/8th of a second). Further down the road we saw an about ten-foot tall stump of a dry tree glowing with fire inside it, embers falling onto the dry grass below. Worried about our beloved haunts and with fear of losing them completely to forest fire, we hurried and made our way back to the check-post and told the guy there of it. The check-post turned out to be a police check-post not a forest one, and the guy there didn't seem to be interested in leaving his warm bonfire for some raging forest fire in all its element somewhere far off, so he said it'd be taken care of in the morning when someone would surely see it. Correction, someone else would surely see it. We persisted and finally managed to get him in the car and take us to the reception centre where a real forester would do something about it.

So, off we went to the reception centre, wheels spinning wildly and spitting out dust behind the car, to the Bandipur reception centre. It was about four in the morning, and we surely didn't expect anyone to be awake, but we were hoping to wake someone up and ask them to do something. At the reception centre, the guy from the check-post went knocking on the front door and called out an unintelligible name. Five minutes passed and nothing happened. He did it again, and I joined in on the knocking with gusto. Still nothing happened. We went around the whole building knocking on every knockable object and shouting for someone to wake up but that someone in there was soundly asleep while our much beloved forest was burning down to ash. After a fruitless fifteen minutes of screaming and knocking (the people driving past the reception centre must've thought a local mental hospital must've had a bust-out or something.), the guy from the check-post decided he'd have a look at the fire after all, and so away we went. We stopped in front of it and the guy needed pointing out as to the whereabouts of the fire. After ascertaining that what we were pointing to was indeed a fire, the guy announced, "yeh to mamooli hai. (this is insignificant.)" with the least bit of articulation and stress. Surprised more at his delivery than at the significance of his words, we returned the guy to his post and went our way, all thoughts of being awarded the National Bravery Award erased from our minds.

Highlights of the trip included a couple of Black Baza, a Besra Sparrowhawk female, some Nightjar that we couldn't ID, a field mouse, and a troop of Common Langur that always looked you in the eye when stared at. Weird, aren't they? Oh, also a male Tickell's Blue Flycatcher who was a showoff and such a schmuck that de'd get in the way of me trying hard to shoot a Malabar Whistling Thrush. As you know, MWTs are some of the hardest birds to shoot. They love to skulk in the dark bush-floor and rarely are out in the open. And being completely black does make life for a photographer harder than having ice-cream in hell. Thanks to the TBF's antics, all I got of the MWT was this:

On the way back home, it was well past the thirty-three-hours-since-sleep mark and I began to hallucinate. Twigs on the road prompted heavy braking, and when my buddy inquired as to the need for that, I said, "didn't you see that snake? We almost ran over it. Did you see what kind it was?" The black-and-white concrete posts delimiting the hill roads and preventing vehicles from falling off into deep ravines started to look like a horde of male Pied Bushchat. The squealing from the disc brakes also prompted stops to look for a never-before-heard bird call. Paranoia then set in with the drivers of vehicles being overtaken being "slow dunces" and that of those overtaking us being "mindless fools".