Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tyger Tyger Burning Bright! They don't eat zebras

The other day I was making up a story for my little girl. I started off with the story of a tiger attacking a zebra.
Image Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net by anankkml

My son who is an animal aficionado quickly interrupted me. "Amma, but tigers do not eat zebras!"

"Really? I thought they were carnivores. They kill animals to eat them, don't they?" I asked. I was sure he had gotten his facts wrong.

"Well, tigers live only in Asia - in the forests and savannahs of Asia. whereas the zebras live in Africa. So though tigers are carnivores, they do not kill zebras" he explained. That made sense of course.

I had never thought of it that way! 

When I was in college I used to have a huge poster of a tiger in my room. There was an inner strength and confidence that I used to get just by looking at that 3 feet image of this magnificent creature. 
  

During our visit to the zoo, we read about the threat of extinction that tigers are facing today.  They are poached for their skin and also for claws, teeth etc. that some believe have medicinal value.  The rate at which their numbers have dwindled is very alarming. I get reminded of the dialogue in the movie Bambi.

Young Bambi: What happened, Mother? Why did we all run?
Bambi's Mother: Man was in the forest.

That one line has so much meaning in it. About the amount of havoc man has caused in nature. Sad!


But there have been consistent efforts to increase the tiger numbers in different nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. An article published sometime last year talks about increase in tiger numbers for the first time in a century.

It felt proud to see that India is one of the countries where great efforts are being made for this and which is beginning to show results as well.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160410-tiger-numbers-rise-wwf-conservation-double-population/

I remember a poem "The Tyger" that we had as part of our syllabus by Willam Blake

Tyger Tyger Burning Bright
In the forests of the night

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43687

Hope the conservation efforts bear more fruit and let us all do our part in wildlife conservation.





Friday, March 3, 2017

The eternal curiosities of our questioning minds!

Great thinkers have said a lot of things, stressing upon the importance of questioning, for that is the foremost quality required to gain wisdom.

Well, that applies to thinkers that are great. But what about the mediocre ones like me? I had the irresistible urge to add an "and you?" to that last sentence but what right do I have to make assumptions about someone else's thinking capabilities??Hmm?

I think I always liked asking questions. In my quest to be an active participant in class discussions at school, I have incurred the wrath of many a teacher. Thankfully most of my teachers were committed to their work and patiently answered my queries, relevant or otherwise. There are exceptions of course. Imagine it is the last period of the day and the poor exhausted person wants to quickly get done with the lesson and rush to the one thing that is a solace in his drudgery - his evening cup of tea. Here is a "I want to flaunt my non-existent intelligence" specimen that is throwing questions just for the sake of it! Sensing neither his ire nor that of the classmates eagerly waiting for the ring of the bell I would continue as if I were on the ISRO team that is about to send the next satellite to space.

Fast forward a few years,we started living in the internet era. This is the time, when a few hours spent exercising only ones forefinger on digital devices immerses us in an illusion that we have a string of honorary degrees behind us. This halo behind our heads becomes the most luminous during a visit to the doctor. "Is this contagious?" "Will this fever affect my optical nerve?" "Are you sure its not penguin flu?" We have to pound him with questions to such an extent that he would be seriously considering taking a break, doing a Masters in Veterinary medicine, and start treating those that, leave alone questioning, cannot even talk to him!

The other day I went to the mall and entered a shop. Seeing me browsing, the salesperson innocently approached me to ask if I needed help. Little did he know that there were almost ten blank lines waiting at  the tip of my tongue with question marks attached. After inquiring a lot about the durability, efficiency, trust-worthiness of something that I was about to buy for less than $10 I finally made a choice.  I reached the counter and opened my bag and realized,to my dismay, that I had left my wallet at home. Do I need words to describe his expression or mine?

Then there are those serious questions that society loves asking about our personal lives. "When are you buying a house?"; "Why are you shifting home? That one was so convenient!?" ;"When are you getting back to working?" ;"Why are you working and not taking care of your home?" The list is endless.

Sometimes I feel one needs to carry a board that says "NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS" the moment one steps out from home. It must also have a hammer attached to it that bangs our head every time we decide to adorn the questioner's cap. Oh yes, the one that loathes such questioning does not always stop from asking, The content or context may be different, We all do. The questions we ask may be more aligned with our own beliefs and may or may not be in sync with the general beliefs of our times.

Social media is generally inclined towards criticizing and chastising this nature of the society. But sometimes such questioning may help us to think of our states and decisions from different perspectives. It might trigger a thinking pattern that results in something beneficial for us. Hence instead of blindly shutting ones ears to any queries around us, it may be a better idea to have a filter instead and take to heart those that may make sense when thought about patiently. For the rest we have an easy option of simply ignoring.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The day, the cake and the lesson!

Image Coutesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigtalPhotos.net


Usually I take some time to write a post and publish it. I do proofread it a couple of times and yes every time it definitely gets better. Today I have decided to type away a post at one shot and publish it.  The moments when the mood to write and the availability of time coincide seem to be quite less. Hence I have decided to just write, read once and publish. To grammatically err is human!

December is a month of birthdays in my family-My father in law, my brother and both my kids. My children have their birthdays in the same week - his on the 26th and hers on the 30th. So besides the festive mood the whole world is in, we actually get into a special family celebration mode.

I don't bake frequently but I do experiment once in a while with a small oven that I have and an eggless chocolate cake is something that usually gives me satisfactory results. After filling my seven turning eight year old with enough excitement about it, I put all the dry ingredients in the sieve , mixed them up together and thought of turning the oven on for the preheating part. Plugged it , switched it on and Lo! The lights, fans, TV and every other thing dependent on electricity for life went off. The switch in the power circuit breaker box had tripped. Switched it back on  and tried again and it tripped again! Tried switching off some other appliances possibly causing the overload and yet it tripped again. The oven had decided to absolutely not cooperate. I have an oven that is super cool. So cool that it simply refuses to heat or even preheat for that matter. Sigh! Grrr!!

The immediate thought was to throw away the mix into the dustbin and go buy something at the nearest bakery. I was disappointed, frustrated , irritated and mad at the oven. The birthday boy was actually cool about it but the birthday mom was getting on the nerves of the rest of the family members. Anyways I decided to discuss with Google about other alternatives. Pressure cooker? Microwave? A couple of youtube videos later - microwave seemed to be not bad an option to try.

I put in things in the recipe and those not in this recipe but other recipes supposed to work best. Milk, baking powder, lemon juice and God knows what else i added. Poured it into a suitable vessel, put it into the microwave and started praying.

Six minutes later when I took it out, the results were YUMMILICIOUS!!!

It had the same taste and texture that thirty plus minutes of baking in the electric oven would have given me. In fact it was a teeny weeny bit better. The cooking was much more uniform.

We did have a home cooked cake after all and day two - the plate is clean. No cake left and we did eat it all.

No the cake in the image is not mine. That is someones whose oven never gave trouble. Yes, the art of making a cake lies entirely with the machine and not the humans that prepare the mix ;D

SO time to enter 2017 with a philosophical lesson from an eggless chocolate cake.

Things may not proceed as we expect. But going ahead with possible alternatives instead of grumbling might give us better results we never ever imagined.

If your plan does not work out, see whats in the big plan for you. It may be a much better option!

I can't think of any philosophy to explain a new bread-making baking tin and a couple of ingredients that I had purchased on a become-an-expert-in-breadmaking whim.  Thats a different story!! :) Happy New Year all !


Friday, December 2, 2016

It is contagious!!

Saturday morning! Here I am, sitting on my most favorite piece of furniture in the household - a wooden rocking chair, holding my cup of filter coffee and letting myself go in its aroma. But wait - The reflex act of opening one's mouth wide and inhaling deeply due to tiredness creeps from inside my being. In other words I am letting out a big yawn and resisting the wild urge to get back under the sheets and cuddle away into my world of dreams.
Image Credit www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

A yawning kitten is an absolutely adorable sight. Babies too!...For that matter, any yawning baby, puppy, kitten, cub, calf etc. looks amazingly cute...err!...wait a minute!....Do calves yawn? I have seen kittens yawn and the wide yawn of a lion is an oft-repeated sight on the likes of Animal Planet and Discovery channel...But horses? Cows? So I meditate upon Google baba and he enlightens me...Except for maybe teeny weeny insects, most animals do apparently!
Image Credit www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

Yes there are places where yawning can be really dangerous. Like in the classroom, for instance. The Biology teacher would be cursing his fate for having to explain the human respiratory system to a bunch of obviously uninterested teenagers. Yet, a practical display of the same in the form of a huge yawn can drive him bonkers. I had one teacher who used to keep telling us in Tamil " Athu kottaavi illa , athu ketta aavi" ...Well kottaavi is yawn and ketta aavi is bad spirit/ghost. So it kind of translates to "Thats not a yawn, its a bad ghost" . I know it doesn't sound that amusing in English, but in the native tongue, it did have a nice rhyme to it. 

Office Meetings of course! Especially after one decides to make it the cheat-the-diet day of the week, and gorge on a lunch solely to satisfy the taste buds. The sales forecast graph on the wall begins to look like a stroke of Ravi Verma's brush. The recently devoured biriyani begins its anesthetic reaction. The words coming from your boss's mouth transform into musical notes and gently float in the air - all nervous links from the ear canals to the brain, totally numbed in your stupor. Some Ilayaraja song that the morning fm in the car implanted in your consciousness starts playing in your head. The body reacts to all this - your mouth opens wide without listening to you and you let out a massive yawn. God bless you if you do it without any noise, and are aware enough to stifle it as much as humanly possible. Especially when the bespectacled guy next to you is listening with rapt attention to every word being said and is equally particular about  venting out a flurry of relevant ideas, in his desperate attempts to secure a place in the next promotion list.

The most contagious thing on this planet is not influenza or cholera or chicken pox or bird flu. Its not even a disease or an ailment. Its this simple everyday bodily action this post is about. One person lets out and almost immediately the other person would repeat and its a classic example of a chain reaction. I had no idea that it could spread without face to face communication until a few days back, when I was talking to my brother on the phone. As we were discussing a whole lot of mundane things neither of use to us nor anyone else on earth, I heard his words getting garbled by a yawn and I followed suit in almost a nanosecond. In fact I was just browsing the net trying to find an image suitable for this post. Just the sight of all those people and lions and hippos and dogs and cats yawning somehow infected me again.
This thing is really dangerous!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Song of the rain

Reasons to be elated,
 Image courtesy of [Suriya Kankliang] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Reasons to grieve,
Reasons to be excited,
Reasons to further achieve,
Reasons to worry,
Reasons to fear,
Reasons to shriek with joy,
Reasons to shed a silent tear,
Reasons that push us high,
Reasons that cow us down,
Reasons to illuminate with a sparkling smile,
Reasons to submerge in a melancholic frown,
We all have some.
Yet, now,
In this infinitesimal slice of time,
When one cloud kisses another,
The air reverberates with the noise of the skies
The heavens take pictures
Of me,
The man in the black jacket
And the woman with the red umbrella
All silenced in unison
By the song of the rain!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Whats news?

I decided to write a blog post today. About what? Well, I opened a new post page and stared for sometime at the white space and then assuming that it might give some ideas , I shifted my gaze to the Publish button, the Save button, and then at the B  I and the U  on top but no ideas.

There have been times in the past when something in the news has triggered an idea. I open a new tab and say "Get me the news". The main page usually has the "Breaking News" topics. They do successfully break ones confidence about goodness still existing on earth and I prefer to simply skip it for now.

I decide, let me check other sections. 
Entertainment:Its Shahrukh's birthday and he has turned 51 already. Ok, heres the guy who was going ka...ka...ka...Kiran when I had barely entered my teens and he is 51!!!!  I am a fan yes but all the related news reminds you of ones own age!!!

Ok moving on to Lifestyle! There was this dolphin in Sea world Orlando that grabbed an onlooker's I Pad and dove into the pool with it. Its now quite I-bad!!!!

Ok, may be the Health section would give me some nice topic. "Dont Miss! A list of celebrities who have aged horribly over the years". Yeah right! That piece of knowledge is the most significant thing that would impact my health for now or for that matter the health of anyone on this planet!!

Its really what my dad used to say. Not news but nuisance!! Sigh!!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

A little more sensible talking and a little less sensitive listening

I have always been a big fan of animation movies. It does take us into the world of kids and definitely its more peaceful than the world of adults.

I remember watching the Disney movie Bambi as a kid. I also recall feeling terribly sorry and sad when the hunters attack the forest and kill Bambi's mother. Another scene that comes to my mind simultaneously is one from a dubbed Asian movie that I watched as a kid again. This one I dont remember the name, what original language it was in, the actors , the story;Nothing!- All blank. The only thing I remember is the guy telling his girlfriend that his favorite movie is Bambi and that he has watched it 14 times. Why has this stuck on to my memory like it accidentally stepped on some chewing gum? No idea! Maybe the idea of an adult watching an animated move 14 times fascinated me?

I had quite forgotten the detailed scenes from Bambi till I watched it again with my son last year. There is one character who has become my favorite now. Its a little rabbit called Thumper. There is one important lesson Thumper's mom teaches him.



Quite simple and straightforward. But its one advice that can mend a lot of things in the world and in our lives.

We tend to get insensitive about what we say about others which has its roots in lack of empathy.
We tend to get oversensitive about what others say of us which has its roots in ego and maybe stress.

The great Tamil work Tirukkural , a literary wonder capturing almost every facet of life in beautifully coined couplets has a line

தீயினால் சுட்ட புண் உள்ளாறும் ஆறாதே நாவினால் சுட்ட வடு 
Theeyinaal sutta pun ullaarum aarathey naavinaal sutta vadu

A wound caused by fire may heal but never will a wound burnt by a tongue.

A lot of arguments and fights happen, especially in families and social circles, about what someone said during a conflict, rather than the conflict itself.  I think the solution is to just swap the intensity of our sensitivity. We need to be more sensitive about what we say of others and less sensitive towards what others say about us. I don't mean to say to project deaf ears when someone gives us good advise or tries to correct something. If something is said purely with the intent of causing hurt, it could be best ignored.