Koel

When I went to close the kitchen window before leaving for work this morning I saw this female koel on the branch of the Ficus tree in our yard.

Koels normally conceal themselves in the dense foliage of this tree but you can hear them screech every morning at dawn. The male, who is jet black, goes Koo-ooo, while the female screams out a series of chik-chik-chiks. Our tree was recently pruned, so I suppose this koel forgot about that and alighted on her usual branch.

I have been trying to photograph koels for a long time now. Once I managed to get a series of snaps of a male koel with my phone as I didn’t have my camera handy. The bird was too far and too high up a tree, so the pictures weren’t good. They could very well have been photos of a crow or a drongo. So I am really happy with this one, especially her red eye.
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Sunset, moonrise

I wish I could write poetry using enchanting words like ‘gloaming’ to describe how wonderful the sunset was last evening. Yes, and if I were a poet of long ago I would probably say ‘eventide’ instead of plain old ‘evening’.

A flaming orange sunset. Then a peach and yellow twilit sky almost imperceptibly turning into dusky mauve and blue.

I would have to change three different palettes in the space of fifteen minutes if I were painting this. But then, I’m not an artist either.

I’ve always admired Monet’s paintings of haystacks. He apparently started out with two canvasses believing that it was enough to have one for overcast weather and one for sunny weather. Though he painted at a furious pace, he soon realised that he would need many, many more because the light kept changing!

These three pictures were taken on the same evening. I’m happy there’s photography now to capture these beautiful moments, the lovely colours that mark the days of our lives.

Sunset. Another day passes into history.

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Sunset
Moon at twilight
Moon at twilight
Moon at dusk
Moon at dusk

Monsoon clouds

The southwest monsoon hit Kerala last week and entered Karnataka two days ago. Ulsoor Lake looked green when the skies turned dark grey in the evening and the sun disappeared early. White birds were blown about like bits of tinsel in the strong wind, and buildings took on a strange glow. Lovely weather, after the sweltering heat of summer!

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Doing our bit

Jars of pickles, papads, freshly ground turmeric, soap nut scrub and a host of handmade products were on sale at the Malnad Mela, where I went with my friend last weekend.

The Malnad Mela is the initiative of two women from Sirsi in North Karnataka. Sunita Rao and Manorama Joshi of ‘Vanastree’ help women with forest gardens around Sirsi sell their produce here in Bangalore. They have been setting up their stalls at a small ground off Richmond Road every year for the past 6-7 years. This year there was even a Siddi (African Indian) woman selling kokum butter made by her tribe, which means these women are reaching out to tribals too. I came away feeling happy that these two caring women were putting this event together every year with such commitment.

I know that many women, at least in Bangalore, do their bit for the disadvantaged. They pay the school fees and buy books and uniforms for their maids’ children. They try to help when maids share their troubles, often giving a little money to tide over a crisis. Our maids are often the only earning members in a family of 4-6, quite a few of them married to unemployed alcoholics.

Maids can be annoyingly irregular and invent the most improbable excuses for missing work. They can sulk if upbraided, and be recalcitrant when you want something done a particular way. Their work hours have to be somewhat flexible, either because they need to deal with things at home, or have to suddenly rush off to attend a funeral in their colony. Ultimately though, both maid and employer adjust to accommodate exigencies in each other’s lives. The relationship is based on mutual dependence and adjustment. And some genuine affection.

Once when I was down with ‘flu and couldn’t get out of bed, my part-time maid whose job was only to clean the house, cooked two meals for my family, and rice porridge for me. She wouldn’t take money for the extra work, because her act of kindness was ‘punya’ and couldn’t be monetized. That’s how nice most of our maids are. It isn’t only about money and number of hours worked, there’s a lot of give and take that goes on.

Occasionally someone might do a Sangeeta Richard, but after the initial feeling of betrayal, you get over it. Maybe Sangeeta Richard was depressed, homesick, missed her family in India, was jealous of her young and successful employer, hated her job –  who knows? Or maybe Devyani Khobragade is the cruel woman newspapers say she is. We’ll never know the truth, because the facts of the case are already as distorted as they were in the Arushi Talwar case.

The point is, no matter what the government does or doesn’t do about poverty, the fortunate among us can extend a helping hand to the struggling people whose lives touch ours. Maybe, as my maid indicated, we should value ‘punya’ more, and not place a monetary value on everything, as has been the trend in recent times.

Ulsoor Lake – 2

Yes, the people in charge of the Lake have improved the appearance of the southern bank.

And they’ve stowed the cleared parthenium weed in piles to be carted away.

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But, in 24 hours, the water hyacinth has claimed more of the lake surface! (Compare with previous post 2 days ago)

That aside, these tiny, intricate, beautifully-designed beings made my walk around Ulsoor Lake this morning worthwhile.

Ulsoor Lake

In the last two months Ulsoor Lake has turned into a cesspool again.

Water hyacinth is rapidly spreading over its surface.

This is how it looked today, photographed from the southern bank.

And this is how it looked a year ago, same spot photographed from the western bank.

I’m not going to say “I wish they would clean it up”.  I’m not going to rant against the City Corporation.  I’m not going to sulk about being entitled to a clean lake. This is an achievement of sorts, because I very much mind the Lake being dirty.

Instead, I’m going to look at how the authorities have cleared large amounts of parthenium weed from the flower beds lining the walking path. The general tangle of rubbish on the south bank has been patiently replaced with a modest garden, including lawn and flower beds. New trees have been planted…

Life goes on. Things change. One day, soon, the Lake will be clean and beautiful again…

Damselfly

Until today I didn’t know of the damselfly’s existence!

Walking along Ulsoor Lake this morning I saw what I thought was a small dragonfly hovering over a bush. It had startling blue eyes and a bright blue spot at the end of its tail. I found out from the internet just now that it is a Common Bluetail Damselfly.

Here’s the picture I took this morning. 

Common Bluetail Damselfly
Common Bluetail Damselfly