Legends related to Mrs. & Mr. Hoopoe…

According to Middle Eastern legend, Mr. Hoopoe was an explorer, spy & personal messenger of none other than the wise King Solomon himself. The story in brief out of many goes that, Hoopoe was sent on one of the many months long mission to spread the message of King Solomon & to gather intle on his rivals. No wonder though elusive, Mossad is one of the best spy agencies in the world! Somehow Mr. Hoopoe was delayed with his mission & was late to reach King Solomon’s bird consortium. King Solomon said to have reviewed the birds & said: why do I not see the hoopoe, or is he of those absent? I shall surely punish him severely or slay him, or he must come to me with a clear excuse.

Mr. Hoopoe was not long in coming & it said, I have found out what you have not apprehended & I come to you from Sheba with tidings. The bird reported that Sheba was ruled by a powerful & wealthy queen Bilquis/Makeda who had a magnificent throne. But they worshipped the Sun, which disturbed King Solomon. (Queen of Sheba’s tale appears in Jewish, Islamic & Ethiopian legends with slight variations). King Solomon sent the hoopoe back to the Queen with a letter, inviting her & her people to the worship of the one true God he believed in.

Queen sent him all the ships of the sea loaded with precious gifts & 6000 youths of equal size, all born at the same hour & clothed in purple garments. They carried a letter declaring that she could arrive in Jerusalem within three years although the journey normally took seven year (wonder where was she traveling from? Probably from China or India? distance from Jerusalem to Egypt around 800 kilometers & to Ethiopia around 4,200 kms).

Finally Queen of Sheba visits him at Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, very much gold & precious stones to test his wisdom with array of riddles. When she arrived to Solomon’s palace, thinking that the glass floor was a pool of water, she lifted the hem of her dress, uncovering her legs. Solomon informed her of her mistake & reprimanded her for her hairy legs. {This as well as stealing the throne and his treatment of birds sounds really odd considering the belief that King Solomon was very wise, rich and was close to none other than his God thyself.}

She asked him her riddles & he answered them wisely. Meantime Solomon had managed to steal her beautiful throne with the help of a wise man & tells her it’s a replica when he shows it to her.

Later Queen of Sheba also gives birth to a baby boy. The boy Menelik I (meaning son of the wise) is the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia, who ruled 950 BC). Ultimately, Queen of Sheba renounced idolatry & joined Solomon in worshiping God.

Further the story of Hoopoe earning of crown goes… once King Solomon was travelling in the heat of the sun and called upon the vultures to shield him from its fierce rays. But the vultures were too busy to come to his rescue. Angered by this King Solomon cursed them & as the result God removed their feathers baring their neck. As King Solomon moved further, the sun got fiercer & sighting a flock of hoopoes along with their king, he called on them to shield him. Which they obliged & escorted the king & his entourage till the sunset. Pleased Solomon offered a reward which the King Hoopoe declined at first as they were merely doing their duty. But upon King Solomon’s insistence, went to consult the queen Hoopoe and as per her wish asked for the crown so that they could look very beautiful.

As a result they were gifted with pure gold crowns with an option to take it back if they did not like it. Though looked magnificent, it came with a price as bird catchers started catching them for their valuable gold. With the heavy gold on their head slowing them down, they were easy prey too.. So King Hoopoe went to King Solomon requesting him to remove it. Wise king Solomon realizing that the bird catchers (humans) were after only gold, he made it into feathers. Anyways the beautiful Hoopoe finally succeeded in its mission & carries the crown forward, still hiding it most of the times.

Anyways… Considered wise & beautiful, yet a ceremonially unclean bird & scrappy, but the pro & cons of its hygiene & repulsive foul-smell creating habits particularly during the breeding season has baffled the scientists. In Leviticus 11:13-19, the hoopoe is among several creatures described as detestable, abhorrent and not to be eaten. Some consider it as a positive cultural symbol, while some consider it to symbolize murder and death and some consider it stupid. Interestingly this biblical bird, part of the Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Greek, etc., folklores had been a friend/emissary/messenger for none other than wise King Solomon himself to Queen of Sheba!

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Hoopoe the dirty, ambiguous yet the National bird of Israel & exotic SPY of Biblical King Solomon…

I had seen the admirably beautiful & unique bird on & off as it’s not a common bird in Kodagu. When I saw the exotic variegated bird couple of years ago in the Middle East, I was very curious but not until 2018, I had the privilege to observe it. Hoopoe looks like a dressed up bride in colourful attire & there was something remarkable in its entire being & activity. Even though this member of the fly-catcher species has the flamboyant crown, the hoopoe seems more democratic and its style has been copied by the soldiers of yore, so does the Mohawk hairdo man of today! My 4 and half year old granddaughter Arya says, it looks like dinosaur & named it “Rosy”, & often I use Rosy to make Arya jealous.

I think those were the same pair I had seen in 2017, which makes them monogamous & creature of habits! Its spring like walk, head bobbling back & forth, rhythmic movement of digging is fascinating. It is one of the most hardworking birds I have seen & one day I sat almost 4 hours looking at it probed for the insects, etc with its strong, muscular bill, in the lawn & finally gave up. If they find a larger worm which they cannot easily gulp, these intelligent birds ran with it to a plain surface (like a tile or stone) & killed or immobilized it by pecking with beak, toss it up into the air before catching it in its open beak.

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After one hour when I came to check on it, the bird was still eating with insatiable appetite, perhaps preparing to start a family?

Both the male & female look quite similar, and are migratory birds with distinctive white & black complex pattern of bars & stripes on the back. I could never distinguish between the two. However, Arya used to identify them specifically as Rosy & her mother, because it fed the other! What the little kid saw to differentiate them, I have no idea.

One of the Hoopoe had landed first on the lawn & about 10-days later the other one joined. But once they were together, expression of their love & affection was amazing. Their love affair was so very cute. I guess the female was either pregnant or preparing for pregnancy. Both worked close to each other but interestingly the male dug the land for insects & ate the small ones but once it got a prized catch, it made a distinctive mild grunt & both ran to each other & the catch was consistently placed in the other’s mouth. I managed to catch a part of it in video too. After few days one of them left & the other came religiously & kept digging. In less than a month both vanished… & only a single one appeared some times.

Most species of Birds are noticeably wonderful caring lovers –both as partners as well as parents. On two different occasions, I had the privilege of watching these pair of aquatic birds at Kukkarahalli Lake, where a bird unable to tolerate the absence of its partner & practically making sad tone (cried) till the partner heard him/her & came back. I stood there trying to feel the aura of their pure love, emotion & longing, wondering if I ever meet a human couple so exceptionally bonded together! Divine Love anywhere in any form is the most beautiful thing ever to witness.

Hoopoes are born gifted with a distinctive pale orange Corinthian helmet like crest which appears like a fan, crowned with sub-terminal white/black band to finish. Usually their erectile crest lies backwards like tapered spikes extending from back of their heads but when there is sound or other birds like sparrow or mina, etc., landed nearby, it opened the crest displaying a beautiful circular shape as if going to defensive mode but just calmed immediately.

Not only born, Hoopoe also earned its crown in 2008 beating the close rival, the white-spectacled bulbul when Israel crowned it as their National bird in conjunction with the country’s 60th anniversary out of 540 bird species including the most Zionist bird, dove. It won the contest fair and square with 35% without rigging the votes too!

It’s hard to describe Hoopoe’s colouration, however it beings & ends with black. Their long black beak, slender & curved downward is used like a chisel, seemed like made of the strongest material & when they lifted the head, the beak & the crown gave that long elongated extra ordinary look which is not a common sight. Their eyes looked small, round, brown & their short legs are gray. It seemed brave & unlike other birds movements inside the house through French windows did not deter them.

In between they took a break, guess to sun-bathe, but my logic could not understand why sunbathing when the April temperature of Middle East was 35 degree centigrade & sunny enough!! It is so funny to watch their action, waddle & rush forward in short sallies with an urgency to attend an emergency, suddenly collapse on the ground as if it possessed or had a heart attack, lie flat to the ground, spread their tail & wings, & pointing their break upward seemingly communicating with someone in heaven! (see picture) Sadly, evacuated the ground with similar urgency even before I could analyze their posture. When I saw the action first time, I thought the bird had died… hahaahha.

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Hailing from family Upupidae, commonly known as Chandra-mukuta in Kannada*, duchifat in Hebrew, Hoopoe (English), it is also known as the Upupa epops (Latin), hudhud (Arabic), Huppe (French meaning crest or tuft), etc. The Latin & English names supposed to come from its sound/cry but I never really heard it properly in 3-weeks inspite of watching it every morning. (It is noteworthy that *Chandra-mukuta, the one found in South India, has only black feather to finish & the plumage of the whole bird is brighter.  Not sure if because of the heat or to blend with the sand).

I was very curious to learn more about it… but once I started… its life sounds bizarre, more controversial than the confused Indian politicians.. Multifaceted view of the same innocent bird symbolizing the perplexed human minds! I have no idea if it is the translation or narration within Google uncle’s inconclusive domain! Moreover, in general surprisingly there are some similarities between the Middle Eastern legends & Indian legends, like ability to understand/speak in bird language, the riddles of Dhritarashtra & the illusion of palace with glass floor… the incident which became the cause of the Mahabharata war, etc.

Latest on Thalassery-Mysuru Railway project…

In spite of the assurances given by both the ex-government under Mr. Siddaramaiah as well as the opposition party in Karnataka, the problem with Mysurur-Thalasherry railway doesn’t seem to be dying a natural death under the present government. Son of the Son of soil does not seem to be aware of the needs of the soil. Seems like the politicians just talk the talk but they won’t do anything.

Previously on one hand the state government said that “in principle” we are not in favour of the project and we will not allow DPR (Detailed Project Report) to be prepared on the controversial railway project. On the other they held the so called preliminary meeting regarding the project with representatives of Karnataka, Kerala and Railways in Bengaluru. Now they went one step further… and on the sly, survey work on the project started in Kodagu for the said project. The question remains who gave the authorization for survey to Konkan Railway officials?

There is a proverb in Kannada, “ganda-hendira jagaladalli kusu badavayitu” (roughly translated as while husband & wife fought, the child became poor in every sense). While Indian Politicians fought endless power and party wars, manipulated religions and invented new ways to get votes, caught in-between people as well as the land suffers endlessly.

This is what is happening to the district as well as the people of Kodagu. For being in the opposite side, the ruling party used every weapon in the arsenal.. either you are with us or we will not let you sleep in peace was their motto… seems like the trend remains rolling to this day.

Sadly India is cursed with more than its fair share of political parties and half baked politicians whose agenda is to grow their wealth and divide the country in the name of religion to stay in power. They say there cannot be two kings in one land… unfortunately after the state assembly election, the state is filled with one too many kings and queens. On top of it not only every politician and their cronies but also the krimis (insects) under their butt acts like kings.

However something doesn’t really make sense to me and there is something wrong somewhere. As far as I perceive, our beloved Modiji is the most sensible PM India ever had. So it’s hard for me understand why such an issue is happening even though Mr. Pratap Simha assured that the project will not take off. So in that case, the issue of the survey by the Konkan Railway officials really does not make any sense to me as the Railways come under the Central Government. So either there is some communication gap or someone very influential is pushing it underhand for some kind of personal gain.

Fear of future water shortage or resource crunch or man-animal conflict, nothing seems to deter the ignorant dull-witted politicians. Ignorance is tolerable but to dwell on it is utter sin. If someone is committing sins wide awake, how could there be any solution?

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How impractical the Railway line between Mysuru & Thalssery will be?

How impractical the Railway line between Mysuru & Thalssery will be?

Now that the Karnataka election drama, with its horse trading & finally reservation quota candidate winning the highest post and stuck in cabinet jugging, we can wonder to more pressing things: what is the future of Thalssery-Mysuru railway line. Though previously it is claimed that ‘in principle’ the State government is not in favour of the project, their past action casts shadow on it.

In the Middle East, there is a popular sandwich called Mushakal… combination of fried potato, brinjal & falafel with little salad in shamoon or kubz. In Kuwait for the last 60 years, the price remains unchanged at 100 fils (one tenth of a dinar), thanks to government subsidy for the basic kubz & shamoon. Also in the last 40 or so years, I have not been able to discern any changes in the tast. Similarly, I am unable to taste out the future ideology of the Karnataka government… ‘makki ka makki’ or what is brewing? Is it going to be pushed in to quandary because every post in Kodagu sits in the hands of the opposition?

February 18, 2018 witnessed two important things in Mysuru city regarding railways. The first was a large scale protest march organized by “Kodagu against railway” at the Karnataka exhibition ground opposite to the Mysuru Palace, in which I had the privilege of participating personally. Though it was planned earlier, it coincided with the second important thing: the arrival of our charismatic PM, Narendra Modi to inaugurate/commission 140-km fully-electrified Bengaluru-Mysuru rail track & flag off the Humsafar Express between Mysuru-Udaipur in Rajastan. Both were deemed equally important to the city in different way.

The protest was not against the railway in general, our beef was against the proposed railway line between the Thalssery-Mysuru. As well as any other anti-environment and myopic projects proposed or brewing at the Vidhana Soudha.

What made this rally very unique is the fact that it is not attached to any political party but was people driven, like one of the speakers mentioned, by the children of Kaveri!! It was by the Army of Mother Kaveri which does not have any caste or creed but the humanity which cares to save & protect the welfare of future for the future generation.

It is a movement started by a retired Colonel & Coorg wildlife society President, Cheppudira P. Muthanna gathered momentum because of the significance attached to it. Formed in 1980, Coorg Wildlife Society is a registered charity with the motto “Pledge to Protect”. Someone who once guarded the country & was ready to lay down his life for the nation, is now fighting to save the Mother of his birth place.

This is a cause which has touched the emotions of everyone in Kodagu. The number of participants were accounted somewhere between 16,750 to 17 thousand mostly clad in black or black band on their left sleeves from as young as a toddler to as old as 90 years. People from the length & breadth of Kodagu had made it to the protest. The participants included: Hotel owners association (who also arranged for food & beverages to the participants free of cost), students from different schools in Mysuru (who rendered their emotional slogans), Gowda Samaja, Amma Kodava Samaja, Kodagu Muslim association, Heggade Samaja, Cauvery education society, Cauvery Mahila Sanga, Kerala Hindu association, aborigines of Kodagu. & last but not the least Kodava Samajas from Kutta to Madikeri to Bengaluru were present. This coming together of everyone clearly denotes the sentiments of each & everyone in Kodagu.

70 buses came from Kodagu & scores of private vehicles from all around. 50 to 60 Java bikes (once produced in Mysuru city) with riders clad in black joined the march. What makes this protest unique is the fact that except for the few traffic police who were controlling the public traffic, there were none to control the peaceful protest march where everyone was in their best exemplary behavior. In a state where half a dozen people marching is accompanied by equal number of police in front, behind & the middle, this kind of peaceful march conveys a good will message. They are telling it’s not the so called development we are against but the damage it could cause in this particular case. I whole heartedly respect both the organizers as well as the participants.

If there is will there is always a way!

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So why are we protesting?

It’s simply because they have lost the faith in the politicians as a whole. Going back to the previous incident which prompted this action by general public which took their grievances with the Mysuru-Kozhikode high tensions 400 KV power project to both ruling & opposition parties. Everyone had given the assurance that it would not happen, but one fine day after SEVEN-years, they arrived armed with the equipment to spearheading the destruction of forest (with approval from the central government), which saw the felling of 60,000 trees. While protested, they had the audacity of cutting the trees while the district slept. What could this action be called if not ignorance, stupidity or utter greed?

In order to get support from the ignorant farmers & planters, the same breed of politician are spreading the silly false rumours that the train coming will increase the coffee price & decrease the manure price, etc.,  & playing with the psyche of the people. How illogical one could stretch? False news doesn’t need much wings to fly too.

Though the district elected MP Mr. Pratap Simha assured at the protestors meet that the project will not go forward & similar ideas projected by lawyer Mr. Brejesh Kalappa. Only time can tell us what the reality is!! He went one step further, pro bono.. to have a march from Bengaluru to Kodagu to get attention!! Well, I wonder if it would penetrate or make a difference in the political brain cells. In between the snore they might think it’s just a dream…

Kodagu always has nourished, nurtured & nursed its natural resourses, over time respecting the mother nature & has tried to maintain the rivers & trees until the power & paisa hungry politicians started selling timber to the like-minded mafia resulting in the loss of green cover & diminishing rainfall. This has resulted in the vanishing of many unique flora & fauna endemic to Kodagu, in front of my own eyes. Kodagu is one of the major coffee producer in the country. So somehow, somewhere every coffee drinker in India must have had the privilege of tasting Kodagu coffee. The rest is produced in Kerala & Tamil Nadu.

Interestingly a team from Kannur, Kerala lead by Mr. Neelakantan & Mr. Manoj, holding the placard in Malayalam had participated in the protest too. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Neelakantan mentioned that how the new airport at Kannur had forced the snakes from its habitat to people’s homes which forced them to live in constant fear with it.

People of Kodagu are already facing this problem from the giants of animal kingdom & felling the trees & dwindling forests could make it worst. My own first cousin’s wife was marauded by a rogue elephant in 2015.

Beautiful Kodagu is part of the Western Ghats (aka Sahyadri meaning The Benevolent Mountains) which is estimated to be formed about 150 to 200 million years ago that makes it older than the Great Himalayan Mountain. These Ghats are not true mountains but are the faulted edge of the Deccan plateau, supposed to have formed during the break-up of the super continent of Gondawana with volcanic upthrusts. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site & is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world in terms of their significance. Unfortunately the politicians, who want to quick aggrandization of wealth, are blinded like the horses.

The revered River Kaveri is born in these hills & joined by small & little tributaries, gathering momentum flows through south & east of Karnataka & Tamil Nadu, across the Deccan Plateau through the South Eastern lowland emptying into Bay of Bengal. She is popularly known as the Jeeva-nadi (life giving river) & even supplies 40% of drinking water to the silicon city of India Bangalore. Mysuru & Mandya district once known as the sugar bowl of Karnataka thrives on her.

After Cape Town’s drastic water crisis, the next predicted metropolis is none other than our own Bengaluru!! With ever mushrooming population & ill planned infrastructure, Bengaluru is already reeling under the shortage of water. How far or further it can be pushed?

Mysore is the crown of Karnataka & Kodagu is the precious pearl in that crown. Since three years the state is witnessing signs of famine & the rain fall has reduced drastically. There is a say in Kannada: “Kodagige male Mysureige kale” (when rain falls in Kodagu, Mysore shines), Kodagu is the prime catchment area for river Kaveri & contributes over 70% of the total inflow into KRS. No forest no rain… It’s not a rocket science & anyone with little COMMON SENSE would know that. Can anyone survive without water for a day? Good sleep, good health & peace come from healthy environment. A tree can be destroyed in a minute but to grow it takes more than 30 years & even to plant are they equipped or intelligent enough to identify the native plants which had evolved with the evolution.

One very important noteworthy aspect of the adversity the River Kaveri already facing. Due to shortage of rain & flow the river actually does not reach its final destination, the Bay of Bengal. It’s ironic that unlike the Yellow river, the Chinese River of Sorrow which does not meet the ocean due to heavy silt deposit, here Kaveri does not reach due to shortage of water. As a result at Poompuhar, the sea water is entering the river turning it saline & rendering the land unfit for cultivation. Does one need more explanation on this disaster? How long are we going to use, misuse or abuse the rivers & forests of our beloved country for personal gains? Our politicians badly in need of good purging!

So do Kodagu really need the rail line?

As voiced by thousands from every walk of life, it doubly spells a big “NO”. When there is alternate route which could be done spending less money & causing destruction, why are the politicians really pushing it? Even the metro man Mr. E. Sridharan sees the line via Nanjangud, which is also shorter in distance is more viable/asible than the Kodagu. Even Mr. Kasturi Rangan’s Report on Western Ghats is pushed under the carpet too. What is the ulterior motive behind that is a zillion dollar question only the particular politician could answer?

So why it is so important to state government to have the line? Only the politicians (ex CM Siddaramiah in particular) have the answer… Out of the blue, the project was first proposed during the 2012-13 budgets, under the guise of aiding the tourism industry. Kodagu is already over burdened with tourism. When the very land is going dry -with it agriculture+flora+fauna, excess water is also used by the big resorts causing woes to innocent poor farmers. If there is no drinking water how the hell is the tourism industry going to survive? It is not wrong to be ignorant but definitely it is an error to continue to be ignorant, that too when one have taken the responsibility of the welfare of the state.

Progress means Money for some, agenda for some but this is spelling disaster for the future of the entire state. As a common person, the way I see it it’s purely the vested interest of the politicians either for personal gains or personal likes/dislikes. It’s very difficult to understand what changes between hands & minds!! Is there some kind of underhand understanding between the governments of Kerala & Karnataka for this project, which is beyond common man’s understanding?

Elephant are entering human territory more often than before & death are common. A glimpse to how do the bureaucracy in the state works? Sometime around 2012, one fine day a tusker chose to die in my cousin’s coffee estate near Maldare. My cousin’s husband is a retired army officer & dutifully informed the police & forest department. They were told not to go near or touch the elephant. After two days, when the carcass was already spreading its presence to far & wide, the team of five did arrive. After circling around & discussions, they concluded that it was a natural death!! Thankfully an honest army man, who is now wheel chair bound did not appear like an assassin to them. So what do they do next? Coolly bring out the equipment & saw the tusks & load it to their jeep & move on. Of course there was no room for the carcass among them in the vehicle. Poor family had to spend from their own pocket & arrange for the burial of the rotting body!!

Karnataka seems to be religiously following California, the IT capital of the Universe in every respect. The days are not far away for debt burden insolvency, water crisis & fall in food production!! According to Indian Express, Karnataka’s so called fiscal Bhagya budget swelled debt burden to Rs.2.86 lakh crore. Politicians seem to be turning into magicians & popping out loans from every direction.

Sometimes sadly & unwittingly even the scholars indirectly support unworthy causes dues to exposure to worldly ignorance. My late father, an educationist himself used to say: Education (formal process – from books) & Knowledge (informal real life experience) are two different aspects. As a conclusion, I would also like to add statements (and a video) by the so called doctorate holder, a award winning journalist & an industrialist. One doctor, a Phd holder Mr. Khader whose video is floating around, a brand ambassador & promoter of sridhanya –millets, blaming the coffee plantation for lessening the rain & little does he knows that the increase in the canapé seen from satellite or the fancy helicopter ride surveying Western Ghats are in fact the trees in the coffee estates? Rest the forest & bamboo bushes are practically vanishing by timber selling by the government! Where was he hibernating when the 50,000 trees were fell? Where is his voice with the proposed project which could result in the felling of lakhs of trees?

One of the speakers Ms. Devika also mentioned about the famed Ms. Majumdhar who said in a seminar that if the trees are planted upto one kilometer radius around the river banks should be sufficient to get enough rains. Hence any development should not be held back. May be she should try to experiment it around Poompuhar! Wonder which school she went to? No wonder the innocent farmers & general public believes the politician’s false promises… very sad… sad indeed.

While at river & water crisis I would also like to bring to picture the other hurdles the river & forests of Kodagu is facing. It’s the sand mafia & the forest fires.

“It’s strange but true that rivers/oceans, forests, hills/mountain & rain has a symbiotic relationships. Their affairs has been synchronized for eon by the creator thy self & one cannot exist without the other & all the living beings cannot exist without water. The only one who could try to make the foolish attempt to disrupt it is the self proclaimed crowning glory of creation, the man himself.” Sadly, Man is the only intelligent being who can cut the tree, make paper out of it & later write on it save the trees.

The concurrent famines have a common, disturbing theme. They are man-made, precipitated by conflicts & perpetuated by political jockeying. Abdul Kalam, one of the finest human beings said: you cannot change your future, but you can change your habits, & surely your habits will change your future.

Sand is to rivers, what soil is to land. Sand is very important to river & plays the same role as soil on land. It is the essential element of the eco system. It plays the role of filtration, regulates the water flow & slows the flow of river which helps in recharging the ground water. It percolates & acts as store house of water & once it is sucked enough, then the water flows further.

While growing up, during the summer holidays we spent lot of time on the River bank. Water was less but still plenty flowing, clean & cold flowing from the hills. We would soak our feet in the water & when the tiny fish came to eat the dead skin of the feet, tickling us in the process, we would burst out laughing. Pulling the feet out & soaking again was a silly yet fun game we played. (Now I have to pay money to do that!) We would dig the sand with our hand or empty coconut shell & when slowly the water collected in it, we would catch some fish & put in it. Our own self created aquarium….. we were taught to leave it back eventually.

Sand mafia, hand in gloves with the greedy officials has put so much strain on the rivers that the sand is nowhere to be seen. The story of how the sand reaches the black market passing dirty cash from village politics to police to every nincompoop told by smuggling assistant was pathetic.

Sand banks, sand islands, it harbors hugh amount of beneficial organisms  including crustacean & aquatic animals which spend their entire life on sand like crab, Ottars (neer naie), turtles, birds, crocodiles, etc. Due to absence of sand most of these have practically vanishing… rather vanished.

In the fabric of creation every being including trees are created for a reason, has a role to play & a place & time is allotted to them, which is beyond our understanding capacity. For example the insects… how many people really understand the importance of them?

Albert Einstein said, if the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live…  Then there are the dung beetles often considered grimy, which perhaps even goes unnoticed by most of the people that really play a pivotal role in the renewal of the ecosystem (particularly in the forest & fertility of the land through improving nutrient cycling, soil structure, seed dispersal, etc). It practically plants the seedling. With diminishing cattle & wild animals, along with the forests, they have almost disappeared too…

Last but not the least, Forest fire has become a menace… I never saw so many forest fires in Kodagu before. While growing up somewhere if you see smoke may be once in a year or two, my parents would say seems like forest fire & would worry. I could never understand the worry in their mind… but now its so very common.. if you travel via Thithimati forest or even via Kushalnagar, burnt out forest is a common site.

Forest fires in Kodagu are happening for different silly reasons… Many a times its accidental fire, out of ignorance which might end up in dangerous wild fires. Drunkards or wayward for fun, carelessly thrown undoused cigarette butts, abandoned cooking fire by some tourists, or people who collect firewood instigate such fires to get access, often while traveling I have witness the abandoned controlled-fires… when such ignorant fires leave the ground to crown, it could end up with dangerous situations. The searing heat contributed by reduction in monsoon as well as ground water & dry vegetation has combined to fuel the fire. Above all there are very limited resources to contain the fires too.

Well, since man is unable to control his population & growth, he has managed to turn Mother Earth almost infertile with chemical based fertilizers, GM seeds, cloning, artificial food, etc., etc. like any other mother, this Super Mother has been giving & giving, tolerating everyone.

Swami Dayaanda Saraswathi said: the earth should not be taken for granted. You have no right to abuse it & you can’t disuse it. Make sure that you are a contributor, not merely a consumer… There is one thing humans have to remember always. We are dependent on her & she is not. She can always revitalize herself. The clock is ticking… Here on Earth, Mother Nature is the boss & she is the one dictates terms. We have stretching her too hard & her patience are running out… other than humans, the entire creation goes according to her laws & design.

One final hope perhaps to Karnataka/India/world is the latest discovery, the locked up water from ringwoodite…. Never heard of it? No issues it’s just like the God particles….! Only politicians can get it… they have to be packed along with their black moneys & cronies to bring it.

Insatiable greed could motivate Man to push the rock on his own feet..

PM Modi’s effect…. Swach Bharat, itchy hands and leaky members…..

While in Mysore, I like to do two things religiously every morning: one is go to Kukkarahalli-kere (lake) and the second is to drink tender coconut right after. One fine morning in mid January when I landed in Mysore, I was happy to see mass cleaning on the South side of the lake. Then, I saw the road in front of the Crawford hall closed as the road was being widened and everywhere spick and span.

I was telling my husband the MUDA (Mysore Urban Development Authority) was really taking a sudden interest in keeping the city clean. Guess they are vying to claim their title of “India’s cleanest city” back. When I stopped for my tender coconut, my husband said there were hardly any coconuts and it must be from the previous day.

When I asked the old man who cuts the tender coconut, he said boss is not bringing more.

I asked him why?

He said because of PM Modi’s arrival….

I was surprised and told him, PM Modi came to Bengaluru and why the boss is not bringing in Mysuru?

Showing his missing teeth, he said I don’t know Amma….

He is an innocent hired villager and he had told me that on a good day he sells up to 150 tender coconuts. He had also told me that weekly his boss pays Mamuli (usual bribe) to three different persons and every Sunday they come religiously to collect. If someone is around that time they will wait till the coast is clear and then collects it!

Later I spoke to his boss and he confirmed what the old man had said and gave me the list too.

Someone from Abhai (MUDA) collects Rs.300, traffic police Rs.300 and another police collects Rs.100. So Rs.700 total weekly payment. He also told me that they will drink tender coconut and if they find it fresh they will also pack 2 each to take it home! (Each tender coconut costs Rs.25).

Sad there is always room for black money and different avenues and channels available…

After two days the old man was moving his cart when we stopped by. He said Amma we are not allowed to sell on the pavement, the municipality people warned us and told us to stay away until after PM Modi’s visit on 18th and 19th of February 2018. Swachh Survekshan people will inspect…

So the mamuli does have its benefits and the less stocking was not because of the previous visit but preparation for the future visit… the whole system is a vicious circle and goes back to the roots…

I was also told that the cleanup operation and kicking the peddlers out was limited to the route PM Modi will be taking. I hear there are no rooms available at Lalith Mahal Palace hotel as it’s fully booked by a retired bureaucrat for his son’s wedding. So from where ever PM Modi is staying (mostly Radisson Blu)… going to Railway station and then to Maharaja’s College ground, the order will be maintained…

Wish PM Modi also visited the Kukkarahalli Lake so that the human waste coming in to the lake would stop and the little paradise would shine further.

Cleaning also brought to my mind the leaky privates some men sport besides the charandi (ditch at the kere)… or even in other open places. To this day I wonder why they can’t simply go at home before they set out on their journey. Interestingly I don’t see poor people doing that or a villager doing that. The middle class who travels in two wheelers or cars does that. Why do they really do it? Do they want assurance that their man hood still intact. Or is it just force of habit?

Wonder what might discourage them to do it? Does it help if everyone starts clicking their pictures in action and start posting in the social media… if they are shameless to do what they do why not take the picture?

Sadly there is this small breed of specimens who considers themselves as the leaders in such smelly business and presume their action justified. I see there is only one place remains which poses competition in this respect… however there is a minor difference. There the specimens have four legs. It’s at the world’s foremost city… Manhattan, New York. City of dogs, where the dogs are treated better even than the children or spouses.

The handsome, fancy dogs in leash, taken for walk, is a feast to the eye and the love and affection they receive is enviable. This perhaps is the reason they are also tolerated when they pee around. Most of the time their poop is collected and disposed but no effort is done to stop the pee. Everywhere they sport the little boards: Please Curb your Dogs… wonder what could be the befitting board for the educated fools here? A question and comparison which bothers me whenever I am in Manhattan!

The other city, the city of love which had the long standing tradition of drink and wild peeing, since before the day of Napoleon has finally put an end to the adventure and tradition with the introduction of Uritrottoir. Well you guessed it right, it’s Paris. Wild peeing was another tradition along with haute cuisine and chic fashion, they were wilder than the leaky dicks in India. So when will we be able to call it quits in India?

Tyrants, looters, politicians, angry Varuna, and now Snails too – Kodagu under constant attack! 2/2

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Land Snails are hermaphrodites meaning their body contains the sex organs of both female and male. Interestingly they do mate, the very reason for this article is the mating, guess this is one of the rare moments when a mating snail is caught on camera. They mate leisurely like turtles and seem gentle. I sat there watching the beauty and glory of creation in its rudimentary form for a while, oblivious of passer-by’s. Luckily after an hour, my husband was kind enough to let me to go back there to watch them.

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Perhaps these are one of its kinds who can taste sex from both perspectives… wondering if they are more advanced than most beings on earth. Before mating they have a courtship ritual which could last for hours. They caress each other with their tentacles, nibble at lips and rock their bodies back and forth. Oddly I was awestruck to learn that there are many species which pierce the body of the other with a long, sharp spear, called a “love dart”, something like stimulating or to indicate their readiness!

It is said that more than 99 percent of the millions of sperms they’ll exchange are digested by the snail before finding their way to the safety of the storage pouch. In other words it reduces the number of fertilized eggs in a major way. So Nature provided an extreme solution, transfer the (specially ordered)  mucus to prevent a snail’s from digesting so much semen.

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It is said that during the mating action the body is aligned in such a way that male organ of each is inserted into the female organ of the other. During the process they exchange sperm, then each stores the sperm in a special storage pouch and uses it to fertilize their own eggs, some times over the course of several months. In the right environment they can lay hundreds of eggs and seems like these extra ordinary beings are here to stay even after humans manage to kill each other.

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Snails produce mucus, lots and lots of it for lubrication, though it looks repulsive to human eye, the usage is beyond anyone’s perception. Mucus can be thin for easy gliding across a smooth surface or thick to protect them from rough surfaces. To begin with it provides a protective layer between a surface and the snail’s fragile body aiding them effectively when they climb over sharp surface without harm. It helps them move, insulates their body, keep away dirt and germs, and it holds moisture so they don’t desiccate. Amazingly when snails go into a sleep-state (depending upon the conditions either they hibernate or estivate), even it plugs the shell opening to keep them moist and safe. Last but not the least it prevents them from over digesting the semen and like the Indian TV commercial would go, perhaps it might help them find their mating partners! Hahahahah..

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Their glossy shells, usually forming a logarithmic spiral can be sinistral or dextral is made of calcium carbonate which they constantly lug around, protects them from weather, certain predators and most importantly to hold the moisture. Moisture is very essential for their survival. A molluscs (phylum Millusca) with 43,000 species to boast are found just about anywhere from deserts to tropics, from sea level to mountain tops, practically in all parts of the earth were evolved even before the man did. They come in different shapes, patterning, texture – some smooth while some bumpy colours, mostly hairless and sizes including the giant African snails and the shell less slugs which gardeners hate them their love for the plants. If required they can withdraw into the shell to escape inclement weather (too hot, too cold or too dry), protection from predator or simply to take rest and are capable of staying for a lengthy periods if necessary.

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Even though their shell has no life, its start during embryonic development itself and come out from the pearly eggs with it. At birth they are delicate, transparent and colourless, and eventually over a period of time it hardens and becomes colourful. Shell’s shape and form is unique and specific to each species. In layman’s understanding it is something like the human hair or nail! In fact like the human nail, their inimitable rasp-like tongue called radula which grows from the base throughout the life is used to scrape food. They flourish in right conditions particularly with the availability of calcium. It is so important for them that if they don’t get enough calcium, they are known to devour each other’s shells!! If the shells are attacked then you can see the visible dry or dull shells. Otherwise the healthy shell gleams with freshness.

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Life span of snails vary depending upon the species from anywhere between one year to ten plus years. Calcium rich Snails are food for wildlife – birds, reptiles, insects and mammals including man (particular species only – a delicacy sold at fancy restaurants). Even it is farmed, what is known as helici-culture but eating it won’t make someone hermaphrodites. Olden day’s Roman soldiers carried snails with them for food. If some likes to devour them, some consider them pests and yet some others like to keep them as pets too.

Tyrants, looters, politicians, angry Varuna, and now Snails too – Kodagu under constant attack! 1/2

Part one of two:

The other day in one of the local paper something unique caught my eye… the giant African snail (Achatina fulica, Shanka pulu or Gonne pulu – shanka means cone and gonne is snot) is wreaking havoc on farms and plantations across the region. Kodagu is used to little peaceful ones like indrella ampulla, an endemic tropical terrestrial air-breathing gastropod mollusk. Even with about 100 rows of teeth, the colourful indrella ampulla lived in harmony feeding mainly on large fungi, blending well with the nature. But these nasty hitch-hikers or imported new comers were solid ones which unlike the earthly indrella ampulla are invasive, ruthless, jaunt and rapidly proliferating. In fact these African giants with its veracious apatite are considered as one among the 100 worst invasive species in the world.

It all started as a small innocent hitchhiking… according to Mr. Vijay Hangal in the kodagu daily paper “Shakthi”: in 2015, along with the Gobbara (manure) brought in a lorry from Mandya district to Kodilipet hobli of Somwarpet Taluk arrived a single snail. Looking at it, one of the workers just discarded it besides the plantation… now in 2017 it has multiplied into millions so far effecting 250 acres of cultivation. These great strategists, whose mantra is sex, production and more production, so far have managed to conquer Handli, Bellaralli, Keralli, Shirangala in clusters distressing the farmers and planters who are already distraught with shortage of rains.

These species, mostly nocturnal, non-social interacting only when mating, solitary without any bond or responsibility of raising the young ones spend their time moving, eating, resting and of course coupling. So they just eat and eat and grow, lay their egg and more eggs and more long leisurely Sex with anyone on the way! Thankfully they don’t normally use their ability to self-fertilize and resolve to mate in traditional way. An adult can weigh upto 32 grams and the conical and narrow attractive shell can reach upto 7.8 inches in length and 4 inches in height. It has a life span of 5-7 years or more, depending upon the weather and food availability particularly rich in calcium in any form. If uncontrolled this could be the greatest threat to the peaceful people of Kodagu in whole, who have faced threats time and time again from outsiders in different forms-shapes-colours. Seems like the only thing which can surpass its ability to multiplicity is the black money supply in India!

Though native to Africa these giants easy adoptable and can breed in an unimaginable speed because of their unique sex life. More to come on that in my next part!

Without a defined breeding period, they can lay upto 1,200 eggs annually and with a hatch success probability of 90% under right condition.  Though some keep it as pets, this also said to carry parasites and can transmit various diseases to both animals and humans. If unchecked, these silent menacing pesky little creatures could create problems in totality equal to all the Rajas, Nayakas, Tippu, British and the modern politicians who have, in the 3,500 history of Kodagu, used it as their personal battle ground.

India vastly depends upon the rain for its agriculture and drinking. The Indian economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and the livelihood of the Indian farmer largely depends on the monsoon rains directly or indirectly. The water situation is so dire, PM Modi even sought advice and help from Israel and according to PM Netanyahu, Modi told him I have to take care of India’s interest, I need more water, clean water. Where will I get it… for once if all the politicians of India keep their baggage of personal greed and gain aside and think like PM Modi, India would be a better place.

Kodagu located in Western Ghats is one of the hot beds of biological diversity in the world recognized even by the UN. Once a beautiful and tranquil district, home to the life giving River Kaveri and her three tributaries is already under severe stress and in the brink of disaster. Kodagu is the principal catchment area for lifeline river Kaveri providing almost 50% of the total inflow, providing 70% water to KRS which supplies water to 80 million people and industries as far away as Bangalore, and then on to Tamil Nadu. Sadly neither the biodiversity nor the benefits reaped is respected or made any effort to save because of greed, profiteering, etc., along with unwise absurd ideas of politicians who uses it as a ground to score their personal grudge spreading malice.

Particularly since the last 10 years or so the district has seen drastic changes such as commercializing -including resorts and large hotels-, without even a second thought and without adhering to proper rules and procedures passing the projects to fill the pockets with Gandhi. Unwarranted tree felling for example last year alone 55,000 trees were cut for the sake of constructing a 400KV High tension power line from Mysore to Kozihkode in Kerala. Man cannot dictate terms with Mother Nature and everything including the cloud seeding come with a price, massive reduction in rain fall and it is going to get worst. Moreover, reduction in rain and high cost of labour has seen extinction of paddy cultivation which indirectly reduced the ground water table as there isn’t enough time for land to absorb water. Sadly the heavy loss of greenery in every form is going to be a disaster to the entire ecosystem. On top of it the bamboo on the river banks is either cut and sold, or after the bloom is dead and of course the sand mafia..  they are sucking it like leeches and have changed the shape of the river and creek beds too. It’s a real sorry state of affair.

Sadly to fill the bottomless pit of man’s greed there is no room left for humanity. Corruption is rampant in the state from a chaprasi to the top… Kodagu is just over 4000 sq kms and can it take all that the government is shoving through her throat? I hear that a railway line project is underway… wonder the assortment of Gandhis changing hands! Such a project would call for massive felling of trees and disturbing the landscape as well as further pollution.  We have been witnessing the result of such actions all around the world and Kodagu is not going to be an exception. Eventually over milking will not leave a drop for the milkman itself. The way things are going pretty soon, say in less than five years not just Kodagu but Bangalore (and major parts of Tamil Nadu) is going to face acute shortage of water bringing the states into its knees. However, the imprudent, ignorant, insensitive politicians with ferocious appetite for magenta Gandhis are not going to heed as long as it is flowing into their coffers. Sadly general public aid them directly or indirectly out of ignorance.

These hoarders can import food/water or wipe their asses with the black money but what a poor common man should do… These two legged menace and their rampage and ravage was not enough now unfortunately a new trouble is brewing. Sad indeed.

Hope PM Modi will intervene and do something worthwhile for the district too.