Sights, Sounds, and Scent of Kukkarahalli kere

My husband is from the South and I am from the North of the our hometown, the district of Kodagu. Generally, other than very personal matters, we have agreed to disagree on everything. That’s something my little granddaughter (3 year old Arya) terms as “Gpa and Nana are only pretending, not fighting!!” Perhaps this is one of the reasons we still like, enjoy and tolerate each other’s company after 40+ years of marriage.

Whenever we are in Mysore my husband goes for a walk at Kukkarahalli kere (lake). Kukkarahalli Lake is one of the 3-manmade lakes of Mysore city and is more mystical and beautiful than words can explain. Sadly the water is not fit for consumption because of man’s stupidity and exploitation. And the government… let not even to go there!! Home to thousands of migratory birds and different flora and fauna is a feast to sore eyes was dug in 1864, thanks to the generosity of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore Dynasty to provide water for the nearby villages’ irrigation.

I join my husband on his daily lakeside walks sometimes, but our purposes vary slightly. For my husband, like the thousands who tread the 4 km path around the lake, it’s purely for physical fitness. But for me, it’s more to do with refreshing my mind and learning about things around me. So once we are at the kere, we walk in different directions on the path and almost always he finishes his usual round, walks an extra kilometer, and then waits… We get to hear about each other’s walking experiences too, and the idea for this article originated from one such moment….

One day he told me that some gentlemen were talking about bones that are likely to show-up in the lake because of the reduction of water and about a “female ghost”. I told my husband that this female ghost is a big joke! Why would a dead soul that killed itself come back to this humanly world filled with selfishness and cruelty… Perhaps even the crocodile in the lake are better than humans, who are inspired by all the text book knowledge from around the university campus. Eventually I told him that I will prove it to him that there is no female ghost and well, I had only five walking days in hand as I was leaving town for some days!

First day was cloudy and misty so one day gone!! In the four days that remained, I took more than a hundred pictures… sadly I can’t post them all… If any of my readers know the names of the flowers, birds and/or any other interesting and peculiar matters around the kere that I may have missed, please write to me to help better this article.

I now ask you to join me on this visual journey around the Kere!

The swarm of activities on the lake path starts much before the break of dawn and Mr. Sun shows his smiling face as many walkers and joggers in all shapes, colours, and gender with various linguistic back grounds including German and French speaking folks that have come to learn yoga in the city. The first one to greet the kere’s visitors is the call of a Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) with its shrill calling and also you can hear the meowing of the peacock sometimes. Even though I could not capture it in a picture, it always made its presence felt. Then the band of music starts with numerous other land birds of different calling and sighting. The only thing perhaps missing in the crowd is the sparrow that seems to have mass migrated to Middle East (I’ve see them in large numbers) Occasionally joined by different aquatic birds and cicadas, the morning music gains ground to its peak before most of them fly out in search of food. The stray dogs which have made the lake path their home, fed by the kind walkers, jump around happily. Quite a few cows graze here, and are followed around by white Cranes waiting to get a treat from the cows’ bodies or insects from the disturbed grass. Grass cutters cut loads of fresh grass and old ladies collect firewood for the day. Somehow mysteriously everything seems to be harmonious and orderly and in rhythm with the Mother Nature indicating that the day is going to be just perfect.

Outside, there are vendors selling papaya, watermelon, guava, health juice, tea, coffee, etc/. etc. Often, some new products are sold at introductory prices – I saw Palmyra fruit jaggery and honey. There is a horse carriage station built by the Central Government… there are more human sleeping there than horses and at times more vehicles parked!! While taking my own sweet time walking around the lake, I pick up bits and pieces of interesting conversation around me. Two such instances:

On the first day: Mr. A was talking to Mr.B about Mr.B’s SiL, “You know that Bikanasi your son in law he never helps anyone… and never even gives a paise to any one… bewarsi nan-maga”….

On the last day: The police had put a warning to people about thieves “sara-gallariddare eharike” (beware of chains thieves) and besides it was the picture of the Chief Minister of the state!!

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1 – Sunrise… on a misty day a dreamy reality

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2 – “Who is more beautiful, the Sunrise or me?” The brilliant yellow couldn’t look better elsewhere.  The tubular Bignoniaceae or Caribbean trumpet flower has no smell yet pulls everyone closer with its brilliance.

4.jpg3- “I am big and my flowers are pretty” A century plus old magnanimous Mimosa tree with a broken branch… looks like a heart… ..and its beautiful flowers. Wow!

5.jpg4- Wedding procession. Pelicans congregate daily in different parts of the lake as if a wedding party were in motion.

6.jpg5-“Are we there….. How much longer?”

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6- This baby owl seems to be confused if it is day or night….

8.jpg7- “I am a vegetarian, why do people make me eat their waste?” Till I saw one of these lovely bird (at the bottom) run away with a mimosa bean that looked like an extension of its beak, I always thought these birds catch fish!!

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8- Not pasteurized but sewage-ized (I made up the word) milk. There are many cows roaming free and grazing on the grass. And cutting the grass to make a living…. Tell-tale signs of heavy sewage from yore… plenty of plastic around too… grass grows on sewage, cows graze on it, and produce milk, humans consume the milk and eventually contribute to more sewage.. It’s a vicious cycle!

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9- The sewage being leaked even to this day.

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Kerya niranu kerege chelli… means lake water poured back to lake.. here human waste is given back to humans… fish from the lake is sold here. Thank God I don’t eat lake or tank fish!!

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10- Burden of old age…. Renewable energy that keeps the area clean and also helps old ladies make a living while staying healthy too. However, like thousands more parents it’s sad and shameful to see them struggling, neglected and discarded like old garb by their children!

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11- Old and wise… I am here to stay for generations to come (Aladamara or vat vriksha or banyan tree begins its life as an epiphyte, germinating in the crevices of a host tree or other structure (eventually killed or choked, its power can be witnessed at Angkor wat temples of Cambodia!!) The national tree of India known for its longevity is considered immortal (it’s difficult to determine the age due to the fact that the original trunk is usually hidden by years of arial/support root growth) and sacred (where Sri Krishna rested) in Indian culture. However, I see the banyan tree as to symbolizing one too many aspects of human life… for example a doubt in human mind or revenge or anything can grow and destroy life itself. The biggest one in India is located at Kolkata botanical garden and in Karnarnata, Dodda-Aladamara near Bangalore.

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12- Ants seem to love this tree I wonder why? Their very own sandal perfumery?

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13- The Oriental Anthill (sorry Mr. Termite). I called it so because it looks like the roof of a Pagoda and is different than all the anthills I have seen before.

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14- A demonic offspring of a gentle pollen eating parent!! An ant being caught in the pit of the soft bodied, innocent looking fiercely Nela-ame (antlion larva). These crafty veracious predators build funnel shaped nest in fine grained soft soil and catch whatever prey (mostly ants) bumbles into the ditch sucking the life juice out. As the prey tries to free itself from its jaws of death, it shoots sand nonstop and forcefully to prevent it from sliding out. The adults, also called lacewings look like dragon flies and mostly eats pollen and nectar!! Even though the life span of the adult could be between 4 to 6 weeks, it is said that these larva could live upto 3 years in larva stage… I was fascinated at the sight because it brought the nostalgic memories of my childhood.. Whenever I was angry with my mother for not letting me do what I want (usually over eating) I would barge out and go near the cowshed. Besides the outer wall always there was tiny antlion pit and would blow in it till the larva showed up, take it out put them on the palm and watch the softest body moving in reverse order. It was a game all of us kids played from time to time… we believed that if it bites we could hear the elephant trumpet from sky!! What an irony I did not know about the demonic eating habit of the larva!!

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15- Beware of crocodiles… No one knows how they got here and they are rarely seen – grass cutters even peacefully cut the grass around them. According to my husband, a couple of years ago a crocodile laid eggs and no one was allowed to go to a certain part of the lake. I joked with my husband because of the heat in Mysore most eggs must have hatched into male croc babies, so family planning is in order!! My husband also told me that last year one day all the birds resting on the tree were screaming and hovering around in circle perhaps the crocodile must have tried to devour one of them or they were warning all the other residents of the lake about its presence.

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16- Rows of wild bamboo, telltale signs of a creek and village that once existed. On the other side of the Lake is a hybrid variety that practically does not allows any plant to survive underneath.

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17- An ancient Acacia tree oozes resin…. Black as tar!!

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18- I was weighing the option – if to take a picture or not… Men are men…. Sorry guys… Public toilet not far away but a man just finished watering the tree under the cover of mist…. at one of the by-lanes of the area. Oh boy.. that’s called organic farming!! This also confirms that many people don’t wash their hands after visiting toilets… remember the survey at New York of street food vendors? Think twice before eating out… hahahhahahah

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19- Honge tree (Millettia Innata) renowned for its shade under which at least 2 or more degree cooler rained flowers. Traditionally known for medicinal properties, the “pongam oil” could be the potential alternate to fuel!!

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20- The parasitic Dodder ( Cuscuta spp.) which looks like a discarded ball of wool, flourishing on its hostess called Hooker’s Weed from the family Convolvulaceae. Almost always, the Dodder picks the same creeper to settle down on and has tiny little flowers of the same colour. I have seen bees hovering over those tiny-tiny flowers.

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21- Bush Passion (fruit) flowers with tender fruits in brackets

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22- Silky morning glory smiling all over followed by large beach moon flowers too large for it tiny leaves and numerous other creepers

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23-The uniquely and mildly fragrant beautiful Shivalinga Pushpa or Nagalinga pushpa (aka canon ball tree – named so because of the size and looks of its fruits resembling the cannon balls), is a sacred flower in the Indian culture symbolizing Lord Shiva, bloomed in one tree while the other just opposite bore none…

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24- Yoga time.. What a way to start the day in the presence of rising Sun. My husband said it’s an invasion of privacy. Well no one can see his face…

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25- Cycle of life… as a female dog feeds the Pups, the male tries to mate. Unfortunately, the pups were abandoned the next day. (My husband did not want me take this picture)

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26- Healthy juice time – While one saves the time and trouble of making this at home, the other makes a living out of it. My husband told me that within an hour the entire juice will be sold out.

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27- California drought ends and the Mysore one begins… Receding water level (20th March 2017) telltale signs of an impending draught. White and green lines indicate the normal water level. Sadly due to contamination this water is not potable either…

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28- Another glorious day and a new beginning… what better way to start than walk towards Mr. Sun

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29- Last day and the last sight… The ugliest and saddest rotten act of human mind… the steps of NCC Boating area is being used as the platform for black magic offering. May God push it back to the offer-er itself. I landed there to get a good picture of the Pelican procession, but this is what I got!! One of the handsome young men in the picture explained it to me!! The way they behaved around it, guess it’s a common practice by the evil minds. I took the picture of the offering along with unlit agarbattis… but decided not to post… you can see it at his knee level of the young man in the middle.

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30- Crawford hall, the pride of Mysore – the cleanest city in India, showcases the sad reality. The iconic building of the University Campus stands elegant in the early morning sun while the backyard tells a different story…. both the pictures were taken just a day apart and I call it hindu-mundu (back-front). This building means a lot to me as all except one (Bangalore) of my entire family have connections to this university!!

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I told my husband… I took loads and loads of pictures, spent more than one and a half hours daily, I saw very few people, paused briefly to say hello to Ms. Chamundeshwari (temple on the hill) at the sight of the light and looking at my enthusiasm few stopped to take the picture of birds in the water… otherwise sadly everyone is so busy with their mundane life including you.

So where do you think the female ghost finds solace or psychotic help? And do you really think they will come here??

Potable or not please help to save the lake… it’s too precious to lose.

Dear readers, you need a break from never ending, ever living mundane problems, take a break at least for 5 minutes to breathe in the precious sun light…. feast your eyes with all the greens… do it for yourself.. and guess what it’s all for free! Time passes on whether you and me are in it or not… we are not ajji kolis (old lady’s hen) and we don’t aid sun rise!

Last but not the least….  If you see me stupidly running around with my camera please say hi to me… Have a great blessed day.

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Tonle Sap – My musings from Cambodia

The below article is a contribution from my daughter-in-law, on her expreiences and musing from a trip to Cambodia and Laos:

The last couple of days were some of the most beautiful days of my life. Cambodia, like some parts of India presents life to you in its most raw form. Siem reap is bustling with life, the second biggest province in the Kingdom of Cambodia, is still reeling from the horror of its past and is desperate to make its future better. You can see it mainly in the children on the streets of Cambodia. To an extent that these kids have learnt to manipulate tourists with their innocent faces in order to earn a living. It makes me wonder what life must have thrown to make them such manipulative business monkeys without a Harvard degree!

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A 30 minute tuk tuk ride will take you from the busy streets of Siem reap to Tonle Sap lake on which several floating villages are formed. Tonle sap is a fresh water lake which joins the Mekong river. 5 different provinces are situated around the lake with a population of 3 million. The main form of income is fishing and agriculture. I visited the Chang kneas village and as I passed in a boat, I saw houses, clinics, temples, schools, fish farms, restaurants, markets, pigsty – all floating on this lake.

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Life is in its most simple form- they draw water from the lake for use, they go to the jungle for toilet, they grow or catch everything they eat. Some houses have electricity only from 6pm to 11pm. Houses here take 2-3 months to build and are build mostly with wood. 15-20 people live together in these houses. The average income per day is 2$ in this village. 2$ is all we humans need to survive and live a beautiful life, one with nature. Most importantly, they have a very low impact on the environment compared to the city dwellers living the “good life”. We come from different circumstances but our necessities are all the same.

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When you ride through this village in a dingy motor boat, you will see people pulling fish out of their nets, kids playing in the lake, men bathing, women gardening, kids running down the stairs in school uniform, pigs being cleaned and more. I imagine what life must be like and make up stories in my head. They seem very happy in their small world with no luxury and assets in their name.

Your happiness is defined by your surrounding and your experience in life. The smallest of things make the villagers happy in Tonle sap. Our local guide told us that everyone’s in good mood if they chop a chicken or pork for their meal since the staple diet is usually just sticky rice and fish. The kids were extremely excited to see and touch my bangles. I saw tourists giving candies and money to these kids too. I hope people realize that it’s a bad practice. It encourages begging, discourages innovative initiatives while rotting their teeth. Give them books, that’s the only way to make a difference or better even, sponsor a kids education.
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Coming back to Tonle sap, this place is a quaint little chaotic heaven in the middle of Cambodia. It took me back to where I come from because the sense of belonging to a particular community is a dominating feeling in us. We leave homes in search of better and bigger things. As I explore this expansive world, my own culture, similar to Lao culture of worshipping and respecting the land, river and forest makes the most sense to me.

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I travel not only because I always have wanted to see the world, but also, it gives me a perspective in life. I and my worries seem small in the universe of things. I have learnt to respect and be thankful for the small things in life. Tonle sap in particular makes you respect nature for it vastness, kindness and for all it can offer.

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Our boat ride ended in the mekong river just outside the floating village and the flooded forest. We stopped the boat to soak in the bright sky, slow breeze and calm water surrounding us. As the sun set over the red sky, the peace and calm of that moment could be rivaled only by a mother’s womb.