Kodagu: Is her exceptional beauty & fertility becoming the cause her grave?

Earth quakes

The geography of Western Ghats is altered for good with the recent natural disaster/landslides that flattened hills and attracted worldwide attention. As man stood helpless, disaster struck between 12th and 19th August 2018 when unprecedented amounts of rainfall caused irreparable damage to the land mass and misery to the people of Kodagu, scarring them for life. More than the loss of property, it was the pain of the people who lost their near and dear ones, in some cases people disappeared without a trace. Is Mother Nature angry or man himself is the cause of the catastrophe?

Only July 22, it was reported that cracks had developed for a distance of two kilometer at Monnangeri in Galibeedu grama panchayati of Madikeri at 5,000 feet above sea level. It is said that a negligible crack had arisen at the spot some days back and it suddenly widened on Sunday 19th, creating wide spread panic among the villagers. Tahsildar of the taluk, rural police station house officer, geologists and other officials visited the spot to assess the development, who later said that the problem would subside one the rainfall recedes! The credit for the crack was given to the excessive percolation of water into the earth triggered by copious rainfall and that there is no chance of the earth suffering depression in the area. Perhaps the confident group of officials should have stayed with the villagers to record the developments.

The apprehensive villagers near the crack were accommodated in a school as a precautionary measure. It is noteworthy that in the yore Kodagu was known as the Chirapunji of South, my parents would say that they never saw sun light for days together. In early 60s, my grandfather’s coffee plantation was completely ruined due to heavy rains at Karthakad (Black forest). However, no such cracks were reported then in, at least not in living memory.

Why North Kodagu damage is higher than the South Kodagu.. Why are the hills collapsing? Were the signs too small to be noticed by the authorities? Or human understanding is too little? Is democracy only about who wins & retains power? There is one too many questions without answers… some say it is due to the earth quake in the neighbouring Kerala, if that is the case then why there were no such vast destruction of land or hills?

Kodagu, my beloved home land, where I spent all my childhood, pretending that I was a bird in heaven flying in the misty magical places, searching for wild fruits & berries, every bit of it so beautiful, so plentiful & always naturally air-conditioned. Nostalgic memories of which always brings a smile & warmth to my heart, today part of it lies in ruins shadowed by uncertainties. The incessant rains brought by the so called Somali-Jet-Streams randomly recurves (changing its course) resulting in unperceivable destruction of this beautiful piece of land which was known as the heaven on earth, Kashmir of South, Scotland of India. Though geographically limited in area, with captivating rugged mountainous landscape with lush vegetation, picturesque deep valleys and, shining waterfalls earning the nick name heaven on earth. For me it is just my beloved Kodagu, home of my mother Kaveri, my heart & mind refuses to believe or accept the damages.

Kodagu, birth place of River Kaveri is home to unique warrior race Kodavas with distinct way of life who consider themselves as the children of River Kaveri and treat her as Mother Superior. They even kept aside land known as sacred Devara Kadu in the name of God, which belong to the village and maintained natural flora and fauna.

Year after year, as an amazing display of Mother Nature’s magic, the life giving South-West monsoon travels 3,000 kilometers from its birth, off the Madagascar coast to Somalia from where it gets deflected to India to its retreat to Tibet in September & its final dissipation in Madagascar again. The wind that makes the journey aided by other elements of the nature, transcending continents, cultures & different climate is known as the Somali-Jet-Streams. Sadly the jet-stream gathered it momentum from the warm sea and decided to empty the load on Kodagu and Kerala. Raising global temperature, melting of ices has changed the weather patterns around the world due to man’s action-inaction-over action.

Rain is nothing new to Kodagu & though intensity had diminished in recent years due to various factors,. Even when I was growing up, rains were heavy & season was longer & we even got more than 3-weeks rainy season holidays. Though there used to be floods & landslides, there never was case of hills being damaged or vanishing from the map. Unprecedented sight of landslides, land splitting apart, mushrooming waterfalls, cracking & collapsing roads, I never dreamt that one day I will be witnessing such vast destruction. So why is it happening?

Was the prolonged rainy season intensified by Somali-Jet, the only cause of this destruction some of which are as bad as ground-zero? Would Mother Nature hurt her children without reason? Was there any warning? How much man has contributed? Sadly Man has been provoking & abusing the Mother Nature in the name of progress, tourism & votes…. Though like every good mother, Mother Nature is tolerant & tried to warn, water God Varuna, said to be responsible for natural & moral orders of the cosmos seems to have determined to tighten the noose of chastisement, on man. Or is the global warming sole responsible around the world?

Living in Kuwait I have experienced tremors five times in my life. It was actually the effects from the high density earth quake in nearby Iran. Interestingly my husband never felt it in his life –no I am not a torturous wife. At one time I was in the office and after I felt the shaking, I went around asking most of my colleagues in the 2nd floor from 3 different departments. To my surprise only handful had felt it. Another time it was in the afternoon and I was skyping with my daughter. I was sitting with my left foot on the floor and the other one on the left thigh. Suddenly the right leg was pushed down with force and I was shocked, wondering what was happening…it is then that I saw the house plants shaking violently. My husband was not home. I called my friend Dr. Asha who was at home, she came near and I asked her did you feel the earth quake? She laughed and said are you dreaming? I showed the shaking plants behind as she stood dumb stuck… the plants were still shaking much after the incident. I have no idea whether it was because the pots were near the balcony or if the plants are very sensitive or perhaps because the earth is the base for its very being. In any case plants and animals experience more than we do. Though the news of the tremor appeared in the newspaper, most of my friends and colleagues never felt it.

Monday 9th July 2018, I was in my friend’s garden at Guddehosur (Kushalnagar) searching for mushrooms, when I heard a loud noise at 12:45 pm but did not really feel the tremor. My friend confirmed it & also said there was tremor. Suntikoppa, Somwarpet, Shanthalli, parts of Madikeri of Kodagu, Hassan, Chickmagaluru &, Sulya Taluk of Dakshnia Kannada felt & the rattling furniture & utensils caused panic among the residents forcing them out of their homes. It was also felt in Kerala. Later in the social media someone said it was 4.5 & someone else said 3.4.

Sunday 19th August 2018, unconfirmed reports reported two tremors felt between 7:45 & 7:51 am, at Napoklu, Ballamavati, Cheriyaparumbu, Pulikotu & other surrounding areas. Scared resident ran out of their homes. The other reports below were collected from the local news paper reporting as well as hear say. As there is no official confirmation, it’s difficult to stress on it. Many unofficial reporting of tremors and noise within that week were floating around.

Tuesday September 12, 2017, Star of Mysore reports: The residents of Napoklu and surrounding were in for an early morning shock as they felt two mild tremors between 7.45 am & 7.51 am. Tremors were felt at Napoklu, Ballamavati, Cheriyaparumbu, Pulikotu & other surrounding areas. Soon as the tremors were felt, the residents, fearing for their lives, came out of their houses. It may be recalled that mild tremors measuring 3.9 magnitudes on Richter scale were felt in some parts of Sullia and Puttur taluks in DK and also in parts of Kodagu on June 4 early this year.

Sunday October 14, 2015 a 3.9 magnitude earthquake shook Sullia at 2:21 pm causing panic & the tremors were felt in neighbouring Chikmagalur (Mudigere, Aldur, & Avathi), Hassan (Sakleshpur & Belur taluks) & Kodagu (Madikeri) districts. However there was no report of injuries or damage.

Wednesday April 27th 2011, Mild tremors measuring 1.6 to 1.9 on the Richter scale, shook homes for about ten seconds in Madikeri city at 10.53 a.m., triggering panic among citizens as they rushed out of their houses, some claiming falling of utensils, window panes shaking violently, feeling the vibration along the walls, loud explosive noise akin to a boulder rolling down or a booming sound passed under the earth, etc. The editor of local Kannada daily Shakthi said that following the tremor, newspaper bundles rolled out of the vehicle parked outside the newspaper office. However, the intensity was mild & no damage of life or property.. Social media claim of Houses developing cracks were authentic or not is not clear.

June 2005, there was a mild earthquake in the Somwarpet region in which several houses were damaged.

These were previous cases of tremor & sounds from earth which were was not given much importance. In all the cases not everyone felt the tremors or heard the noise. Perhaps the frequency was different or the usual din & roar of the mundane life never made them feel. The news of earth quake during the 15 days period of rain havoc was considered as rumours.

Interestingly State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre never recorded any such activities in the above mentioned quakes, perhaps because the intensity was less than two, what is known as micro-tremor. Micro-tremor is said to be a low amplitude ambient vibration of the ground caused by man-made or atmospheric disturbances. It is also said that such tremors are common in Kodagu & Chikmagalur. Though tremors were mild, coupled with sound it was strong enough to create panic among the residents. Why the series of occurrences & complaints were neglected? Did the district authorities note the complaints? Were the signs ignored? Or over confident government combined with step-motherly treatment to the district did not pause & think about the consequences? It will remain a million dollar question.

In an earth quake, the location of the epicenter (the point on the earth’s surface vertically above the focus of an earthquake) will have more influence and effect than the magnitude itself. Shallower the epicent higher the damage. I guess since the records will never be made public, no one will ever know.

Sadly already State and central governments having differences, parties within the state having differences, like the say goes when husband and wife fights, the child suffers. At the cost of disaster at Kodagu, every Tom, Dick & Harry raising funds & materials in the name of disaster, & in the bargain even diverting it elsewhere including their own pockets, shadowing the genuine work done by Good Samaritan. Interesting I saw someone kept a box to collect fund for Kodagu on the mori at Kukkarahalli lake for 2 days!

Sensible scientist Madhav Gadgil Committee report or the little milder space scientist Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats did not see the day light as the Karnataka & Kerala state governments had their own vested interests. And the proposed railway project is hanging in the midair like Trishanku. Man has short term memory & I wonder if the ISRO report will make any difference?

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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.

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.

Homelessness & the power of Hope

 

People have different views & perspective towards life. Some are satisfied with what they have, while others  are too sensitive & long for comforts. If some hang on to their pride & ego, others would do any work for a living.

I saw 4-different youngsters in different parts of Manhattan {one right in front of Mr. Trump’s living quarters} holding banners that said If I have $20 I could find a room in the hostel & I could get a proper job or I could go to school or something like that.

I was forbidden by my family to take pictures… since it’s an apparent invasion of their privacy!! I fruitlessly argue with them that when they are physically fit & live in the land of opportunities & social security & still beg, why can’t I take picture? Many a times homelessness is forced on people by war or some kind of calamity which is really unfortunate. But in USA it’s not fair, infactI saw a young homeless man at Albuquerque (New Mexico), asking for help while holding a cardboard that read- “I am too honest to steal & too ugly for prostitution”!

Way back in 1990, my family and I, were homeless for 9-whole days. No home, no bath & we were exposed to fine dust storm in the desert No-man’s land between the Iraq-Jordan  A journey which takes less than 5 hours stretched to 9-days & nights! Being homeless is really sad & stressful…. Something like labour pain – it can only be experienced but can never be explained! The other day my daughter asked me Mum how can people live without a home? I think I would die if I become homeless… then I told her their time has not come for death… their Karma is still lingering on… more than that the word HOPE has a long reach. Hope is like the carrot & the donkey… somehow its pulls one to move forward in search of a better day. I explained to her of a worse condition than being homeless I had witnessed.

It was a leper without limbs (below his both knees), with raw pink flesh & flies sitting on it. He sat on a make shift wooden board with 4 small wheels pushing himself ahead with his palm. Sometime around 2008, I was walking along with my husband behind Mohan Bhandar at Mysore searching for some light fixtures. It was a crowded narrow street & suddenly he appeared right in front of me. His gaze was so sharp, transfixed almost piercing my soul as if blaming me for being able to walk… I just stood there, dumbstruck, unable to move, & my husband had to walk back after realizing that I was not following him anymore. His image is still imprinted in my mind…. Many a times I wondered what made him tick? Is that what is called the mortal “Vyamoha” in Sanskrit (roughly translated as deep attachment)? Or is it simply fear of the unknown, the death? Wish I could ask him what made him mentally so strong? What was he hoping for… a miracle? I realized then that if he had the courage to live, then no one on earth has the right to kill themselves- whatever may be the circumstances.

Usually homeless & begging goes hand in hand. Some may scrape from the dustbin than ask for handout. Begging style differs from country to country, & from person to person. There are many ways to beg… some will follow you or try to hang on to you like leeches. Some will silently beg. Some will sing or play music & expect some payment. While some will entertain with animals & rope tricks etc., etc. Some will earn money but are so used to their life on the street that they could never live a normal life. Beggary just becomes a way of life… old habits die hard…

Lately a beggar died in action (i.e. while still begging) on the streets of Bengaluru, India. When they lifted his body to be taken to the grave yard, they were in for a surprise… under his quilt on which he sat in a semicircle igloo like makeshift tent & begged, was currency worth more than 13-million rupees. Enough to give him a comfortable home, warm bed, food & clothing. Yet he sat on it till death, perhaps hoping it would hatch or lay eggs!!

More than that I was amazed to watch the video in which so many gathered with deep fervor, young old like, guarded by a police man with a lathi (stick) in hand, to count & sort the money. Touch & scent of Money, in any form & from any source is still desirable like bed of sweet smelling roses…. Hum. God knows how hands it will pass through & how many will try to pocket some… Begging from the Beggar rather from the Dead Body!! Ironically, his lifeless body was laid right next to the whole drama, ready to be lifted… Dead Body, a funny strange word… Wondered IF, his Soul was hanging around watching the drama what would it must be feeling?

I always wondered how the homeless attend to their body waste. One day I was at McDonald’s in San Francisco, California & I saw a homeless man walk & buy a sandwich, & later go to the washroom. I was told that the restaurants can’t deny customers food & use of their washroom because of their back ground or attire… there are for all intents and purposes, public toilets! .

Two days back, we went for a walk late night after dinner. Weather was nice & streets were not crowded. Right opposite to Queensboro Bridge, finally I saw how they manage to sleep at night, at least few & when the weather is good. On the threshold of one of the shops, 2 individuals slept in close proximity fully covered with a sheet. And strangely, rested just above their head, was a brown leather bound bible with Holy Bible written in golden on it. I think that’s what Hope really means. When the world says give up, hope whispers, try one more time. Just across, opposite the entrance to tramway, on the rows of benches sat a man with a bottle of alcohol & flask practicing, perhaps a new tune, on his guitar. At a distance sat another, eating his dinner listening to music at the quiet of the night… he actually did not look like a homeless man. At the far end sat a homeless lady perhaps waiting for everyone, including us, to vanish from there so that she could sleep peacefully. The positive yet saddest thing was that even though she was homeless she had combed her hair very neat & her belongings in the cart were well folded & neatly stacked, maybe reminiscent to her past…. She reminded me of what a lady said to me when I visited a thrift market earlier… “when the country had better days, I worked at Pier 26 & I would buy expensive stuff & now I am selling them for throw away prices for a living”… the tone in which she said was very touching…. No one knows what is in store for anyone tomorrow…

My younger daughter says, mum why you are so interested in homeless people…. I don’t know why they always catch my eyes perhaps because once in my life, at a distant past I wore their shoes … thanks to Saddam & the so called Big Guns who stirrup troubles, as if possessed by some evil spirit to aid on something which doesn’t have an ending in the horizon!

Sometimes I see so many contrasts in one place. Like the other day when we were walking across the Rockefeller University, along the Hudson River bank, I saw brand new barbeque grill abandoned & loads of waste in the bin, may be leftovers from previous night partying. Right opposite to that slept a homeless woman in a neon green reflective safety west …… she slept so peacefully that even the traffic on the highway besides did not deter her sleep. Little further, on another bench, sat a well-dressed young woman (seemed hungover from the previous night) with a cell phone trying to type a message & half way through she fell back asleep, still clutching the phone. How she got there is beyond my understanding. When we returned, the young woman was still sleeping… the older woman was eating something that seemed like pancake from foil paper. Next to her stood a man eyeing everyone & when I saw his face, he was moving his tongue awkwardly, like snakes move their tongue… it reminded me of an old proverb: Even if the tamarind tree is old, the tamarind is still sour!! I wondered why the hell am I keep coming across so many strange characters & events?

To end with, here is a delicate story narrated by a Real Estate agent…. It seems once a couple approached her saying they wanted a home with just two specific requirements… the flat should be facing the main road & should have a large window. They did not bother if the flat was old or fittings/furnishing were broken as long as the two criteria were met. The reason they wanted the flat was that they wanted to keep their dog close to their work place so that they could come & visit the dog whenever possible. While they were away, the dog should not stress, bored or depressed… hum… I can say that some dogs are luckier & better loved than humans…

My DIL tells me that the government gives them shelter, food & clothing… but some people just don’t apply or collect. I have no idea how far the government aid is stretched but end of the day Super Power is just a virtual status which sounds fruitless once you know or live the sad reality like the empty shell of a hermit crab. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, every country is the same only the percentage differs!! After all Shangri-La is yet to be discovered & there is no such thing as Utopia!!

Ghee & the Modern Man

 

Known as Ghrit or ghrta in Sanskrit, ghee is considered is a staple in Indian cooking and has been a host of good health for thousands of years. I love both butter & ghee, & growing up have eaten loads of it. After she was done churning, my mother kept the butter floating in a dish of water on the dining table & every time we passed by a portion of it went into mouth!! Both Butter & Ghee are usually solid in cooler conditions & melts as it warms. The smooth texture, melting in the mouth gives that classy feeling like the melting chocolate. Butter, Sri Krishna’s favourite dish, has a limited shelf life but a simple process turns the same butter into ghee (Clarified butter, we call it “Nei” & Kannada “tuppa”). Ghee’s own shelf life is almost one hundred years if stored properly!!! That’s makes it survive longer than us.

Boiling the butter on low fire yields the ghee. My mother added few betel leaves for flavor towards the end. The butterfat is bottled after cooling, leaving the proteins (casein, way & other milk solids such as lactose, etc.) collected at the bottom. We kids waited for the chance to collect the bottom solids & ate with banana or simply dhal which is prepared in the same vessel and smelt so good.. became so tasty… my mouth is watering. We fought for the lion share of the betel leaves cooked crisp.

Food for the Mind & Spirit

Unfortunately, modern science came up with the idea that ghee is bad, corrupting every mind & until recently not realizing the value of it. So ghee became a No… No in the modern meals…. In a way they might be right too because their study came from the cows eating all sorts of manmade concoction including plastic & ground bones (powder) of other dead animals. On the other hand, in Aryurveda, our Rishis spoke of the cows which ate grass straight from Mother Nature’s lap. I think that when the cows eat the fresh grass roaming freely in the meadows, the grass smells so good – like how the mowing brings out the unusual smell, enhancing good feeling in ourselves – making the cow happy & calm. That pleasantness (of the mind – which makes us believe either we are happy or sad) is then radiated into the entire body of the cow like the sweet fragrance, including the udder (perhaps mainly udder because cow produces milk for its baby, the calf not for us the thieves).

Everyone knows that Body & Mind of the beings works in unison when the conditions are pleasant, communicating through chemical signals creating harmony with each other. Even though we cannot see, we can experience it! Also it is noteworthy that when we are happy, small little problems just does not get any attention from us which shows that positive thinking & healthy mind condition could also reduce negativity in us. The milk in the udder comes to man, then it is converted into many different forms such as curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, etc., etc.

Now the scientists are turning around & says its goooodddd…. Mr. Ghee is trust worthy… after Mr. Ghee, Mr. Coconut also got a praise… Lol… wonder whether Indians & Ayurveda really need certificate from the Modern Science & their chameleonic theories.

Mrs. Cows graze mainly on grass & other greens, fruits & vegetables or rice, etc. So all the vitamins & medicinal properties of the food consumed is absorbed & transported to milk. So we get the nourishment like taking a supplement in modern terms!! It’s an antioxidant & has antiviral properties too. It contains Omega 3 (so called good cholesterol) & 6, which are boosters for brain & nervous system for smooth functioning. Let’s see some of the qualifications of Mr. GHEE.

In Ayurveda it is considered as a Satvic food & like all the Satvic foods, it promotes positivity, growth & expansion of the consciousness. Even though it is a diary product, coming from another body, like mother’s milk it is accepted by everyone including pure vegetarian Brahmins. That’s one of the main reason Cow is respected & regarded highly in India. Sadly, people think it is related to religion & kill them… losing long term benefits for less than an hour’s craving…

Ghee has a high smoking point (about 250 Degree C) so it will not break down into so called free radicals like other oils. It is rich in oil soluble Vitamin A & E, K2 & CLA as well as medium chain fatty acids, which are absorbed directly by the liver like carbs & burned as energy, which does not result in fat storage. It is rich in butyric acid (so named because it was first discovered in butter & it increases its concentration in ghee), which is considered beneficial to the digestive & immune systems in many ways.

It protects the body, aids digestion & strengthens immune system. In Ayurveda, ghee is used as a carrier for the nutrients in herbs & to lubricate the intestinal tract & all the tissues inside the body. Bowl movement & Digestion related problem, is a big problem for many people in the modern world. Our body is designed to digest. However, many suffer from digestive stress & it is said that an estimated one in four Americans suffers from gastrointestinal (GI) track & digestive maladies! (no study is done in India…)

Ghee preventing onset of body ache, joint pain, alzimers, cancer, etc., etc. So don’t feel bad if you want to consume gheeeeee….. However, people suffering from heart ailments & diabetics should be little careful & if doctor says no then please don’t eat it!!

Finally, the ghee enhances the taste & flavor of the food. Cook dhal, chicken or biryani with ghee & see how great it tastes & smells!! My mother used to narrate this fable: Kai guna Mavayya or nei guna Mavayya (is it merit of the cook’s hand or the ghee). A wife had been cooking for her husband all her married life. He never really appreciated or perhaps did not show openly. Time passed, her son grew up to be nice young man & got married, & the daughter-in-law, let’s call her Asha came home. Once wife was away for few days & the Asha cooked the food. The food was so tasty… Mava (father-in-law) could not believe his tongue. When his wife returned, all that she heard was that how good was Asha’s food… all her dishes. Suddenly/sadly the old man felt wife’s cooking was not good, nothing in front of Asha!! Poor Mavi (mother-in-law), a good cook herself could not understand how come her food is not tasty to her husband any more. So one day she hid herself & watched Asha cooking everything with ghee. So next day the smart lady hid the ghee container. Asha could not find the ghee & unable to ask anyone, finished cooking with oil. After tasting Mava said why Asha did not cook today.. the food is not tasty…. Wife was waiting for this & told her husband to ask Asha “Kai guna or nei guna”? Asha shyly answered “Nei guna Mavayya”, ending Mava’s nagging of his wife for good!

Story of King Ravana from Ramayana – Part 1

Ravana’s KARMA & reflection in Modern man!?!

In India, Sri Rama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is seen as a personification of goodness & Ravana as the prime antagonist of the epic Ramayana. Ravana is shown with ten heads & all the ten heads plotting to do bad all the time

So who is Ravana? Ravana was the mighty, controversial King of Lanka & the villain of Ramayana. But there is a lot to learn from his character for us.

It is said that “Humility is a Virtue not a Weakness” & Ravana’s paid a very high price to learn the lesson on humility & his life seems to be conjectural…. His life outlines the reach of KARMA & I am sure when the time comes, we have to settle our scores too. It’s remarkable to learn that even though Devas & Ausars shared the same ancestry how they are different in their thoughts  processes & deeds, like how our own minds & functionality vary from time to time depending upon our culture, mood & circumstance. In a strange reality we are not really very different from both of them & in the process of evolution we have only managed to become more ignorant & egoistic. The main culprit in the mean behaviour in general is the selfish, self-centered, egoistic, greedy, etc, etc., nature of humanity.

Ravana’s story begins much before his birth as Ravana. He & his brother Kumbhakarna were the famous duo Jaya-Vijaya, the devoted Dwara Palakas (gatekeepers) of Vaikunta, heavenly abode of Lord Vishnu. They were very loyal to Lord Vishnu & loved him dearly but they were also proud of their status… it’s no joke to be guarding Maha Vishnu. No one could even see him without their permission!

One day the Kumar brothers {Sanak, Sanandan, Sanatan & Sanat Kumars} went to meet Lord Vishnu. At the beginning of the process of creation, Lord Brahma had created them from his manas (mind) by just a desire & as such they are referred to as his Manasaputras. They were said to be free from negative qualities like Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moha, Ahankara, etc., (material desires, anger, attachment, lust, pride, etc.,) as well as trigunas (Sato, Rajo, Tamo) of Maya (illusion). Lord Brahma had created them to help him in the process of creation but they chose Brahmacarya (celibacy) & devotion to God over procreation. They also obtained the boon to remain perpetual 5-years old from their father to remain pure & blissful forever. Boon coupled with the strength of their tapa, kept them looking like kids even in their advanced age. They had no attachment to any material possessions & using their spiritual powers, they moved freely around the universe. They were closest to Godly like. Jaya-Vijaya mistook them to be a bunch of pranky kids & not only stopped them but also made fun of them.

Kumar brothers tried to convince them saying they were great devotees of Lord Vishnu & Vishnu is never too busy to see his devotees.  But the gatekeepers were not ready to budge. Knowing what was happening out side, Lord Vishnu took the opportunity to teach them a lesson on humility & created Maya (illusion) & made the Kumaras curse both of them to be born & live as mortals 7-times on Earth. Meantime Lord Vishnu appeared on the scene & the Kumars forgetting everything ran to him with childlike enthusiasm. After a while they departed & then Jaya-Vijaya pleaded with Vishnu to liberate them from the curse.

Lord Vishnu said that words of Kumaras cannot be reverted. However, He could give them 2-options. The first option is to take 7-births on Earth as devotee of Lord Vishnu, while the second is to take 3-births as His enemies & meet death in his hands. After serving either of these sentences, they can re-attain their status at Vaikuntha & be with Him permanently. Jaya-Vijaya were heartbroken & could not bear the thought of staying away from their beloved Lord for 7-lives & chose the 2nd-option to become enemies (those days’ longevity was lengthy too). Moreover, even getting killed by Lord’s hands are also a boon. Thus began their peregrination on earth.

In the first birth as enemies of Lord, they were born in Satya Yuga as brothers Hiraneyaksha & Hiraneyakashyipu, the sons of Diti & Kashyapa rishi. Hiranyaksha was slained by Lord Vishnu after he took the Earth to the bottom of what has been described as the “Cosmic Ocean”. Lord Vishnu in Varaha (boar) Avatara dove into the ocean to lift the Earth, in the bargain slaying Hiranyaksha who was obstructing Him after a battle of over thousand years. His elder brother Hiranyakashipu who was incredibly powerful after a boon & invincible unless several conditions were met, was later slain by the next Avatara as Lord Narasimha (half man-half lion).

The second birth is the story of Ravana & Kumbhakarna, to be killed by Lord Vishnu in the Avatara of Sri Rama & Lakshmana (Ramayana) in Treta Yuga.

Pulastya was the Manasa putra (mind-born son) of Brahma the creator & one of the Sapta-Rishis (7-great Sages). So he had inherited the virtue & learning of Brahma & became a great Sage. Once pleased with the devotion of Rishi Trinbindu’s daughter, Pulastya promised her a son worthy of both their clans & Vishrava (Visravasam) was born. It is not clear if the child was a blessing or they were married. Vishrava was also a renowned Vedic scholar like his father Pulastya. Vishrava was married to Rishi Bhardwaj’s daughter Ilavida (Idavida).

They had a son called Vaishravana (Kubera); who was knowledgeable of the Vedas & equal to Lord Indra in valour. Vishrava told his son that the deserted city of Lanka (on Mount Trikut, off the Southern coast) would be ideal for his residence & established him there. Kubera was of modest demeanor, a well-wisher of the people & many Asura tribes accepted his rule without much opposition. Later he became the Lord of Wealth through a blessing from Brahma after tapasya. Kubera possessed the magnificent Pushpaka-Vimana (the shape-shifting flying craft made of golden flowers, which could travel at the speed of mind). It’s noteworthy that very sophisticated aircrafts were mentioned in Ramayana & man of this epoch is yet to even dream of it!!

Smitten by the glory of Kubera, the Asura leader Sumali (Sumalaya) wanted his daughter Kaikesi (Kaikasi) to marry Sage Vishrava. So that their offspring would be as illustrious as Kubera, & would bring glory & dignity to the entire Asura clan. So Kaikesi became the 2nd wife of Sage Vishrava.

According to Uttara Kand of Ramayana, Sage Vishrava knew that the off-springs by such a match would be bad & unworthy & mentioned it to her. On hearing his words, a sad Kaikesi said: Mahatma, I came not to get such children from a great soul like you. I want a virtuous child & Sage Vishrava told her that the 4th child (Vibhishana) would be born as she desired.

Eventually they had 6-sons {handsome Dashagriva or Dashanana (the ten-faced or the ten-necked) – later came to known as Ravana}, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana (a scholar, pious – great Rama devout & a minister of Ravana), Khara (King of Janasthan), Dushana (Viceroy of Janasthan), Ahiravan (King of the Underworld), Kumbhini (well known for her beauty was the wife of Madhu, demon King of Mathura) & infamous Surpanakha (she was the root cause of Sita’s kidnapping & instigated her brothers to wage a war against Rama because both him & his brother refused to marry her). Thus by lineage, Ravana was only partly Daitya (through his mother, he was related to Maricha & Subahu).

Ravana seems to be a confused being as he had too many people influencing his upbringing {too many cooks spoil the broth} & his DNA mixture was erotic. Mother Kaikesi was a great devotee of Lord Shiva so was he. He had lots of merits obtained by penance but had quite a few curses(*1) shaping his life too. His father Vishrava noted that while Ravana was aggressive & arrogant, he was also an erudite scholar. Under his tutelage, Ravana mastered the Vedas, scriptures, arts & ways, was well-known Veena player. On the other hand, his maternal grandfather Sumali, kept him close to the ethics of the Daityas. Then there was the pushing to limits of spoken/unspoken words of disparity between the half-brother Kubera… & his wealth, pomp-romp, glory… Golden Pushpaka-Vimana was an eye sore too… Sadly, this conflicting influence by different set of parenting made him a character of Jekyll & Hyde. Often I wonder what kind of parenting does the terrorists & other negative characters must have had?

Except his citizen who loved him dearly for he was a just ruler everyone else was scared of him….. Ravana is said to be an excellent ruler & under him his citizens were happy & prosperous, close to utopia. He had 3-wives & 7-children, & his Pattada-Rani (chief queen) was Mandodari, the daughter of Danava king Mayasura & celestial dancer Hema. Mandodari said to be gorgeous, very pious & virtuous woman.

To read more about the source of Ravana’s powers, his rule, and Ramayana, check out my 2nd article on the series.

 

Lord Ganesha – Why he has an elephant head and why he’s the first to get a pooja?

Mr.Ganesha… Adhya-Poojita (first to be worshipped), my husband’s favourite whom he lovingly calls our Ganapanna, & whom a Kannadiga householder would have lovingly addressed (him) as Nam-Ganeshaa.. as if talking about a child who has gone out to play & may return any time soon!! An artists’ delight towards imagination… Often woven funny stories around, {even sometime ridiculed by other religious salesmen.. anything for gains/commission I guess}. Yet He somehow somewhere fits in to any mold. It’s a freedom enjoyed by the followers of Sanatana Dharma what is today known as Hinduism. A liberty to perceive the Devas & Devatas as they reckon with.

It is said that when Sage Vyasa wanted to write the Great Epic Mahabharata, the only one who was able to grasp & note the dictation was none other than Mr. Ganesha.  Ganesha is said to have agreed to write only if Vyasa never paused in his recitation & on the other hand, Sage Vyasa agrees on condition that Lord Ganesha takes the time to understand what was said before writing it down! A grandeur beyond human contemplation. In the Indian culture since yore, the scriptures are passed from Guru to Shishya. Indian civilization is the oldest surviving culture & the knowledge is passed from mouth to mouth, a tradition which seems to have started from Ganesha. His teachings seem eternal & fit in best today even more so. So Who is He in reality?

Everyone says he was born out of Mother Parvathi’s palm-dirt (or the turmeric from the body), to guard her bathroom & Lord Shiva cut off his head when not allowed to go inside his own house. Later to calm a furious Parvathi (who challenged to destroy the entire creation itself) & to appease her, He got his head fixed with a baby elephant’s head as the original head could not be located… perhaps rolled down the slopes of Kailash. When Lord Shiva’s Gana (army) went in search of the head they could not locate it. Then Lord Shiva told them to get the head of anybody sleeping with their head to north. The only being sleeping with its head to north was the baby elephant. So is it really factual? An era when they could travel between Lokas (world) & create at will was having a bathroom door or getting a head a problem or impossible task?

When young, everyone (at least 99.5%) loves their life & do not want to lose their head at any cost… So Mothers often recite this tale to discourage youngsters from sleeping with their head to North, which is considered bad as the magnetic field in the north could affect the blood flow to brain in the longer run.

According to scriptures, Mahadeva (highest among the Devas) was the first tribal head who lived in Mount Kailash & was known as Adinath (he has one too many names like Shiva, Vrishabadeva, etc., etc.,). Lord Ganesha (Ganapati, Vinayaka, etc., etc.,) was the eldest son of Adinatha & Parvathy & born as a handsome regular boy. As a son of divine beings, he was very gifted & spiritual. As he grew up his spiritual knowledge grew along with him making him one of the most powerful in terms of spirituality. He was the master of all the Vedas & Upanishads, an erudite of every Vidya in totality. So much so even the Mahadeva himself had accepted his teaching & considered him as his Guru. It’s not an easy task for a father to accept his son as his teacher as it’s a well-known fact that a father is considered as Guru & not son.  Lord Ganesha was an exceptional case & Lord Shiva out of love & respect had said to him, “you will be worshiped even before me always!”. True to that, even to this day Lord Ganesha is the first one who receives the offerings, & worshipped everywhere. And in every Shiva temple for that in every temple there is Lord Ganesha’s idol & everyone offers their obeisance first to him. He is considered as the remover of obstacle, bestower of knowledge & it is believed that if he is happy everything goes smoothly with his grace.

One of his most powerful teaching was that humans & animals should live in harmony otherwise there will be an imbalance in nature. In other words, symbiotic relationship is the Universal secret of Survival. Compassion towards the fellow creature will not only create harmony & peace but will also maintain the balance of nature. For example, if all the insects particularly bees disappear then it’s very unlikely that human race would survive. So even though we humans presume that most of the insects & animals around us are useless & purposeless, we are gravely mistaken. In the play of things, in the very fabric of creation everything is inter-linked & balanced together. Directly or indirectly everything has a role to play. It is something man took too long to understand because of his selfishness & ignorance but now slowly everyone is realizing its truth.

After understanding this reality, to pass on this secret of survival to the future generation, his early followers created the stone statue of Lord Ganesha in the form of man with the head of an animal. They captured the essence in stone idol expecting that in case of disaster like fire or any other calamity, the statue would still remain carrying his eternal message. Guess they under estimated human ability (remember Bamiyan Buddhas??) They also made Mushika (Rat) as his Vahana (vehicle), to represent parity that whether big or small they have a role to play, a dignity & importance of their own & all beings are equal. (We can even consider the same application to gender, wealth, etc., whichever differentiate, as all imparities are human creation). Unfortunately, we have managed to wipe out scores of animals & insects in our journey towards modernization & still continue to do so…

When I think of the animal killings in India, the very culture where this truth was revealed, it astounds me as to how the illusion of proving that they are better than others, draw men mad. In this RAT-race (of what I still don’t understand), we are becoming not just the undisputed predators in the creation but also we will end up ruining our own future.

 

His second most important teaching is that the detachment from Vyamoha*… he says attachment is unhealthy. Attachment even to the God itself will not take you to God because one gets obsessed with the attachment hindering the very purpose of God realisation. For example, we are so attached to our body, family, food, comforts, wealth, etc., etc., we would go to any length to hold on to that attachment even to the extent of committing the heinous crimes. This part of detachment is showcased by his early devotees which are followed even to this day without even knowing the very purpose of it. What it is.. Take a pick!!

Every year after Ganesha Chaturthi, after worshiping Lord Ganesha to one’s heart’s content his idol will be immersed in water body what is called Visarjane. Those days it was made out of simple clay & then immersed in water which had no environmental effect. But now it’s become a fancy… & all sorts of chemical colours, etc., are used. Sadly, even with God we have created our own competition… who spends more money or who creates the biggest or who does it with fanfare. It’s so funny… in the name of progress & competition we are even selling our own souls. If the almighty God & Devas-Devis are so powerful & plentiful, materialistically what would they want from us mortals? Do they really want shelter, food & protection from us? All that they need is for us to live like human beings.. the real crowning glory of creation.

Ganapati literally means leader of all the Ganas (classes of beings ranging from insects, animals & humans to the subtle & celestial beings) & is considered as the destroyer or remover of the darkness created by ignorance & guide us towards ultimate truth. Hope the humanity understands the secret of survival before it is too late.

No wonder he commands love & respect without demand.

{Vyamoha… there is no equivalent in English something like cocktail of lust, whim, desire, etc…)