September 13, 2018

The artwork of the sand bubbler crab

Walking on the Miramar beach in Goa in July 2018, we suddenly spotted these amazing tiny sand ball designs on the beach. They were made by the sand bubbler crab, and I felt they were like miniature versions of the Nazca lines in Peru, which I had read about a long time back and found fascinating.

When I looked for info on why these crabs make these tiny balls, this is what I found:

"Basically, the tiny balls are a byproduct of the crabs' snacking. They don’t eat the sand, but they do feed it through the bottom of an adapted mouth of sorts, filtering out all of the micronutrients that the high tide has brought in and dumped on the beach since their last feeding session. The crabs retreat into small burrows in the sand during high tide, and emerge every low tide to feed. You can actually see small trails that lead back to their burrows, with the little balls stacked up on either side." (From: Earth Touch News Network)

You can spend hours watching these crabs in action. Nature is incredible just has to be sensitive to small details, and there is no dearth of learning and entertainment when you are outdoors.

Watch how the crab goes about its business, and leaves a beautiful rangoli in the process!

August 04, 2018

Monsoon watch 2018

During summer of 2018, there were some thunderstorms, and each time, it rained quite a lot. There were gales, bringing down many trees. Lots of copper pods and gulmohurs fell. I saw plenty of fallen trees in Indira park. Going to get the car for servicing, I saw a huge Copper pod fallen on a scooter.

Rains were supposed to be on time. 7 June. But they actually started around 1 June itself. Then there were dry days after 7 June. If I remember right, it did rain a bit on and off in June. 22 June - huge rain in the night at 7.30 pm. I had planned to go for a play in Ravindra Bharati but could not go.

3 July we went to Goa and saw the copious rains there. Friends in Hyderabad were grumbling about the no-rain situation. We got back from Goa on 7 July, and brought a huge rain with us. It rained all the way back from the airport. I took this picture :)

After that some rain on and off. For about two weeks in July it was very cloudy and cold. Did not go for swimming because of this. Then it became dry and hot, and people started worrying about lack of rain.One thing different this year is that we are having a lot of winds that seem to blow away the clouds.

4 August 2018: We are already into August and it still seems to be dry. It is also hot. We started putting on the AC in the office some days. There is restlessness. Farmers are worried. IMD forecast says that there will be no rains for 3 weeks in August. I am hoping the rain will prove them wrong again. 5-10 minutes cloudbursts the last 2-3 days. Today too it rained for 10 minutes. Waiting for a big rain. 
Wed 8 Aug: 5-min cloud burst twice.
Thu 9 Aug: 20-min rain, then after some hours, a 30-minute rain. Again rained in the night.
Sat 11 Aug: Continuous drizzle for 20 hours. Perhaps the effect of Kerala flooding.

This, is the newspaper on 12 Aug:

13-19 Aug 2018: A week of light to heavy rain. The night between 15th and 16th, there was continuous rain, and on 16th, steady drizzle from 1.30 pm. Sporadic rain on 17th, and a lot of rain from 3 pm on 19th. We go for a tree walk in the rain!

21 Aug 18: This article in the newspaper today. So looks like good rainfall after all!

23 Aug 18: Stiff half an hour rain around 7pm.
Dry and hot weather for a few days. 

1 Sep: Rain for 15 min.

11 Sep: After hot and humid weather for a few days, a huge huge rain, starting around 4.45 pm and pouring down till about 6 pm. Thunder and lightning, not noticed in earlier rains this season. Streeds in Himayatnagar flooded. Traffic jams. 


July 20, 2018

A beautiful memory called Nanakramguda

I do not normally lament about changing times and unrecognizable landscapes in the city. I take things in my stride, and hate it when others constantly point out and cry over how beautiful things used to be and how they had changed for the worse. As they say, change is the only constant in life. So why crib when there's nothing we can do about things?

But I write this post despite this attitude. I write this mainly to capture the memory of a pristine, beautiful place that I always loved, before the clear picture I have in my mind fades.

Trip 1: August 1987

I first heard of Nanakramguda temple when I was working in ICRISAT during mid eighties. Those were days when people packed food and went on picnics to quiet places with no facilities, and our department chose this temple for a picnic one time. I missed this outing, but subsequently went with Vijay on a bike after we decided to get married. He was to leave for Paris on a 2-year study leave the next day, we had just got engaged, and we needed some quiet time to comprehend what we had just done! The drive on the Old Bombay Road was filled with greenery, rocks and an occasional building or two. It was always nice to see the Gir family's old classic houses and much further, the huge compound wall with orange striations and huge doors. On the right we would see, high above, with gardens at many levels, a bungalow in which one of the ICRISAT scientists lived, and we used to hear of how he tried to hang-glide from his terrace and landed in some bushes! Our bus sometimes used to take us on this route, and we loved it for its scenic views and for the fact that we reached earlier than usual because there was so little traffic on this road!

We knew that we had to turn left at the place where we saw a spectacular row of rain trees standing in front of majestic rock formations. When we took this left turn, the road was kaccha, with rocks on the right and a water body on the left. The entire road was filled with grass, wild plants, some fields and rocks, and was dotted with palm trees - a sight both of us loved. We drove on and on, and soon, came to the Nanakramguda village - a quiet village with a small row of shops, a couple of small temples, hens and goats walking around aimlessly. Here we stopped, to ask for directions, and were told that we should drive on straight, and that the road would end in the temple.

More fields, palm trees and rocks later, we were at the Nankramguda temple. It had large old trees in its compound - tamarind, silk cotton, neem, peepal, temple trees. The temple itself was simple, the vigraham of Ranganathaswamy beautiful, the chariot unassuming but artistic. More than anything else, it was peaceful and there was not a sound apart from chirping birds. There was no one there except a purohit. As we sat below the tree outside, the purohit came and gave us a roasted sitaphal to eat. We never knew that sitaphal was was delicious! We later came across some boys roasting sitaphals crouching around a fire they had made. We also found some broken beer bottles. 

Beyond the temple wall on the left, we could see lots of trees, fields and more rock formations. Except for a cowherd and his cattle, there was no one there. We climbed up the rocks and sat there for a while, at peace and happy, as we looked at the rocks and the clouds - and a common future together.

On our way back, to the right of the temple, crossing the uneven path filled with grass, wild flowers and bushes, we went to see the old baobab tree with the massive trunk. It stood all alone, companion-less, and its gnarled bare branches seemed to be speaking to the sky. It was my first sighting of this great creation of god. I remember telling others about it later, "The trunk is so massive that it will take thirty people to stand holding hands to encircle it!"

Beyond the baobab were acacias growing wild, I think, and a bund that we rode up and drove on for a while. It seemed to be a poop spot, and  seemed to go nowhere, so we turned back and made our way back to the city.

Trip 2: July1988: 

Vijay came back for a 3-month break, and we were to get married on the 27th of August that year. The wedding preparations were on, and the one thing both of us wanted was a simple wedding with just the immediate family - at Nanakramguda temple. It was struck down by the powers that be - our respective parents! We went to the temple and told the purohit this :)

Anyway, nothing had changed in that one year.

Trips during subsequent years till 2009: 

The shaadi and daawat done, we began real lives, juggling home and work schedules. Nanakramguda remained a favourite place that we visited on and off, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes with friends and relatives who wanted to come with us. The children came along and we took them too. And we always carried a food basket and picnicked there, followed by a visit to the baobab. It was a  simple outing and we always came back refreshed and happy.

As the years went past, there were slow changes - one time, the water body at the turning had been replaced by a dhabha - Picnic dhabha, I think, it was called. Then we noticed a stone crushing unit come up to the right of the turning, where the rocks had been. Another time we noticed Delhi Public school along the way, and Ramanaidu Studios had come up close to the temple. Then we saw some kind of a club to the right of the temple, across from the baobab tree. We shook our heads at this, but thought that at least the club had open space and greenery. And then we noted with dismay that the entire cluster of rocks to the left of the temple had disappeared!

Then in subsequent years, a humongous bang called Hitech City and Gachibowli happened, and our quaint Old Bombay Road was no longer a pleasure to drive on. I do not know when it was, in the busy-ness of our lives, that we stopped going to Nanakramguda temple. I do remember going to Oakridge school that had set up shop very close to the temple, in 2009, to check it out for Ragini's 11th and 12th. At that time, there was a mild surprise/shock at how the entire stretch of road was 'developing'.

Sunday 1 July 2018: We had never realised that we didn't venture out to Nanakramguda in almost 9-10 years! We set out on a Sunday earlier this month...took the usual route on Old Bombay Road, and after going a certain distance, since the row of rain trees and rocks could no longer be the landmark, we used the GPS to figure out where we should turn. The entire stretch of road had been built up, but we could still see an odd palm tree here and there. We saw DPS, and much later, we came to Nanakramguda village, which had become a town! Lots of buildings, shops and people everywhere. The earlier visual was still fresh in the mind. Then we drove on and on, and the height of the buildings only increased, there were IT companies and residential complexes, we passed by more schools, our eyes frantically searching for signs of the temple. In one place was a pond with beautiful landscaping all around it, and someone was rowing a small boat in it. And then we went down another road and were surrounded by a completely new world that we had never seen, for we never needed to go to that part of the city. "This looks like New York city!" exclaimed Malini. I felt my heart sink...was it gone, the temple? Where was it? Why weren't we finding it? Why was the GPS pointing to an office building and telling us we had reached our destination?

We decided to ignore the GPS and ask for directions the old fashioned way. We stopped and asked a watchman standing there. He said he did not know of any temple in that area. My heart sank further, if that is possible. Then we decided to retrace our route...maybe we had taken a wrong turn somewhere? We had indeed taken a wrong turn. We now saw a narrow almost kuccha road in front of us. We took this road and soon...we came to the temple gate. We entered, we parked, and we walked into the disbelief! The temple and everything else stood exactly as we had seen them 10 years back, 20 years back, 30 years back. The walls looked the same, the trees were the same - silk cotton, temple trees, tamarind, neem - they were all there, like old friends! The mud path was still a mud path - no cementing had been done. The well outside was just the same, as also the ruins of the older temple in the premises. We walked in and the temple too was the same, no change whatsoever, as also some quarters to the side.

A pradakshinam and a small puja later, as we sat on the steps to soak in the fact that our favourite place was still standing intact, as I felt the comfort of the sameness envelope me, and as the sheer relief hit me, came my tears! I sat there, I - who am usually very private about my crying - I sat there on those steps and cried...I cried my heart out, even as Malini and Vijay sat next to me and seemed to understand my breakdown. I was surprised at myself - was I crying because the landscape outside the temple had completely changed? No, even though that change had shocked me, I was crying because this place had not changed. Somehow it gave me a sense of security, and a sense of gladness and gratitude. It was like suddenly seeing your parents young again, or looking at an old photo album, or like meeting a close friend after years and finding that nothing had changed.

We went out and explored further - the tree with the platform around it, the old well, the compound with the ruins, the wild plants, the room with the old chariot. They were all there. They were all the same. As was tradition, we had carried a small picnic basket and so, as we had done several times, we sat under the tree and had the snacks and cake I had carried. All seemed well at that moment, even though we saw multi-storey complexes towering all around, and even though the quiet was interrupted by sounds of construction next door. The Nanakramguda temple was literally an oasis in a desert.

Then we set out to look for the baobab tree. We had to drive out to the main road, following the directions given by the purohit. The baobab was now inside the compound of some massive construction. I walked in, camera in hand, like I owned the place :). After all, I was going to meet another old friend! When I saw the tree, I gasped in surprise and happiness - the old baobab was in fantastic shape, better than I had ever seen it earlier! It had leaves, flowers and fruit, and it looked happy and was doing very well, despite the construction. That's the baobab for you - a tough tree that lasts centuries. It didn't seem to have any danger from the construction also, because it was along the compound wall. I fervently pray to the god at Nanakramguda temple that this tree is allowed to live there in all its grandeur.

I feel very grateful to the Pittie family who are the trustees of the Nanakramguda temple, which was purchased by their ancestor Seth Shivlal Pittie in 1861. It is indeed noble of them to have kept the temple and its premises untouched by the modern world when the entire area around had become a futuristic city. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. May they always be happy.


April 22, 2018

My first tiger sighting - at Kabini!

I have been to jungles earlier, but have never had the good luck to spot a tiger. Of course, I have always been of the opinion that just spending time in a forest is a great experience and a wonderful break from the complicated human world. Any sighting is a bonus. But since the last 6 months or so, I have been wishing that I too could see a tiger in the wild.

During my last trip to Kabini Jungle Lodges in Karnataka in December 2014, we did see quite a few animals, especially tuskers and their families, deer, peacocks, and several birds.

On this trip, I got luckier! After about 2 hours in the jungle, we spotted the tiger! The buildup to the tiger sighting was very interesting. The naturalist in our jeep came to know that there was a tiger lurking around somewhere near the bund above a moat that had a little water. We waited here a long time, but the tiger did not show up. We then ventured to the other parts of the forest, saw other animals and birds, and then came back to the same spot and waited. Within 10 minutes, an elephant came from the right of our jeep, crossed the road before us, and headed towards the moat, perhaps to drink water. But she suddenly changed direction, and went into the jungle. Then the deer started to make the alarm calls that they make when a predator is around. The entire atmosphere became tense and still like something was about to happen. The constant chatter of the human beings died down as they concentrated on their cameras with 2 ft long lenses!

Then from the bushes behind the bund, the tiger walked out, quite oblivious to the audience that awaited its appearance, and the animals that feared its presence. Cameras immediately started clicking and the tiger - a young 'sub adult' - plonked down and sat on the bund. Within a minute, it lay down...yes, it was nap time, much to the disappointment of the serious photographers! After about 10 minutes, it was on its back, with its paws in the air, much like a dog or a cat! It lay there, sometimes turning left, sometimes turning right, sometimes whisking off a fly with its large paw. It was the cutest thing I ever saw, and I am so glad that rather than seeing a ferocious tiger chasing a deer and killing it, I saw a tiger that was chilling after a meal!

The tiger sitting down...
Taking a nap...
On its back, with paws up in the air :)

This is how the tiger I saw looked through the binoculars
(Photo by Joybroto Dass)  
Arjun, our naturalist told us later that in all probability, the tiger had had a kill, eaten part of it, and had left it behind the bushes from which it came. She was resting, but was also alert turning to keep an eye on the kill on and off, to see that no other animal came and feasted on its meal. Apparently tigers lie on their back to air their inner thighs that get very hot, especially in summer.

It was nearing 6 pm, and we left because we had to get back to the lodge by 6.30 pm. We were happy to leave the tiger and other animals in their beautiful world, where we were really not needed.

It was a very special moment, indeed -- one I will never forget, and one I will re-live every time I think about it. I found the buildup to the tiger sighting fascinating. Having heard about it from others, I was dying to experience it myself. It is one of the things in my life list that I have been able to tick off!

Yes, and one more thing. I am so glad that Kabini's tigers are not identified by name, as is being done with tigers from Tadoba, Kanha and other sanctuaries. It upsets me that human beings are so familiar with them that they actually identify them. Makes it seem more like a zoo and not a jungle. I think we should stop doing that.

March 21, 2018

Want be rich? Get this tree!

Money tree (Pachira aquatica) - good for your finances!

This is a native of Central and South America. The tree in the photos is outside the cactus garden in Sanjeevaiah Park. I saw the flower and the huge fruit in March. It is also called Malabar chestnut, French peanut and Guiana chestnut, and is sold as an ornamental, sometimes with a braided trunk.
See the photo in full size to see the delicate flower with banana-peel like petals and yellowish orange stamens. Nuts that taste like groundnuts are inside a large woody pod. Apparently, the leaves and flowers are also eaten!
According to Wikipedia, the name ‘money tree’ refers to a story where a poor man prayed for money, found this ‘odd’ plant, took it home as a good omen, and made money selling plants grown from its seeds! In Taiwan, these trees are symbolically associated with good financial fortune and are typically seen in businesses, sometimes with red ribbons or other auspicious ornamentation attached.

March 16, 2018

Becoming famous, what to do?!

Kobita and I used to talk about what we would do if someone wanted to write about us. We had decided that we would say no, mainly because we wanted to keep it simple and because we didn't want expectations to rise once people knew about our work.

However, when we were first approached by Wow! Hyderabad for a story, we could not say no! "It's a good cause...", we told ourselves..."let people know about it". But we insisted on reading the story before it was published, and are grateful to Mallik Thatipalli for letting us read it and make a few changes. Here's his writeup published in the March issue of the magazine. Love the photos and the layout of the page. Our thanks to Mallik, for the writeup, and Ratna Shekhar for featuring it in Wow! Hyderabad.

Very soon after this was published, I got a call from Prabalika Borah of The Hindu, and she wanted to do a story on us. It seemed too soon after the first one, but again, somehow we could not say no. I guess we are only human! The photo shoot was a disaster. After the photographer took a few photos, he tried to jump a fence to get a better angle, and badly twisted his ankle in the process. We felt really bad for him. Could not also finish the chat with the writer. We did that subsequently on the phone. We were disappointed when we were told that The Hindu's policy does not allow interviewees to see the article before it is published. Anyway, the photoshoot happened on Saturday, and the next Tuesday's (13 March 2018)  newspaper had the article. Nice article, but the photo was really bad. Composition was good, but our expressions didn't go with what she had written about us! I am looking particularly bad :(. Still trying to get over this, but it is an exercise in acceptance, I guess. Much like looking at your Aadhaar or Voter id photos! Here's the article. And the link.

The very same day, Harsha sent me images of an article in Pune Mirror about ID-ing trees. It had a photo of "Just look up..." and said nice things about it in the para that also mentioned Pradip Krishen's book! This made me really happy. I once again realised how close to my heart "Just look up..." is.

I guess being featured is a good thing, but all this attention has made me want to hide under the bed!

March 15, 2018

TREES I MEET - Variegated sea hibiscus - A beautifully patterned tree!

I first spotted a variegated sea hibiscus in Basheerbagh, near Balaji supermarket. I was stunned by its beauty, having never seen it anywhere earlier. The chore of grocery shopping became a little more enjoyable, and I looked at it each time I went into that galli. But natural things don’t last in urban spaces - the tree was between two small shops, and one of the shop owners felt that his wares were not visible because of the tree, and it soon fell victim to an axe. How easy it is, to cut a tree, and how flimsy a reason for doing so. 

When we had a chance to choose a few trees, we planted one in Vidyaranya, and happy to say it is thriving there.

The tree you see in these photos is in an office compound in Hitech City. It is a glorious tree - lush and multi-coloured. For the first time, we also observed a flower on it, but were told that unlike the plain-leaved Sea hibiscus, which I have already written about, this flower does not change colour.

Scientific name is Hibiscus tiliaceus ‘tricolor’. I did not find any local names. Do tell me, if you know of any.

February 02, 2018

SFX, loud speakers and the effects of sound

Morning starts on Himayatnagar streets, with sounds of sunbirds and bulbuls, traffic sounds from the main road, the bandiwalas with their song-song shouts selling their wares - moz (bananas), mousambi, ulligaddalu, muggu, and vegetables. All of them have loud voices trained to countertenor levels over years, and are audible over eight or more apartments along the lane. They are familiar voices that we have been hearing since many years. They are somewhat soothing too, and we know exactly what they are selling. 

And now disturbing this happy, familial camaraderie, is an imposter. A fellow with a loudspeaker! As he rattles off into the mike, his voice hits my ears and I feel as though he is pushing his cart from my pinna, along the ear canal, to my exasperated ear drum! Yet, despite the high decibel levels, I do not get what he is selling...all I know is that it costs Rs 100 a kilo. I bet it is too expensive. :I 

Others in the loudspeaker brigade include the guy who comes once in a while in a van, I imagine, announcing in a sort of kind voice that he will repair our mattresses and make diwan covers. Another chap wants old silk sarees in exchange for new (how devious and clever), and yet another wants to buy old stuff from homes. Thankfully, all these make guest appearances, and do not cause the level of irritation that the Rs 100-a-kilo chap achieves. 

Speaking of loud speakers, the breed is increasing. I have never felt the need and so have not explored the ease or difficulty level of setting up a mike and shouting or singing into one. But I suspect, as with other technology, it is becoming easier by the day. Bhajans and chants that travelled a floor or two in a muffled sort of way are now travelling loud and sharp - out of those blasted speakers - permeating almost the entire locality. When this happens, our whole building reverberates like there is an earthquake, and however many doors and windows we close, the blast from the neighbour's loudspeaker literally throws us around the house with our hands to our ears, helpless and in agony. God help those who are very old or sick or mothers with babies who just fell asleep, looking forward to a quiet cup of tea.  

How easy or difficult is it to sound proof one's home? - is what I am wondering now. But then, I would miss the birds, the traffic and the old bandiwalas. And I do know from occasional trips abroad that the pin drop silence of the suburbs there disturbs me more than the comforting SFX of my surroundings. Minus loud speakers, needless to say. So is there a solution to this, apart from training one's tympanum to be tolerant to the increasing decibel levels, and hoping that one would not become deaf in the process?  

Photo by Jon Snydal on Flickr

December 27, 2017

Maqtha Art District

It was in 2016 that we discovered with excitement and happiness, the street art at the basti near the car parking on Necklace Road, called Maqtha. Double delight this year, when Maqtha has been declared an art district, and a lot more murals added, making the already buzzing basti, an explosion of colour!

This public art project has been taken up by St+art Foundation that works across cities in India, their aim being to make art accessible to everyone. Maqtha Art District is the third in India, the first two being Lodhi Art District in Delhi and Mahim (E) Art District in Mumbai.

There are four areas - Green gully, Yellow gully, Pink gully and Blue chowk, and arrows along the way lead to the paintings. However, in some places, the markings are not easy to follow and it is a bit of a struggle to find them...but as in any basti, there are other interesting things to admire, so the walk is well worth it!

Just hoping that this initiative will help improve other amenities in Maqtha, such as roads and sanitation.

Green gully

A mixture-seller walks down the Yellow gully

Her dress seems to be so well coordinated that she could've been part of the painting! 

Holding up the blue and pink together!

Children of Maqtha seem to be loving the colours and the attention!

Weaver bird nests and motorbikes!

Everything blue...this is work in progress at the Blue chowk. 

Busy watching colours coming to life...

October 29, 2017

Pillalamarri - An awe-inspiring 800-year old Banyan tree in Mahbubnagar

Note: No photo can do justice to this tree. Please view these images on full screen to understand and appreciate the tree better.

Looking at Pillalamarri gives you an exhilerating, other-planetary feeling. In the 800 years of its existence, its branches bore roots that became branches that bore roots that became branches that bore roots that became branches that bore roots...many many times over. It must have been planted during the rule of the Chalukya or the Kakatiya dynasty, and grew and kept growing even as the rulers built their temples and  forts, fought wars, won and lost, followed by the Golkonda Kingdom, Qutb Shahi dynasty, Asaf jahi dynasty, Indian independence and everything else that happened to human beings in these parts between the 12th century and now!

This banyan is unlike any of the others I have seen so far. While others such as the one in Chennai’s Theosophical Society grew tall and formed a forest, this one seemed to have crawled parallel to the ground, and twisted and turned, sometimes looking like a huge python, sometimes like a dragon or a hydra or the head of Medusa. Sometimes it looks like the Lochness Monster, and sometimes like an octopus with a hundred arms. You can see a yoga pose here, a dinosaur or a Bankura horse there! An amazing natural installation, a ‘living sculpture’, as a friend put it, which would inspire not only the naturalist, but also the artist.

An old man walks past the convoluted network of branches.
Those who grew up reading the Young Folks’ League page in the Illustrated Weekly of India, would remember a fascinating graphic story called ‘The topsy turvy tree’, about a little girl’s adventures as she climbs down and discovers a tree that grows underground instead of above the ground, twisting and turning and forming an entire world down below. Pillalamarri reminded me of this story and I wouldn’t be surprised if it may have inspired that story.

A little boy bends down to cross the branches growing close to the ground.
I am sure many contemporary stories happen on and around this tree. As we spent a precious 3 hours under this tree, we observed many bird species, saw a territorial fight among parakeets trying to make nests, a dog that had just given birth to puppies in a safe hollow at the base one of the trunks, a huge group of school children picnicking under the tree in disciplined silence, a man walking around speaking loudly on the phone, telling someone his life’s problems, couples finding love amidst its twisting branches, and there we were - three nature-loving friends - completely swept off our feet, trying to comprehend this magnificence. 

She just had five puppies. They are black, white and brown. The banyan keeps them safe!
When you discover something good, unfortunately, you also discover the bad that is being done to it. Pillalamarri used to be spread over 4 acres, but is now reduced to 2.5 acres. Parts of the tree are drying up, there is fungal infestation in places, and parts of it are breaking up. While one can see attempts at propping it up with cement structures, a lot more needs to be done to take care of it. This tree should be treated as a national treasure and given the due respect, so that it will thrive, flourish, spread and live for several hundreds of years more.    

Attempts to hold up the tree - the cement props.
Fungal infection that needs to be addressed

The word ‘Pillalamarri’ comes from ‘pillalu’ (children), and ‘marri’ (banyan), meaning a banyan tree with its children. It also called Peerla marri because there is a Muslim Saint’s tomb under it. 
Offerings at the saint's tomb.
Pillalamarri is 5 km from Mahbubnagar, which is 108 km – about two and a half hours drive – from Hyderabad on the Bangalore highway. It makes a great day trip, either by bus or by car. Decent restaurants and toilet facilities on the way make it a relaxed and comfortable drive. 

*Please credit photos to Sadhana Ramchander in case you use them somewhere. Thank you.

October 07, 2017

Monsoon 2017 - The rains don't stop!

My city gets used to rains
October has never been like this. It is 7 October and we just had a huge rain, albeit without lightning and thunder. It has still been raining a lot - every day - it feels pretty much like the beginning of the rainy season. A lot of thunderstorms this year, the last one being on 2 October, when a 13.2 inch rainfall (in a day) broke a 100+ year record. It was in 1903 that there was 11.7 inches of rain on a single day in Hyderabad!

It has been raining almost continuously, although I did not note down the days of rain. The rainy season started on time, in June, unlike in previous years when it would start only in August.

I will now record rainfall here, at least until it stops! We are ready for winter.

8 October 2017: Huge rain 1-1.30 pm. Some loud thunder.

It was finally in the second week of October that the rains stopped falling, just in time for Deepavali.

But, as of 28 Oct, it is not cold at all. Very very disappointing weather. I pine for the days when I had different clothing for different seasons. Now it is cotton all the time.

Hopefully November will be cold. 

September 27, 2017

Dasara across India

Happy Vijayadashami, friends!
Dasara is indeed an interesting festival, and perhaps represents best, the cultural diversity of our beautiful country. If someone is doing Durga puja in uniquely decorated pandals, someone else is doing mythological plays and making effigies of Ravana to burn on the final day. 
Some adivasis celebrate it as a harvest festival, and in rural Telangana (and now in Hyderabad), girls are picking wild flowers to make Bathkammas to sing and dance around.
In a few other parts, girls and boys dress in all finery and play dandia to loud music. Some are busy making bommala koluvus and some others get the leaves of the jammi tree to give elders and take their blessings. Elsewhere, there are illuminated palaces and elephant processions that go across the city. Most people do the ayudha puja - a beautiful gesture of thanks to the tools, implements and vehicles that people use every day. It's a happy, busy time all over the country, and I am sure there are several more variations of this festival.
In one of the pandals in Kolkata.
Bathkamma pandaga in Warangal.

Dandia in Vadodara.

Ravana effigies being made in Uttarakhand.
Whatever it is people do, it is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. The weather is getting drier and a wee bit cold, seetaphals make an appearance, and everyone eats well and makes merry!