Monday, 12 December 2011

Trees at Dusk

I enjoy observing the shades, shapes and textures of leaves that adorn trees, but there is something about a bare tree which always makes me stop and observe. Especially  when I see such trees in low light times, like at dawn or dusk, their personalities stands out. Each such sight calls for a painting to be created.

I stand tall and bare, With no more leaves to spare

I came across a few lines from a poem by Sara Teasdale,  called 'The Tree' and found them very touching.

Oh to be free of myself
With nothing left to remember,
To have my heart as bare
As a tree in December
Resting, as a tree rests
After its leaves are gone,
Waiting no more for a rain at night
Nor for the red at dawn

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Over the Moon

In our daily rush of life, we hardly get time to look at and enjoy the moon. But when we do get a chance, it makes us feel serene and calm. A full moon is indeed a pleasure to watch. There is an interesting quotation I came across by Frederick L. Knowles, which I found very romantic -

The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.

Clouds dancing around the moon

Last month, we went to Bharatpur and it was nice to be in a jungle on a full moon night. I have often been mesmerized by sunrise and sunset but on that night, I fell in love with the majestic moon.
Majestic Moon

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Soul Mates for Life

In our recent trip to Bharatpur (Rajasthan, India), we got a chance to look at these beautiful birds by the name 'Sarus Cranes'. They are large non-migratory birds. They are the tallest of the flying birds (remember ostriches don't fly). They can go up to a height of 5.9 feet, that would mean taller than me. The ones we spotted were not as tall as me but certainly looked like 4 feet and that makes for quite a presence for a bird. They are pretty to look at with a long grey colored body contrasted with a red head and upper neck. They have loud trumpeting calls which almost sound like announcements 'I'm here. Come and take a look'. The most amazing fact about them is that they form long-lasting pair-bonds. They mate for life.  It is believed that if one of them dies, the other one loses interest in life and mourns the loss so much that it starves itself to death.In India, they are considered symbols of marital fidelity. Apparently in parts of Gujarat, it is a custom to take newly wed couple to see a pair of Sarus cranes.

We mate for life
Click on the picture for better results

Thursday Challenge (Soft) here

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A little more

At times I wish, at times I pray
To have more hours in my day
So much to do, listen and say
To live this life my special way

To walk with him on the shore
Or talk to mom a wee bit more
To help my kids at their studies
And spend more time with my buddies

A new recipe I could try
Or learn the art of growing bonsai
To wipe the dust off my book rack
To re-read an old paperback

To sip my tea at leisure
Would really be a pleasure
I'd sit and watch the rain
Or ride in a scenic train

I'd live life...a little more

To pen down some more words
Or listen to the birds
I'd paint a few more strokes
Or laugh at a few more jokes

I could spend an extra hour
Just to observe a flower
To click another snap
Or just steal a short nap

Look at the blue of the sky
Or just watch a bird fly by
I'd watch the setting sun
Or gaze at stars for fun

I'd live life...a little more

To stop and feed a stray pup
In cold, help it bundle up
I'd talk to little kids in rags
Buy them chocolates or school bags

To feel the breeze in my hair
Or whisper a little prayer
To learn to face my fears
Or wipe a few more tears

Joy to be spread, bonds to be built
Into my cup of life half-filled
I'd look for more magic to pour
And to let my little dreams soar

I'd live life...a little more

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


When I was a child, little boys used to play with these small balls called marbles, making holes in the ground and aiming to shoot the marble using the crook of the index finger. I did not really play these games much but I have always been fascinated by these small spheres.

These days, kids are much into tennis, skating and even golf.

Coincidentally I also came across an interesting quote by G.K. Chesterton
"I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles"

Fascinating Balls called Marbles

I do want to restrict my association with marbles as plain nostalgia, I think it would be a good idea to teach my kids how to play a game of marbles in the park one of these days.

Thursday Challenge here

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground

I came across this quote written by Theodore Roosevelt and rather liked it.

This photograph has actually been clicked by my 4 year old son. It is interesting to see how the world appears when you are not tall enough to consider many things around you as unappealing or insignificant.

Thursday Challenge here

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Share Happiness, Spread Love

Thousand candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. ---- The Buddha

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Story of My Hair

Born with curly hair
Answer to mom's prayer
Who always kept it oiled
So it isn't spoiled

I was...her girl with the curls

The touch of her fingers
rubbing though each hair strand
She adorned my hair with ribbons
colorful clips or a hair band

I was...her girl with the curls

After I left school
I was expected to be cool
My short and trendy hair styles
Always got me smiles

I still was...her girl with the curls

My hair got playful and flirty
When I reached my thirty
My hair tied in a perfect bun, I was a pretty bride
She looked at me and her eyes filled with pride

Life became busy when I became a wife
Then two lovely kids came into my life
I still cared for my tresses
By staying away from stresses

I am a woman of my own
With years I have grown
While my hair has begun to turn grey
To my mother, I want to say

I was and I still am...her girl with the curls

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What we think, We become!

I came across this quotation from Budha's teachings -

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.

A very simple, short but a very profound statement.

Come, let us look for the Buddha within us.

It is not important to be perfect, it is important to be peaceful
I want to spread love and warmth around

Friday, 14 October 2011

We have the same purpose in life - to write

Sketch pens have the same purpose in life - to write. But each color brings a different effect to the paper.

My daughter is fond of collecting sketch pens in as many colors as she can get. Multiple shades of green, blue, yellow, pink, brown, black - the more the merrier. In one of our trips to stationery shop, she requested me to buy a set of connector pens for her. After I said 'Yes', she picked the biggest pack with 50 pens. Must say, the pens have added a good fun and color to her life.

We bring color to your writing

The entire collection here
United we stand, Divided we fall
Thursday Challenge (writing tools)

Monday, 10 October 2011

These are a few of my Favourite Things

I open the windows of my mind and look at the beauty all around. There is so much to see, observe, cherish and soak inside.

I peep out from the glass window in the train and welcome the morning sun.

Flowers - They come in different shapes, colors and fragrance. But each one has a beauty of its own.

Looking at animals is a pleasure un-matched.

Birds - They are small in size but not in beauty

I love watching rocks - the different colors, shapes and textures.

Serenity of trees and jungles against the blue skies soothes my soul

I watch the setting sun rays fall over the beautiful river

Thank You Lord for creating such beautiful things around me!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Beautiful Bhedaghat

Rajasthan was in my mind for the Dussehra break vacation. Ideal time to check out forts and sand-dunes, I thought. However this time we were delayed in planning the holiday and the un-availability of train tickets forced me to evaluate alternate destinations. I guess destiny had different plans for me when I chanced up on this small place called Bhedaghat, while browsing through the MP tourism page (here). Dhuandhar waterfalls and marble rocks appeared promising. So the tickets were booked for the Gondwana Express which departs from Nizammudin station in Delhi at 15:25 pm and reaches Jabalpur next morning at 7:15 am. Bhedaghat is a small village located 22 km from Jabalpur.

We booked the MPSTDC hotel Marble Rocks for 3 nights starting Oct 4, 2011. The online booking page suggested it was a peak season period. Waterfalls must be at their best after monsoons, I thought, I had made a perfect timing for this one. A couple of days letter, I came across information which indicated that November onwards is a better time to visit. I called MPSTDC office and was told that boating in the marble rocks area starts only from Oct 15. Further the water of the falls is likely to be muddy at this time. This made me upset. I found it weird that MPSTDC was charging extra high for the period between Oct 1-10. However, the booking terms indicated cancellation was not possible. So we decided to go ahead with the vacation. Perhaps I will spend more time sightseeing Jabalpur, I thought to myself.

We hired an auto from Jabalpur station to Bhedaghat for Rs 250. The roads were broken in most of the places. As we entered the hotel, I liked the appearance of the place. Entered the lobby and caught a first glimpse of the marble rocks. It was a fascinating sight. We found the place reasonably neat and well maintained. They have all of 11 rooms and have recently added 5 luxury tents. Their swimming pool is nearly done and expected to be operational in a couple of weeks. From the comforts point of view, it was a nice 3-star accommodation, but the location was unbeatable - a picture perfect place.
View from Motel Marble Rocks

In the evening, we went to look at the Dhuandhar falls. We walked to the place though it is possible to get a shared-auto which charges Rs 5 per person. The path to the falls, goes through a shopping area where you can buy things made out of marble stone. My daughter was completely bowled over by the variety, so we did some quick shopping, promising her to do more when we returned back or visited again on the next day. We took the rope-way and went to the other side to get a different view.  The kids loved the ride in the rope-way and we enjoyed looking at the falls from a height. The rope-way also helped us transport to the other side of the river, which offered much better views. The falls themselves did not have much height, but the flow was very strong, water was almost violently forcing its way. We saw rainbow getting formed at the waterfall. I am told that the water will become clear green in color and the falls will gain height as the level of water in the river goes down, in the next couple of months. Locals told us that this year the monsoon has been so heavy that the Bargi Dam water had to be released 4-5 times in the last month.

Local guys were selling 'ber' sprinkled with chat masala. Me and my husband picked some. They were lovely.

Smoke from the Dhuandhar Falls
Rainbow formation

In the morning, we spotted a few interesting birds of prey. We suspected they were eagles but were not sure. Later we figured out they were Egyptian vultures. We also spotted grey hornbills, magpie robins, white eye-browed wagtail, green bee-eaters, laughing dove, spotted dove, sparrow lark, kingfishers, yellow bellied sunbirds and some more.
Egyptian Vulture on the tree in the centre

Laughing Dove
Knowing that there was no boat ride available to explore the marble rocks, we took a path down from the hotel. We enjoyed the walk and the scenery from two view-points. The rest of the day was reserved to take a trip to Bargi Dam, which is about 45 km from Bhedaghat.
From the view point of the path

We hired a cab and started at 3 pm. It took us an hour and a half to reach the place, thanks to the broken roads. We took a speed boat ride while waiting for the cruise. Booking for cruise starts only after 20 people show interest in going for the same. At around 5:30 pm, the cruise started. It was a pleasant ride looking at the sun setting behind the Narmada water.  By the time we finished, it was getting dark and we decided to get back as we had to cover a long journey in the not-so-good and not-well-lit roads. Thanks to the bad roads, we had a flat tyre on the way back. Luckily a cycle repair shop was close-by and that guy somehow managed to fix the tyre after working on it for 40-45 minutes and we were back on the road again.

Sunset Cruise at Bargi Dam

On the way back to the hotel, I kept sulking about the wrong timing of the trip. I was finding the place nice in general but nothing had touched my soul. Back to the hotel, a surprise awaited. I was told the boating was going to start from next morning. Was it an answer to my prayers?I wondered. Next morning, there was a huge crowd at Panchvati ghat where the boating starts. It is easy to walk down to this place from the hotel. It had become quite hot around 11 am but I was very excited about the boat ride. All we could get to ride in was an ordinary shared boat where everybody was told to pay Rs 41. Somebody told me the actual rate is 31 but they have increased it looking at the huge demand. The boat ride made a huge difference to the vacation. It was lovely looking at the different colors of the marble rocks - white, black, golden, blue and pink. Going through the water with wall like structures made out of marble rocks on both sides was an altogether new experience. Words fail me in describing the beauty of the place. The guide gave an interesting commentary in Hindi, using interesting rhyming words flavored with humor. This is the place where lots of movies have been shot. The song 'Raat Ka Nasha Abhi' from the movie Ashoka has been shot there.

Different colors of the marble - golden, white, black, grey

Another view of the marble rocks

Spotted the Egyptian Vulture again while boating
In the evening, we went to Dhuandhar falls again. Kids wanted to repeat the rope-way experience. But what I was dying for was the sun-set boat ride in the river to look at the marble rocks again.

When we reached the ghats, we were told the last boat for the day was leaving but the seats which were left did not look inviting. I casually asked them if we could get a boat for our family. Yes, the option was available now. He asked us for Rs 400 and we agreed. This boat was much better and even had chairs, we were seated comfortably. Sun was setting and the moon was out already. This was one boat ride, I would remember and cherish for a long time. It was a very pleasant time of the day and I felt completely immersed in the place. We have got the information that this place has boat rides on full moon nights. That would be a terrific experience but this seemed like a close next best option. A couple of months later, the water would no longer be muddy, it would be clear and green in color. We would certainly like to re-visit this place once more, probably a year later in the month of Feb-March. The most ideal time to visit this place is around the time of Purnima (full-moon night) to have the boating experience in the night.

By the time we returned, it was getting slightly dark. We even spotted a few owls on top of the rocks. When we returned close to the ghats, we saw lot of big fruit bats flying around. Sharing the beautiful place with the owls and bats on the ride, made it an even more beautiful experience.

Reflection of Rocks in the water

Flavor of the place at dusk

Next morning, I walked up to the falls again, all by myself. I took long walks and explored the marble rocks even more. The more I saw them, the more I felt charmed by their beauty.

Another view of the marble rocks
So far my perception of natural beauty was limited to the sea, hills and forests. I got introduced to natural beauty in an altogether new form. Geological beauty, as my husband likes to put it. At times, the place looked too beautiful, too perfect to be true.

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, they say. This was one beauty which I feel, is likely to stay in the soul of the beholder.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Where are Perfect Maids Made?

Maids come in all shapes, sizes, colors and attitudes. Some are thin and some are fat. Some are dark and some are fair. Some are active and fast at their work, others are sloppy and slow. Some are quiet and have a subtle presence while others are loud, noisy and always eager to talk.But whichever one you hire, after a while you end up feeling not-quite-satisfied and wonder if our neighbor has a better, more efficient and more regular maid.

Not really! She has the same sob stories to tell if anybody would care to listen. Care to listen? Of course! From short corridor chats to lively and animated kitty-party discussions, to a serious exchange of strategy tips of managing them at office lunch breaks ... this is one common topic that unites all women.

The fact remains that maids are an extremely important part of our lives. Even the men in the household will swear by this. Who has not been through depressing and almost mournful mornings when the maid has chosen to take leave, unannounced? It is also true that maid management is more complex than project management. However, if you develop a closer understanding on this important matter, you are likely to be able to use your  people management soft skills more effectively.

This is what I have figured out:

1. Maids deliver only 70% of what they agree upon.

What You like to think - "She agreed to a set of tasks before we negotiated the salary and she better do them all."

What is the reality - She will take short-cuts whenever possible. If you are not looking, she will skip sweeping under the bed. If you point out and make her do that, she may skip washing the basin in the bathroom. There is a good chance that by the time you enter the bathroom and figure it out, she would have finished the work and left. Next day, when you carefully supervise the bathroom cleaning, she may put the vessels in the drawer without drying them.

What You could do - Accept it, learn to live with mediocrity in life. If you are too particular, hire multiple maids and allocate fewer tasks to each. Are you done? Not really, supervise them closely. Of course you run a risk of earning the reputation of a hard task-master amongst the maids.

2. On an average, a maid will take one day off in a week.

What You like to think - "What? 4 Leaves? I agreed with her that she will take a maximum of 2 days leave. And that too after informing."

What is the Reality - On rare occasions, they inform in advance--maybe during festivals like Diwali, Eid, Holi. Other times, they do not leave us with any clue. The next day, they come up with indisputable problems like 'I had a severe headache', 'My relative was ill' etc. I once had a maid who worked with me for several years. She was unusual in her honesty. One day she said 'I will not come in the evening as I am taking my kids for a mela'. Another time 'I am taking my kid for a birthday party for the first time'. I found the reasons too sweet to dispute. In fact, once she took a day off, and when I asked her next day, she said 'I just did not feel like coming to work'. Acceptable, I thought, there are days like that with everyone. As far as this is not a regular habit.

What You can do - If you can live in a not-so-clean house for a day, try to do as best as you can and then go eat out. It is a deserving excuse with multiple benefits. It will cheer you up and lift your spirits and it will help by not increasing dirty vessels to an already full sink. If this solution does not look acceptable, plan for back-ups. Hire multiple maids for doing different tasks (if you have more money to shell out, hire them for same tasks, it does not hurt getting the house swept once in the morning and another time in the evening too). But if you think otherwise, then one is on leave, you are left with fewer jobs on your head. If you are lucky, the other one will agree to do those job for extra money, and your life will be as smooth as any other day.

3. They love perks at the job.

What You like to think - "Perks? What for? She is getting a good salary."

What is the Reality - Who does not like perks at work? Those tea-coffee machines in the office are almost a necessity.

What You could do - Each maid has a weakness for something. Indulge in that, at least few days in a month, if not on a daily basis. Some have a deep craving for tea. Some appreciate getting something to eat as they leave early in the morning without eating much. Most of the times, they will be happy with a few slices of bread and pickle. If you feel like pampering them, toast the bread for them. They really appreciate it. Another very common and well-appreciated perk in summer is cold water. Almost all of them love to have a glass of  fridge-cooled water.

So coming to 'where are perfect maids made?" The answer is nowhere! Just like there are no perfect husbands, there are no perfect maids. But just as one goes for match-making, one needs to carefully go for maid-matching. The matching of temperament, I mean. If you are a quiet person, a competent but talkative and loud maid may be a nuisance. I may be okay with a trust-worthy, child-friendly mediocre maid than the other way round but my neighbor may not be able to bear a speck of dust in her house.

To each, her own soul-maid!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Where do Babies come from?

It's amazing how this question tickles the imagination of small kids. When my daughter was 4-5 year old, she was completely fascinated by this thought of where she came from. Once she was browsing through a photo album and came across a picture of mine in Goa, when I was expecting her. She asked me where she was at that time. I told her 'You were in my stomach'. She came across another older picture and asked me 'Was I in your stomach at this time also?". I told her "No". A little while later, she came up to me and asked me very thoughtfully "When I was not in your stomach, where was I". I told her "You were in mind". She was satisfied with this answer.

Fascination with babies was not restricted to her innocent questions, but it was very much a part of her play. My mother-in-law, who was her regular playmate, once came out of the toy room laughing to herself and announced 'Another baby born". In my daughter's imaginative play with her dolls, a baby was getting born every 10 minutes.

Now, it is the turn of my 4 year old son. In good humor, once my husband told him that he came out of papa's tummy while his sister came out of mummy's tummy. My son seems to have taken it seriously. The other day he was telling me that when he grows up, a baby boy will come out of his tummy. He clarified to me that when his didi grows up, a baby girl will come out of her tummy.

Yesterday, he was trying his hand at drawing something in his sketchbook. We had a short conversation.
Me - What are you drawing?
Him - A dinosaur
Me - Let me see. Now what have you drawn in his body?
Him - O this! This is his egg
Me - O really! What will happen to this egg?
Him (Looking at me with surprise at my ignorance) - The egg will come out of his body. Then he will stand on the egg. The egg will break.
Me - And then?
Him - A baby dinosaur will come out

I must say I quite enjoyed his imagination of the dinosaur standing on the egg to break it so that the baby dinosaur could come out.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Corner Office

        9 AM sharp. She enters the conference room. She begins with the status meeting. One by one, the points are discussed, status shared by the team and action items assigned. “We can not afford to slip a single day. Remember, the delivery date is 15 February”, she ends with her regular closing remark. Her words are measured and actions prudent.
        As she walks up to the coffee machine, the doctor's words echo in her mind “Restrict your caffeine”. She opts for tea and fills only half a mug. As she stands pinning the project report on the soft board in her cubicle, her eyes fall on her certificate “Most Promising Manager of the Year”. She smiles and sits down. Sipping her tea, she is lost in old memories. Winning prizes was a routine for her. School topper, college topper and a fast tracker at work, she was a complete careerist now. “Success of this project is critical for your promotion”, she remembers her boss's words clearly. She opens the strategy document and tries to concentrate. She closes her eyes to think clearly. Suddenly she feels a movement inside her body. Another one. “Was it a kick” she thinks “Yes, the doctor said it was expected anytime”
         7 PM. She sits helping the engineers in debugging issues. 8 PM. She is having a working dinner in a meeting. 9 PM her husband arrives and forces her to wind up.
        “Take it easy sweetheart, our life is going to change in two months”
        “I can't afford to, honey. You know I am very close. Just six weeks. And then...”
        “And then?”
        “I will be the Group Head. 50 engineers reporting to me. You know, I am going to get the corner office, with a window facing the lawns”
         “What about the baby?”
        “You don't worry about that. Mom is moving in with us”
        “What about you, won't you spend time with the baby?”
        “O, come on. I am not the diaper changing types. I will play with him alright, that too when he grows up to at least speak and call me Mamma. You know, I am not a home body. I am afraid I will go crazy in the maternity leave. Don't like to miss office a single day”.
        Like a complete workaholic, she continues with her long hours at work. There are problems. There are hurdles. There are software bugs and hardware failures. There are customer demands and team's expectations. She handles it all. 
        “Slow down now. If your blood pressure shoots up, I will have to advise bed-rest” the doctor tells her in the regular check-up.
         “I need this adrenaline, this rush, to keep me going. I can never slow down” she replies with a smile.
         And finally, the project gets delivered on time. The promotion letter follows.
        “Yes, I am getting the corner office from tomorrow” she screams with excitement over phone“Coming home early”.
        As she enters home, within minutes, her labor pain starts. In the hospital, she tries to manage her pain by doing breathing exercises. “The head is crowned”, the doctor announces “you are doing well”. She closes her eyes. “Yes, push now with all your strength! One last time! Doing well, dear!”. She pushes with all her might and the baby is out. She feels amazed. She feels like she had never felt before. She had delivered many projects as a manager, but nothing like this one. A small creation from her own flesh, her own blood. She holds her carefully in her arms. She touched her fingers and her toes. She presses her cheeks against her's. She nurses her. She kisses her. When she looks at her, she forgets to blink.
        Three months later. “The books said, they do not speak for months. But the baby speaks to me, all the time. She speaks through her eyes, through her little movements and of course through her loud cries” She lay awake on the bed pondering. Days pass. She nurses her. She changes diapers. She bathes her. She massages her. And she sings lullabies.
        Her mother moves in. The maternity leave ends. She joins back at work. As she arrives in her corner office, she feels strange. She had waited for this day for years. She looks at all the congratulatory mails in her computer. Her boss and team come to congratulate her on her successful project, her promotion and of course her corner office. As everyone leaves her office, she sits on her chair and stares at the monitor. She does not feel like having lunch. Hearing a sound of a bird, she stands up and opens the window. Her eyes fall on a nest in a the tree outside her office. A couple of baby mynah sit there making that sound. Mama mynah arrives flying with food in her beak and begins feeding the babies. She smiles and takes a long deep breath. She sits down to type her resignation letter.
        As she reaches home, she holds the baby in her arms again. She had missed her terribly. She is happy again, but with a difference. She does not need the adrenaline to keep going. She is at peace with her baby. She is at peace with herself.
        “You don't have to sacrifice your career for your baby” her mother says “I will take care of her” 
        “I am not sacrificing anything. I am doing this for myself” she replies.
        “Hormones at work!” her mother says “you will get to your normal form in six months”.
        Three years later.
        She enters the same office with her three year old. She tells her to sit at the sofa in the reception area and wait for her. She looks at the sign pointing to the right saying 'Engineering'. She stands there for a moment and smiles. Then she turns left following the sign saying 'Administration'. As she enters the office of the Head, Administration, she is greeted with a “Terrific work!You are a wonderful painter”. The meeting is fruitful. She gets a commission for a batch of paintings for the new office branch.
        Together they walk out of the office and move towards the parking. She stops for a moment and peeps in the corner office through the glass window. A big painting of a blooming lotus is adorning the room. Her eyes do not miss looking at her tiny signature on that painting.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Have a Nice Day

Flowers are the most beautiful creation of God. They never fail to bring a smile to my face.
Golden Yellow Chrysanthemum
Pretty Pink Carnations with lovely yellow flowers in background

The flowers have a lovely way to say
Good morning friend, Have a Nice Day!

 Thursday Challenge - Golden here

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Golden Oriole

The Golden Oriole is my current most favorite bird. It is a sheer beauty to look at. It is also very shy and I had to work extra hard to take its pictures. Let me clarify it is the male golden oriole which has this bright yellow and black plumage, the female is green and not so striking in looks. I sighted these beautiful birds in my trip to Ranthambore in August 2011.

The Gorgeous Golden Oriole
From a different angle
My beak is beautiful too

Thursday Challenge: Golden here
Our World Tuesday here

Monday, 26 September 2011

Green Bee Eater

I had taken these snaps at Ranthambore, though I have spotted quite a few of them in Gurgaon and Noida. They are easily distinguished by their tail,  the central feathers of the tail is elongated, which gives it a very interesting pointed appearance towards the end of the tail. And their beak also looks long and thin.

Chestnut color on its head

Look at the long tail

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Three Little Sparrows

Woke up in the morning and saw little sparrows sitting in my balcony, nibbling at the seeds. Very active and busy small creatures.
One Little
Two Little

Three Little Sparrows

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Birthday Surprise

When August comes, September can not be far behind! I know it rather well because August is the month when my son was born and September, when my daughter was born. So when planning for the first birthday party begins, the other one is already on my mind. This year my son turned 4 and after having been to some of the parties in the last few months, he had been asking for a birthday party. So we held a birthday party for him and invited all his friends. On the day of his birthday, my father-in-law called up in the morning and told me "Make sure my grand-daughter has also a party of the same scale". She is her first and I think his most favorite grand-child. "Of course" I told him "whatever she wants".

After my son's party got over, I asked her how she wanted to go about this year. She said she was still thinking. On 7th September, she went for an outstation school trip for 4 days and came back only on 10th September. Before going, she settled for a camera for a birthday gift from her dad and got it well before the trip. After she was back and well rested, I asked her again "Now tell me where do you want to celebrate your birthday party? Are you inviting only the girls or the entire class?" I was prepared that she may want a grander party this year, considering turning ten, a double digit age is something more special. "I don't want to hold a birthday party this year, not inviting  friends" she replied. I was dumbfounded. Last year, the planning and preparations for the birthday party had lasted for a month before the actual date. We had spent days deciding the theme and games and return gifts. "May be a trip hangover" I thought and kept quiet. Two days later I checked again "So shall we book a place for a party or you want to hold the party at home?" She was quick to reply "At home, mom. But only with family". I was puzzled. "Are you sure?"I asked "No kids around. Just the four of us?". She smiled "Well, can I call my cousins over?". I nodded, still feeling confused.

On 17th morning, just a day before her birthday I sat puzzled. "May be I should arrange a surprise party and call all her class friends over". I discussed with my husband and told him that I am feeling odd that she is not having a proper birthday party. He was cool about it "It's nothing odd". In the evening,  she casually remarked "So tomorrow is my birthday. I hope you are planning surprises for me". That's when I felt really nervous. "She is expecting surprises?". This was tricky! Planning a normal birthday party was hard work but more straightforward. I was completely clueless. At that time, I really empathized with guys who have to plan surprises for their girlfriends. While she was busy playing, I quickly checked with her "So what is your favorite color these days". I have learned that kids especially girls change their favorite color quite frequently and its always a good idea to check it out regularly. At one time, she almost worshiped pink color. Few years later, in a clothes shop, when I suggested a pink jacket for her, I was told "Come on Mom, Pink is for babies". That is when she bought black jacket and many items in black color. "Lilac. Mom. That light purple shade" she replied.

"Hmm...she wants to be surprised" I thought "A little lady after all". Before going to bed, I decided  I would pick flowers for her in the morning before she woke up. "Light purple carnations" I thought "she would love them". In the morning, I was still uneasy about the surprise part. It was like going through an exam. "What if she does not approve of the surprise?" Towards the end of the yoga class, as I lay down in Shavasan, my mind was still working actively "What if the shop does not have lilac colored flowers?". When I entered the flower shop, my fear came true. Lilac carnations were not in stock. I decided to take a chance. Dark pink carnations, not the baby pink color and yellow chrysanthemum. But I specifically asked for a light purple ribbon. That guy made a big flower from that ribbon and decorated the bouquet. I wrote a personal note on a card and he stuck it on the bouquet too. "Chocolate" I thought "would be a good addition". So with a Cadbury Silk chocolate in one hand and the flowers in the other, I rang the bell. She came to open the door and gave me a wonderful smile looking at me carrying the things. I gave her a tight hug, picked her up and took her in my arms. Picking her up (गोदी में लेना) is a difficult task these days, but it was a special occasion and she deserved it.

She liked the flowers and arranged them in a vase, but she loved the purple ribbon flower the most. Her best friend made a surprise visit and she played with her for a couple of hours before her cousins, and other relatives arrived. Unlike other days, she gave an un-inhibited tight hug to her grandmother. He grandmother gave her money this time as she wanted her to spend the way she liked. My daughter appreciated the fact that she was being trusted with taking care of the money and choosing to buy what she wanted.

All the cousins had a great time playing with each other. We ordered pizza for the kids. She cut the cake and celebrated the day at home with extended family.

In the evening, we took her to a mall so that she could pick up birthday presents for herself. She picked a night-dress and a hairband. My son was also enthusiastic about giving a gift to her and getting a return gift.  They discussed amongst each other and decided on the gifts from each other. She selected a small pouch meant for keeping traveling toiletries. It also had a few small empty bottles for keeping cream, shampoo. She has a fascination for creams, shampoos and perfumes these days. He selected a toy camera.

At night, she told me this was the best birthday she has had. I know kids tend to exaggerate their feelings but she did look peaceful and contented. I must say, the fact that she chose to spend the day with her family and cousins was very re-assuring at some level. And I also learned that to her a surprise did not mean a big thing, but her parents giving a thought to her interests and desires. A day when they make efforts to make her feel special. And of course lots and lots of love and attention from her mother.  I don't know about her, but she certainly gave me a big surprise this year!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Birds in my surroundings

Perhaps I was wrong when I thought one needs a holiday break and visit special places to watch birds. Of course, the leisure of vacations allows you to freely roam around with a pair of binocs hanging in your neck for as long as you want to. And bird sanctuaries are indeed a complete delight for a bird watcher. But sadly, all vacations get over! But what this new hobby has taught me is to have the right eye for spotting birds where ever you are. In Gurgaon itself, I have been rewarded by the sight of so many interesting birds, that I failed to notice earlier. And of course, it helps to see the familiar birds too in a different light.
I am going to try and capture these birds in my lens as and when I get an opportunity. (Please zoom for better results)

A common visitor to our homes, rock pigeon is listed amongst the most intelligent birds, who can remember a lot of images for a long time. They are supposed to have passed mirror test, which tests whether an animal can recognize its own reflection or not. Interestingly, in a famous article written in1995,Watanabe, Sakamoto and Wakita described an experiment which showed that pigeons can be trained to discriminate between painting by Picasso and Monet.

Rock Pigeon - an intelligent bird

Next is the common myna.

Common Myna
Common Myna
Then there is the house sparrow, another common visitor to homes.
House Sparrow - busy eating her lunch

After being fascinated by the Indian roller at Ranthambore for its beautiful colours, I was amazed to spot him in Gurgaon. The bird looks wonderful when in flight, especially the different blues in its wings. It's local name is Neelkanth. It is the state bird of many states including Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar and Orissa.
Early bird catches the worm

Happy after a hearty breakfast

Let me see, who's been clicking me?
This is just the beginning! I have spotted quite a few interesting birds on different days, including Greater coucal, rufous treepie, falcons etc. but yet to capture them in my lens.
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