Monday, May 31, 2010

On Trogon trail

It was one of the thickest forests still humid from night rain the heavy forecast sky had made the noon eerily dark add to it an information from the locals that king cobra was spotted on the very vicinity where my bird guide and me where in hot pursuit of Malabar trogon. A dull single tone call had alerted us, following the sound, intermittently waiting for it to repeat and adjusting our path through the undergrowth (also sucked by leeches and getting a bleeding cut on head from an ominously thorny branch-must say the omen was missed!!) we finally got the glimpse of the elusive Malabar Trogon. This bird has a peculiar defense mechanism of allowing the duller side of it to the observer and keeping still, they can like owls turn their face 180 degrees and they sit as if hunched, the moment it sense the intruder it flies to nearby branch facing the other way and so we followed, it was as if we were being led, and then it hops to the further branch. It was getting quite tiresome after an hour I declared it is futile and next to impossible to get the front view pictures but my guide was an optimistic fellow and some encouraging words we continue the chase but eventually it was spoiled by group of happy noisy hornbills.

Malabar Trogon has black head that is separated by a white ring from the bright crimson underside, the back is dull chestnut, black wings and serrated tails. These birds live exclusively on insects. They have heterodactyl toe (backward toe) arrangement and like woodpeckers can be seen clinging to branches when foraging for insects. The word "trogon" is a Greek term for nibbling as these birds gnaw holes in trees to make their nests.

Though I wasn’t able to take the photos of front view I did glimpse it, mine mine it looks as if the bird is on fire no wonder in Malayalam it is referred to as fire crows. It was worth the chase. I guess readers will have to do with these photos…well I cannot help it when the bird shows so much of nakhras !!

Marianne Moore: Literalist of the imagination

Marianne Moore (1887-1972) poems are notable for sharpness of detail, keen observation. Sometimes difficult to read they pose a challenge to the readers, she understood the power of words. To those who complained that her poetry often seemed obscure, she once replied that something that was work to write ought to be work to read. Fond of nature her imagery seemed hinged to her surroundings but pointing to profound just as in this poem “Nevertheless” what a brilliant line this one…

What is there like fortitude! What sap went through that little thread
to make the cherry red!

A trivia: she was big fan of Muhammad Ali !!!. Also that she was asked to suggest names for a car brand…she came out with amazingly ridiculous ones like Resilient Bullet, Ford Silver Sword, Mongoose Civique, Varsity Stroke and yes the clincher Utopian Turtletop....all were rejected!!


you've seen a strawberry
that's had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds. What better food

than apple seeds - the fruit
within the fruit - locked in
like counter-curved twin

hazelnuts? Frost that kills
the little rubber-plant -
leaves of kok-sagyyz-stalks, can't

harm the roots; they still grow
in frozen ground. Once where
there was a prickley-pear -

leaf clinging to a barbed wire,
a root shot down to grow
in earth two feet below;

as carrots from mandrakes
or a ram's-horn root some-
times. Victory won't come

to me unless I go
to it; a grape tendril
ties a knot in knots till

knotted thirty times - so
the bound twig that's under-
gone and over-gone, can't stir.

The weak overcomes its
menace, the strong over-
comes itself. What is there

like fortitude! What sap
went through that little thread
to make the cherry red!

The fish

through black jade
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
injured fan.
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices–
in and out, illuminating
turquoise sea
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron through the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
rice-grains, ink-
bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.
marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice–
all the physical features of
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.


My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self reliant like the cat --
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth --
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "`Make my house your inn'."
Inns are not residences.


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry

Friday, May 21, 2010

Flowerpeckers: little birds that have tremendous impact

There are few species of Flowerpeckers found in India: Thick billed, Tickell’s and Plain (or Nilgiri). Tickell’s flowerpecker and plain flowerpecker are same in every respect except that in Tickell’s the bill is fleshy coloured while in Plain they are dark. Flowerpeckers could be mistaken for female sunbird for its dull plumage. It is one of the smallest birds (about 3 inches) but it makes up for its size by its deed. Feeds mainly on fruits of harmful parasitic plant of the genus loranthus (Dendrophthoe), they in turn are responsible for spreading this plant. Purely arboreal these are restless birds and flies from one tree to another with a characteristic incessant chik chik squeak. The berry is tested with its beak and ripe ones are gulped, after downing few berries it sits motionless and soon seeds are defecated- the whole digestion seems to last few minutes, and off the bird goes chirping. These defecated seeds covered with mucous get stuck to the branches and help sprouting the parasitic plant. With the help of these tiny birds the plant spread to other trees in the vicinity. For a small bird that is quite an effort!. (Pictures taken near Dubare elephant camp).

Canadian poet Bliss Carman (1861-1929): I came across some splendid collection of poems by Carman in Most poems are quite long I am quoting few lines that I prefer. He is quite a fun to read...

Joys of the road

Now the joys of the road are chiefly these:
A crimson touch on the hard-wood trees;

A vagrant's morning wide and blue,
In early fall when the wind walks, too;

A shadowy highway cool and brown,
Alluring up and enticing down

From rippled water to dappled swamp,
From purple glory to scarlet pomp;

The outward eye, the quiet will,
And the striding heart from hill to hill;

Few more stanzas from the same poem…

No fidget and no reformer, just
A calm observer of ought and must,

A lover of books, but a reader of man,
No cynic and no charlatan,

Who never defers and never demands,
But, smiling, takes the world in his hands,—

Seeing it good as when God first saw
And gave it the weight of his will for law.

And O the joy that is never won,
But follows and follows the journeying sun

In the wings
The play is Life; and this round earth,
The narrow stage whereon
We act before an audience
Of actors dead and gone.

There is a figure in the wings
That never goes away,
And though I cannot see his face,
I shudder while I play.

His shadow looms behind me here,
Or capers at my side;
And when I mouth my lines in dread,
Those scornful lips deride.

Sometimes a hooting laugh breaks out,
And startles me alone;
While all my fellows, wondering
At my stage-fright, play on.

I fear that when my Exit comes,
I shall encounter there,
Stronger than fate, or time, or love,
And sterner than despair,

The Final Critic of the craft,
As stage tradition tells;
And yet-perhaps ’twill only be
The jester with his bells.

These few lines from the poem “At the Granite Gate

There paused to shut the door
A fellow called the Wind.
With mystery before,
And reticence behind,
A portal waits me too
In the glad house of spring,
One day I shall pass through
And leave you wondering.
It lies beyond the marge
Of evening or of prime,
Silent and dim and large,
The gateway of all time

This one “In the Workshop” is such a charming poem…(and how does he comes out with name like Beezlebub?!!)

Once in the Workshop, ages ago,
The clay was wet and the fire was low.

And He who was bent on fashioning man
Moulded a shape from a clod,
And put the loyal heart therein;
While another stood watching by.

"What's that?" said Beelzebub.
"A lover," said God.
And Beelzebub frowned, for he knew that kind.

And then God fashioned a fellow shape
As lithe as a willow rod,
And gave it the merry roving eye
And the range of the open road.

"What's that?" said Beelzebub.
"A vagrant," said God.
And Beelzebub smiled, for he knew that kind.

And last of all God fashioned a form,
And gave it, what was odd,
The loyal heart and the roving eye;
And he whistled, light of care.

"What's that?" said Beelzebub.
"A poet," said God.
And Beelzebub frowned, for he did not know.

These two poems I wrote the other day…


The soul closes its window
and deems it opportune to interrogate itself
Tumbles down mishaps, vagrant sins
and some nasty surprises.
Embarrassed confessions
and transgressions that ask for forgiveness.
Just in time it wavers
and all punishments abdicate for self love
The case dismissed with not as much
a warning.

Morning walk in the countryside

Nothing ever failed the specter
the flowers indeed beam
in the mesh of early sun
herons float over verdant green
O what a delight this moment
the gush of the breeze
and clapping leaves

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Open bill stork

Open bill is the commonest stork found in India. Highly gregarious they are seen in noisy colonies adjacent to water bodies, an able flier they soar to great heights. The distinct feature of this stork is open gap in the middle part of the bill, earlier erroneously believed due to wear and tear but now we know it is an adaptation to grasp large fresh water snails on which it feeds.

Anna Akhmatova: a tormented mouth through which hundred million people scream…

Anna Akhmatova (1899-1966) is someone I have read before and it actually surprises me that I haven’t written about her in this blog much earlier. Born in Ukraine she took the pen name of her great grand mother “Akhmatova” as her father refused her to lend his name. She became a cult figure in Russia with her first collections of poem itself. She experienced repressive regime of Stalin but refused to immigrate and suffered much.

These lines from part of much popular “Requiem” on horror of Stalin’s massacres, it was banned and could be published only in 1987.

The hour has come to remember the dead.
I see you, I hear you, I feel you:
The one wh
o resisted the long drag to the open window;
The one who could no longer feel the kick of familiar
soil beneath her feet;
The one who, with a sudden flick of her head, replied,

'I arrive here as if I've come home!'
I'd like to name you all by name, but the list
Has been removed and there is nowhere else to look.
I have woven you this wide shroud out of the humble
I overheard you use. Everywhere, forever and always,
I will never forget one single thing. Even in new
Even if they clamp shut my tormented mouth
Through which one hundred million people scream;
That's h
ow I wish them to remember me when I am dead
On the eve of my remembrance day.
If someone someday in this country
Decides to raise a memorial to me,
I give my consent to this festivity
But only on this condition - do not build it
By the sea where I was born,
I have severed my last ties with the sea;
Nor in the Tsar's Park by the hallowed stump
Where an inconsolable shadow looks for me;
Build it here where I stood for three hundred hours
And no-one slid open the bolt.
Listen, even in blissful death I fear
That I will forget the Black Marias,
Forget how hatefully the door slammed and an old woman
Howled like a wounded beast.
Let the tha
wing ice flow like tears
From my immovable bronze eyelids
And let the prison dove coo in the distance
While ships sail quietly along the river.

Another stanza…

The word landed with a stony thud
Onto my still-beating breast.
Nevermind, I was prepared,
I will manage with the rest.

I have a lot of work to do today;
I need to slaughter memory,
Turn my living soul to stone
Then teach myself to live again. . .

But how. The hot summer rustles
Like a carni
val outside my window;
I have long had this premonition
Of a bright day and a deserted house.

This from “Secrets of Craft

I have no use for regimental odes,
Or the impassioned elegiac hoax.
I make my verses quite beside the point
Made by the just, plain folks.
I wish you knew the kind of garbage heap
Wild verses grow on, paying shame no heed,
Like dandelions yellowing a fence,
Like burdock and bindweed...
An angered yell, the bracing scent of tar,
And walls with runic mildew like a sign...
And soon a tender, testy poem answers
To your delight and mine.

I hear the oriole's always-grieving voice

I hear the oriole's always-grieving voice,
And the rich summer's welcome loss I hear
In the sickle's serpentine hiss
Cutting the corn's ear tightly pressed to ear.
And the short skirts of the slim reapers
Fly in the wind like holiday pennants,
The clash of joyful cymbals, and creeping
From under dusty lashes, the long glance.

I don't expect love's tender flatteries,
In premonition of some dark event,
But come, come and see this paradise
Where together we were blessed and innocent.

I Taught Myself To Live Simply

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

These two poems I wrote the other day:

Today I am silent
as if a brother has died somewhere
I have seen this in my dream many a times:
A child rushes from crowd and asks for direction
then there is no one on the flat dry earth
for many a distance.
I wish it were dark.

When terror escapes the face
to a calm realization
it is too late for the dead.
A question nevertheless.
Would he go to the war?
If the realization had preceded the terror
or would he ignore his conscience
and kill
for his nation
for his religion
for his want
later justify his incursions
and spent rest of his life on these shifted spaces
on probation with himself.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spotted babblers

Being rarely arboreal, spending much of its life on ground searching for insects on fallen leaves and undergrowth, they are alert to approaching footsteps and run away with harsh alarm calls at the earliest. I have seen this bird few times before but it is first time am able to take the pictures. And quite surprisingly the bird was least intimidated by my presence, that left me intrigued. A bit of thinking and everything was falling into place. It so happened I was at Nandi hills few weeks back, its about 2-3hours from Bangalore. These hills are fast acquiring as the destination to be in and are known for its salubrious weather and the sight from these hills of Bangalore is beholding in particular at night. The place is also ‘notorious’ for couples who come for “epidermal exploration”, for such act seclusion is necessary prerequisite, and bushes of these hills are quite apt. It’s been happening for ages and is most likely that the habitats in the region too have got used to homo sapiens moving surreptitiously in bushes. Talking of bushy encounters this blogger too has much experience, not really proud of this past (the brutal rape at Budha garden really shook me…it was a place I used to frequent with someone or other. One day I decided no more this kind of crap so that was it). I have absolutely nothing against couples satiating hormonal demands but sometimes chasing some bird you end up at awkward scene in a particularly inopportune moment (well atleast from the couple’s perspective!!), in hindi they call it kabab meh haddi!!. Take this very instance I was very much engrossed with spotted babbler and after half an hour or so heard some coughing, realized I was almost over a couple!!. Don’t know who was more embarrassed!!. Tourist spots and park are never my favorite places but must say this bird was worth it and yes I almost caught Oriental White Eye (one brilliant blog even mentioned the location of tree I should keep an eye on for white eye!!) but for a bunch of families who seem to have landed up from nowhere and the younger crowded around me insisting that I should point to them what I was photographing!!. Overall I must say Nandi Hills has been a disappointment, and to add to the discomfort there is a temple too that blares noise from gargling speaker. God save.

Spotted babblers are found at 1400ft and above, small olive-brown bird with rufous cap and heavily streaked breast. They are generally heard more than seen. So I can consider myself fortunate to get these amazing pictures.

Hafiz: the man who knew the sense in humor

Hafiz (real name Shams-ud-din Mohammad Hafiz Shirazi, lived around 14century) was one of the greatest and most beloved Persian poet. I came across Hafiz more than a decade back when I was into Sufism and spent some time exploring Sufi mystics and so on. Hafiz is about love, love that transcends…but what people seem to miss about Hafiz is the humor, indeed it is a humor that is not very apparent and understood in completeness of life, now that is what I found amazing. It is in that mystical land of craziness and utmost profoundness he dwelled. Hafiz’s brightness was in his easiness and playfulness of words and thoughts. Hafiz is about freedom. These are English translations so one will have to bear with it.

The Days Of Spring

The days of Spring are here! the eglantine,
The rose, the tulip from the dust have risen--
And thou, why liest thou beneath the dust?
Like the full clouds of Spring, these eyes of mine
Shall scatter tears upon the grave thy prison,
Till thou too from the earth thine head shalt thrust.

This from “I heard God laughing

Would you think it odd if Hafiz said

“I am in love with every church
and mosque
and temple
and any kind of shrine

Because I know it is there
that people say the different names
of the One Gods”

Would you tell your friends
I was bit strange if I admitted
I am in love with every mind
and heart and body.

O i am sincerely
plumb crazy
about your every thoug
ht and yearning
and limb.

Because, my dear,
I know it is through these
That you search for him

I loved this one. What a charming little poem. It is from his famous collection “The subject tonight is love

The happy virus

I caught the hap
py virus last night
When I was out singing beneath the stars.
It is remarkably contagious
So kiss me

With Gold

Those lovely ones of the world one can bait with gold,
because of them, happily one can’t enjoy fate with gold.
See the narcissus that possesses the crown of the world
how its head also bends, from being straight, with gold.

And this another charming one

Some consolation

A moon whose shape was straight like the tall cypress,
straightened her fa
ce while holding mirror in her caress.
When I offered her the handkerchief she then said this:
"You seek union? At least your imagination isn’t a mess!"

Another one…

Preachers who at the altar and the pulpit a great display make,
when into pri
vacy they go, business of a different way make.

My soul is full of amazement at such brazen-faced preachers,
who practice so little of what on pulpit a display they make.

I’ve a difficulty to be put to the wise ones of the congregation ...
‘Why don’t they do penance, who it the order of the day make?’

You may say that they don’t believe in the Day of Judgement,
since in the business of the Judge, fraud and deceit they make.

Lord, place such upstart owners of new wealth on their asses,
for of having Turkish slave and ass, they boasts today make.

I’m the slave of the Master of the Winehouse, whose disciples

independently fling dust on all riches that the world may make.

You beggar of the monastery, leap up: in the Master’s dwelling
they give the pure liquid, that all hearts strong and gay make.

Make your house empty of idols so it can be Beloved’s home:
for the lustful, heart and soul a place for others to stay make.

O no, these clever ones full of deceit who don’t see the jewel,
equation that shell is worth the same as the pearl they make.

At dawn from God’s Throne was commotion as wisdom spoke ...
it could be said ‘Angels, a song from Hafiz’s verse today make.’


Now the rose breathes the breeze of the garden of Paradise,
together am I and wine of Joy, Beloved with Heavenly eyes.

Today, why shouldn’t the beggar be boasting of a kingdom;
the feasting table is breadth of creation, roof is milky skies.

Maker of Life explains with Spring the only truthful story:
he who ignores today’s beautiful glory, is tomorrow unwise.

With the wine of Love fill the heart beyond overflowing:
for this rotten world is nothing but dust, everything dies.

This enemy is unfaithful: so don’t try to get even a spark
from the hermit’s candle, lit by lamp of a church that dies.

Don’t criticise me for mistakes I’ve made due to ignorance:
do you know the pathways carved on my skull by the tides?

Don’t you walk away from this graveside of Hafiz, because,
although buried in mistakes, he is traveling to Paradise.