Thursday, 21 April 2016

Queen of the Hills Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

Queen of the Hills Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: Massoorie, a hill station in the North of India is a place worth visiting for its scenic beauty!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Photographing Wildlife at a Bird Sanctuary

Photographing wildlife can often be a challenge for those who wake up late and start late. We were told by the ticket seller at the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, about 23 kilometers from Gurgaon that the ideal time for birdwatching is seven in the morning. The Sultanpur Bird sanctuary is home to a large number of migratory birds that fly in from all over the world during the winter season. The birds begin leaving the bird sanctuary by the middle of February. The Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary is also home to native species of birds and animals like the Peacock, Neel Gai or the Asian Deer, and the spotted owl.

Sights such as these are common during the winter season especially when the birds lay their eggs and wait for their hatchlings to grow strong enough for the flight back home. A large number of birds-species lay their eggs in nests built on the ground itself. The park employes workers to pile mounds of grass so that the birds can lay their eggs on them.

The painted stork is a regular visitor to the bird sanctuary, and although it is a graceful bird in flight, I couldn't help taking this snap which makes it look ungainly!

My cousin brother, Ernest and my brother Sanjay would certainly agree that the offsprings of the Neelgai look rather cute during the winter season!

A lot of the wildlife species at the bird sanctuary have to however vye with their domesticated relatives for food and space. Thus domesticated cattle can be found grazing in the bird sanctuary too!

The roller bird might often be confused with the kinfisher, but then unlike the kingfisher it as a thinner and narrower beak and unlike the kingfisher, it is not red!

The best gear for taking snaps of birds and animals at the bird sancuary would include a decent DSLR with a 55-250 mm lens. The 250 mm lens is handy and you will not require a tripod. Often haveing a larger zoom lens might hamper your movements, and what matters so much is alertness, presence of mind and a total connect with the place!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Inter-Species Cooperation Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

Inter-Species Cooperation Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: While going through some of my archive, I came across this photograph that I had taken a few years back at a lake called Damdama, close to Gurgaon. The Damdama Lake is now drying up and will soon disappear since it is drying up at a fast rate. I wanted to share this snap for posterity so that future generations might know about this lake and the wild life that it was once home to!

A Balancing Act Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

A Balancing Act Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: The Damdama Lake is drying up. A favourite refuge for some of the migratory birds, Damdama Lake is drying up because of the apathy of people who matter. Situated about twenty-three kilometers from Gurgaon, Damdama used to be full of fish and native species. Situated in the Aravalli mountains, the oldest mountains in India, the lake is threatened by developmental activities. The photograph symbolises the fine balance that exists between man and nature!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Is Digitisation Changing What We Read And How We Read?

Digitisation is changing the way we read!
A recent reading of an article by Hugh McGuire titled, 'Why can't we read anymore?' struck a chord with me when I noticed that much of what he had written is true, including the fact that reading exhausts most of us and a good number of us even fall asleep midway while reading a book. Some of us will recall waking up so often with a start to see the book lying on the floor, (or on the bed) and then deciding to call it quits, putting the book away to go off to sleep. How many of us, I wonder will confess being unable to read a whole book throughout the night;not being able to finish it before the break of dawn? Many of those who belong to my generation, will recall having read an interesting book through the night, whether it was an adventure by Sir Henry Rider Haggard, or a fantasy by E.E. Nesbit. What has changed today is that few of us who once skimmed the pages at a steady five hundred to five hundred and fifty w.p.m. (Words per minute) can even manage  a few sentences before turning to our internet enabled gadgets to check an update!
With digitisation ushering an era of multi-tasking, it is no wonder that we are not able to read anything at a stretch without 'that little itch at the back of my mind' according to Hugh McGuire, prompting me to switch off from reading to browsing the net! Digitisation has also brought down our attention span from five minutes or so to eight point two seconds! This drastic reduction in attention span is certainly alarming as it clearly changing the way we learn things, the way we perceive things, and even our ability to maintain social, conjugal and familial relationships! 
I would like to claim that I am still an avid reader, what with being a member of The British Council Library now for more than twenty years now, and having an ever expanding collection of books at home today, but then I would like to confess that I am finding it increasingly difficult to read  Greek classics by Homer, treatises by Plato, or even the more recent novels by Tolstoy, George Eliot, or even Charles Dickens. It is not that they aren't any longer relevant to us, rather it is that I don't have the patience to read them. The thickness of a book is often daunting for all confessed bookworms today and it is for this reason that shorter novels or novellas are back in fashion! No wonder, I was advised by a senior journalist whom I came across at the Doordarshan Studio in New Delhi to write very short novels of not more than a hundred and fifty pages and to price them accordingly! I guess pulp fiction and Mills and Boon should do a good job these days!
We are living in the age of instant gratification when the instant coffee approach is favoured more than the bread making approach, unless of course you want to be called a slow-coach, or even a nerd! Digitisation and connectivity have made it more important for us to conform to popular trends today. No wonder, reading books is out, while chatting, tweets, and sms is in. If you are reading, the it had better be something light, and it should be on a device that helps you switch over from reading an e-book to responding to a Whats App message, most probably an I Pad or a smart phone! 
That digitisation has effected a lot of change in what we read and how we read stuff came to me while going through a book of short stories that was published on Wattpad. This book contains short stories that are two  sentence long!The book is titled: 'Extremely Short Horror Stories (Two Sentence Horror stories). Of course they make sense, but then it made me wonder if this is to be the future of reading, single sentence short stories, or maybe single paragraph novels! While going through their prescribed novel with my grade twelve students, I came across a number of students who believed there was no point in reading the whole novel when they might watch a film! The students felt that reading the novel was too time consuming, boring and tiring and instead they wanted notes that would help them with their character and plot based questions. The same happened with my grade eleven students who found it tough going through their play which was based on The Salem Witch Hunt trials.
That it is digitisation that has changed the way we read and what we read seems clear to me when I realise that most of the active readers who come to the library to issue books ( Even if they are the Percy Jackson series or Hunger Games series) belong to grades six to nine. This is apparently because these children have been least affected by digitisation, and they still have a good enough attention span than their elder siblings or even their teachers who are fully hooked into the digital world! Researchers need to figure out why children who cross fourteen years of age begin losing interest in reading books. While no doubt, people might argue that there is no harm in switching  modes and technologies like for example word of mouth being replaced by print, vinyl and cassette tapes being replaced by CDs.,one wonders, however if diminishing attention and concentration spans augur any good!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

One Has Been There! A Poem

One has Been There!

One has been there and returned all in one piece, 
Where the whispers do float down like flakes
Of snow, and one's vantage point helps one
See the others struggling to reach .

One has been there and returned to yell with
Delight, 't'is better to be free! like the starlings
Than to be bound in chains to receive stinging
Barbs and not react!' (One would rather not be a bag for punching.)

One had been where the corridors echo with whispers, 
And echoes of power like little gods' instructions,
 To spur lesser mortals  on to greater heights - even as
  They toil up the slope for the prize that they think awaits them!

One has been where the reigns of toiling horses are placed in 
Capricious hands, like a quartet dragging a carriage, in
A hurry, on a road that twists and turns at will! For to win
Would be a personal glory that One would rather not share!

One had been there when they gloated over spilt blood,
And nodding their heads like sages, went through a flood
Of evidences provided by sycophants and flatterers with a hood
Of secrecy as they sift through complaints n tears that stink of falsehood!

One has been there and returned all in one piece, 
Unbound and free, to spread my wings and explore anew-
Other corridors that whisper, but to be bound would not one
Suit, but to see those that toil up a dusty slope does hurt one so!

Far be it for me to hide behind a cloak of sagacious mess, t'is true
That the gods do play a game of carrion, simply to satiate a thirst of
Whim, and capriciousness, but to be a pawn would want one naught,
But to surf the streams that blow would please one most!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

'Birth' a lesson in the grade eleven textbook Snapshots gains its strength from its autobiograpical element!

Just today, while browsing through some books in the library, I came across a condensed version of The Citadel, a novel by A.J. Cronin. Incidentally, the lesson "Birth", appearing in the literature textbook, Vistas is an extract that has been taken from The Citadel. What makes 'The Birth' such a powerful and touching lesson with such a strong human interest element, is that it is based on the actual life of A.J. Cronin as a young doctor. On digging deeper into Cronin's biography it one realises that Andrew Manson and Cronin are one and the same! 
A.J. Cronin fell back on his experiences of medical practice in Welsh Mining towns. It is this first hand experience that gives life to the characters of Mr. Morgan, his wife, his mother in law and the midwife. The extract taken from The Citadel describes the disappointment, frustration, and sense of hopelessness that a young doctor feels when he lands up in a small town of miners with little or no facilities. To make matters worse is the fact that the man under whom he has to serve has suffered from a stroke that has left him paralysed in one side of his body. The surgery itself is "a ramshackle" erection at the entrance to Page's drive." Page, incidentally was the principal under whom he was to serve. The cynical comments made by the people he comes across suggests that Andrew has probably come to the wrong place, this gives rise to a nagging doubt in his heart about the appropriateness of the decision to start work in a small Welsh mining town. Old Thomas tells him that, "Last assistant went ten days ago. Mostly they don't stop."
In spite of all the discouragement that Dr.Andrew Manson receives from the people, he stays on in Drineffy, a small mining town in Wales. What makes the extract 'Birth' worth reading and thereby 'The Citadel' a must read, is the interesting autobiographical descriptions of how the his experiences in this small town made him a better person, not just emotionally but also professionally. The whole novel, and the extract have as their basis the near impossible moment when Dr Andrew Manson was able revive a still-born child born to the Morgan family. This was a miracle, a high point in this young Doctor's life as aprofessional. It was a reaffirmation of his skills as a doctor! In many ways, his  remembering a similar instance of asphyxia pallida and how it was treated is a strong example how to be successful in life sometimes requires going beyond the textbook!
Dr. Andrew Manson was overwhelmed by the dilemma of whether to revive the baby first, o the mother. Fortunately he made the correct decision, and the success that he got out of this gave him even more reason to rejoice being a doctor in a small town with little or no facilities. One very important lesson that Andrew Manson learns from this incident, and through him the reader is that professional satisfaction is dependant on a feeling of worth, and this feeling of worth comes from realising that you did your level best and came out with flying colours in spite of the odds. A feeling of self worth can also be achieved when you are working in a small village with little or no facilities, and what really matters is not glitz and glamour of working for a hi fi organisation, but rather is is about knowing that you have made a valuable contribution to the society, knowing that you have brought joy and happiness to someone.
The Morgan's wanted the baby very badly, they had been waiting for this baby for many years. They had placed great hope on the Doctor, if he failed then how much more disappointed and broken they would all be! The miracle that took that night changed the lives of many people, it changed  the lives of the Morgans, it changed Andrew Manson's outlook towards life, he woul not have felt depressed or disappointed about having to work in a small, little known mining town in Wales. What mattered was that he had done something great and he felt great about it!