Tuesday, December 18, 2007

“Consumerism and materialism deadlier than armed occupation”
Ramsey Clark,former U.S. Attorney General, on globalisation, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, the Iraq war, and more.... (this is an interview that appeared in The Hindu on 17th Dec 07.)
Here's an excerpt:
The sweep of globalisation, strongly associated with accepting U.S.-style capitalism, has spawned fresh inequities across the world. How do you perceive the phenomena?
It’s a terrible threat to civilisation, to humanity: not only a political threat, an obviously economic one, but at the most fundamental human level a threat to distinct cultures — the same technology, the same entertainment, the same fast foods so to speak. Based on economic power, it is pushing itself into different parts of the world. Consumerism and materialism have a power of their own and perhaps the greatest victim is culture that in a way represents the accumulative imagination, the pains, suffering, and history of the people.
But there has been the emergence of alternative strategies for development in different parts of the world to counter the one under whose cover the U.S. is alleged to be establishing its hegemony.
I see an enormous increase in awareness to the problems thrown up by the globalisation process. As an optimist I think we can see a slowing down in the rate of globalisation and more importantly an awareness of its true meaning, what it is doing to individual societies. Globalisation is often perceived to be a mirror image of neo-colonialism. Would you agree?
The difference between the old imperialism and the new globalisation process is illustrated well in India. The country suffered the brutalities of foreign domination, the impoverishment that resulted from it. But until globalisation, if you look at the Indian movie industry for instance, its facial aspects remained Indian. Now, with the intensity of globalisation reaching into every little corner of life, even the comedians, the jokes, the rhythm of the music has started changing.
This really makes consumerism and materialism deadlier than armed occupation.
In the old colonialism you at least knew who your enemy was, you felt the knife on the back. You knew what had to be done if you wanted a better life. In the new consumerism you are captive and unaware. When the prisoner is unaware of his chains then it’s hopeless. If you look at globalisation you are completely captive in imagination and desires and this is where the greatest danger lies.
Yet you have countries in different parts of the world that are closing ranks against the U.S. designs of world dominance.
Domination in itself is hard work. You dominate to exploit. That is how you get your wealth. You hold others down and get your wealth. But you also distract them so that they cannot see the changes, see what you’re doing to them. If you look at the new independence in Latin America, it is startling. You have the old Cuban revolution whose survival is a miracle; the country has the highest reading scores, the [highest] maths score in the hemisphere in their grammar schools though under powerful sanctions for decades. Then you look at Venezuela, what is happening in Argentina. You look at Brazil and Chile where a woman who was imprisoned by Pinochet and whose father was murdered by him in 1974 is President. These countries have broken their chains and they are coming up.
I think India too sees the enemy in ways it never has never before. So does China. There is power in this region, given the sizes of these two countries — which the U.S. cannot manipulate and handle very easily. So what we have to do is to spread an understanding of the problem. The imbalances in military power can mean us going in for an awfully bloody time if we do not see it.
But above all we have to come up back to values that are better than simply consumerism — that which means ‘I want things, I want better food, a better house, a bigger car’; that which means ‘I want to buy my kid every toy in the world.’
Don't miss the full interview at:

Monday, December 17, 2007

When there was only one news channel...

The news of Tejeshwar Singh’s demise instantly took me back those growing-up years when TV news was synonymous with Doordarshan news. I remember him for something more than his rich baritone voice, and the bearded look that kept several of his female fans glued to TV during his news reading session. For me, he represented a time when news reading was an innocuous activity devoid of any present-day aggressive sensationalism, and it was to be passively watched and listened to as the newscaster read the bulletin with few actual video footages and fewer live reports. The voice of the newscaster, the diction, and the delivery style could command and hold the attention of any viewer, whatever may be the news content. Tejeshwar's voice had that rare magical quality.

That was the time when there was no breaking news, no citizen journalists and absolutely no advertisements. Competition among news channels and commercial dimensions was unheard of, since DD was the only channel for news and entertainment. That was also the time when watching news was more of an after-dinner activity when all of us would sit in front of our B&W Dyanora TV in our CIEFL campus house. That was when news reporting was still conservative, cautious, non-commercial and staid sort of a presentation in a bureaucratic style fully owned by the government channel. That age belonged to news readers like Komal G B Singh, Tejeshwar Singh, Ramu Damodaran, Neeti Ravindran, Rini Khanna and the likes - all TV stars in their own right and their voice was the voice of the medium, be it for DD documentaries, live show commentaries, international film or cultural festivals or even a funeral or a swearing-in ceremony of a natioan leader. Perhaps, that was also the time when fledglings like Rajdeep Sardesai and others were being mentored by Dr.Pronnoy Roy whose ‘World this Week’ was hugely popular.

Cut to 2007...looks like we've come a long way in news broadcast: today news is not read, it's presented and anchored, and it’s a commercial commodity that competes globally with other channels. It involves direct and live reporting, sting operations and exciting exposes. It calls for people to ‘participate’ through SMS and amateur videos. It has Rajdeep, Barkha, Anubha, Udayan and Pronnoy who sustain our curiousity for information and present tons of it, as and when it happens.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In the event of fire...

Today we had an emergency fire evacuation drill in our IT Park. I must tell you this was the best ‘event’ of its kind in all my years here. As it was an 'emergency’ (a mock one though) we were informed at a very short notice to assemble at the ‘Assembly Points’. When the person-in-charge of the ‘show’ (the expert Mr. Moiz Ahmed from Bangalore) saw most of us walking leisurely towards the lawns he began to shout into the mic, ‘walk brisk ! walk brisk!’. Apparently, it was his way of replicating the sense of urgency in the event of real mishap. But most people were very casual and didn’t seem to pay attention to his call. In fact, we took it up as one of those routine drills when we are trained to use the emergency staircases to reach the ground floor.

Next minute Ahmed turned pretty serious and made us realize the importance of such a drill and how we should prepare ourselves for such a calamity. Nevertheless, he didn’t seem satisfied with the response of the people around. What was interesting in the whole exercise was the way in which he could motivate us to listen, realize the significance and involve ourselves in the demonstration. Instead of a theory class on crisis management, Ahmed used several techniques to make it an inspiring call to handle such crises in real life. Here are some points from the way he managed the whole ‘event’ successfully:

  • Loud voice on the mic and a stern tone that was audible to remotest part of our IT Park
  • Use of humor and wit right from the time he introduced himself through conducting the whole show, narration of real life stories about how people lost their lives in such incidents
  • Examples from landmark fire accidents in our country, that could immediately grab our attention and make us want to listen to him
  • Use of some key words like 'it’s not the fire that kills you, it’s the smoke and panic' lecture-demos, wherein we could comfortably view how one should handle such a disaster
  • Appreciation of volunteers from the audience and make them feel special, for instance, he referred to them with the names of celebrities
  • Professional demos on operating the fire extinguisher and dealing with casualty

It really requires some extraordinary people skills to turn an uninspiring topic like fire safety into an ‘entertaining’ show that invited public applause at regular intervals. At times, Ahmed resembled a magician who performs several feats on the stage and invites participation from the audience. This was a good example of how one can add elements of edutainment in a serious topic. Well, thirty years of experience in Fire Department is not something that can be taken lightly! On my way back home, I saw him repeating this session for other buildings in the IT park with same gusto and fervor.

Monday, June 11, 2007

OTC drugs at Medical retail outlets

Last weekend was my annual bout of cold and viral infection. It was time for me to 'update my anti-virus' with new dosage of antibiotics prescribed by my physician. Whenever I fall sick, I prefer to call the medical shop for home delivery of medicines. This time when I called up, the shop, the counter guy promptly told me that there was nobody available for home delivery and it may take hours since it was a Sunday. Nevertheless, I reeled out my list of medication on phone and told him that I’d come and collect it personally. Well, it was not all that comfortable when I had to gear up for that quick drive with my running nose, sneezes and feverish feeling, coupled with the general irritation that there was nobody around to help me avoid going out in that muggy weather.

Of late I started visiting new MedPlus retail chain, because that’s the closest to where I live. In fact, you can find at least four such shops in about 2 kilometers radius. (I'm not sure if such a mushrooming of medical outlets is a good sign keeping in view the general tendency of people to pop in a pill at their own risk)

In the shop, there were already five customers waiting for the medicines out of which only one had a valid prescription. Others were all OTC customers with 'self-prescribed' drugs. One of them was reeling out names of several tablets and capsules (most of them seemed to be vitamins and dietary supplements) and when the guy at the counter was unable to match his speed, he even helped him with the numbers/codes with which they classify the medicines. I was simply amazed at the ease with which he recollected the numbers and location of those rows of identical boxes. Perhaps, he was a regular customer and he could point out where which medicine was stored. Of course, his unusual memory helped the shop guy to speed up his search but it suggested a quite a dangerous trend - how easily people can buy various types of drugs without any formal presription from the physician! To top it, 'customer-friendly' retailing such as home-delivery and 24X7 availability also encourages people to pick any pill that they feel is right for that moment - right from vitamins to antibiotics.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Retail Blitzkrieg

The retail boom in India has just begun. With giants like Reliance, ITC, Pantaloons, Bharti etc jumping into this bandwagon (Walmart not far away), this blitzkrieg may simply wipe out all the small and medium vendors. We also hear that global players like Walmart are not keen on sourcing the products locally, they may do it from China where they get better margins.This boom may certainly increase employment opportunities for the huge number of youth in the country, the job market being projected at one lakh plus. There's a serious point of concern here. What would be the plight of local traders, the kirana shops and supermarkets from whom we’ve been buying our grocery for ages? We can already see the impact of Reliance Fresh on push-cart vendors and the like. Competing with it are Fresh@, and other similar ventures.

There’s no doubt that big retails outlets offer more variety, at competitive prices. But I sometimes found it difficult to resist my temptation to buy more and often buy ‘unnecessary’ stuff getting lured by the brand or display. A small outlet close to my home would serve my needs in a better way, where my purchases are need-driven and not greed-driven. Added to it are questions about sourcing the produce. Who’s actually getting benefited in the whole chain? Government initiatives like Rythu Bazaar can save the farmers from the middlemen to some extent, but I’ve often found these direct sellers cheating people in weighing the stuff as the prices are fixed.

One of the ways to face the giants is prepare small vendors like the push-cart guys. This is how ITC is planning to compete with big brands by giving professional training and customer skills to these people whose livelihood depends on day-today sales. Sounds like a workable strategy to combat the undesirable effects of giant retails.

Going Mangoes

Mangoes and summer go together. Remember those days when as kids we enjoyed picking up tiny mangoes that fall after a heavy summer shower or a hailstorm. How we relished the tangy sourness of the tender fruit. Or, the thrill of plucking mangoes by climbing a tree. I’m sure each of us has a story to tell when it comes to mangoes and our adventures under the mango tree or time spent in mango orchards. Summer vacation was virtually a mango treat! Mangoes after breakfast or occasional Aamras with poori or dosa, mangoes as dessert and of course a piece or two soon after dinner. My mother generally insists on drinking a cup of milk after eating mangoes, perhaps to reduce the acidity.

In my campus house we had two mango trees. But the yield was not so good, by the time the trees really matured we moved out of campus. Several houses, especially the Director’s bungalow had several Banginapally mangoes. We never missed our share of naturally ripened mangoes from them and also from some other profs gardens.

Aam ka panha is a coolant made from raw mangoes. Mummy used to always make it ready when we came back home after writing our final exams. In fact, a paste made with raw mango pulp and cumin powder was applied on the soles and palms to reduce the effects of sunstroke. Pickling mangoes is an annual ritual that has its own charm. There was a sense of anticipation about the whole process, cleaning and drying them, grinding the spices, adding the right brand of oil. And there you are! The taste of fresh Avakai or the North Indian style pickle in mustard oil and occasionally the sweet pickle, or even the scraped chutney type of pickle… the list goes on. New pickles would be exchanged between neighbors and friends. I simply enjoyed the Maagai from my Telugu friends which we never made at home.

Today eating mangoes are not free of toxins. This lovely golden colored fruit with heavenly taste is being ruthlessly exploited for commercial reasons. With all the best varieties being exported to other countries, we are left with not-so-good ones. This link tells you more about how dangerous these toxins can be.


Alternatively check out for naturally ripened fruits. These are mostly sold directly by farmers. We also have several retail outlets claiming to sell such fruits. However, I was quite disappointed whenever I spent exorbitantly on varieties like Alphoso. Dasheri and Langda are ok towards the end of the season in Hyderabad. My all time favorites are Cheruku Rasalu, Banginapally (Benishan) and Dasheri.
Our Cabbies make it to F1

Very soon Hyderabad can boast of another feat - our cabbies making it big at F1 , F2 or F3 and similar racing events. Forget Shumacher and our very own Karthikeyan. Here we have a vast brigade of dare devils who can maneuver into narrowest lanes with nothing less than 50-60 kmph. Some of them can even overtake you from any side of your vehicle at 60-70 kmph, that too during peak traffic hours. And on relatively empty roads, voila! Nothing less than a 80-100 kmph. Do we call them rash and negligent? Certainly not, at such great speeds they never forget to 'warn' you flashing those high-beam headlights any time of day or night, from opposite side of the road or from the rear view. If you don't know how to take care of your vehicle it's your fate and luck.

Sad, our government has not recognized their talent. It has always seen them as threats on the roads and issued them warnings. We simply cannot afford such a gross underestimation of talent, especially at a time when we have no great achievements in international sports and games. Why can't the government directly send them to international racing events. They don’t even need any investment in training, grooming, coaching. One look at them and you know how aggressive they are, their body language speaks volumes about how determined they are to make it to their destination, at any cost. And look at the returns; we haven’t made it big in either tennis or cricket but we are sure to reign the world when it comes to cars. Just imagine headlines like: Cabbies from Hyderabad clinch all racing titles. Our city will have a stream of Ferraries, Volvoes and Peugeuts, thanks to the rewards they will earn in global competition.

Next time you encounter such driving, please note the number and put in a word with organizers of racing events. Just think about how many champions we can brag about - now that we have neither Sania nor Sachin on our side.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

11th March 2007 - an Apology

My heart thumping and racing
Nerves all tight as I stand and wait for the test report
Would the PSA* count rise or fall?
Several questions, speculations and I surmise…
A smile if the count had dropped
Or anguish at the negative report

Today I recollect those moments of joy on a positive report
Though short lived, it gave me courage and hope
To prepare for the worst or just wait and watch

This was the routine for a year and a half
Then one day I had to hear the inevitable
The count has risen alarmingly
This was followed by more tests, scans and x-rays
My heart pounding, suddenly leaving me cold

I feared to see you lifeless
I feared the sights I imagined
I feared everything that had to do with death
For I had never experienced the loss of a loved one
From such close, vicarious proportions

My apprehensions knew no bound
You were in coma and I did not dare to see you lying in that state
Even though I reconciled to the fact that it’s a terminal illness
What kind of palliative care could we give you?
How do we make your last days less painful?
My agonies crossed all the bearable limits
Did I cry often?
Yes, sometimes secretly, sometimes openly
Sometimes unable to swallow that lump in the throat
Sometimes just to let that well of tears roll down
Sometimes unable to control my distress and helplessness

Eleventh day of March, at the eleventh hour
The expected and inescapable had happened
And I was there when you breathed your last
Though not shocked, I was benumbed
Did I hear what I always dreaded to hear?
Yes, the doctor made the final pronouncement
And I was trying to control myself

This day liberated you from prolonged suffering
It’s taken you away from all of us into a world
Where there’s no pain to endure
From where you continue to wish me well
As you did always, from my birth till today
One year later I ask myself, ‘What was I afraid of?’
Fear of losing you, how selfish I could be!

Death! You’ve relieved my father of the incurable
Saved him from more hours and days of agony

Today I apologize
For, we had kept you in the dark Papa
Hiding from you that you were diagnosed with advanced stage of cancer.

*PSA - Prostate Specific Antigen

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guru and business history

Guru is all about daring to dream and making it big in what you do best. It's a typical Mani Ratnam film - a reasonably good storyline ( could be been made into a biopic on the life and times of Dhirubhai Ambani), exceptionally good acting by Abhishek, standard fare from A R Rehman, excellent cinematography etc etc. Well, I could go on to write a critical review of the movie. But that's not what I intend to do.

Plus or minus, Guru is a watchable film though the plot had some loose-ends at times. Most of it verbose, at times it gets decontextualised and fails to provide links while building on the main character. What is interesting here is perhaps this is the first Indian movie to attempt this genre of films, I'm not sure how easy it would be for an Indian Director to venture out a biopic of a business tycoon `a la Aviator. Understandably even though Guru is obviously based on the life of the older Ambani, it could not have dared to present his life without the necessarily censoring the facts. Nevertheless, in a fictional way , the director has made deliberate attempts keep the characters as his creations, though bearing a strong 'fairytale' resemblance to the Reliance and Vimal saga.

Political history is taught as a subject in school whereas business history is not. Culturally (with a predominant middle class) we are biased towards doing something on our own, starting a business venture for instance. A majority of us are still comfortable being employees (than employers), we think twice before supporting new ideas for business, we are happy to find ourselves smugly nestled in our comfort zones. Entrepreneurship is rarely encouraged. On a different front, this movie makes us think of the role played by business persons in the development of a country. How often do we think of the contribution of Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis or Premji or NarayanMurthy when we talk about progress, growth and development? We often measure things by chronicling them with political landmarks and political leaders. It is easier to remember how things changed during the time of Nehru or Indira Gandhi or Vajpayee.

After watching Guru I wondered: what if one makes a movie on the life and times of Narayana Murthy. Isn't he as passionately involved with Infosys as Ambani was with Reliance? Don't they both dream and share the same entrepreunerial spirit? So what, if they come from different educational backgrounds? If one was fighting the License Raj, the other reaping the benefits of 'globalization' and Liberalization - but share the same sense of volumes in whatever they do. Jobs in manufacturing or jobs in services, jobs for educated and less-educated millions of the Indian middle classes. If Ambani's vision was derived from post-independence India, Murthy's , a few decades later. Their mantras for economic growth too find some parallel. I'm sure this movie would inspire several youngsters to discover the entrepreneur in themselves as they write the business history of 21st century India.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Scientific Creativity

These seemingly incongruous terms are synergized into a 'fashionable' novel that goes with our times in http://www.amillionpenguins.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Yesterday, the discussion on one of the TV channels threw up quite a few points and counterpoints on collaborative writing. There were some interesting concerns about the future avatar of creative writing in the wake of wikis, blogs and podcasts that have empowered so many of us to don the role of an author. We no longer have to wait for a 'publisher' to scrutinize our writing to deem it fit for popular comsumption. At the same time it's exciting to see our work being
'e-published' and share it with our network of family, friends and colleagues.

Following this discussion here are some pros and cons on writing for new media:
There are no two views on the fact that Internet has democratized the 'process' and 'product' of writing. Isn't this true of the nature of this literary genre? The medium lends itself very well the the fluidity and flexibility demanded by any exercise in writing. The malleable features of the medium encourage us to revisit our writing as an ongoing effort and even seek inputs from editors and other writers. Eventually we discover the empowering potential of technology as we unravel the possibilities of various modes of self-expression, celebrating the 'literary' democracy.

What could be the fallout of marrying creativity and collaboration? Too many cooks are sure to spoil the broth. For obvious reasons, creative writing has long been described as a personal and secluded effort where the author usually produces the creative stuff all by him/herself. In such an endeavor it's difficult to imagine how he/she could 'collaborate' to further enhance the creativity that results in sound narrative and unchoatic plot. The complications get multiplied as several people 'contribute' their creative mite to this project and there is no 'anchor' to the hold the things that fall apart.

From co-authoring to collab-authoring:
In functional/professional communication, writing in pairs or groups is quite commonplace. Textbooks, non-fiction and similar projects are successfuly achieved in collaboration where a 'team' of authors jointly write and edit. Perhaps creative writing too is evolving with times as an 'open source' project. Or, will it shape into another fragmentary piece of 'fiction' like an SMS novel, for example at: http://cloakroom.blogspot.com/. What about writing conventions, genre-specific standards etc, etc...well, that's for the purists and classicists to keep pondering.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Grass-eating Leopard

"We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are…Seeing is subjective. Seeing is active…" (source unknown)

A leopard seen from the eyes of a four year old cannot be more imaginative than this picture. Shreya's grass-eating leopard could be a typical example of child art, but for me it's much more than that. Like all her paintings and drawings here too, there's something for me to learn. Rather, there's a lot that I should 'unlearn' about my perception of world around me. A good way to start could be some conscious efforts at seeing things differently.

It is simply mindblowing to view the world from the perspective of a four year old.There's an immense sense of gratification when you look at things devoid of the boxes we have put around them as adults. Children visualize things in their pure form. They percieve the reality around them as they are - innocent, uncorrupted. Just as they tell stories by making their imagination run wild, they can also create visual representations of their 'perceived realities'.

Shreya, the child artist has 'taught' me that creativity knows no boundaries; she draws and paints her crows in red, flowers in black and leaves in blue. She need not think twice to 'defy' all rules of proportion and perspective of her paintings. However, her drawings of human forms are consistent - they always constitute a triangle, a circle and some 'standing and sleeping' lines. Her flowers are always much greater in size than the stem and the leaves. She has no hang-ups in drawing her imaginary universe with all the nuances of pristine creativity. I'm lucky that I can closely observe and learn from this abundantly talented kid.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

When the bees buzzed in my balcony

Honestly, let me confess I'm really bad at handling emergencies that test my home management skills. It was simply impossible for me to imagine that I would be faced with a domestic SOS which involved swarms and swarms of honey bees attacking the balcony off my bedroom. True, balcony on a sixth floor can be very tempting for these buzzing creatures to build their hive. What infuriated me was their self-proclaimed right to occupy my 'private' space and threaten me with their painful sting. The very sight of several bees was making my skin crawl with fear.

When my mother informed me that a huge thick swarm of bees were suddenly clouding the balcony I told her to immediately shut the windows to prevent their entry into other rooms. Amazingly, in about 20 minutes they managed to 'build' their nest and by the time I reached home I could see an active population of these insects busily buzzing around. Probably, this was a case of honeybee migration, as I learnt in hindsight. Let me admit, this was my first 'close encounter' with these insects. Instantly, I was reminded of my college where we had huge beehives hanging down from the ceiling in between the pillars of the Durbar Hall. The history of their settlement seemed to be as old as the British resident who lived in that palatial monument several decades ago. I was also reminded of the 'warnings' issued to us, as students, whenever the bees were disturbed and got scattered from their colonies.

The problem at home needed urgent treatment as we depended on our balcony for some of our daily chores like drying clothes. At the same time, the sight of some bees that had already entered my house was very unnerving. Some people advised us to get the honeycomb burnt in the evening, perhaps that was a standard practice to dislodge these insects. I managed to get it burnt (with the help of a construction worker) although it presented a sorry sight as I would be held responsible for 'killing swarms of these innocent creatures' who in turn give us a wonderful health-booster like honey. Sad, but there was no other option. After the flames went off I heaved a sigh of relief for I was sure that these creatures would not dare to venture again into my space. But I was proved wrong the very next morning when I peeped into my balcony from the glasspanes of the wide window. I could see several of them, actively involved in building another nest. However, they had dispersed by evening. In the process I also sought the help of some professional pest control services but this did not prove to be a viable solution to my problem. Eventually, I got the affected spots sprayed with Gemaxin and other pesticides. This definitely helped us in preventing them from entering the balcony again, although the next morning I could still see a few of them still buzzing around as if they were searching their loved ones whom they lost in this mass annihilation.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Visit to Kanha National Park

This was my first experience of visiting a national park. Marked by a peculiarly mixed feeling of anticipation, anxiety and eagerness I was all set to explore the flora and fauna in pristine wilderness of Kanha with my family members. We entered the park from Kisli and booked our stay at Bagheera log huts from MPTC. Kisli is about 270 kms from Nagpur, the drive was arranged by tourism dept as a part of the 'Tiger Tracks' package. The roads are pretty smooth except for a short stretch after you across (Pench Tiger Reserve) Seoni. http://www.mptourism.com/dest/kanha_accomm.html

The park tours
Since this was a 3-day, 2-night package we were entitled to 3 rounds of the park. Each drive through the park is approx. 60 kms. The driver and the guide are quite knowledgable about the details of the forest. The guide and the route of the drive are randomly selected by the computer. It was exciting to get into an open jeep and keep standing to get the best view of the inhabitants of the forest. There are 44 tracks in Kanha and I'm sure each track lends itself to unique discoveries en route. Total forest area of Kanha is 940 square kms of which only one-third is let out for public entry. If you are lucky you can spot the tiger in any of these forest trails comprising several sal, bamboo and tendu trees. In case you can't, there's nothing to feel disappointed about; there are several wild animals and various avaian species to adequately satisfy your quest in wilderness. The untamed luxuriant trees, meandering tracks, the occasional chirps from the branches of sal and tendu trees- all these are enough to make us feel gratified that we made it to Kanha from the concrete jungle that we inhabit.

Sighting the wild species
In our first ride itself we spotted some Sambhar deers, standing majestically in the bushes, only to briskly vanish into the thickets at the sound of the wheels creeking to a slow halt. Spotted Deers, Langoors and Peacocks are commonly sighted as you drive, in fact after a while you begin to 'ignore' them as your eyes are busy scanning for that dreaded but delightful sight of coming face-to-face with the Sher Khan - the Royal Bengal Tiger. Here's when you learn, it's not that easy to spot them. In the absence of good binoculars, I felt my eyes aching when we distantly sighted some sloth bears as they were moving on the grasslands. As we were making our way through we spotted a bison and a calf crossing the lane. Parekeets, eagles, owls, woodpeckers and egrets are among the several birds that we managed to see and hear.

About the tracks
All the tracks are narrow and uneven and sometimes you frequently use reverse gears to move back to catch a better glimpse of the animals. If you are lucky the wild species wait for you or they simply vanish behind the bushes presenting a picture in perfect camouflage. Kudos to MP tourism of neat maintenance of the forest area, not a single instance non-biodgradable waste was found anywhere in the environs. The often bumpy and rocking ride could be a problem in early mornings and evenings as it starts getting cold, and the chill breeze cuts through your warm clothing. We braved it all when it was 4 - 5 degrees in the night.

Sunrise and sunset
More than the fauna of the jungle I enjoyed viewing the sunset and sunrise as the sun rays were piercing through the leaves of those tall trees. The morning sun was mild and tepid, as if it's just woken up and is yet to re-charge. The hues and gradients of orange and bright yellow from its rays form an abstract landscape that diffcult to put in words...one can only enxperience it in the early hours of morning in an absolutely fresh, green and calm ambience. I'm perpetually fascinated by sunrise and sunset in lush green and peaceful settings.

Peacock dance
Most memorable event on this trip was the sight of a peacock dancing amidst other animals and birds. My excitement knew no bounds as it began to spread its plumage and form a royal cresent. How true! peacocks are never known to shy away from other species. The flamboyance was amply evident from the pompous display of multi-hued feathers swaying away to imaginary music of the forest. Sadly we had to move on as this wonderful spectacle was still unfolding and was yet to reach its crescendo.

Sighting the tiger

Everyone here feels that your visit is not complete if you haven't sighted the tiger. In fact, right from the moment we started our ride the driver and guide dedicated themselves to the search, sometimes by 'hearing the call' (which often turned out to be a false call) or sometimes by tracing the pugmarks. Often we slowed down completely and waited patiently to 'locate' the tiger. But the wait could not be endless, and we were not sure if we will really spot it at that juncture, so we moved on. At the end of the day you may feel that your ride was 'futile' as you were not successful in seeing the main attraction as it were. But, don't lose your heart, there are elephants that can take you on their back if their mahouts were lucky enough in spotting them resting, moving or going for a kill. We were not fortunate enough to ride on an elephant as this sighting was cancelled after their failed attempt to trackthe tigers. The only sighting we had was when the tigers were resting on the lower left side of the tracks and there were several jeeps huddled there to catch a closer glimpse. Such a desperate crowd did not present a pleasant picture of humans to the wild...wonder what our wild friends thought of us!!!Given a chance some of them would have got down from the jeeps and ran down towards the tigers in their inability to control the curiosity...if only, tigers were not dubbed as man-eaters!

This blog cannot be wrapped up without a word of thanks for MP tourism. We simply enjoyed our drive and stay throughout the trip. The food in the canteen was sumptuous. The menu was too delectable with items like hot rotis, rice, dal, vegetable and non-veg curries, desserts etc. Add to this the tea and evening snacks and packed breakfast of sandwiches for morning rides. The BLH rooms were neat and clean. The punctuality of drivers and guides is commendable too.
Hats off to
All the forest guards and officials who live a real tough life braving the wild and endure all the vagaries of nature to save our natural wealth!!!