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Archive for January, 2009

Of Candles and Power cuts

Why does such a developed country like US, unknown to power cuts, have an aisle of candles in every departmental store? When I first came across the candles, I thought they were simply beautiful. So many myraid colours, shapes and smells. Look at how nice the name sounds! Fresh Cotton, Morning Dew, Apples and Cinnamon. What joy to wrap up scents of happiness in a glass canister. What did you say? Light them?? Whatever for.. it gets all black and spews an acrid smoke all around the house. Now wouldnt that look pretty sitting on the window sill, throwing off sunbeams and pretending to be essential.

This excitement of mine didnt last very long. I sorely missed the plain candles we had back home. The ones with a thick wick, drab white colour and of a long, practical shape. I miss having to light them when the power goes, which was invariably when it rained. I miss having to sit by its flickering light on the dinner table, not because it was pretty but it was the only source of light. I miss the need of having to use them. Does the power ever go off here? Doesn’t anyone want to stand outside and be able to see the stars without being blinded by unnecessary lights? Maybe not.

 One of these days the many unsuspecting candles in my apartment are going to find themselves running short of time. Save them for a better day? No way. Would the lifetime of a candle measure in the amount of time it sits idle or the time it takes as it blazes away? Who cares. I’m done letting them sit around, its time for them to prove their existence, and make a good show of it.
Will let you know how that goes, once the fire brigades have all left.



Disappointments occur in life. They may be severe, they may be sparse and yet again they may seem to be coming all at once. Life’s not easy.. Life’s just life, all ups, downs and awful in-betweens included. We get to accept and get over most of them, but it takes courage and hope to get through the harder ones of life’s disappointments.

Today in lab a colleague had a major setback in his research, a semester worth of work down the drain, effectively. He was (obviously) very upset and standing there explaining it to our adivsor he looked miserable. I wanted to tell him that these things happen. “Why? Its sometimes just bad luck, its sometimes a faulty wiring in our large scheme of things and sometimes it just is. Yeah, i know, that sucks.. but we can move on anyway. It’s going to be alright. ”
These very things my roomate had tried to explain to me the previous friday, as I was upset over the death of someone I loved and adored. Her words had made some sense but right then I couldnt grasp it. They are both disappointments, can I take these two disappointments the same way? Death is of an absolute magnitude, the only thing in life that is 100% certain they say. Setbacks in research just hamper your academic stride, temporarily. But in different degrees, both are unexpected and unfortunate, both leave you feeling helpless and scared to look ahead. In different degrees.
So what do we do now?

Nothing, thats all i know. Life will go on, without giving a hoot about what happened to you. Things will get better and a day will come when it all makes sense again. “hey, look, it worked!” You might slowly forget the fear and uncertainity, you’ll relax and let yourself be carried away in life’s stride. Time will blur the pain. Life will go on until the next disappointment comes its way, and we are back to square one. Don’t misunderstand me, life’s not about going from one disappointment to another.. there’re times when its going from one joy to another. The whole point in life seems to be to just move. And its better if we just move on ourselves. I’m sorry it had to happen and I’m sorry you had to go thru it. Yes, there is uncertainity in the future, but there is also a possibility. Some friends, family, a lil prayer, courage and hope.. and then life.

About a Ferret

The most unusual and unexpected circumstances make you wonder. One of my friends needed someone to take care of her ferret during the break. Having the whole month to myself in our little town, I figured a ferret would be good company. Of course, the fact that I didn’t know what ferrets are, or that I had never in my life kept any pets made it only more adventurous. Well, never had any pets is technically incorrect of me. I did have 2 lovebirds that were gifted to me. Very adorable but not meant to be sitting in the balcony in a cage. Mysteriously, their cage door was found open on the 10th day I had them. And then, I had two fish. You might think that fish aren’t very responsive pets, but these two were. They will be always remembered :D.

Coming back to the ferret. Wiki (I dont trust any other information online) says its some sort of a weasel.  Cat-like in size and movement but dog-like in mentality. Sleep for 18-20 hours a day and are of a very playful disposition. That doesnt sound bad at all for a lifestyle. My friend had all the detailed instructions and answers to my if clauses, enough to say that I think I’m prepared. Ha. Not a chance. This shall be an interesting winter for me and the ferret, to say the least. At the end of our ordeal, I might write about what I learnt from it. I might not as well. For now, its just the Ferret Diaries.

Day #1: First I had to search for it. Wasn’t too hard. They may be small and sneaky but they aren’t too smart.. it always hides under the sink. I just played along and pretended I didn’t know that. Task 1 was to take it out for a walk. Simple enough. We had a small tiff as I put the leash on the wrong end of the ferret. (It still didn’t mind though). Once outside it just curled up and sat down. So much for walking. I’d have to drag it along with considerable mud and grass if it was to move. Task 2, feeding it was easier.. big surprise there. Task 3, play with it for a while. Hmm.. how does one do that? We did it this way: the ferret sniffed the walls, with its nose stuck to the ground and butt high up in the air, and I read Walden. Phew, that was a hectic day.

Day #2: More eager to walk. Too eager. Ran into a bush which the ferret easily avoided. It got loose of the leash and hid under a car. Playtime was more enjoyable.. it pretended to steal my keys while I pretended not to notice.

Day #3: Smoother than day 2. The walk was enjoyable, partly because the weather was extremely pleasing. I was startled by a big cat that had been eyeing us for some time.. first I thought it cute that the ferret had found a friend. But the friend was swishing its tail and had a very hungry look in its eyes, suggesting very very wrong intentions. The walk was sadly cut short.

(I had one of those moments today while walking her..
Guy: “Hey there… is that a ferret?”
Me: “No its a ferret! “(Big Smile)
Guy: “.”
Me (thinking): “Why would I say that?!” )

Week #2: I realised, rather daftly, that affection needs to be earned. The first week I wasnt too impressed. Its supposed to be my pet! its supposed to like me! Then, week 2.. i started calling it, her. She still didnt like me, but seemed to realise that I could reach up to the cupboard and get her food down. Mutualism is a big tenet in evolution for good reason. Walks were more plesant.. I would watch the brilliant winter sunsets as she buried her nose in the mud. She was unpertubed by the new year or by my strides in research, and instead greatly resented the sleet and the cold wind. So far she hasn’t displayed intelligence of the above the ordinary sorts, but I’m observing.

Week 3: I like the routine. It affords me a good break  to sit down and let her jump all around me. I notice that she has the cutest eyes, she notices I have the jazziest keychain she has ever seen. I like her now that I know her more and she seems to tolerate me as well. We’re growing on each other already, after 3 weeks. Sometimes I get that big picture feeling, that somewhere down the line.. she makes more sense than anything I know. Most of the times I shrug it off with my human intelligence. Sometimes I make peace with the fact. Who knows, ferrets could be this super smart race that are in actuality observing humans as their experiments. And Cows too. They look dumb just to throw us off the track.


Anyway, this was our last week together. I dont regret it too much, it was fun as it lasted but now I have to get back to my schedule. She’s definitely looking fwd to having her original master (?) back too. Life throws you in interesting situations, doesnt it? And once its done, it all becomes part of an experience. Pointless experiences, I know. But someday on ‘Kaun banega Crorepati’ when the host asks that question on ferrets which no one in their right mind would know… i’ll be on my couch saying, “piece of cake!” :D.


Ranthambhore is one of the largest national parks in India, located in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan. Wiki says Ranthambhore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India, and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Ranthambhore became a national park in 1980. Its one of the very few places where the last wild tigers can be seen. It has roughly around 20+ tigers right now. Project Tiger was initiated in1972. It has become one of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures and aims at tiger conservation within tiger reserves representative of various biogeographical regions throughout India.

I first came to read about the park in a book by Valmik Thapar and Fateh Singh Rathore titled The wild tigers of Ranthambore. The book in itself was a description of the park and its tigers, accompanied by outstanding pictures. I consider that book nothing less than treasure. There are pictures of the ancient palace in ruins and a tiger sunbathing beside it, pictures of the park in summer, monsoons and the dry winter, tall chowkies made by a king long ago now hosting forest guards and one of a magnificent male tiger crossing a jungle path as a jeep with photographer Valmik Thapar stalls.. the photographs are simply fabulous. 

Tiger by Lesley Boast

Tiger by Lesley Boast

In July 06, I was to volunteer at the National Park for 15 days, being a part of the Project Tiger. 2006 was a good year because of a lot of things, but it was this one stint with Project Tiger in July that I can never forget. The park normally closes for the monsoons, during which time the forest rangers had to be busy with anti-grazing duties as well as their slow battle with poachers. We volunteers were to roam the parks and I specifically remember what was said to me in the mail: ” The living conditions are very basic. No bathrooms, no electricity, loads of insects etc etc.. Water can be a problem at times, specially for people who have weak stomachs or are not very careful.. Lots of walking on bad terrain everyday.Come prepared for a rough trip.” It seemed to good to be true :D. How can I explain the desire there was to imagine waking up within a forest, and watching the sun rise among some ancient ruins.. all the while in a noble quest to save these majestic animals. To be so close to unspoilt nature and live rugged.. to have to bother about the essentials of living in a beautiful and rustic environment. At that time, my excitement at the opportunity was purely personal and selfish. I’d not only convinced my parents to let me go but also my Dad and 2 good friends to volunteer themselves. (My dad would be the best companion ever for something like this. The friend who was to accompany us almost lost perm, when her mum spoke to my dad and dad cracked a very morose joke about being worthy meals to tigers). Of course I cared about the tigers too, but having never really participated in conservation I could not appreciate what this program truly meant.

I recently came across another program very like ours. However due to the loyalty and nostalgia with the original, I cant help but feel that this is more commercialisation than is needed. Ah, but as long as the end result will be an increased awareness about our tigers, its worth it. http://www.gapguru.com/GapProjects/OneOfAKind/TigerAndWildlifeConservation.aspx

In the end, we never really made it to the park. Our volunteer project had been called off 4 days before we were to leave. I got an email saying certain people in the government were not too happy seeing volunteers around the park without having proper policies in place.  I still dont remember how I got over it… I guess college, GRE and other priorities took its place. Apart from volunteering in a tree census in Bangalore (which had me painting serial no’s on the avenue trees in yellow paint) my tryst with conservation seemed to have ended. I occasionally scour the net for news of tigers and the developments in the park (to see if the policies finally came up or not). I still long to do something for wildlife conservation and sometimes I’m optimistic enough to believe that I shall end up there after all. But for now, I’m content thinking about the many forest guards and officials who love ranthambhore much more than me and are there right now amidst its changing seasons and eternal tigers.


Two links:

  1. http://ranthambhore.blogspot.com/, In its own words, “All about Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve – its residents, visitors, high and low points.” Blog by Aditya Singh who runs a lodge on the outskirts of the park and is involved with the tigers. Details the history and present of tiger conservation along with tips on nature photography and some very well narrated experiences.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

“From quiet homes and first beginnings

Out to the undiscovered ends,

There’s nothing worth the wear of winning,

But laughter and the love of friends.”