Monday, February 23, 2015

Wildlife in a City Pond!

This weekend saw another celebration of the dwindling water-bodies and its attendant greenery within the city at our neighbourhood kere (lake in kannada) at the Puttenahalli kere habba. Organized on the lines of a similar kere habba (literally meaning lake festival in Kannada) at Kaikondrahalli lake at Sarjapur Road by Namma Bengaluru Foundation, this festival attempted to draw the spotlight on the importance of conservation of lakes amidst the growing concrete jungle. Though we missed the habba due to confusion regarding dates ( assumed it was to be held on Sunday instead of Saturday), we have been regular visitors at the lake. So much so that my father-in-law’s day is incomplete without his refreshing morning walk around the lake! Puttenahalli kere is also home to many species of birds and a true delight for bird watchers and naturalists alike. But I must say that Puttenahalli lake would not have been the same, if not the continual efforts of Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) to rejuvenate and maintain the lake and the surrounding environs. Further, events and initiatives like these not only help sensitize our kids to the environment around them but also garner support for retention of parks, lakes and such open spaces, lest they get swallowed by land sharks!

So in this background, today we read  a beautiful story titled “Wildlife in a city pond  by Ashish Kothari and vividly illustrated by Sangeetha Kadur, a level 4 Reader from Pratham publications. Narrated in first person, the author is puzzled by a deafening cacophony emerging from below his balcony as he moved into his new home in Pune, only to find the mystery solved the next morning as he discovered a small pond below in an abandoned quarry. Over the next year, he saw the pond undergo transformation through the seasons, especially during monsoon when the pond came to life with a host of plant and animal life finding shelter. What a joy it was to wake up hearing the chirping of mynas, watching brilliant blue kingfishers swoop into the water for their daily feed of fish  …baya weaver birds resting in their tailor made nests…. even flapshell turtles swimming in the pond and finally being lulled to sleep  by the croaking frogs at night!  However one day, the pond and its wildlife were threatened from the so called development plans to the drain the wetland to make space for more buildings. However, thanks to the efforts of the residents who sought help from all quarters from the media and environment protection groups to the city commissioner….the pond was declared off limits for any construction!  So just like the author in the book, we residents of J P Nagar VII phase are lucky to enjoy to a mini sanctuary amidst the bustling city!  Kudos to PNLIT and Namma Bengaluru Foundation for making Puttenahalli kere the pride of J P Nagar VII Phase area!  :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bangalore's Neralu!

Over the weekend, we attended the second edition Bengaluru Tree Festival “Neralu” .  In its second year, the crowd-funded citizen-driven-festival celebrating the trees of Bengaluru, Neralu which literally means shade in Kannada, had a lot to offer for today’s urban kids, who hardly seem to have the time (or should I say the mindset?) to sit under the shade of a tree and look up at its leaves and dream away….Hmmm.....seems like an apt setting of a Ruskin Bond story right? Neralu provides a great prelude to the coming summer when Bengaluru’s trees are in their full bloom and splendor……when a walk around  any avenue lined with Gulmohars, Jacarandas or Tabebuia would sure be a treat to the eyes… of my favourite activities while growing up.
Though there were plenty of activities for tree lovers over the last few weekends at different locations, we managed to catch the final event mainly for kids near Bal Bhavan, Cubbon park. So Abhay accompanied by his daddy,  eagerly participated in a number of events like painting, stitching, puzzle solving and creating tapestries that were aimed at not only engaging the children’s creative side but also spreading awareness about trees and inculcating an appreciative mind towards the environment around us. Indeed, ‘Neralu’ turned out to be a green and cool “V-day” outing for us! J  
While I always believed that Abhay has been a lot more exposed to trees and nature than many other city kids, considering our frequent visits to my parent’s farm “Shristi” at Dharmasthala which houses a wide variety of flowering and fruit bearing trees, besides the usual farm plantation, we were quite dismayed to find that out eight year failed to think of any specific tree, when asked to name his favourite tree to draw! So much so all my ravings about our close-to-the nature vacations at Shristi!  Anyway, I always have a book-up my-sleeve to fill any gap…right?? So we picked up “The World of Trees” by one of my favourite authors Ruskin Bond and illustrations by Kollol Majumder brought out by National Book Trust publications.

This is a book of short stories introducing the young readers to various tree species of India, not only from a naturalistic point of view but also from a societal and a cultural perspective. For instance, in “The Mighty Banyan”, the author takes you through the massively spread out banyan tree with its aerial roots that is home to a wide variety of birds and insects and plays host to various Panchayath meetings; or in “The Mango Grove”, he touches upon the story of a Garden of a Thousand trees in the town of Hazaribagh; or what the Semal tree (silk cotton tree) means to the tribes of Madhya Pradesh in “A Feast in the Semal tree”; or the mention of powerful spirits that are believed to dwell in some trees like the neem tree or the champa tree; or as he offers an armchair travelogue/trek around “The trees of the Himalayas” ……all narrated in his characteristic style that is sure to make you smile! Believe me, you cannot help but chuckle when the opening line of “The Sacred Peepal” goes like is “In some ways peepal trees are great show offs! J

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Seaside vacation!

Over the previous long weekend, we were on a seaside vacation in Pondicherry, also known as India's French Riviera. Vacations by the sea have always been special as one can spend hours together gazing at the vast blue expanse that lies ahead!  No surprises that we stayed at the Promenade, right on the edge of the coastline facing the Bay of Bengal!:-) Not only did the sound of the lashing waves lull us into sleep at night, but we woke up to one of the most beautiful sunrises over the sea! It was my first time on the eastern sea front as most of our beach vacations in India or the US have been on western seas! We explored different facets of Pondicherry, from the heritage French villas to the bustling Tamil quarters, it's Ashrams and spiritual centers and it's museums and memorials.... but what we liked the best were it's beaches that we visited every morning to soak up some good amount of Vitamin D! :-)) 

Among the couple of beaches in and around Pondicherry that we had been to, we found some fishermen communities living near the shores. As Abhay headed out with his beach toys, he saw a couple of fishermen boats return with their nets and their early morning catch. As he seemed quite curious as to their work and lives in general, I picked up "My friend, the sea" by Sandhya Rao and photographs by Karuna Sesh and Pervez Bhagat. This is a story of young boy from a fishermen village along the Indian coast in Tamil Nadu  who recounts his association with Kadalamma, the Ocean mother. The best part about living near the ocean is hopping on to a kattumaram ( A fishing boat in Tamil Nadu) and going pretend fishing .. ...just like his family has been fishing for generations together. He even recalls the day  when the sea rose like a mountain to drown most his of village including his father who has never returned since then. As his sister explains the cause of the Tsunami that deluged  the Indian east coast on December 26th 2004, he sees its impact on his own family, as they become homeless and now live in a shelter with a grieving mother who hardly ever smiles. Still, the sea will always be a part of his life and he is seen looking forward to a new Kattumaram that his brother has promised to build for him. Aided by striking photography, this is a  beautiful story that poignantly describes the life and loss of the fishing community from the eyes of a child. A seaside story makes a perfect ending to our little seaside outing! :-)