Le Question: Did Indians do nothing but celebrate festivals?

A tree may be our  primary connection with the universe — but it will take us all our lives to acknowledge it The Ficus virens that outgrew the shrine Shashwat: Haven’t the Americans built big cities, warships, fighter jets and so on?  Me:  I guess so. Shashwat And the Germans have made very fine automobiles and autobahns? Me: Yes, they have. Shashwat: The French have the TGV! Me: Yes, so? Shashwat: So, in India, did we spend all our time celebrating festivals and meditating? Me: Silence The canopy, loved by both peacocks and Hanuman langurs Five minutes later the hush … Continue reading Le Question: Did Indians do nothing but celebrate festivals?

Book Review: Life’s Grandeur by Stephen Jay Gould

Eminently readable, Stephen Jay Gould’s Life’s Grandeur is a must for anyone who wants to understand Darwin better Stephen Jay Gould (Sep 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002) is one of the best known and most influential writers on the Theory of Evolution. The author of more than two dozen books on the subject, the scientist is also known for his theory of Punctuated Equilibrium (with Niles Eldredge). “Life’s Grandeur – the spread of excellence from Plato to Darwin” (Vintage, 1996, current printing 2005) is a compelling and eminently readable account of one of Gould’s favorite themes — the process … Continue reading Book Review: Life’s Grandeur by Stephen Jay Gould

An intimate encounter with the lovely Red Cassia

The brilliant brick reds, salmon-pink and yellow of Cassias light up avenues even as summer wears out its welcome. Sahastrarashmi presents an intimate encounter with the flowering tree as never experienced before Studio portrait of Red Cassia – the yellow (possibly hybrid) variation Studio portrait of Red Cassia – the brick-red flowers are interspersed with pink, but from a distance overshadow other shades The seemingly endless tropical summer tends to linger a bit longer on the eastern coast down south where I live. It’s an extended goodbye, a season that begins to grudgingly allow the relief of a few cool days … Continue reading An intimate encounter with the lovely Red Cassia

Gaia and the Lovelock legacy

James Lovelock, whose birthday fell on July 26, proposed the compelling but controversial idea of Gaia. Sahastrarashmi offers an appreciation of the man and his work Gaia as metaphor; Gaia as a catalyst for scientific enquiry; Gaia as literal truth; Gaia as Earth Goddess. Whoever she is, let’s keep her. If science cannot find room for the grand vision, if Gaia dare not speak her name in Nature, then shame on science. To recant now would be a terrible thing, Jim. Don’t do it. – Fred Pearce We looked at the Earth in our imagination, and therefore with fresh eyes, … Continue reading Gaia and the Lovelock legacy

Encounter: Crimson Sunbird

A chance meeting with this charming sunbird kept our spirits high through the unpredictable Himalayan weather In September 2010, on our way to the shrine of Madhyamaheshwar, we spent a night at the beautifully situated GMVN guest house at Ukhimath. It had been a year of catastrophic rains – an extremely heavy and extended monsoon had wreaked havoc on the roads and the landslides continued to pile up as more rain was forecast. As we stood contemplating the ominous news that we had just received — a part of the road leading to the starting point of our trek at … Continue reading Encounter: Crimson Sunbird

On the Wing: Indian Silverbills

Ever wondered why some birds never fly? And we are talking of little birds, not ostriches and emus… Flit: v. To move lightly and swiftly.  I have always been amazed as to how some birds never seem to fly — they always flit. Whenever I have come across a flock of Indian Silverbills (Euodice malabarica), also called the White-throated Munia, I have had a hard time observing their wing movements. They always seem to be in a hurry and appear permanently unsettled. All one ever gets to see is a blur of wings accompanied by a soft buzz or a short hop.  … Continue reading On the Wing: Indian Silverbills

Encounter: In Shangri-La with Bar-headed Geese

Meeting the Bar-headed Goose, arguably the world’s highest flier, in its breeding grounds at 15,000 feet is a rare and humbling privilege Korzok (4,595 m, 15,075 ft), the small settlement on the border of the incredibly blue Tso Moriri was the highest I had even been. So when had my first sighting of the Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), one of the highest flying birds in the world, on those very waters at a shouting distance from the 300-year old monastery, you can perhaps excuse me for believing that it was probably pre-ordained. The lake, along with several other high altitude … Continue reading Encounter: In Shangri-La with Bar-headed Geese

Encounter: The Copper Pod Tree

Though not as grandly picturesque as the Golden Shower or the Flame of the Forest, the Copper Pod tree makes its yellow-crowned presence felt all over the flower-carpeted ground It’s a humid May forenoon and even in the shade there is no respite from sweat. The sea, a mere 100 m away from the Bharathi Park in Pondicherry, is a low rumble over the cries of playing kids and the croaking of crows. It continues to part with salty vapour under the scorching sun, pushing up the humidity further as noon approaches.  Except for the kids and the crows, everything … Continue reading Encounter: The Copper Pod Tree