Saturday, 31 March 2012

Easter Lilies turn Blood Red, a Miracle or a Sign from the Almighty?

When my grandmother passed away many years back in Gurgaon, I inherited numerous plants from her which included some Easter Lilies. Ever since I have seen them, they bloomed during the Easter Season and they had always been white with a tinge of Lilac. This year however, we were all astounded to see that three flowers had turned blood red from the same plant! We were all surprised as for the past twenty years, we had always seen the Easter Lilies that were always white with a tinge of lilac but, this time three were blood red in colour. What amazed us was that these flowers were three in number and they were blood red in colour. Perhaps it was God’s way of passing a message to me and all those who are reading this blog. The colour red signifies the blood that Christ shed for us on the cross, the number three could signify the Holy Trinity. For me this comes as a strong message especially at a time when I am  facing a tumultuous moment in my career! They seem to have a message which reminds us of the pain and suffering that Jesus Christ underwent for our sake. It is moreover significant that these flowers have bloomed during this Easter Season. Is it a sign from the Lord, or perhaps a message reminding us of the ultimate sacrifice?  I have pasted some photographs of these rather unique and rare Easter Lily flowers.
This Trinity of Flowers has a special meaning for me, and I very strongly feel that they are nothing short of a miracle, especially since for the past many years I have never seen only Easter Lilies that have always been white with a tinge of Purple! These flowers carry a very strong message, and I have yet to interpret this message. Could it be a warning of things yet to come! Perhaps we need to introspect and meditate about the wrongs done by us, or it is a warning to us to mend our ways?

Today, exactly two years later, the same plant has  brought forth Easter Lily Blossoms. I took these snaps before going to church to attend the Palm Sunday Service. You can see for yourself that the Easter Lily blossoms have changed their colour. They are no longer red, nor do they have that typical Lilac colour! They have a light white colour with hints of orange. This is rather surprising considering that the very same plant had sprouted blood red flowers two years back and last year too!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Fishing for that elusive Mahasher

It has been my umpteenth visit to the Dadupur Barrage, and I have yet to catch that quintessential, magical and highly prized Mahasher! People have waxed eloquent about the Mahasher, often bragging about the size of the catch they landed in the past although I have not seen them catch anything except perhaps small fry! I have observed these game hunters casting their fly with √©lan and style, often with the latest in spinnerets and the latest graphite fishing rods only to get their hooks caught in underground debris! “What happened?” I ask them, and they answer with a smirk,  “ that was a really large Mahasher”, and I turn my face away as I smile at their loss!
The fishing was better in the Damdama Lake in Gurgaon in my college days when my brother, a few cousins and I used to bag enough fish to share with friends and relatives and all! We didn’t have the latest in fishing rods,and never used flies, instead it was the humble earth worm or the fresh water shrimp that sufficed! We never bragged about the catch, although I remember  that some exaggeration was always acceptable! Some of the descriptions were onomatopoeic where one of our acquaintances would describe the sound  of the run of the fish which was hooked as Sanananananana (well that, according to him was the sound of the line) and we accepted his tall story with good grace, and a pinch of salt! This same acquaintance once told us how he had once drawn out a “large one” by tying one end of the line to the bull bar of a jeep and asking his friend to drive the it away from the water’s edge! We knew these were tall stories, but then they were all part of the outing!
Dadupur, however has been different! My Dad, who used to catch  Nile Perch weighing not less then twenty five kilos from the Chamo Lake, in ArbaMinch, Ethiopia has yet to catch something bigger than a four-five inch fish from the river! In the mean time, I  guess the only place one can see this rather elusive mahasher would be at the fish shop, covered with ice, ready for sale! One alarming trend that I have observed recently is that those visiting Dadupur  buy their fish from the local contractor and these are then displayed proudly as trophies as if they had caught them themselves! I guess the sportsmen going to Dadupur are of the same species as those found all over the world with fancy fishing tackle! Everyone likes to exaggerate a little, and of course it does no harm to listen to the yarns of each other! Sometimes I wonder if looking at the dancing waves might perhaps provide some inspiration, although the movement of the wavelets might lead to some dizziness!
As for me, I guess it would be better to photograph that elusive Mahasher, even if it is snared by the fishermen’s nets, rather than spend eons waiting for one to wander into one of my hooks. Patience might take a back seat with me, but then to sit for hours, nodding at the tiny waves would give me a headache, so  I guess, I ought to salute that elusive Mahasher for maintaining a game of Hide and Seek and appearing only in the most unexpected places, on the bridge off Paonta Saheb!

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Parenting Ethics and its impact on children

The recent story appearing in the English dailies of India about Norway’s child Welfare Services intervening and taking away two children from Indian parents and placing them in foster care is a grim reminder of the issue of parental ethics and its impact on children. Incidentally this incident was brought to light after teachers at the little boy’s school noticed that his behaviour had become quite erratic, and the authorities were subsequently informed. At first everything was blamed on cultural ignorance. The parents force fed the children using their hands, one of the children slept with the father, all this is considered normal according to the Indian culture. In a country where housing space comes at a premium, it is not surprising if children sleep with their parents. In a country where most of the people eat with their hands, it is not surprising if parents feed their children with their hands! Force-feeding is not unknown in this country, and children are strictly warned not to waste food! Things in the Norway incident however took a turn when stories started filtering in about the differences that existed between the father and mother. Sources claimed that the mother was in a constant state of depression and the couple had differences and often fought!
The entire incident that took place in Norway last summer is a pointer towards the need to re-examine parenting ethics and its impact on children today. We, as teachers and parents need to do a re-think about how our behaviour at home can impact the psyche of our children. As a teacher for quite some years I have not been a stranger to cases where students who were either aggressive or extremely passive had problems at home where there were reports of parents quarrelling amongst themselves. In some cases there were instances of the father coming home drunk and abusing the wife and the whole family! In those days when I was a teacher in a Govt. Aided school in Delhi, we teachers had a consensus that a large number of cases of problems in students was because of an adverse environment at home which included abusive parents, parents quarrelling amongst themselves, and the lack of study space for the child. Parental neglect, as a result of both parents having jobs, and being single parents also, we noticed had a negative impact on the emotional health of the student!
Behavioural Psychologists warn that the environment at home does have a serious impact on the emotional and mental health of the child, and this especially affects children who are very young, aged baby-hood till early teens. Children are mentally and emotionally traumatised when they witness both parents quarrelling amongst themselves. Often these quarrels fed by alcohol abuse end up in violence. This violence results in emotional scars which remain with the child till adulthood. As a result of this child hood mental trauma, many adults are not able to build up healthy relations with their spouses, they are not able to be good parents, and often, they display insecurity, and erratic behaviour. In all this I am not talking about extreme cases of physical abuse of children, but I am talking about how sometimes even seemingly healthy bickering between both parents might result in mental and emotional trauma in children. Such traumatised children fail in various ways in their adult roles of maintaining relations with children and others in the society. Perhaps the only advice to parents as a parent myself and a teacher is that they should avoid bickering amongst themselves in the presence of their children! This is often easier said than done, but then it is an important part of parenting ethics that responsible parents should realise that they are after all in many ways responsible for the emotional well being of their children! As such, violence amongst parents is a strict no no, and if differences are irreconcilable then they had better meet a family councillor! Failure to do so would result in the social services taking children away. Children are the cement that binds the family, and if they are not treated with kindness and respect, then the fabric of the family, the basic unit of every society will break down!

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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bidding Good-Bye to Printed Encyclopaedias!

It came as inevitable although a  great surprise when Encyclopaedia Britannica recently announced that it had stopped printing the Encyclopaedia and  and that it would  now be in the form of C.Ds. and D.V.Ds. It used to be so reassuring to see the entire volume of the encyclopaedia being displayed with great pride by some of the good libraries all over the world. Each volume was listed in alphabetical order, and it occupied the place of honour in the reference section of the library close to the entrance, under the watchful eyes of the Librarian. The visitors eyes fell on these venerable volumes as he entered the library. As an avid reader, I remember grabbing hold of any one leather-bound volume and just immersing myself in the book, soaking the information it contained. It was common to have 26 volumes of the Encyclopaedia along one or two indexes or supplementary volumes.
I guess, the Editors of the Encyclopaedia had finally woken to the fact that things have changed and people prefer reading books on Kindles, Laptops, Tablets, and Smart Phone in a form that is easily carried in a bag or even the pocket! Imagine carrying the entire 26 volumes of the Encyclopaedia in your pocket! It would give any sane person a hear attack to think so! However, this is very much true today! We have travelled from the steam age on to the atomic age, and now the Information age, where things have evolved and changed in leaps and bounds! The most important invention of the Victorian age was perhaps the Steam Engine, the reason or cause of the great Industrial revolution. But then, the Steam Engine was discarded for better cheaper machines that ran on oil, and then these also were discarded for engines running on electricity! We have also come a long way from listening to L.P./Vinyl records, Cassette Tape, on to C.Ds., D.V.Ds., on to Blue-Rays and U.S.B. memory devices! We have shrunk  distances today not just with the help of air travel, but also with the help of the Internet also!
Change,  evidently, is a reality of life, and to keep adapting and evolving means ensuring that we survive! As such, it is time to put aside the sentimental value of objects and obsolete technologies and instead embrace better and more cost-effective forms of technology! In this race for miniaturisation and the age of Nano-Technology it is surprising what miniaturisation has achieved and can achieve! It should not, therefore be much of a surprise for most of the avid readers to be able to carry all the twenty-six volumes of their favourite Encyclopaedia on chips of phones or hard-drives of their Laptops. Change has finally spelled the doom of printed books, and even the print media! Thus it is certain that the printed form of books will surely bow down to better forms in the same way that the smoke belching steam engine had to bow down to more fuel efficient and non polluting forms of engines.
For the connoisseur, however, the feel of paper between fingers, the scent of print on paper, and the joy of breaking the spine of a paper back will continue to be important joys of  the reading habit! In the mean time, I guess all those lovers of books should devote more time to the reading habit, so that they might savour the pleasure of reading a printed paper-back or hard-back all the while knowing that soon this pleasure will no longer be ours!  I guess very soon printed Encyclopaedias and other printed books will become collector’s items to be guarded with great pride!

Lessons of life - The Sage's Song

Beware     about     wailing  of    losses     lest     they    say,   “ A  Choice   you   made
So    should    you   stick  to   it! ” and   don’t    gnash    teeth for  having listened to that
Love  of  yours,  whom   the  wolf  had convinced so,  that you  should leave the beaten
Path  that fed  you so !” But for that choice, perhaps, I  wouldn’t  be  writing  this poem!

 For  bear   my  lesson  clear, hear  not  what your friends tell you, but listen to what your
Heart   says,  lest  you   should  lose  the comfort of a soft bed and grow thick from lack
Of    exercise!    To   live   a   life  of   risk   will   sharpen   minds   and  build   muscles!
To   make  you  appreciate   the   spice  and  colours  of  life   requires   adventure   rare!

For  so you  stepped  on a path of    risk  and and adventure and challenge so, that
You might  live  life  to  the  fullest  and  savour each flavour of  this  wonderful  life!
And  so took you you hobbies with the greatest zest and  saw  the  birds wonderful,
You saw  flowers  exotic lining the path, all  for you to savour while  the  world slept!

 And, thank your love and those friends  who helped you take  the more  risky path,
Of  a  life filled with adventure  and risk,  that you  should live  a fuller life with fruits
Ripe  and  waiting  to  be plucked.  While  all  sleep  the deep slumber of food and
Drink,  you  walk  the  paths of life, savouring the scents  and tastes  of a rich kind!

  For  remember  me so, your life  depends on  what you choose, but  choose it wise,
Lest you  should  wail!  A life of comfort  fattens,  and dulls the minds, of those  that
Sleep,  but  life  presents her gifts dear  only to  those who remain awake and alert!
For  me  to  wander  through  the  paths  of   life   would   better  be  than  to  sleep!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Arguing Hornbills

Today while taking a round in the school campus I came across a pair of Hornbills perched in the midst of the branches of a Eucalyptus tree. I was told that these Hornbills had the habit of pecking at their reflections in the window panes of the Junior branch of the school in which I work! I found them really interesting and decided to take snaps of them. They seemed to be quite familiar with each other and seemed to be a rather close knit pair! Today it has become very difficult to see them in and around the capital city of the country. Seeing one is wonderful, but then seeing a pair of them is better still!
IMG_0168                   IMG_0173
It seems as if the fellow on the right is trying to convince the bird on the left.Guess birds too have arguments amongst themselves!
IMG_0174                   IMG_0177
The bird on the left doesn’t seem to be convinced by the arguments of the bird on the right. Oh, my guess is that some birds will never be convinced easily! Pointing the head upwards could be a sign of agreement?
IMG_0178                   IMG_0179
Look at their body language! They turn towards each other and then they turn away from each others in disagreement!

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Some more Birds

One morning I came across a strange bird that looked somewhat like a crow, and yet it had feathers which were a light tan colour. I couldn’t help taking a snap of this rather venerable bird!
Another day, I heard a bird singing with a rather loud voice from the branches of a tree next to the balcony. When I went out to see it, I was surprised to see that it was a rather small bird, barely three inches in length. When it saw me raise my camera, it seemed rather cross and ruffled! Look for yourselves and decide whether or not it appears to be rather cross!
You can very clearly observe that the leaves seem to be bigger than the bird itself.
One weekend I observed a pair of Ducks cavorting in the water. Perhaps they were the last of the Migratory birds in Jagadhri and they seemed to be very much involved with each other!
IMG_0146                   IMG_0147

Well, I guess birds will be birds, and there is no denying that we have a lot to learn from them!

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Monday, 12 March 2012

Driving with Bullock-Carts! A Poem

The  bullock  cart rocks  forward,   wheels lurch  over a  pot-hole,
While   a gleaming red  sportster purrs  throatily,  skimming  over
Ditches,  and  potholes  ready to take off as soon as  lights  turn
Green.  Both  bullock   cart   and  sportster  wait while dogs  dash
Around  chasing chickens clucking in  annoyance  and  distress!


The  light  turns  green,  and  sportster leaps  while the bullock cart
  Lurches  forward!  The motorcycles  vrooms, drivers  wave  at   the
Bullock Cart driver in triumph! Chickens scuttle, and dogs scamper
Lest  tails be crushed and egos hurt while all   dash forth in a  mad
Rush ere the lights turn red, and they miss the party on page three!


  Alas, the whole  troop of  sportster,   bullock  cart  and    Motorcycle
  Meet   again   at    the    next  red   light  simmering   with   rage,  as
  They  cool   their  heels,  waiting  for a  green signal! The sportster’s
  Driver   glares   at   the   bullock   cart  driver   and  the   Motorcycle
   Rider fumes  with impatience,  while  they  cook in the summer  heat!
Thus,  it   happens  that   Porsche,  Ducati,   and   Bullock   cart,
All share the same  road  with  Buffaloes,  Dogs,  and   Chicken.
They   all have  a  destination  in  mind,  and  they  all  move  at
The   same    pace!   Speed   doesn’t   matter, here,  it  is  what
The road allows!So take your time while the road takes you  on!
Remember  me  right, when you  drive  on  this  road  unique, do
Not  think  you can  beat  the   traffic  light!  Speeding will make it
Only  worse when you  are  caught up by  the bullock cart and he
Smiles  at  you while you  fume  with  frustration  and  anger!  You
Can only go as fast as the road allows you,and not just by speed!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The importance of fasting in the Lent Season

The importance of fasting in the Lent season has been a most debated topic in recent times. In Ethiopia, where a large percentage of the population is made up of Coptic Christians, most of the people strictly adhere to a special menu during the Lent season. In a country which is mostly made up of meat eaters, no meat except for fish is served during the forty days of the Lent Season! My Hindu friends too keep fasts on specific days, although they would be allowed to eat only fruits during the day! I have known very close Christians who keep fasting prayers and  break their fast only in the evening! I am frequently reminded by my pastors, and some of the elders in my family that the Lent Season is not just about fasting, but a time when you try to overcome your weaknesses, don’t use harsh language, don’t do ill to others, and in general refrain from doing those things which are hurtful or harmful.
The tough regimen of fasting during the lent season, is not an end all, rather it is a way of trying to understand the significance of forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness prior to his being Crucified on the Cross! This period of fasting should be seen as a means of Spiritual Cleansing where we try to resist temptation. We might forego the things that we enjoy most, and perhaps be more humble, modest, and meek. The avoidance of a boisterous get-together,  avoidance of eating meat, and for those who are spiritually and physically strong, there would be fasting which would be broken only in the evenings. The concept of abnegation,  self-effacement, or self-negation,  well known in the Hindu society with some ascetics going to the extreme forms of self-deprivation in order to reach Moksh is however  different from the Christian concept of fasting during the Lent Season. This is because fasting during the Lent Season  is meant to prepare us for Mukti, or freedom from Carnal desires, temptations, and all those material things which would distract our minds from understanding the significance of  the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the pain and suffering he underwent for our sake ! Fasting  also is a time for introspection, a time for coming closer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! It is a time to develop empathy for those who suffer, those who are hungry, and most of all to understand the s suffering and pain that Jesus underwent as a human being for the forgiveness of our sins, and the redemption of all Mankind!
What is important during the Lent season, therefore  is not just about whether we are fasting or not, but rather it is a time for introspection and meditation, a time of looking within ourselves and trying to understand the significance of the sacrifice that Jesus had to undergo for our sake. Fasting and abstention should have the function or purpose of cleansing our minds of all the distractions so that we might prepare ourselves for meditation and introspection.
So, it is clear that it is not just enough to be fasting during the Lent season, but it is also important to keep our minds and souls clean from negativity, bad thoughts, and we should mind what we say to others, be very careful not to be spiteful and in bad taste! Moreover, fasting when undertaken as a duty or a forced regimen loses all its value. If you are not inclined to fast, and yet fast with ill-will and spitefulness then it is better not to fast at all.  The New Testament Book of Mathew, Chapter 4, verse 1 very clearly describes how, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil ”, and in verse 2 and 3 we are told how, “After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him…”. The Old Testament Book of Isaiah chapter 58 describes the meaning of “ True Fasting” and warns lest, according to the third verse, “your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists”! Furthermore   chapter 6, verse 16 in the book of Mathew clearly warns against hypocrisy while fasting. The 16th. verse reads, “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.”

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Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Glossary of Philatelic Terms

A collector of stamps will come across some new terms related to Philately. I have tried to list some of these with examples. The term FDC or First Day Cover refers to an envelope carrying a stamp which shows a cancellation on the date on the date of issue. Often first-day day covers commemorate an event, or honours a famous personality, organisation, cultural event, scientific discovery…etc..
Given below is an example of a First Day Cover:
A Cachet refers to the design on the envelop which complements the design of the stamp. First Day Cover Envelops usually have a Cachet like the above example.
Pairs refer to sets of two stamps joined together.
A Triptych refers to a series of three se-tenant stamps as given below:
A quadripartite refers to  a block or strips of four stamps as given below:
A Souvenir refers to a small sheet with a set of stamps describing an event being commemorated:
Bisects refer to stamps cut or perforated into two parts, each half representing half the face value of the original stamp. In the example below, we have what is called a quadrisect. The group of stamps below also form a block , two vertical and two horizontal:
Commemorative Stamps refer to stamps printed in limited quantities to commemorate an anniversary, a historical event, or a landmark.
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A field of flowers-A poem


A host of flowers stretches down the horizon,
With pinks, whites, and reds,and yellows fair!
The senses reel with scents so rich in the air!

Nodding,  smiling  and  waving in  the  wind,
They  promise  a  life  awash  with fulfilment!
A  feast rich  for  those  who  pause  to  rest!

The  cup which overfills  with  nectar  sweet,
Calls  to  them  to take a sip,that they might
Find a  bountiful life filled with joy ‘n’ grace!

While  some sip from  the red  cup,  others
Sip  from the  yellow, while  some  sip  from
The  pink cup. All satiated  lie  intoxicated!

The butterflies dance , the bees buzz, and  birds
Sing!  The whole  world  feasts. The table’s  laid,
A  treat  aplenty, for  those who   deign to tarry!

The scent of bergamot and cinnamon sharp,
Entwine  with the  scent of  Jasmine smooth,
To   send   sweet   dreams   to  tired  minds!

While  flowers  bloom,  and  dreams  realise,
A  wish fulfilled, and  victory  near, of  lovers
Won and babies born! The world celebrates
Of  birth  and  joy!  And  you and I sing aloud!

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Friday, 2 March 2012


That  year the roar of  the Lion of Judah was lost forever,
In  its place came the rumble of despots of different kind,
Who  unleashed  the dogs  of war on an innocent people
Of a nation suffering from famine. “The  Revolution,” they
Said, “was because of the Famine,” but famines still exist!

While  Terror Red roamed the streets,  like    vultures    ready,
The   Mothers   hushed  their wailing children, lest the Dergue
Should   hear  and  break   open  the doors!  The   Walls  had
Ears,  and you   watched  your  tongue,  lest  they heard  you!

The   young,   hearing    motherland   call,  joined  the    militia,
To   train with  wooden sticks for  guns! They punched the  air,
And  cheered  aloud, and  went to  fight  a  battle  never  won,
While Despots  ruled a Nation suffering  from famine ‘n’ shame!

While   the nation   suffered  from  further war   and   draught,
The despot   collected gold and silver!  The nation shivered in
Greater    fear,   as   E.P.L.F.  and  T.L.F.  further   advanced,
And   Migs    poured   napalm,   while   hungry children wailed!

For  I sing  a song of  all  those  lost,  in  a  reign  of  fifteen
Years,  of  terror  and madness  sheer! For,  after the reign
Of  lions, came  Hyenas  and despots    who unleashed  the
Dogs  of war on  the  innocent  suffering  from famine harsh!

And so is my song of a Nation of milk and honey, of emperors
Great, sucked  into a vortex of pain and  suffering,  as despots
Collected  gold and  Silver.  For  such  was the  reign of  terror,
It  cowed  down  a  nation  suffering from draught  and  famine!

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