Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010-NO TITLE

2010 is nearly over. If we needed to be reminded about how fragile we are in the fabric of life, this year showed that with great clarity. While we continue to plunder and pillage the planet and make it uninhabitable for future generations, we are already feeling the intense heat, drought, floods, excess rain, excess snow, intense cold and so on.

The planet does not show any mercy on rich or poor nations and we are all equal to blame. For putting up stupid fronts and creating boundaries, for building walls and waging useless wars that cost lives, for lack of political will, we humans are nowhere close to evolution than we were when we lived in caves. I know, evolution for Gen X or Y or whatever the hell it is now, means connectivity and gadgets. I wish many of them can look beyond those tiny screens on their mobile devices and see that there's much more to the World and they may lose it from right under their nose.

This year I watched lethargy build, watched Government Babus sit on their fat behinds and do nothing, politicians brazenly looting the public while the public watched, of an intolerant/inefficient/corrupt system that fails people in each and every department. This isn't only about failed states and so-called "free" countries such as India, this is from a messed up World involving the now emerging bankruptcies (financial and moral) across the board in every Country. EU Countries are going broke and the US was always broke and didn't know about it. I watched a majority sit, sulk, blog and do nothing about it.

Personally this year, some good things happened too. I met more good people this year than ever before. I met dedicated people who are out there trying to do something for the common good, for the well being of all life forms and not with any intention of making money.

I finally got a long term goal in mind. Something that I can continue to do for a long time to come or at least till my time's up on this planet. None of that involves making tons of money, power or position for myself. That is giving me way more sense of fulfillment than anything else so far. I have found a closeness to our cousins, one that I had but never did anything about it in the past. The same cousins of ours that live in the marine environment, the ones I can relate to better than humans any day. The ones that have far superior intelligence, empathic, understanding, loving and yet remain threatened by most of our actions. Some of them are critically endangered and live in our river systems including my favorite Gangetic Dolphins. I'll work for them more this new year and the years to come and I'm glad about the building up of World wide support to my efforts.

This isn't about me. Not this planet, not this spec of dust at the edge of a vague galaxy among millions more. This is about the very fabric that runs through it, that binds us and holds us together, a fabric that is joy if it stays together in harmony, and causes destruction and misery when we meddle with it while exhibiting our selfish greed.

I hope and wish for a better life for all when the calendar changes dates. I hope and wish all people are successful at what they do. I hope I can blog more, when I'm not working with my cousins and bring their plight to everyone's attention.

This blog is a serious deviation from my previous year end blogs.
2005 I ended the year with a short blog about my trip to Colva, Goa.
The year ending 2006 was about aviation and that was my most prolific year of blogging.
2007 ending was about Singapore's New Year and I wrote hoping that humans would evolve and come out of this madness that overtook the region. Safe to say we haven't evolved even the tiniest bit so far.
2008 end piece was about an air show in Dubai, nothing hugely interesting.
2009 was about a visit to Bangkok. By now I had moved into a bit of travel writing. Maybe I was losing direction.
2010 awoke me. Showed me the dark side, personal loss of dad, chikungunya hit me with a vengeance, mom's health went erratic recently and so on. All well now. Sundarbans was a much needed release mid year. Dolphins kept me sane and focused. Working for their cause gave me inspiration. In future if you read or see me doing lots for them, know for certain that its them that matter, not I. Peace be with you!

Friday, September 03, 2010

SUNDARBANS TIGER CAMP


(A young Sundari tree, Sundarbans is named after this mangrove tree)
(click on pictures to enlarge)(Videos are poor quality when expanded, need to upload to youtube and embed sometime!)

This blog is a continuation of the previous one titled: "Sundarbans-World's Largest Mangroves". I was on a country boat in my last line of the previous blog, going from Pakhirala, to Sajnekhali Tiger Camp on Sajnekhali island where I was to stay. The boat went across the channel first to a mudbank on Satjelia to pick up one more person who worked at the Tiger Camp before cutting across the narrow channel to arrive at Sajnekhali. I was well and truly in the middle of the tide country, as it is called, due to the fact that low and high tides has large scale impact on people's lives in the Sundarbans low lying Islands on a daily basis.


(Tide country and its mangrove islands)

The signboard at the entrance to the jetty said "Sajnekhali Tiger Camp" an indication that one had reached tiger country, and although this part of Sajnekhali is in the buffer zone, tigers are known to wander around here. Dragging my light luggage on a fenced off brick lined path, I obtained a forest permit to stay at the Tiger Camp guest house. The permit section of the Forest Department is on the left of the entrance. Paperwork took very little time and I was keen to head on in for a shower, having spent the morning under the Sun in the open. It was time to do what tigers like to do, cool off in water, or so I thought. Continuing on the brick lane, I came upon this old building, not looking too well in appearance, with a staircase leading upstairs to an office and the guest rooms area. The friendly manager of the Tiger Camp was away getting my room cleaned it seems but was happy to see me upon his return, I was the lone occupant of the entire complex, giving him some work to do in this lean season. As I said before, not too many people head to the Sundarbans in summer but I dare say it was much cooler and definitely far more pleasant than busy, noisy, polluted Kolkata (calcutta).


(Basic room)

I was led to this room that has a basic bed, a side chair and a writing table. If one keeps the windows open during the day, some breeze will come in although the uninsulated tin roof keeps the inside warmer than the outside. Tiger camp is run on solar power that is used mainly during night times. Limited use is allowed during morning hours. There is a back up diesel generator if all else fails. The manager guided me through everything, I was to use the shower (cold water only) which was drawn from the salt water river. Only the wash basin has fresh water for brushing teeth or for lathering for a shave. Fresh water is supplied in boats that come in now and then from the mainland and hence a precious commodity on these islands. I was reminded to be judicious about fresh water usage. The manager said, making all kinds of gesticulations with his hands, that I was to shower first with the salt water and then 'rinse' myself with a few mugs of fresh water from the wash basin tap! He showed me the electrical points and the fan and a small balcony at the back end of the room that overlooks a fresh water pond. He told me that lunch would be ready by 1PM and asked if I had any preferences. I left the menu decision to him, knowing that resources and vegetables were scarce. I just told him to keep things simple and local.


(River cruise boats from Sajnekhali-I went on the white one on the left called "Madhumati")

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(Ramakrishno at the boat wheel house)

I had a restful morning, catching up on a short mid morning nap, to shed all that earlier travel tiredness. A bit dazed but otherwise awake, I wandered over to the mess hall for a quick simple lunch consisting of some local vegetable on the side and Dal (lentils) and rice. There was french fries on the side too! The Bengalis love their potatoes and this is available in plenty throughout the state. Its a sort of staple for them. So far, since my arrival, it had been deathly quiet, there wasn't any sound at all. If there was anything lurking in the forest beyond the steel fence that separated the tiger camp guest house and the mangroves forest, I wouldn't have known.


(New growth mangroves near the water's edge)

In the afternoon, I was re-introduced to this young fellow Ramakrishno, he was the same person who'd brought me from Pakhirala in that rickety country boat. He was going to be the boat captain on the river cruise of the Sundarbans. Boat permits and forest entry permits were obtained at the same place near the entrance and accompanied by a Tiger guide, we set off. We navigated the waters, Ramakrishno in the wheel house, myself and the tiger guide on the outside deck, first heading North and then North East around Sajnekhali Island, passing numerous creeks and narrow water ways that meandered in and out of the mangroves. Some of the creeks are narrow and the main channels between islands are rather wide, sometimes 3 kilometers and more in width. Tigers here are expert swimmers and have been spotted swimming across wide channels from one island to the other.

Along the way on the main river channel, we saw many types Kingfishers, Cormorants and the guide pointed out areas of old and new growth mangroves. I wasn't going to see any salt water estuarine crocodiles, I knew that they normally come out and bask in the winter sun but hide somewhere inside the cooler foliage during summer. Sometime after meandering around at slow speed, we came up to the jetty of Sudhanyakhali, Tiger Core Zone.


(Entrance gate to Sudhanyakhali Tiger Reserve)

The jetty was exposed but the pathway from the entrance gate, leading into the jungle was fenced off on both sides. Near the entrance I came upon a shrine, dedicated to Bon Bibi, a female deity and her brother Shah Jongoli. Honey collectors who foray into the jungle during collecting season just before the monsoon, never do so without first invoking the blessings of the deity as she, Bon Bibi, is the keeper of the forest. Without her protection, Dokkin Rai would make mincemeat out of you. Or so, the legend is told. Dokkin Rai/Ray apparently takes the form of the Tiger of course. The legend of Bon Bibi is interesting. I did not think that I would come across a Hindu looking deity, worshipped as the Hindus do, but by mainly Muslim honey collectors whose prayer is a strange invocation using Islamic phrases. Instead of writing the entire story of Bon Bibi again, let me make a link here to a wiki article on this here

.

(Bon Bibi shrine at entrance of Sudhanyakhali-also seen is her brother Shah Jongoli and Dokkin Rai as the tiger)

I paid my respects to Bon Bibi as she was the protector of the forest. It was my way of thanking the forest itself, just for being there, as a habitat for animals and birds, for purifying the air, for being an excellent carbon sink and so on. It was a blessing just being there. The lane led to a watch tower that overlooks a mad made water hole. The forest department has a small garden with hibiscus plants. One of them was in full bloom with lots of Hibiscus on it. Climbing the stairs to the tower, I was told that this place had reported a number of tiger sightings in the recent past. The bulk of my afternoon was going to be spent sitting here watching for anything that moved. Although there was cell phone coverage (surprisingly), I switched it off completely. No way was I going to disturb the completely silent forest or it's inhabitants. There are places on the planet where one can go to and just hear oneself breathe. This is one of those places in the non tourist season.


(Fenced off lane and the watch tower on Sudhanyakhali)


(The 2 female deer at the water hole)

Two female Chital deer appeared slowly, looking this way and that. Shortly thereafter a young Stag with magnificent horns came out of the bushes too. I watched them as they circled the water hole, graze on lush grass under a tall tree that had a rather large, quiet, dozy changeable hawk eagle on it. The Hawk Eagle didn't move for ages. A water monitor lizard appeared from the bushes as I watched the deer get closer to the watch tower. The water monitor also circled around, looking for an easy entry point and having found it, slipped into the water for a nice swim. Time went by and the monitor made an exit, waddling his frame across the semi wet mud to slink off into the undergrowth, probably for a much needed nap!

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(Video-Monitor lizard taking his walk)


(Stag arrives)

Suddenly the jungle got noisy. A large family of Rhesus monkeys showed up from behind us, jumping over the tall fence with ease. The large male looked like he was the boss as he led his group on a feedings frenzy. He installed himself on one of the branches of the Hibiscus tree, it could barely hold his weight, and began to pluck and eat them. I watched in amazement as he polished off every single flower! A young male came up the tower to take a look at me. Not impressed, he sat on a railing outside on the watch tower's open deck area and munched on something he'd stuffed in his face earlier. He didn't show even the slightest fear nor interest as I filmed a short clip of him from up close. The dominant male then came closer to the water hole and began to forage for things that had fallen from the trees.


(Monkey King in the middle of the hibiscus tree)

The Stag and his girlfriends were also nearby. I'm not sure what happened next, my reverie was broken. The male shouted out a warning and climbed the nearest tree faster than I could say tree. All the monkeys went up various trees. My tiger guide whispered that it could be a tiger lurking around. The stag got agitated and thumped his foot a few times on the ground and then took off running a short distance followed by the girls. The tiger is an intelligent creature blessed with a fabulous sense of smell. I knew he'd never come out because he had sensed us. We were downwind of him and he would have smelled us from a long time, perhaps from when we first got to the tower. This moment seemed magical, even just imagining a tiger in the neighborhood.

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(The young stag, a little disturbed)

As the afternoon wound down to a calm early evening, we set out again, back to a slow meandering cruise down to Pakhiralay. The Guest House manager had called to say that he was coming across and we could have some tea together at the tea stall near the Pakhiralay boat jetty. As we negotiated the waters at almost idle speed, we saw fighter jets swoop down into the water. I'm talking about the magnificent Crested Serpent Eagle of the Sundarbans. They were circling around over the water and would swoop down in an aerobatic display, snatch fish from near the surface and fly away. With the Sun at a oblique angle, the cool breeze off the water, the mangroves gliding by, predatory birds putting on an aerial display, this was one of those evening that I would wish to have lasted for eternity.

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By the time we landed on the jetty at Pakhiralay, it was getting dark. The Manager and I had our cup of tea while I paid the boat owner for the trip, he also owns a shop there that had a generator in it. I watched as people gathered around to welcome a new piece of equipment. It was a soft drinks cooler for his shop on a cycle van and we watched the excitement of people unloading and installing this cooler. Another piece of modernity to these parts, perhaps to cater to the droves of tourists that would appear in the peak season. We waited for a water tanker boat to come by and pick us up, first stopping at Satjelia to drop off Mr. Tiger Guide and then turning towards Sajnekhali to drop us off.

I went in to freshen up and then came out to enjoy the complete darkness, standing at the railing of the long balcony. The low power light coming out from my open doorway couldn't cut through even to the edge of the balcony, it was that dark. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw a large form run on the ground, dodging sharp mangroves roots coming out of the soil, and climb up the tree not even few feet away from me. I was standing perfectly still. It came up to my face level. It was large, furry, with a long bushy tail, a giant squirrel as the manager told me later. It paused for a second before clambering on to the tin roof, raising a racket as it ran across it. I wandered over to the dining room where I was met at the door by junior Sher Khan, the tiger of his domain, a kitten that had been left by some villager on this Island and lived in the guest house.


(Junior Sher Khan)

A gentleman who worked as a guide to the Sundarbans dropped in for a chat. He was staying over for the night, having lodged his naturalist-guest from Europe at one of those swanky "tiger Resorts" on another Island. Over a simple meal he told me that he'd been coming to the Sundarbans over many decades and this, he felt, was the most peaceful environment that he had ever seen. He had just come off a Pan India tour for his company when this foreign lady dropped in and asked for an English speaking guide to the Sundarbans. Apparently he cancelled his leave application and seized on this chance to come back again to the Sundarbans, that's how much he loved the place and it's inhabitants. Junior Sher Khan was happy to nibble on the tit bits I gave him and he got a good scratch massage from me later.

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(Sun going down in the Sundarbans)

I went to bed in peace, with the mosquito net in place, athough I did not find any flying around. Other insects invaded at night, I was told, and therefore wisely used the net. I was woken up early in the morning by a loud racket. A large family of Rhesus monkeys had come marauding. They were shrieking and running all over the roof. It was like I was in the middle of a war zone. Good wake up call, this. I wished I was staying longer but this was one of those in-between trips that I had squeezed in. I was needed in Bangalore the next day and had to scoot off the same way I had come into the Sundarbans. I'd go back there again, at every opportunity I got. I need to give back to that precious eco system, in whatever way I can. I also want to see if I'm lucky enough to spot my favorite Gangetic Dolphins and the Irrawady Dolphins.

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(Rhesus monkey who didn't care for my filming)

Sundarbans is a fragile eco system, one that is being affected by climate change. Cyclone Alia in 2008 did a lot of damage and flooded the area with salt water rendering many fields barren. Salinity has moved up from the sea in the South and into the river systems. Species with poor tolerance to salt water, such as Gangetic Dolphins, will be affected. I would suggest all my readers, most of whom are lovers of nature and wildlife, to come and visit the Sundarbans. Come here for the Mangroves, come here for the fresh air, come here for the natural wonder that this place is. Don't come here looking for tigers, chances are that you'd have better luck sighting them in the jungles of peninsular India than in the Sundarbans.

If you do see Sher Khan, pay him respects quietly, he deserves his place in the Sun. This is a peace of heaven, as Bittu Sehgal said in his comment on my last blog piece, let us keep it that way. Come here in peace, leave nothing behind except a piece of your soul that will invariably attach itself to these magical mangroves. For newbie readers who plan on visiting or telling your friends about it, please tell them to leave their plastic bags at home. Please take your garbage with you, back to your origin or to Kolkata at least, for disposal. Use resources very carefully, leave as little footprint as possible. Sundarbans doesn't need our sympathy, it needs our understanding and respect.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

SUNDARBANS – WORLD’S LARGEST MANGROVE

I arrived in Sundarbans, the World’s largest mangrove forest, famous for its chief inhabitant – the Royal Bengal Tiger, on a hot morning in April 2010. Now, getting here can be an adventure and perhaps a challenge in itself, because of the remoteness of this place. If you look at the map of India and its Eastern border with Bangladesh, you’d notice a string of marshy islands with hundreds, perhaps thousands of minor rivulets cutting in and around the various islands. These low level islands constitute the Sundarbans- a word in Bengali that means “beautiful forest” but the name is actually derived from a mangrove tree called Sundari, which also means beautiful. There are many ways of getting here from Kolkata, the nearest major city, all of those ways are somewhat complicated but I will provide those details at the end of this blog. Here I am going to recount the route I took and the method that seemed the shortest way to get to the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve on Sajenkhali Island.


(Islands of the Sundarbans)

I rented a vehicle, air-conditioned of course, the April heat this year being exceptionally hot on record, I was not going to rough it out like I would have in my younger days or in better weather. I don’t mind roughing it out once I get to my destination but if I can avoid a rough ride to get there, I’ll do it any day. Driving down, one heads South from Kolkata on a narrow state highway that passes through the outer fringes of Kolkata, passing through stinking areas of leather processing plants, brick kilns, small and very congested fish and vegetable markets, grubby satellite towns and so on. After about 40 kilometers from Kolkata we seemed to have left everything behind and all that I could see were vegetable gardens, water pools, canals and for some time we paralleled a river that was quite polluted, a river that leaves India and goes into Bangladesh at some point. Apparently it’s our polluted gift to the people there!

(Chimneys belching smoke-brick kilns)

The small villages of Bengal are neat, with mud walled huts and clean surroundings, a far cry from dirty villages that I have seen in many parts of Southern India. These villages were neat and tidy and one is surprised at the level of cleanliness after leaving the dirty polluted environment of a big city like Kolkata. Each mud house has a small pond near it, called a “pukur”. I suppose this water is used for many things, I saw people swimming in it, bathing in it and even cleaning their vessels and clothes in it.
We passed through several such villages, some of them the driver knew by name and most he didn’t. What mattered to me was that he was able to find the route correctly, even choosing the right forks in the road and so on, since signboards were entirely missing.


The last town and it’s a really small town is Basanti and possibly the last place where one can use their ATM cards to withdraw cash, I saw a new one being installed in the town, off the main highway, at the State Bank of India. 10 Kms from Basanti is the waterfront, a place called Godkhali where one can park their hired cars for a fee, at sheltered car parking areas. A short distance away at the waterside is a bus stop type shelter for the country boats and water taxis that ply between Godkhali and Gosaba. Gosaba is a large island and gateway to the Sundarbans. Overloaded, open to air/sun ferries with people and bikes cross the waterway between Godkhali and Gosaba, one look at the engine and one can start praying straightaway to their favorite God because the entire thing looks too rickety to support that many people.

(Country boat before people, livestock, motorcycles etc get on it)

The system is strange, they go a short distance and collect more people from what looks like sand bank and then cross a larger section of water to Gosaba. When one gets off at Gosaba, a guy with a wooden table sits at the point of exit and I noticed that everyone placed a One Rupee coin on his table as they exit. I too did the same, do as the locals do, I thought. One Rupee is a great deal for 20 minutes in the Sun on an overloaded country boat indeed.



Now, just so that I don’t scare the bejesus out of you readers, let me tell you that if you are in a group or booked through a resort that’s on Bali Island, one can proceed by a covered vessel that starts from Godkhali to the resort directly. I was alone and did not want to take one large boat to go to Sajnekhali, that’s where the Government run Forest Guest House is, inside the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, where I planned to stay. For one person, it would have cost me a few thousand Rupees in this offseason. Anyway, the adventurous side in me wouldn’t have it. I really wanted to experience this as the locals do.

Once on Gosaba, I was told that I needed to take a “van” ride to the Southern part of the Island and catch another water taxi to Sajnekhali. So, I set off to hunt for a van. On the way, I passed through a small lane market, bustling with people and goods exhibited like a fair was going on. This seems to be a normal affair everyday, with Islanders flocking to buy everything from medicines to groceries to Vegetables and fish of course. At the end of the market, it just suddenly stops, I spotted a State Bank of India with an ATM there! Imagine, you are in the middle of nowhere, village island at the edge of the Sundarbans and there was 21st Century convenience! That euphoria was short lived when I found out that the ATM had broken down and had not been fixed for some time! Carrying some cash is a prudent thing to do when you are going to visit the boondocks.
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(Riding on a cycle van through Gosaba)

Backtracking to the market and not seeing any “van”, I asked a local yokel where I could find a van and being a good Samaritan that he was, led me to a group of cycle rickshaws at the stand and told me in Bengali and sign language that I had to get on it. This cycle rickshaw is a bicycle hinged to a flat bed made of wood. One sits all around it, I believe 9 people can share a ride! I thought that this wiry bloke on the cycle rickshaw was going to take me to another place where one could continue in a Van. It struck me a little while later, during the 45 minutes cycling this guy did, with me and my bag on the flatbed and trying a conversation, to realize that this contraption was indeed “the van”, it’s a cycle van, he told me, sweat dripping off his legs as he pumped furiously, speeding on the narrow road, dodging people and other “vans” coming from the opposite side.
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(Cycle van perspective)

The two videos posted above gives a good idea of what it feels like bumping along on the van for 45 minutes, going through many neat villages of Gosaba before finally ending up at what they call Sajnekhali ghat (or Pakhirala - another name for this place), the place to catch another open to air country boat to Sajnekhali Island, home to the Sajnekhali Tiger Camp, a part of the core area of the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve. This time, however, I was the lone paying occupant of the country boat and accompanying me were two others who worked on Sajnekhali island which has no other occupants or villages. Check out this video of the boat and its engine.
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(Boat from Pakhirala to Sajnekhali Tiger Camp)

The next part will have stories about my boat trip into the Sudhanyakhali Tiger Reserve in the core area of the Sundarbans, my animal encounters in the Sundarbans, Legend of Bon Bibi and will have videos and more pictures of these things. Coming soon!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DID NOT DISAPPEAR!

Just when people thought I’d disappeared, I’m back. Since my last blog about the Singapore Kite Festival, lots’ of things have been going on. Dad went into ICU first week of Feb and by 12th he was no more. I was in India for the whole time. Since that is a very personal event, I'm not going to say much except that my Dad was a simple, straightforward, decent and honest to the core. Qualities one can try and emulate. After going back home to Singapore, I started to get calls to come back to do interesting projects in aviation in India and so I came back on 20th March. Since then it’s been Bharat Darshan for me, touring all over the Country in this hot summer weather.

I started in Mysore, Bangalore and Goa, where my little apartment is, and then progressed on to Kolkata. Being the environment buff that I am, and particularly fond of mangroves and the Tiger, it was quite obvious that I’d end up in the Sundarbans, the World’s largest mangrove area. To say it was magical itself would be an understatement and a few lines cannot describe the place. This I will blog about as soon as I go back home to better Internet connection and when I get back to comfort of my desk. I have photos and videos to post on Sundarbans.

Then I had trips to Bhubaneshwar, New Delhi twice and Ahmadabad. There’s more work to be done, mostly with Government agencies and that needs plenty of patience. I’d probably break this on going trip with a visit back home to regain my sanity a bit. I’m so looking forward to more visits to wildlife reserves and Biospheres in the next leg. Wildlife and conservation is something that can get me going non-stop but that’d bore everyone else so I’ll end that topic here for now.

Since I have been traveling so much and working so hard in this trying (and tiring) climate, there’s not been time (or inclination) to blog. Hence this long gap. You can’t keep a good man down so I took solace in twitter, where I could micro blog and find instant gratification. So, anyone who follows me there would have tracked all my movements and stories, albeit in 140 characters at a time! I’m not on Twitter because of the likes of cattle class interlocutors like Shashi Tharoor or that lisping Kingpin of IPL (not any more) Lalith Modi. I don’t follow any celebrity for that matter, just normal people, some of whom have become real good friends now, in the real World.

There’s so much in India that one can be proud about and so much that one can be depressed about, not reached the stage where the former is at higher percentage than the latter, unfortunately. For me, the need of the hour is conservation of Wildlife, we are losing Tigers and forests and our source of water supply, Oxygen, carbon sink and so on. I am studying a more vibrant involvement with small NGO’s that are into this or get one started on my own. That’s a goal for me next, side by side with all the other projects that I am doing, with a plan to offset actively, carbon footprint as a result of such activity. There I go again, pontificating about the environment. But I guess I do so because I am passionate about it and feel the need to have this all -important issue on the front burner at all times. That way, something gets done and directly results in benefits to humans.

That’s it for now next blog will be about the Sundarbans, an area seldom visited during summer and hence pristine and empty. I was there and returned with a story to tell. Till then, Ciao!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

SINGAPORE KITE DAY


(Crocodile and Teddy Bear flying together)

Today was the 3rd Singapore International Kite Day, actually last 2 days of kite flying fun. I'd not seen them in the previous 2 years but they were in the field right next door to me and I just couldn't miss them this time.
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There are 11 International teams participating in this festival plus Singapore. The crowd participation was good but not overwhelming. All in all, 2 days of glorious flying kites. I don't mean just the usual ones, there were kites that looked like huge crocodiles, Sting Ray, Teddy Bear and even a White Tiger. I guess the accompanying still pictures and videos are self explanatory.
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The event Chief Guest was the defense Minister who is also Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. As usual, the event was well managed, there were tents for people to take shade under, these tents had fans running to cool off. There was ambulance on standby, portable potties for those that had to go and there were kiosks where one could buy kites, buy insurance and even clothes! All kinds of vending going on...

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(LED Kite just as evening set in)

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(White Tiger and others)

The Kite festival included night flying and this was a first for me. I had not seen Kites all lit up with LED lights take to the skies and do those wonderful dances they did. There was a dazzling display of kites with Lites at night, looking like a UFO invasion. Of course, as in all such events, there was loud foot tapping music, Lion Dance performances and hip hop routines on a stage. All in all, a good event to get lots of people together, of all racial mix and get them to fly kites. Well done! More pictures below: