Sunday, December 25, 2005

Run DSF Run

'Research is like long distance running'. This was my close friend Vishwa's funda during my IISc days. And, as I struggled with my research work, hanging on to it, pushing it. That comment seemed so apt. And, soon I realised not just Research but LIFE indeed was like long distance running. You need to persevere, hold-on, cling-on to your goals, ideals, principles, what not....And, you need to keep working towards it. Boredom, distractions, sudden dip in confidence/faith all these comes in the way. You need to keep pushing, keep taking those steps, keep running. And, suddenly it dawns on you. Its not the body, itz not the facilities, but your mind, your thinking that matters. You suddenly encounter YOU. You get to know YOU.

Ladies & gentlemen, thats why I love running. Its a training to take on life and enjoy it all the way. In that 30 minutes, 1 hours, or 2.5 hrs of running, you go through life. And, each time you finish it as planned, its an affirmation that you've got what it takes. And, THAT is wonderful. Ask, anybody who runs.....

As I run my life, I realise a few things are precious to me.
1. Neuroscience
2. Giving back to society.

Neuroscience - The Brain - fascinates me so much that my very existence should tend towards it ;-)

Giving back to society: Yes, doing what YOU can. Sharing. Inspiring. Empowering.

It may sound strange but yes, poverty has fascinated me. Initially, it was walking through slums, watching them: their families, and their kids playing on the street. The kid running around half-naked, the boyz loitering around with a defiant/hurt look, the girls busy with household work. And soon, you notice that lotz of boyz & girls are working. In canteens, cycle-shops, garages while they should have been in schools. You know for sure, you could have been one of them. Choiceless birth has made all the difference. Life withering before it blooms.

Yes, for the last 7 years I have been part of a gang that reaches out to those children. Supporting them through education. Giving them a fair-chance, a level playing field, letting them grow up with the conviction that the society is with them and that LIFE means opportunity - every moment.

Now, a few of us who deeply believe in this cause will RUN for them. We plan to use the run to raise awareness, get more volunteers, and raise fund for our group - The Dream School Foundation [DSF] . DSF works with Govt. schools in Karnataka to ensure quality education for the children. And, we will be running at the Mumbai marathon on Jan 15th 2006.

DSF has adopted 5 govt. schools in Bangalore and also interacts with 15 more schools. We have long-term volunteers associated with each of these 5 schools. They teach the kids, interact with teachers, and also are involved in school management.

Activities at the school are fuelled by the dynamism of its volunteers. And, we badly need many more volunteers. There are 100's of govt. schools in Bangalore. And, almost all of them would do well with active support from itz citizens. Let me illustrate with some of our activities.

Medical camps at the schools. Apart from general health (and dental) check up, blood grouping, maintaing the records has been helpful. Most of the kids come from slums, and their parents are into construction work, domestic help etc

Note book drive has been a helpful exercise for the last 4 years. We distribute 2-5 notebooks/kid. This has been supported predominantly by the IT crowd in the city. This year we reached out to around 20 thousand children in 144 schools.

Another important activity is spreading science/rationality. Currently, our sister/brother volunteer group Friends of Children trust organises 'Disha' - science workshops & exhibitions for govt. high school children. We plan to have workshops for teachers & students in our primary schools(1st to 7th standard/grade) .

A strong component has been teaching English & Maths. All these schools have mostly Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, or Urdu as the medium of teaching. In cosmopolitan cities, it becomes imperative that our children can speak good English & have good math foundations. Pygmalion has been an helpful English learning software that is being increasingly used in our schools. This interactive, multi-media approach excites children. Inculcating reading & comprehension skills are a challenge. Reading material from Hippocampus has been helpful in this regard. We need lot more teaching approaches & aids to make it attractive, impactful & full of learning. And, enthusiastic volunteers to make it happen. Believe me, talking to the kids, teaching something is a great learning-balancing-fun experience.

Infrastructure support in schools is another important issue. We have schools with bad roofs, less benches & desks. Overcrowded rooms. Sometimes no toilets. Yes, it is a government school, and they are supposed to solve all these. Various bodies like Janagraha, Akshara foundation are working towards it until then lets do our bit.

Sensitising children to environmental issues. Getting them interested in plants/trees/birds/animals around them is important. Recently children from various schools were taken for rock climbing at Thuralli. This event was organized by Shikshana trust and Karnataka Mountaineering Association.

Taking children out on picnics to other cities, planetarium, museums, zoo's makes it fun & learning. For many children this would be their first train trip etc etc One of the challenges is to keep the School dropout rate low. So community mobilisation drives, better teaching at schools, English teaching majorly helps. This instills confidence in the parents that the school is good & would make a difference to their child. And the kid also loves to come to school.

So guyz, therz so much that can be done in a school. It all depends on YOU. Join us and strengthen the schools and make a difference in their lives. You could join some other group too, or simply visit a govt. school in your neighbourhood and start interacting. Lets make education available, and of good quality for the underprevileged.

Yes, we RUN at Mumbai for DSF. We RUN with the conviction that we will reach out to more & more children. You could pledge for our cause by volunteering for us (we would love it) and /or donating to the cause. Cheques should be made in the name of 'Give India' (Charity coordinating group at the marathon). Do get in touch with us (info at Thanks so much.

We will run with Dream School Foundation. Distance doesn't matter. Destination is clear. Mind is strong. Paths get created. Join us. Run with us, itz fun, Run for DSF.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


After a long break I had the camera around my neck. The world around turned into a wonderful theatre. Actors all over. Beaconing me to take their pictures.

This Damsel fly held me attention for sometime. It was drizzling on & off. Initial snaps with zoom from far & slowly I close on to the subject stopping only a few centimetres away with the macro on. It is concentration, balance, and above all - a wonderful sense of getting absorbed in them as you keep watching them -

And soon this bee sitting on a 'kal-chapdi' (a long vertical stone slab). Notice the transperency in the wings. Amazing!!!

Next half an hour was (yet another) turning point in my life. I discovered Spiders!!!! Yes...spiders.... man...great stuff....actually what I discovered turned out to be Spider Women ;-)) Seriously. The rest of the blog contains pictures of what I think are Gaint wood Spider. Infact, all of them happen to be the female of the species. The male apparently is insignificantly tiny.

That day I saw two webs. One of them had a small spider, and the other a real big one. Light was quite bad. And so I did the un-pardonable. I snaped the smaller spider with my flash on. These spiders are cool chaps. Coolest dames, I have ever come across. They give a damn to you. Flash on - top view - Smaller spider.

And, soon, thanks to Partha, who generally swung his umbrella up, and I looked up & saw a huge spider. Almost black & white snaps with bad light. The last one is my current background image.

Giant wood spiders (Nephila Maculata) are also known as Golden Orb spiders for the golden color of its silk -though I saw only thick white strands of silk - they make the largest & strongest webs. Web diameter: 1 metre++

The web in the above pic was in a Y frame, with top left & right support from two different tress, and the bottom left support from a 6 ft plant. The spider was at an height of 12 feet. Leg to leg it looked the size of one's palm.

As I stood there, and looked around, and took these pictures. I started finding more & more spider webs. In a 3 metre radius, I spotted 4 webs. The webs have a strong 2-d structure and in the centre lives the spider. In one web, I noticed two other sparse(not well structured) 2-d webs, parallel to the main web, just a few inches away. In another web, only one such loose web was seen apart from the main web. Strangely, I have been staying/visiting the IISc campus since 1996, but never had seen these spiders before. The belly & the back view of the spider.

This web was high above. More than 15 - 20 ft I think. I was unable to spot the male spider in any of the webs. This spider silk is apparently very strong, used by man/tribals as food, fishing lures, traps etc. And, the spider seems to have a wide presence around the globe.

Giant Wood Spider. Big web. Unfazed. So, next time you are outdoors look around for them. They get lost in the heights, the light, & the vegetative background. But, if you watch keenly, you will soon spot them.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Kadaley kai parsey

A Fable.
One of my favourites. The picture depicts an unsuspecting Iravatha - Indra's elephant - talking up some villagers to the heavenly abode.

A village in Bangalore. Time: unknown. A bull keeping grazing & feeding on the groundnuts. Villagers plan to attack it, but that night their crops are mysteriously destroyed. They beg forgiveness from God for their evil plan. Offer heaps of ground nut on one day of the year to the bulls. God is pleased. A huge temple of a bull - Nandi - now stands (monolithic I think), and closeby another huge rock carving of the Elephant god - Ganesha. And, the place thus gets its name Basavana(bull) Gudi(temple), and the groundnut offering becomes a tradition Kadaley kai (groundnut) parsey (fair). Well, I am sure various other stories exist. This, one must agree is a nice one.

Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to Kadley Kai Parsey. A fair, a jatre, a typical Indian event. A few days back - Nov 29th - I went to the fair, 8:30 to 10am, and herz the account.

Its a 3 day festival. I was visiting on the 2nd day, and quite early in the day. The shop keepers were putting up their stalls. I decided to visit the temples first - that keeps my mom happy - and then leisurely move around. The huge Nandi seemed sleepy; reflected more by yesterday's garlands that were half-wilted.

The stone pillar is the dwaja-stumba (right ??), kind of a flag-pole.

Most temples have these snake gods under some Ficus trees.

First to catch attention was this granny. As I took this snap, she noticed, called me up and asked for another snap to be taken.

She called her son (posing as a customer), and grand-daughter in the background. Daughter-in-law wasn't interested in the show, and kept away. As I slowly found out, most of the groundnut sellers were from Dharmapuri ( 200Km away in Tamilnadu). A few from Mandya & Andhra, but it was predominantly Dharmapuri villagers who have been coming here annually to sell.

This chap was quite shy. Moved away as soon as I took this snap. Two gardeners came up, and said some people like you have donated him/her to the temple yesterday. I was taken aback. This karru looked out of place...grazzing I asked....ah...don't may go anywhere...none of us will stop it!!!! Well, I majorly appreciated their generosity & moved on.

Police bando-bast, as we call it. This event attracts hazzar crowd. And, security is neccessary. The constables were awaiting orders I guess.

The right-most person was their senior officer. As I took the snap, somebody sarcastically remarked, 'Take a very good snap of him'

Moving on to the streets. Bangalore traffic was coming to life(hell ?). Flanking the busy roads, along with the parked bikes & cars were the groundnut sellers, toy sellers, fancy-item sellers, and so on...

This old lady said they are from Bombay; they had shiny caps, swords & bows - 5 Rs each -

This family was cleaning up the burnt groundnuts. Fresh groundnuts & burnt groundnuts were on sale. I am not sure if any other kinds of ground-nuts were sold. I noticed the fresh & the burnt ones only.

Yeah! this Ajji cleaning up fresh-groundnut, the ones plucked/unearthed. And, here she rubs them on the ground to remove the mud sticking to it.

Various groundnut shades. The lady gave me a great smile.

Groundnut garbage ;-)

And, BCC at work. The lady to the left wasn't keen on coming on the picture.

A stall of clay gods. And this kiddo posed with baby krishna for me. Couple of her aunts, and an uncle were around. They sat leisurely. And, were doting on the little kid. This family was from Salem, Tamilnadu.

Yes, chains, necklaces, and such fancy items. This family stays somewhere in Yeshwanthpura, and hawk them in the Majestic area.

Boys trying there luck. One rupee to play the game. You throw that ring, and if it fall on a 5Rs or 10Rs or a soap or a biscuit pack. You take them home. The boys were trying valiantly with no luck. The ring simply was bouncing off ;-)) The lady in green owned the stall

I put the items closer & took this picture.

It was 9:53 in my watch, decided to get to office. Started talking to this sugarcane chap. Add a drink - 5Rs - I was his first customer.

Well, stuff like this makes up an Indian fair. I missed out on gaint-wheels etc. It was too early in the morning for a lot of such stalls. Its the festive atmosphere that hits you. People moving around with a spring in their steps, music, hawkers shouting their wares off, lot of bright clothings, some people ready to sell you something, some totally resigned, a crowd to navigate through. Excitement 'bout something ahead, not clearly visible nor hearable. Temples, prayers. Sweet stalls, toys, amusement games. You walk with your friends gigling/laughing, pointing to something/someone. Or would have walked as a young one holding your fathers/mothers hand tightly, excited like anything. Colors never seen before and sights unimaginable. Its all there for you. You gonna mingle, enjoy & get lost. Thats Life, what say ?