Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The General

'Good morning, good morning!' the general said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we were cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
'He's a cherry old card', grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

-Siegfried Sassoon
Written in April 1917

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wild Pigs

Billigiri Rangan Betta - BR Hills - beckoned us like never before. Promptly Anil & me made an appearance, after close to 7 hrs of travel from B'lore. And that included a broken Volvo bus, a jeep that threatened to breakdown any moment in the ghat sections, via Mysore & Chamrajnagar. Jungle lodges at Kyathrayana Gudi - K Gudi - was our base. They have a nice library. And soon after lunch, we just hung in front of our huts. Looking for flowers, staring at the green vegetation, distant hills, and waiting for something to happen.

Suddenly from my left came these black figures, sloth bears ?? nope.....wild boars!!!!!! I stood transfixed, clicking, trying to get the frames right, and not moving much.

As I choose the pics for uploading, felt the green vegetation looked boring, so I played around swapping the RGB colors, now...behold the magic!

Some fundas:

  • Pigs live in groups called sounders
  • Female pig is called sow
  • You may know this, kids pigs are called piglets ;-))

Ah...there they are...the piglets are light brown with pale stripes, the stripes last 6-7 months. The adults weighing close to 100 kg, have a black mane (hair sticking out from the head to tail on top of the body), you can notice it in these snaps.

They live/move in groups - the sow & her piglets - Adult male joins during the breeding season. They first fight for sow, and once victorious they male froths at the mouth or produces lip pheromones to attract the sow. The sow gestates for 100 days. And may bear a litter of upto 12 piglets (a rare thing amongst hoofed animals).

At this point, the pigs were closest to me, I wasn't hiding anywhere, and this chap noticed me, and made his/her displeasure very clear. It stared at me...and grunted....waited for a few seconds...the rest of the clan stayed still....and having warned me, got back to business.

They had their noses to the ground - have a stronge sense of smell - as they foraged. I moved to my binocs & watched them for sometime untill they disappeared behind a hill. It is so satisfying watching wild animals in their natural habitat. I look forward to see them again, the adult males with erect manes fighting amongst themselves, and the female cooly watching the show!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rosy Periwinkle

A flower, that looked very familiar, but seen in the premises of Jungle Lodges at BR Hills , it caught my attention. Took the usual snaps, expecting to label it with Kehimkar's Indian Wild flowers book. The flowers were not seen in the book, surprise, and somehow I stumbled upon the label Rosy Periwinkle, a plant from Madagascar that has given some major cancer saving drugs. I can't believe it, I seem to notice this plants almost everywhere now.....

Traditional healers in Madagascar used this plant for treating diabetes. Curious with this, western researchers, dug in, and studied the effects of the chemicals in the leaves on rats, they noticed that the blood sugar levels of the animals were not affected but rather their white blood cell counts had decreased, thus its anti-cancer properties were discovered. Vincristine and Vinblastine are powerful anticancer agents, and are two of the most important medicinal compounds found in plants in the last 40 years. Vincristine is a standard treatment for Hodgkin's disease, and vinblastine for childhood leukemia. Although extracts from Madagascar periwinkle have been shown to lower blood sugar levels, simple preparations of the whole plant may not be effective.

Long before modern researchers learned of the plant's valuable and varied properties, folk healers in faraway places were using the Madagascar periwinkle for a host of medicinal purposes. In India, they treated wasp stings with the juice from the leaves. In Hawaii, they prescribed an extract of the boiled plant to arrest bleeding. In Central America and parts of South America, they made a gargle to ease sore throats and chest ailments. In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and other islands, an extract of the flowers was commonly administered as a soothing eyewash. Periwinkle is used in folk medicine in the Philippines as a remedy for diabetes. Most of these practices are still followed.

Rosy periwinkle grows up to two and a half feet tall. Leaves are oval and have a glossy surface. The five-lobed flowers are usually white or light pink. Note the leaves in this pic. Periwinkle was called "sorcerers violet" by the French, in reference to its use in charms and love potions. Europeans also believed that periwinkle had the power to exorcise evil spirits. Medieval Europeans used rosy periwinkle frequently in garlands to protect the bearer. The Italians placed garlands of the plant on the graves of infants, calling it the flower of death. During the Enlightenment in Europe, the French considered periwinkle an emblem of friendship.
Low light conditions, some of the flowers have come out bright!!!!

Lets look at Vinblastine in detail. Vinblastine has become a widely applied drug, and is today used primarily in the treatment of the following conditions by interfering with glutamic acid metabolism (specifically, the pathways leading from glutamic acid to the Krebs cycle and to urea formation).

  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Lymphocytic lymphoma
  • Histiocytic lymphoma
  • Advanced testicular cancer
  • Advanced breast cancer
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • Letterer-Siwe disease
Vincristine is interesting too. This vinca alkaloid is a spindle inhibitor and is a cell specific agent, blocking cells in the metaphase of mitosis. During mitosis, the DNA of a cell replicates, dividing into two new cells. The vinca alkaloids therefore affect all rapidly dividing cell types, including cancer cells but also as intestinal epithelium and bone marrow.

Vincristine is used primarily to treat

  • Acute leukemia
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Lymphomas
  • Breast cancer
  • Multiple myeloma.

Well, I don't know most of the listed cancer disorders, anyways these two alkaloids are impressive. Herz the chemical structure of these two guyz.

So, Rosy Periwinkle, you can't miss this plant. Look for it, and take your hats off to it ;-))

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nanjundeshwara temple

Nanjangud -close to Mysore - is famous for its Nanjundeshwara (Shiva) temple. A 1000+ year old temple from the days of Ganga's. And seems to have had major royal patronage all through. It reflects in the grandeur of the temple, exquisite sculpture, two big wooden chariots, and idols of numerous kings & queens.

Anil, & me, visited the temple, on our way back from BR hills. Kabini flows close to the temple, and a dip there is the way to start. Cloudy day, so low light conditions, a test of your camera skills. What majorly stuck me, was the paint of the temple. A golden yellow paint of the Gopura's etc stands out.

My favourite shot.

Side view of the gopura.

Back of the gopura.

This huge wodden rath (chariot) had some amazing carvings. The Rathotsava here, is quite famous.

Liked this a lot.....didn't notice the background clutter....shud have kept that out....wud have been a nice pic.

Some erotica!

Yes, in the temple, the sculptures of Gods were simply amazing. There were lotz of Shiva Linga's, and idols of kings & queens. Anil bought some ladoos as prasad. And, as we opened the pack, crows quickly descended, and I got to feed them, they almost picked it from my hands.

My first visit, nice 70 minutes spent at the temple. Lots yet to be seen, and a dip in Kabini awaits. Need to visit it leisurely.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Deadly pictures

Seriously, a deadline @work....thats almost met....the rest of the team is still working....rather the PM etc are giving the final touches, and we chaps, are waiting for the release to be made.
Meanwhile, these 3 pics from Lalbaugh a fortnight back.

Need to identify this flower. Its from some kind of grass.

And these butterlfly's, a tamrind tree was full of them. I am happy that today is THE release day. Badly need to get out of the city. Bandipur or BR Hills ??

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Perot, chalghatta & mummies

Chalghatta school, a nice looking govt. primary school with a small ground interspersed with Ashoka trees. The kids run around like prince/princess. They really own this school. 200 kids, make such ruckus, that some new volunteers go back home to terrible headaches (seriously, ask Leena).

The school has a fundu HM Mrs Mary Angela (left most), a superb PR person. And, another teacher Bhuvaneshwari, whoz fast becoming my favourite (rightmost lady). Bhuvaneshwari is real good at culturals, no wonder, we had so many children vying to sing/dance & perform.

Ha...oh..3 similar shots....lots of back light, so only this angle permitted decent shots. Hey, who are these lovely ladies ??? They are singing 'Hum honge kamyaab ek din'......well, Ladies & Gentlemen, Sep 2nd 06, over 20 employees from Perot systems dropped into interact with our kids. To keep matters simple, the 1st to 5th kids were let off at their usual closing time, and we continued interacting with the 6th & 7th. Amit, hardcore DSF volunteer, also happens to be a Perot, and so it worked cool for both parties ;-)

Event A was collage making. 8 teams with volunteers thrown in, and 30 minutes. The teams took on this with all seriousness, with volunteers majorly guiding them. And, soon we saw some lovely stuff.

Event B was to mummify.....yeah...seriously, take a kid and mummify....for bizzare reasons only girls got choosen....and turned out to be real fun.

My favourite shot of the day.

The kids were all real excited by now....and the volunteers strongly identified themselves with their teams & kids. I guess, the event had achieved its purpose.

Yes, kids got a double-decker box with pencils/scale etc and some nice snacks/Icecream.

Perot systems is also sponsoring a LifeSkills session here at the school for the 6th/7th on weekdays, conducted by Mrs Sadhna. A nice corporate-NGO partnership.

We still need people for the bread & butter stuff, my kids are pathetic when it comes to reading English. And Math ? not far either. So, if volunteering & making a difference at the primary level appeals to you, join us.