Monday, August 01, 2022

Vultures of SRS Betta

A few billion years ago huge granite rocks formed under what is now the Deccan plateau. More recently, like tens of millions of years ago, the granite complex through what were the Deccan traps, forming a geographical structure running all the way from Ramanagara to Hampi. Erosion and other elemental forces played their part to leave dramatic granite rocks all along this area, making it look like the gods played marbles with these massive boulders. 

Two such massive monoliths sit close to the Arkavathy valley and one of them is a called the SRS Betta, named after an enterprising mystic who saw a little nook almost at the top of the sheer granite face and said "Hmm that could be a good place to meditate". That nook now has a shrine that attracts a lot of pilgrims. The authorities have made this shrine accessible by carving out steps on the smooth granite rock face, line the path with hand rails. Most other rocks in this area, however, are completely inaccessible and these serve as the perfect nesting place for some of the most enigmatic large birds in this area; the Egyptian vultures. 

This weekend, we trekked up the Betta. This was my first time despite having spent long periods of time in this area. As we reached the top and soaked in the fantastic views, the hot drafts around the hills started attracting the raptors around. Soon we spotted our usual vulture pair in the mixed flock, and they had come there with a surprise; there were two juveniles circling around the parents. Just as I was taking this life-affirming sight, a pair of peregrine falcons swooped in from somewhere and attacked the vulture pair. For some reason they kept bothering the juvenile vultures for nearly half an hour, just as the hapless pair were trying to mind their own business and focus on their flying skills. 

I had spotted these peregrine falcons for the first time in this area. And I had been reassured that the vulture pair, given their endangered status, had continued the holy mission of bringing new progeny into the world. We eventually came down from the Betta, but for the rest of the weekend, I've been floating on air.



Monday, March 14, 2022

Reading in 2021

 

Wave after wave of the pandemic hit us this past year, and made it yet another great year for reading. Here are some notable ones from my reading list in 2021.

The book club at work was active this year, which resulted in me reading a lot of fiction that I wouldn't have picked myself. 

And here are the novels that I happened to pick myself. Especially liked the first two in this list.
A friend whose taste in reading I really appreciate gifted this collection of science fiction short stories. Most of them blew my mind away.
Over the last few years I've been trying to include at least one book in my mother tongue. This year Ii managed to read two, and coincidentally by arguably the greatest father-son combo in the history of literature. 
And here's the long list of non-fiction titles I managed to get through this year. 

  • Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World - Nicholas Ostler
  • Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain - Lisa Feldman
  • The Bitcoin Standard - Saifedean Ammous
  • The Journalist and the Murderer: Janet Malcolm
  • Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India - William Dalrymple
  • The New Climate War - Michael E. Mann
  • Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness - Mark Epstein
  • Permanent Record - Edward Snowden
  • Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity - Carlo Rovelli
  • Atomic Habits - James Clear
  • Man's Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl
  • The Lonely Century - Noreen Hertz
  • 4000 weeks: Time Management for Mortals 
  • The Bronzeback


    Watching the Bronzeback Tree Snake is like watching a magician at work. Their near-perfect camouflage makes it almost impossible to spot them when they are up on a tree, especially if they are not moving. I’ve been finding their moulted skin regularly around our house, sometimes several of them together, which tells me we are surrounded by them. Yet I’ve only managed to see them clearly only once or twice, and that too when they were down on the ground. If you are lucky to spot them before they spot you back, you get to follow them as they try to look for cover. And this is when they perform their special trick. They rise up, in a gravity-defying way, reach out to the lowest hanging branch and lift themselves up into the foliage. If your luck continues you will see a gently progressing wave of shaking leaves as the snake travels - or is it “surf - in the foliage. When the wave stops, you inspect the general area and you might find the snake come to rest on a twig, fully trusting its own camouflage.

    Today happened to be a lottery-winning kinda day, because I managed to trace one of these snakes over two trees before it came to rest and also happened to have my camera in my hand. The snake let me take a half dozen pictures before it realised its cover was blown. Like the consummate superhero, it promptly put on its invisibility cloak and disappeared into the foliage.