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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ichneumon Wasp

Ichneumon wasp (pronunciation: ich-new-mon)

I clicked this picture in October, 2013 in Kausani, Uttarakhand. It looked very photogenic to me hence I decided not to miss this shot. Since I saw this insect for the first time, it became more important for me to take it back home in my camera and find more about it. Somewhere I was scared too thinking, 'what if it bites and is poisonous?'  I came back and started digging the internet to find it's name and more about it.
According to the information available online a typical Ichneumon is only interested if you’re an appropriate host for its eggs - and humans are not its target species. This wasp lays its eggs on or inside another insect species like flies, beetles etc. As these larvae grow and develop, they kill their hosts. Ichneumons are beneficial to humans as they are natural pest controls and save crops and provide economic assistance to us. Their stings are harmless, and if they bite, one can wash the area with plain water.

Probably next time if you see this insect you know that these heartless species are safe and beneficial for us humans.
P.S. This is an awesome time to plan the tours in India. If you are planning to visit Uttarakhand- I hope these posts help you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

GREEN DELHI- A Photo Story

PART I
IT DOES NOT END
The story is an old one; it plays repeatedly on self-loop, only thing that changes is the people and the environments that are affected. Despite numerous laws around the protection of trees, the rampage never ceases. The cause is as old as ages, and there is zero will to implement these laws by the law enforcers.


It all started last year when MCD was constructing cemented roads in our society in Pitampura, Delhi. These people forgetting their duties and feeling omnipotent with their machines of destruction started destroying everything that came in the way, setting a model, an example before the other phases of construction. Despite our repeated pleas and reminders of the laws governing tree felling, MCD upon insistence of one of our neighbours –Prem Lal Khanna and his family felled numerous trees, and when we said we would file complaint, they hid the trees, and then quickly towed them away:
Step 1: When you are MCD, you savagely destroy anything in your way
(Contract in the hands of some Mr. Khan)


 Step2:  Hide in the park until tow truck comes


Step 3: Load it up, hide under dry branches and tow away

We made repeated calls to forest department, to the chief conservation officer, two representatives from this department came and said that at least the trees in front of our house would be protected, and we were pacified with this assurance and forest department itself took no action against these people.

PART II
IT DOES END
A year passed, our neighbours forever unsettled, were waiting for any excuse to fell the trees in front of our own house, their youngest son even declared that “I’m not my father’s son if I don’t get this tree cut off”.  Few weeks before today, some branches of one of our tree, started drying up, these were towards the side of this neighbour’s house, so anyone can guess what might have happened. Under pretext of some renovations, one day in the quite of a hot and humid afternoon, these people cut down two of  the trees that forest department so assuredly vouched for only a year before and created a shameless scene, embellished with all the name calling and vulgar obscenities as is the character of such people. 



 Fell in a moment what took years to grow

 On lodging complaint, the police has forwarded the case to horticulture department as this case is their prerogative. Quoting chief conservation officer, forest department Mr. A. K. Shukla, “Since the trees were not on your property, I can do nothing about it”. We had high hopes in these guardians of trees, reading glorified reports in the newspapers, but today, I’m disappointed, slowly turning impassive regarding any good change, I agree with forest officer, we really can do nothing about it. Delhi is definitely going green and greener.
  
 About Author:
Rochana Chaturvedi is a Professor of Computer Science in Delhi University since past three years. In her free time, she enjoys arts, nature, traveling and reading amongst many other. Besides being a good singer, she enjoys writing poetry though seldom publishes them on her blog. However, she can be caught blogging sometimes at http://rochanachaturvedi.blogspot.in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Confessions of a Social Media Stalker

http://lorirtaylor.com/how-to-spot-social-media-stalkers-before-its-too-late/He was going through Facebook updates on a friend's wall when he saw a pretty face in the comments section. It was his second love-at-the-first-sight this week. He had been religiously following the other pretty damsel he saw in his Gali 4 days back. But this time, this time this girl seemed fairest of all the loves-of-his-life. He went through her page. She seemed to be a Facebook queen. 'Ah! Over 500 followers, 400 likes on her photographs. 70 likes on her status even when she just 'yawns' in it. I can see she is popular on Twitter too! I should send her a message- probably a HI…’ and he did what he thought. She didn't respond and he waited patiently for a week. Post a week he sent her a message again. Meanwhile he read comments on her updates and by the method of random sampling checked out profiles of her friends and of their friends. He found out two things about her; one was that she had a cool group of friends, and she had a breakup few months back.  He checked his message box, there was a dense dark silence again. Finally with no hope in hell he decided to send her a friend request this time which eventually got rejected. ‘Probably she doesn't know what she is missing. She looks young and naive, unaware of worldly matters.’ He decided to take up the task to help this innocent creature who has hazel eyes, long hair to find her a knight in shining armor- that was him of course. He had fallen for her and it was the time for her to return this favor, to love him back, to make the right-selection. He never felt so strongly for anyone else before, which he thought always after falling in new love once or twice a year, sometimes even thrice. He called up his relationship adviser, his best buddy- "I think she is the one I was waiting for all my life, have I ever said same for anybody before? No, right? Help me dost, I need you!" His friend like always agreed to help him out. She was his current rage, his madness. There was some sort of stark connection between them
 
He decided to message her again. She replied promptly- "Hey, I am sorry but I am genuinely not interested in you.
Bye Take care!"

'We have common friends and probably she replied because she doesn’t want to be misjudged. Ladies ah! They are scared little rabbits always thinking about the reactions of their family, friends and society on their deeds. She needs a person like me, who doesn't care about the world.', he thought to himself. He gave her his reference and told her what he does (besides stalking). He asked her the reason behind declining his request without giving him a fair chance- the chance he believed he deserved because he had fallen for her. She said she doesn't accept friend-requests from unknown people, besides that she has a freedom of choice. At the end of every message she wrote bye, take care. She was caring, like a girl should be. He thought about her soft face again. 'Her first point is no more valid since he I had given his introduction and now he was not a total stranger to her. Besides they have a Common-Friend on Facebook.' He didn’t lack anywhere. He was handsome, probably the most good-looking man on earth as his mother claimed. After looking at the reactions of his friends, how they laugh even when he abuse people, he concurred he was a uber-cool and popular too. His father was a rich man, which had exempted him from the worries of earning, saving and investing money. What else a girl needs! He decided to message her again, 

"If you weren't interested, you would have blocked me. Can we meet and talk about things over a cup of coffee?" 


He could no longer see her profile. 'She blocked me? Really!!! My friend said I shouldn’t have talked about blocking, that was rude. She might be upset with me.' He thought about it for two days, and then about their interactions for past months, her eyes, her smile and 500 likes on her last display picture. A chill ran through his body. First love always made him nervous like hell. He realized he over said something. He Googled her name, dug her email address and got her twitter handle,  her phone number, and her Email-ID. He re-tweeted her Tweet and mentioned Her in another tweet- this was start of their new interaction. When she didn’t respond to his internet gifts, he inferred that she was extremely upset. 'Ever swinging moods of these ladies- blame it on their hormones. I never said anything that bad', he reasoned her rude-reactions with his understanding of human nature. He sent her a mail and got no reply. Thinking, probably she hadn't checked her email, he sent her another message on her Whatsapp.

"Hi,
I am  terribly sorry for saying block-thing on Facebook. I hope you liked my tweets about you. You are really very pretty. I respect you and understand that you are quite busy and may be that is the reason you couldn’t check the message I had sent you on Gmail two days back.  I promise you I will keep you very happy. Can we go out for a cup of coffee as an apology? Waiting eagerly for your reply."

'She lost her temper saying she will call the police if I further stalked her. 'Stalked' was a very rude word but I understand, these women loose their cool when PMSing. She is my true love and I will not let her go like that, I know I will keep her happy...'
Image Courtesy: Google

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blunders and wonders- #Food!

It was yesterday afternoon when in a mood to pamper my mother I asked her what did she want to eat, while munching on a snack myself.
"Samosa", her reply came a little carelessly though promptly. I know like any Indian lady, like me, she has a soft corner for Indian-chaat especially Golgappas (puchka), Samosa and Bhelpuri. I planned to get some samosas from neighboring market for evening snack time with tea. My dad under the influence of his healthy preferences suggested that we cook some at home instead or postpone them for next day, (having indulged a little too much in the last couple of days of festivals).

But adamant as I am sometimes and in full mood to coddle my mother, I decided to prepare them at home. I am not a professional chef, but being an enthusiast from an early age I normally don't leave my chance to romance with cooking. Since I have helped my mother twice before so I decided to do the task all by myself without any assistance. Post all preparations I couldn't find the plastic mold with which we used to give good shapes to this snack. But after one hour of hard-work I completed the task. When along with tea I served hand-made first time trials, my mother couldn't stop laughing.
"You made cutlets?" My mother asked.
"Taste them Ma." I was laughing in embarrassment too.
"These are sumptuous!" She exclaimed. My dad loved them even more. My sister gave some 'pat-on-my-back' compliments.
"But never make these, once you are married. I don't want anybody to blame me that I taught you these", referring to their shape, mother said teasingly.
"Ah! I will make them for sure in that case, so they will never ask me to make them again. It will solve the problem forever.",  I said laughing.

P.S. They tasted splendid, don't judge them by their deformations!!!
P.P.S. One of my friend told me how to shape them in absence of mold, which I think I did, but would love to try again sometime with more concentration.
P.P.P.S. After making blunder-samosas, today morning I decided to wash away my sins by preparing breakfast. This is what I made: 
Flat brown Potatoes  topped with Vegetable Salad, Toasts and my favorite Cold Coffee

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kerala- Land of greenery, polite hosts and mundu...

http://blog.blogadda.com/2014/08/19/tangy-tuesday-picks-creative-blog-posts
A travel experience becomes unforgettable with a beautiful place and polite and welcoming hosts. Kerala had both- amazing scenery and amazing people. Though best time to visit Kerala is during winters but it wasn't bad during May-June when we were beautifully baked till golden brown. The place was clean and roads were bump-less!Our tour started from Kochi towards Trivandrum- the lower half of Kerala. Since Kerala is horizontally straight, one can plan it vise-versa too!  

Thrissur: After reaching Kochi Airport, we changed our attires and visited famous Guruvayur Temple in Thrissur. It was quite crowded. Evening processions are held on a daily basis there, where statues of Gods were rested on Elephants and they took rounds of the sanctum sanctorum. Elephants were fairly trained. In Kerala- many temples allow Salwar-Suits for women, though in some temples women can only enter in Sarees . While for men- Mundu or Dhoti is a compulsion. One could purchase these from the adjacent bazaars. Women also have the option to tie Mundu over their dresses to be appropriately dressed before visiting God. See images below to understand the proper way to wear a mundu and don't ever dare to call a mundu a lungi, some of my Keralite friends swear by it:

Women:
Images above are taken from Google

Men:
Images above are taken from Google

About 2-3 km from the temple is the training house for the temple elephants- Annakotta, you can visit it if you arrive on time: 8:00 to 18:00 hours.

Not very far from this place, were these majestic waterfalls named - Athirapally. People say during rains their beauty is worth seeing. Though when we visited, it was not raining yet the falls looked beautiful. We were surprised to see locals especially females jumping from one large rock to another wearing sarees, and heels with no fear of falling down and getting wounded. We despite wearing sport-shoes couldn’t make those high jumps, but warily we trekked all the way to this:



KOCHI:  Next day we visited Matancherry. Matancherry palace, also known as Dutch Palace was a simplistic building housing the paintings and artifacts of the king's of the yore. Next we headed to Jewish street and a famous Jewish Synagogue there, which didn’t impress us at all. All along the street were some antique shops you could window shop there or buy something if you like.
Next we turned towards Fort Kochi and in vain we asked for the fort, but no fort was to be found as none existed (the Dutch had destroyed it long ago, but the name caught on). We went to a quaint little princess street for lunch and walked about there. One can choose to stay there as the locality looked attractive. We waited for sunset at the beach having the old Chinese fishing nets. I asked the local coconut vendor(a man fluent in malayalam, marathi, bengali, hindi and english) while sipping on my coconut water, “You must be getting these fishes real cheap being right there at the source.”
But he said- "No madam. They are most expensive here as they're only half-dead ('tadapta machli' he explained) and are thus more costly than others. They perish very easily. So most of the companies buy them from here and then preserve them for local people and export. One kg of fish is around 500 INR here. After reaching market they cost about 200 INR."

Watching sun going down from this place through the fishing nets was quite a photogenic affair.  If you are here, and interested in photography- don’t miss sunset here!


We missed Marine Drive in Ernakulam and mango festival going on there but as they say one cannot be at every place at one point, on tours we need to prioritize. And being from Delhi, malls and bling was not on our list.


Munnar: From Kochi we hired a cab and went to Munnar. Every bit of land in Munnar seemed to be covered by tea plantations. The patches of winding black roads looked like a snake crawling in a very large green garden surrounded by clouds.  The whole feeling of being there was an ethereal one. A visit to the Eravikulam national park is must. Many people get discouraged after knowing that there are a few 'goats' i.e. Tahr in this park. But go there to experience a lovely trek in lush green mountains, fresh air, and a lovely weather with clouds sweeping right by you!
TIP: Book your tickets from Munnar tourism office in advance for the national park. That will save you from standing in long queues there.
On the way back we stopped at the Munnar Tea Museum which turned out to be overhyped. A man in the museum educates visitors on benefits of green tea and shows some movie. Also if one hasn’t seen how tea is made from tea leaves, one can experience it there. Inside the premises there is a shop from where one can buy multiple-varieties of tea, coffee and other related products. You also get free green tea with your ticket there ;)
The chocolates local vendors sell were extra sweetened and hence were not up to our tastes. In the past, we enjoyed home made chocolates in Ooty by heaps, but here they were not worth a penny!



Catch a show of oldest form of martial arts Kalaripayattu, at Punarjani theater. It was extremely entertaining.


Thekkady: Thekkady is famous for its spices. One will see cardamom plantations in Thekkady like tea plantations in munnar. We bought spices from there. Red chilly flakes bought there turned out especially outstanding, I love them in my lentil soup! 
Thekkady will spoil your fun if you are not planning to live in forest premises. We stayed in the KTDC resort inside the forest. The night came alive with fireflies, the sounds of forest, the beautiful fragrance of wild lillies and captivating stories of the animal encounters as told by an ever smiling watchmen. He boasted- 'Madam in Kerala nobody will cheat you. People are educated here, even an Autowalah will be graduate. I had long conversation with him. When I called my mother excitedly to witness firefles (Jugnu) which are nowhere present in metro cities, he told us, “Madam, these are very few right now. Let the monsoon come, and this forest will be covered with flying lamps.” I was lost dreaming of a disney movie scene.
We got up in the wee hours of the morning and walked to the boundary of the restricted area when some deers passed by the road. Afterwards, we went for a boat ride in the periyar lake and saw many beautiful birds, a baby elephant taking a stroll near the lake, black monkeys playing, a fox trotting by and some bisons and sambhar. Though these animals were not very clearly visible at such a distance, still it was exciting to spot them in their safe and natural habitat- a glimpse of a distant unreachable world. Walking back from the lake towards the resort, we saw an Indian Giant squirrel leaping from one tree branch to the other, a group of wild boars crossed our path, some funny and pretty insects and butterflies made us smile.



Alleppy:  Alappuzha is known for it's backwaters experience. And what an experience it was! One can choose to stay in some loved house-boat or on a land resort and take a ride in the backwaters in Shikara-boat ride.We preferred to stay in resorts near the backwaters and opted for three hour Shikara Ride. During the ride in backwaters one gets to see the local villages, rice bowl of kuttanad (the only palce in world where farming is done 1-2 m below sea level), people fishing in waters, loads of coconut trees, boats with fishing nets or carrying coconuts, ducks disappearing in water and coming out with fishes, kingfisher birds looking for prey and pet eagles kept by the locals. To drink coconut water we got out of our Shikara on the land and saw a pet eagle. Our Boatman put that pet eagle on our shoulders for a photograph! You will see different types of boats in it viz. Shikaras, Houseboats, Fishing Boats, Kayaks and bus like long boats in which people commute between their homes and offices. It was a very relaxing experience, where we ourselves sit back and witness life happening right on the shores of backwaters, as though a drama was being played for us, the only difference was it was a real one.


Trivandrum and Kovalam: Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala. We couldn’t find much to explore there. However early morning at 5 a.m., mundu clad, we rushed for the darshan at Padmanabham Swamy temple. After coming back from there we hired a cab for Kovalam. Had we more than that day, we could have stayed at Kovalam. The shacks serve freshly prepared food, which was very tasty. Head to the German bakery(waves) for a lovely view and some yummy shakes (try the date shake or orange and vanilla drink). Winds at Hawa beach or Eves Beach were very strong especially at the rock garden high up- it was as if it would sweep us off our feet. The other beach adjacent to it was light house beach. We saw many surfers enjoying their acrobats on their surf boards. Others were swimming or walking at the beachside. Weather was pleasant, the black sand under our feet was soft as muslin and the waves were big yet gentle and pampering!


Hotels and Other Reservations:
Munnar-
We had a home stay at Munnar at Estate Residency, which was around 10 kms away from the main market area and free from hustle and bustle. The owner has a a cardamom plantations and mornings are greeted by birds songs around- especially a whistling bird. The food was awesome too. Read full review at tripadvisor
You can also book your seats for Kalaripayattu Martial Arts shows or Kathakali dance shows here:
Punarjani Theatre
2nd Mile Pallivasal
, Munnar, India
04865 216161
 
In Thekkady: We booked one of the hotels of KTDC. One must live in the forest area to enjoy the wilderness. (Though one has to stay within the restricted hotel premises in late evening to early morning hours). There are many of these hotels offering different rates catering to different pockets.

Alleppy:
In Alleppy our halt was at Palmgrove Resort. The resort offers a wonderful view and is next to the backwaters. They have both open bathrooms safely shaded from outside view and closed ones are also available with some specific rooms. However it lacked majorly in good service and good food. One can rent a shikara for few hours stroll in backwaters of Alleppy. We found Mister Mohan the most reasonable person there who offered us a better deal than anybody else there for the Shikara Ride. He can be reached here: 09544999674
Though One can hire a house boat for the whole day if one wants to spend whole day in back waters. The boat stops at places, if asked. One can enter nearby village on the shores and explore it.

Trivandrum:
In Trivandrum we stayed in Hotel Regency after deboarding from our Allapuzha train. Since we wanted a place near Padmanabham temple, we found this one 5 kms away. The room service and staff were very unprofessional but then it wasn't expensive for a one night stay. Near this hotel was another hotel- Highland. It had pure vegetarian restaurant which was crowded all the time and sumptuous food was served by pleasant people.