How do they know?

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It is a source of constant amazement to my parents of how much I remember of my childhood, even as early as around the age of four years. Some of the memories over the years seem to be the product of my active imagination superimposing images from the stories told by my parent over the memories of places that I had, however some stand out very clearly as distinct experiences – like the day when mom carried me around for ages with a cold compress till dad could get home and take us to the hospital for stitches, after I had cut my head against the flower bed brick border. Or that evening when dad walked us a to a hitherto unseen area to pluck flowers and the kaleidoscope of impressions of the day – the lovely colours of the setting sun, the shower of pink blossoms bursting through a creeping bed of green leaves, parrots squawking as they returned to roost and the simple joy of being with loved ones. That childhood bubble of joy still channels through the years and hits me every time I look at the golden hues of a setting sun.

When I was around six, dad was posted in Arunachal Pradesh and we got to spend our summers in this eastern extremity of India. My memories are filled with towering mountains, lush green vegetation, gushing streams, roaring waterfalls and the weird creature – leech. Besides the fresh water black blob variety the higher altitudes also had a grey-green terrestrial variety of the most tenacious kind. One just couldn’t complete a stroll through a grassy green without having a couple stuck on. They were also very hardy and could tolerate high dosages of salt before they would let go. This one time when we had gathered some wild flowers dad found a minuscule one crawling on one of the twigs. As soon as dad picked up the twig the leech changed directions and “charged” (if that’s possible while crawling) towards dad’s finger. When dad held the twig by the other side the leech promptly changed direction and headed again for the hand. As my six year old self watched the movements of the leech in awe, the only thought in my head was – how does it know where to go??!

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A Foreign Perspective

Aside

“Suddenly turning into one of the city’s main thoroughfares we were swept along in a whirlwind of Indian traffic. Bullock carts and sacred cows meandered across lanes of pollution-belching cards. Vespas buzzed past. Drivers overtook, undertook did U-turns in the middle of moving traffic, reversed down one-way streets the wrong way, and honked their horns incessantly. Overloaded truck accelerated and then slammed on their brakes. Motor-scooters slalomed. Battered buses cut across lanes at breakneck speed. It was as if every vehicle was piloted by a circus clown.

I watched as a mother and her child tried to cross the street, the two terrified figures clinging to one another like passengers on the sinking Titanic.”

– Tarquin Hall in “To the Elephant Graveyard”

I love it when I read a foreigner’s account of Indian chaos. We being part of the chaos seem to hardly register the comedy of it all. The book however is a serious look at the loosing battle on their right to their habitat faced by the elephants of Assam – portrayed through a hunt for a man-killing Indian Elephant.

The Heritage Trail 1: Old City, Hyderabad

A. P. Tourism conducts “Hyderabad Heritage Walks” in the old city every weekend. Recently we participated the in “Walk 2: From Charminar to Badshahi Ashurkhana”. With the vision of spreading awareness and to help with conservation, the tourism department conducts these tours for a paltry sum of Rs. 50/- per head.

Our guide met us at Charminar at 8 am and started with a brief history of the city. Hyderabad was established in the late 16th century by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty which continued to rule for almost a century before the Mughuls captured the region. The Mughuls set up the post of Viceroy in the region and this post was taken up by the Nizam Dynasty. The Nizams continued to Rule the Deccan a princely state under the British Rule.

All the iconic monuments of the city including the Golconda Fort, the Charminar and some of the palaces were built under the rule of the Qutb Shahi Rulers, and are a mix of architecture was Indo-Persian, a culmination of Hindu, Moorish, Mughal and Persian architectural styles.

Charminar: The iconic monument of the City.

The Iconic Building of the City.  Details of minarets and the arches.

The Iconic Building of the City -Photographed from the south eastern side
Details of minarets and the arches.

The interior - water basin and the dome

The interior – water basin and the dome

The various gates of the city: Charminar was supposedly set up at the centre of the Hyderabad City and the various sections of the city – palaces, bazaars, diwan ghaar etc were build in the four cardinal directions from this structure. All sections were accessed through large Gates called Kaman. 

Kamans: Vying to maintain their position in the now commercialised area.

Sher-e-Batil Kaman, Char Kaman, Diwan Dewadi Kaman: Valiantly trying to maintain their identity in the now highly commercialised area.

Pather-ghatti Market: The design of this market was based on the markets in Cairo. In recent times it is one of the most sought after wholesale market place.

The parallel lines of pathar-ghatti bazaar - consisting of some of the oldest shops still having slated wooden doors.

The parallel lines of pathar-ghatti bazaar – consisting of some of the oldest shops still having slated wooden doors.

Arched pathways providing access to the other side.  "Antiques" for sale.  Detailing on the pillars and roof.

Arched pathways providing access to the other side of the market. 
Curios for sale.
Detailing on the pillars and roof.

Badshahi Ashurkhana: The mourning hall for the shia muslims during the festival of Moharram.

Tiles originally set with semi-precious stones.  The high arched wooden roof and exterior minarets.

Tiles originally set with semi-precious stones.
The high-wooden roof and exterior minarets.

The walk provided great insights into the architectural designs of these monuments and it was increasingly brought to our notice the difficulty of maintaining these structures in encroaching push of the populace. These walks are the Tourism department’s way of increasing awareness of the historical heritage of the city, wishing to preserve these structures at-least in peoples’ memories.

Delicate

Sometime back the Weekly Photography Challenge was titled – Delicate. Coincidentally at that time I was in Trivandrum, Kerala – my in-laws place and a city I was visiting for the first time. And first time visit means a tour of the city, which began with the Napier Museum and Zoological gardens. Within the premises they also had a small hall exhibiting aquariums, which is where I saw the – made world famous by Pixar – clown fish, now mostly known as Nemo. What startled me the most was the size of the fish – it was hardly an inch in length. Somehow my relative size perspective from the movie and even photos on the internet, had me believe that the fish was atleast 7 – 8 inches long. The second thing that hit me was that this tiny fish defined the delicate balance of nature and provided the estimate of how despite the apparent infinite vastness of the oceans mankind has still managed to saturate it with pollutants, causing loss of habitat to even a creature as tiny as the clown fish. Looking at this minuscule being I was overwhelmed by gross selfishness of mankind in over-utilizing the resources of our planet and endangering the lives of even the smallest creatures that share this planet with us.

Clown Fish

Clown Fish

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Clown Fishes at the Napier Museum Aquarium

How can I leave out a picture of the "Blue Tang"

How can I leave out a picture of the “Blue Tang”

P.S. This post has been long due, however I got fresh incentive to write it after reading Dan Brown’s Inferno and his discussion of the overpopulation of Earth by humans and its catastrophic consequences.