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Thursday, August 22, 2013

THIS PICTURE WRITES A BOOK








  Sent by my nephew for sharing with my friends in the blogosphere.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

EXPERIENCES IN THE US - 2




                             OH! WHERE ARE THE BIRDS?

I feel my morning rendezvous incomplete and empty if I don’t see and hear the birds fluttering, chirping, twittering, pecking, prancing, romancing and  fighting above in the sky or on the ground, in my yard or in neighborhood yards  or during my walks. Strange but true, bird watch is a rarity here.  
My all weather friends the sprightly squirrels always cavorting in the vicinity back home, are conspicuously absent  here. I remember their frolicking and childlike teasing movements, infecting me with the carefree abandon which they display all the time.  They always help me to relax and unwind. The desire to see their joyful antics would frequently drag me out  for the walk and allowed me to define myself in the real world of senses.
But here in CHESTER SPRINGS near PHILLY, in spite of abundance of plant life , birds are missing. I sometimes see a pair of kites through the window, sailing with the wind in a floating motion high up, but they neither fly, one behind the other  nor parallel to each other, as if not on speaking terms with each other. They take a couple of circles and disappear suddenly. What about their families, I wonder? Or perhaps the trend of not having offspring among the few young Americans (according to an article in TIME magazine’s August 12 issue) has already been lapped up by the avian couples. I purposely sit outside to check on birdy presence and also to have some sunshine on my body as a bonus. But I draw a blank except for one day, when I sighted a couple of tiny birds flying in sprints for a minute or two, before vanishing abruptly. 
However, I do hear the intense buzzing of insects while passing by some trees. Looks like, the sprawling lawns meticulously maintained, bereft of weeds and chaos or may be of seeds or grub don’t have any attraction for birds. Agreed. But even amongst the thick cluster of trees they have no presence. With breathtaking natural beauty all around their absence is palpable.
................
A PIANO CONCERT
The other day my daughter took me along for watching a piano recital.  It was no high fi social event. It was simply a recital by kids and our granddaughter was part of it. There were a few teens also. It was held in the house of the teacher, a smart Korean lady who gives private lessons in piano playing. Her husband anchored the program.
Interestingly and surprisingly, not only was I thrilled by the felicity and confidence of the children while performing but also by the fact, that out of the twenty participants, eighteen were of Indian origin, and only one American and a Chinese. Almost all the children were chaperoned by both their parents. Indian parents are so very conscious of giving their children the best of everything available. Thus in this race, I’m told, children get hauled after school  hours or on weekends for music lessons,  karate , basketball, swimming, dance and drama classes. Parents take keen interest in these activities and children are doing quite well. Though it is tough but parents vie with each other to enroll their children in the maximum number of classes.
 ............
 NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH
Today while on our 'exploration of the area' walk (the little one’s school has reopened and we are having long walks now), we crossed our community houses to follow a trail which took us to some farmhouses, which are fairly renovated in the modern style now. Built on huge plots of land, surrounded by lush green trees and generous spread of various kinds of bushes and shrubs, the houses give hints of the old world charm and vastness of landed properties of the original settlers. Falling in line with the changing times, these farmers seem to have struck deals with builders and sold part of their land to the developers for housing and clubs etc. Chester Springs’ housing community is built on the land which is still named as ‘Eagle Village community.’
On one side of the wide road are farmhouses and on the other side, fenced by thick trunked assorted trees and sundry vegetation, one could see and admire the ram rod straight stems of perfectly healthy looking corn in the fields. America produces tons and tons of corn. Here corn is fed to the cattle; poultry and some confectionery preparations also use corn meal. Mexican tacos which are very popular here are made with corn flour. Sweet corn cobs for roasting, baby corn for salad and soups, packaged and tinned corn grain for sautéing and all-time favorite popcorn are hugely popular here. 
the flower bush in the side area of a farmhouse

greenery at the far end of the front compound of a farmhouse

thick bushes at the left side of the compound of another farmhouse



More next time.
Friends: Pl. tell me how do you like these vignettes.   

images with the i pad    

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

EXPERIENCES IN THE US-1


The water treatment lagoon. The walking trail is on the left of the pic.(not visible here)The light blue sky and the horizon.

I’m putting up in Chester Springs near Philadelphia (PA) in the US these days. It is a picturesque city surrounded by a thick forest cover, home to towering trees, rabbits, deer and exceptional species of vegetation. It is a totally peaceful area, except on weekends when the loud buzz of lawn mowers irritate the ear drums  The posh area of single family houses, where our daughter lives is inhabited mostly by professionals. A good number of Indian techies also live here.
Initial hiccups of jet lag and adjustment to the new environment being nearly over, I'm trying to go forward with my usual old routine. Going for a morning walk has been an important component of it.  For a long time the morning walk has acquired deep physical and spiritual connotations for me.
Wherever I'm, I make it a point of  scheduling it in my daily time table. Physically it keeps me in good shape and blesses me with so many loyal friends in the world of nature. I feel as though,the natural flora has deep affinity with me and converse with me in silence or through their rustling sounds.
Spiritually, I feel empowered and more confident after my daily rendezvous with the objects of nature in the course of my walk. It also helps me to relate to the outside world and its multiple frames.The morning scene gets etched so powerfully in the mind’s eye, ready to be invoked whenever necessary. If despair or cynicism  invades the mental space, one becomes resilient enough to come out of it soon. Most of all,  ideas for my articles are born, structured and mapped in my brain here.
the landscaped backyard of the corner house on the other side 0f the road.

Coming back to the present, I watch the outside world through my bedroom window first thing in the morning. If it is a clear day the early sun rays steal through the open blinds. My mood instantly perks up. Next a look at the sky: a massive ocean like entity, majestic and mysterious, attired in greyish white cloak of infinite proportions, exhibiting one of the unexplainable riddles of the universals in our existence. A lone eagle gliding on the roof tops and a couple of small birds dashing in and out of my range of vision break the spell of the magical scene.
I come down. While sipping my morning cup of ginger tea, I step outside through the front door. There is transparency and crispness in the atmosphere.  At the same time I sense a sort of stillness, the eeriness of the absolute quietude only violated now and then by the passage of a vehicle. The silence mystifies. The sheer immensity of the environment overwhelms. I stroll on the side walk and spin around while being hypnotized by the openness of the skyline presenting the perceptible illusion of the earth meeting the sky.  The sight becomes awe inspiring since you feel caught in the middle of an unearthly loop. The wondrous scene is there every day, but it touches your sensibilities once in a while. Nature surely has blessed this great land.
Cloudy sky or clear sky, we go for our morning walk in the company of our darling seven year old granddaughter who, remains at home these days, because of summer vacations. It feels wonderful to be out in the cool breeze and breathe in the freshness to recharge and inspire oneself to do  the daily chores and some reading or writing later in the day. 
The morning walk for us grandparents has its own specific culture here. We get ready for it in a leisurely way. We first prepare our breakfast according to the likings of our granddaughter. Like they say in India we subscribe to the maxim, ‘Grandparents are there to give concessions not to set rules’. Yesterday she preferred to have pancakes with chocolate syrup and today French toast with honey spread over them for extra sweetness.  Children everywhere in the world have a sweet tooth.  She puts the first morsel in her mouth and exclaims, “Grandma I love it.” True to the American style of appreciation.
We coax her to accompany us for the walk. She agrees very reluctantly but  insists on taking her bubbles contraption with her and keeps blowing and popping the bubbles, otherwise she is bored in no time and wants to come back after a short walk.
Walking on the side walk by perfectly manicured, landscaped lawns and shapely ornamental trees is a treat. There’re bushes and shrubs and flower beds, sans weeds, neatly spread with coal black mulch. Surveying the scene, I pay silent tribute to the efforts of the house owners who, by the way, I’ve not seen so far.
 I keep guessing, however. ……May be both husband and wife work and the children are enrolled in some camp. Or one  parent works from home and the kids are inside. Any which way the stillness is compelling. The Americans are busy bees. They’ve no time to look around for nothing. That explains the dedicated work spirit they possess.  
Musing thus we head for the safety of the beautiful walking trail with sprawling grassy land and water treatment lagoon, efficiently secured, on one side and a busy road, blocked by fluffy pines, on the other. Mostly we are a lone threesome there. To keep our little one engaged who really leads us by running ahead; I show her the flowering fennel plants growing on the edges and have promised to show her the seeds when these ripen. The other day we saw the canopy of a really large mushroom finding its way out through the grass.

the cute mini well in the corner house

While coming, back two beautifully maintained houses at the end of the trail attract our attention. In one there is cute looking replica of a mini well placed on the side and our granddaughter examines it curiously and asks questions. The other house has artistically landscaped backyard and side areas with exotic plants and flowering bushes. But do the architects of the beauty ever get time to feast their eyes on their handiwork, I wonder?
beautifully laid flower bed in the front lawn over looking the houses in the neighborhood
I'm fascinated by the things around here and would be observing things keenly to write about them to share with you. 

Friends: Waiting for your response in words.

 images taken with g.daughter's i pad.

   

Thursday, August 1, 2013

HIGHWAY EYESORES CRY FOR ATTENTION



While coming back from a flying visit to the hills, a few glaring eyesores which had been there for long, but ignored painfully by all concerned,   invaded the peaceful mode of the mind. Thinking exercise left me disturbed and feeling helpless. Not that I had not noticed this criminal neglect before, but now my sensitivity to these issues has acquired a social activist’s approach. I want to write about issues which affect us all, not only to awaken the slumbering public but also to sensitize   everybody about losing patience and forcing the authorities to take up concrete measures to root out the blights.

As we drove back from Solan, (Himachal Pradesh) the sights and sounds on both sides of the road, gripped my attention. Mountain side was splashed with lush dark green sundry vegetation and the other side showed, scary mystery of the deeply dense green valley and above, a sea of thick grey clouds loomed large preparing for a fresh spell of rain, though not that imminently.

However my sharp observation did not miss the disgustingly ugly spots which forced their way into the range of vision by default. Could not control myself from musing,  how tourists from abroad would be responding to such unwholesome   fare coming their way?  As one goes holidaying to some place of interest, one always fantasizes glamorized version of it. In that respect, I wondered  how  visitors coming from far and wide, lured by the  eye catching images on brochures of shiwalik hills and the prospect of perfect weather in the summers, must be getting disillusioned by disturbing visions on the road sides, on the flanks of  hills and indiscriminately everywhere.

Of course, let me not keep you guessing by dwelling on the peripheries but come right away to the point.

Following are the irritants which are not that humungous to eradicate but are outrageously significant and need immediate and genuine acting upon:

Within a few minutes of our drive, stray dogs could be seen loitering with abandon around the road. At one place there were nearly a dozen of    them, restlessly moving and wagging their tails, perhaps in the midst of a passionate mating challenge.   Such sessions often involve ferocity, scuffles and sudden duels which happen in the middle of the highway. Imagine the plight of vehicular traffic drivers facing such unexpected threatening situations every day on the roads. Such sights are the order of the day in our country and so much of space and ink has been wasted in highlighting the gravity of the epidemic with examples of actual incidents, where such dogs have mauled and killed children and even eaten their flesh  and bit whosoever came in their way. After occasional hue and cry the status quo returns till the next jolting incident. 

A sense of déjà vu prevails here. Tragically, most of us are in the know of  the solutions but no system gets evolved, for giving practical shape to the required actions. The menace continues to fester unabated. What gross neglect of a grave issue!

Another sour point is the littering of garbage and sundry wastes on the road sides, on mountain sides, residential areas, on vacant plots, in front of eateries etc. It is rampant and is conspicuously visible to every road user. Unattended and not properly lifted decayed filth, attract monkeys, dogs, cattle and flies and becomes breeding haven for mosquitoes, thus defiling the environment and spreading deadly diseases and epidemics. The moot question is: When we’ll learn civic sense and be responsible citizens and good human beings? This question hardly resonates in our minds.
 
A nuisance  which endangers public safety and health is the ubiquitous curse of stray cattle moving fearlessly on inner roads and highways. Cud chewing cows, sitting  in the middle of the roads, unmindful of the horns and hoots of the traffic, is a common sight throughout the year. It is really amusing to see bulls walking majestically in the dense traffic movement and rarely get hurt themselves though cause serious accidents. There are reports of vehicles turning turtle on sudden breaking at night when stray cattle sprawled on the roads get noticed at the last minute. Even public parks are trespassed by the ever increasing number of these unwanted animals.

Actually it seems stupid to go on wasting our efforts when no solution is in sight yet. Who’d enact stringent laws to haul the owners of free moving cattle and put them behind bars for avoiding their duties? And what about the role of our elected representatives who have simply forgotten to work for the well being of the people, who credited them with positions of power?
 
Aren’t these shameful blots on the beauty of our mountain ranges and length and breadth of our country present a poor image of us internationally. In this globalized world of numerous communication sources, nothing can be hidden any more.

Waiting for the final call to be made in this connection



Friends:This article was penned, soon after my short visit to the hills, some time back but posted on the blog from the US where we’re visiting our children.     
  
 Friends: your thoughts are welcome.