Saturday, August 24, 2019

Participated in a tree planting drive recently.

We planted a lot of saplings densely in a small area. This is the Miyawaki method where a variety of native species are grown in close proximity to one another. The plants promote the growth of one another, as a result the forest grows faster. More on the method here.

We were a team of close to 200 volunteers, who had heard about this project from various groups and NGOs. Everyone came together at the Indian Railway Institute of Disaster Management to lend a hand and work towards a better climate and a greener city.

The organizers had scientifically selected the saplings and placed them out on the plots at the exact location where they had to be planted. The volunteers worked the soil and transplanted each sapling at the marked locations. Next, the plots were watered and mulched with hay for the ground to retain the moisture.

It was a beautiful day and people showed up in large numbers. Was great to see the energy of all volunteers - young, old and everyone in between, families, students, working professionals and retirees alike.

Have seen lots of videos and pictures of people talking about the Miyawaki forests. Out here I got to see first hand one that had been planted in December. Gazing at those mini forests gave us ample motivation as we planted more samplings beside them.

Hope to visit again in a few months and see the results of our combined efforts.

ರಾಜ ಭವನಕ್ಕೆ ಸುಸ್ವಾಗತ / Welcome to Raj Bhavan

My cousin and I accepted the Governor's invite for an open house and toured the Karnataka Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru today.

As we enjoyed the band playing at the glass house, we were treated to some good tea and sweetu-khara (biscuits). We walked through the garden, marvelling at bonsai trees, enjoying the light spray from fountains, appreciating the manicured lawns, the sculptures of mythical beings watching over them and the variety of flowers and plants grown in the form of different animals. The whole place was lit up with multi coloured lights that enhanced the beauty of the gardens in the evening light.

As we approached the mansion, we watched the tricolor lowered ceremonially, while all the guards stood still firmly in attention.

Inside the colonial-style building, we entered the formal dining hall where its taxidermy animal heads stared down at us from their high perches on the wall, the many British era paintings below them tried to soften the ambience, the crystalware in the solid wooden cabinets reminded you of the real purpose of the room, while the ancient sculptures transported you to a different era altogether.

Next we visited the governor's office with its two rows of red cushioned chairs with the governor's blue cushioned chair presiding over them. This hall is dotted with beautiful artifacts from several centuries. The seats in the waiting area have enamel designs on wood and plush cushions covered in bright embroideries. The walls are lined with collections of photographs of all governors of Karnataka, presidents and prime ministers of India. One end offered a delightful view of the garden, while the other end lead to the ceremonial hall where leaders are sworn in.

The ceremonial hall is an awe inspiring place too. It's walls are decorated with glorious Tanjore paintings and enormous tapestries which would look even grander with some restoration. Rows of wooden chairs emblazoned with the national emblem were neatly lined up facing the stage which was now covered by a giant screen. A short video showcasing aerial views of the campus and a quick tour of the interiors and arrangements at the Raj Bhavan was followed by a recorded speech by Governor Vajubhai Vala.

We left the hall and walked past a series of rooms meant for official guests, each named after an Indian river. We exited the mansion, walked through a small portion of the garden, past a rudraksha tree planted by Prime Minister Modi, and found ourselves back at the flower clock by the main gate after 1.25 hours. Since we couldn't click photos during the tour, I satisfied my rebellious itch by sneak-clicking a picture then and there.

Too bad the Governor didn't meet us. Oh well!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Coming home

Coming home is a strange feeling.

What’s home? Is it the home I grew up in and am now back to? Is it the home in Boston I spent over 6 years in, the majority of my past 11 years and my time in the US? Any of the 2 homes in Buffalo when I was a poor student living with roommates? The room in Framingham that I kinda snatched and made my own for the first month after my graduation? The room in Hopkinton I rented for 6 months, while trying to ease into a professional’s life, clearing my educational loan and setting up my future life in Boston? The Milford apartment of 1.5 years which was my first home that was wholly mine and mine alone? The Somerville apartment I shared with a friend for about a year, getting the first taste of city life in the US and Boston? Stockholm where I spent 2 months in 2017 and visited multiple times, so frequently that I started feeling a sense of belonging there too and upended my life in Boston?

I landed in Bangalore early last morning. Just my second day back. There are so many things that are familiar, making me happy that some things haven’t changed. There are things that have changed, causing surprises and sometimes a tinge of sadness. And then there are those things that remind me of similar things in Boston, from the life that I left behind. Haven't I come a full circle? Until now this was the life that I had left behind.

How do I pay the porter - do I have Rupees or Dollars in my wallet? Which is the driving seat and which is the passenger seat in the car? Automatic or manual? Which is the “right” side of the road to drive on - left or right? How do I turn on the light in my room - flip the switch up or down? Can I drink water from the tap or do I need filtered water? Do I add or subtract 1.5 to my current time to calculate the time in Boston? Is it day or night for my friends there? Is it hot or cold there?

And just like that I don’t need to worry about New England’s eccentric weather patterns now.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Shiva slaying Andhaka - carvings at Elephanta Caves

A post shared by Madhavi Nadig (@m_nadig) on

What a difference there is from reading about the caves, the sculptures and the destruction in a high school history text to seeing it with one's own eyes!

The combination of history and mythology is so captivating. Why do the writers of history text books present only uninteresting, dull facts and dates to students?! The beauty of the caves is scarred by sabotaging colonists, still it shines through.

The sculpture reveals the full mythical story of the battle between Shiva and Andhaka. During the battle, each drop of Andhaka's blood that falls to the ground spawns another form of Andhaka. In this depiction Shiva pierces Andhaka's heart with his trident, collecting Andhaka's blood in a bowl while Kali drinks the blood, effectively preventing the emergence of more Andhakas. The asura's fault was that he unknowingly lusted after his own mother, Parvati. After being defeated, Andhaka realizes his mistake and submits to Shiva. Shiva forgives him and makes him the head of his ganas.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Masterclass with Benjamin Zander

Recently watched the delightful Benjamin Zander conduct a masterclass and coach talented teenage musicians at the Boston Public Library.

Benjamin Zander's teaching style was a performance in itself ... explaining to the budding musicians the historical context, motivations and emotions behind the piece ... conducting them repeatedly until he was satisfied, through several seemingly flawless performances ... involving all ages of audiences ... getting the kids to focus on involving audiences instead of their own playing, artistry or poise.

The kids were great at playing their chosen instrument to start with. The coaching transformed their performances, elevating them to a completely new level. Loved every bit of it!

After watching his TED Talk way back in 2013, I immediately picked up his book The Art of Possibility which left me inspired. I don't know much about Western Classical music, but have wanted to see him in action since then.

Was pleased to meet him in person after waiting 5 years. Since the only thing I collect is books autographed by their authors, I happily bought his book and he graciously signed it for me. A new addition to my small but growing collection. Made my day!