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    Margali Sangeethotsava

    Sri Yadugiri Yathiraja Mutt celebrated the Margali Sangeethotsava last week, under the direction of H.H. Sri Yathiraja Jeeyar Swamiji. The festival comprised of vocal, veena and flute concerts and a dance recital too.

    The inaugural programme of the Utsava was a musical feature on "Tulasi" by a 7 member musicians group led by Vidushi Lalitha Dwajan. Opening from the "Margali Thingal" from the Andal Thiruppavai, they proceeded with the "Brindavana Devi Namo Namo" of Purandara Dasa followed by "Yenu Dhanyalo Thulasi". While the song of the chaaturmasya "Sasiyali Sakala" was in the ragamalike, the Thulasi Vivaha composition "Angaladolagella" was tuned in Nadanamakriya. There are separate "Aarathi Hadu" on Tulasi and Krishna. "Bhamini Baaro" was in Hindola and the other song was in Neelambari. Raga Shanmukhapriya was their choice for "Ollano Hari Kollano" and concluded with a Tulasi Mangala "Sri Tulasi Sri Hareeye".

    Aligning well with Sruthi Lalitha Dwajan, Vasumathi and Supreetha Manu sang in unison, accompanied by Bhargavi Narasimhan on violin, Lakshmi Das on veena, Dathatreya on flute and Kartheek on tabla.


    Vocalist N R Prashanth, is not a stranger to connoisseurs of music of Bengaluru. He started his music lessons with R K Padmanabha and continued with Neela Ramgopal and currently learning from Prof R Visweswaran. He has performed in several organisations in UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia etc. He worked at the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society as Principal Tutor and returned to Bengaluru in 2016. In recognition of his talent he has received few prizes from Bangalore Gayana Samaja, Karnataka Sangeetha Nritya Academy and Aryabhata Award. He has collaborated with Dr. Raja Ramanna in publishing few books and projects.

    Prashanth opened his concert with a grand composition of Dikshitar "Sri Parthasarathina". The choice of two pieces from Thiruppavai - "Keelvanam" and "Katha Vilakku Eriya" - suited the occasion. Two compositions of Ambuja Krishnamurthy-Om Namo Narayana and Ododi Vande Kanna. Saridano Venkataramana in the raga Vitapi, Sadguru Swamyki in Reetigowla and Amba Rama - were also well received. A lesser known devaranama of Vyasaraya - "Olaga Sulabhavo Rangayyana" - is a good addition to the concert repertoire. "Govardhana Giridhara Govinda" of Narayana Teertha, is always a favourite of music lovers. He concluded with a composition of Sadashiva Brahmendra, a kruthi on Ramanuja and a Mangala.

    Though Prashanth added raga alpana, nerval and swara for few compositions, it was too brief to make an impact. It is necessary to elaborate raga-swara, at least for one or two compositions in detail, to make it much more impactful. But listeners appreciated Prashanths sincere approach, classicism, without over doing anything and simple presentation. Mathur Viswajit accompanied on violin and double mridanga of B.K. Chandramouli and B.S. Prashanth - was another attraction of the programme

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  • 12/10/17--17:24: 'I'm a no-heels person'
  • Designer Divya Reddy loves travelling. She is a single mother and her profession as a designer doesnt hamper the quality time she spends with her son. In her words, she is a hands-on mother.

    Being in the industry for four years Divya has only grown as a designer. From working with established celebrities from the film industry to experimenting with her designs and fabrics in every collection, she has carved a name for herself in the industry. In a chat with Surupasree Sarmmah, the designer spoke about her love for fashion and her journey in the industry.

    When did you discover your love for fashion?

    My love for fashion started when I was too young. Thanks to my mother who was always in support of handlooms of Telangana. It was a part of my growing up and I am glad that she infused that culture in me at a young age.

    How did your parents react to this choice of yours?

    Well, choosing this as a career option occurred to me while I was completing my MBA in New York. I thought that fashion designing would be a field I will be more interested in instead of MBA.

    My father always told us, "Do whatever in life but be the number one. These words have stayed with me and have a great influence on me every day. My mother has always pushed me to highlight this rich handloom heritage that India is gifted with.

    Being born and brought up in Hyderabad, does your work reflect the royal heritage of the city?

    Definitely. I have a great affinity towards intricacies. Most of my collection has Mughal and Nizami influence. One can find the usage of pearls and zardozi works on my collections.

    Your most memorable collection...

    I wouldnt say it as a collection but, my first show was very memorable. I was an amateur then. However, that show got me growing.

    Roping in a celebrity like Shilpa Shetty for my first show was overwhelming.

    Every collection is dear to me and I have grown with each collection.

    Tell us about your latest collection...

    The Fall-Winter collection was all about using the Madhapur Tussar. It is absolutely organic and there is no use of chemicals. This unique silk is a year-round fabric which keeps one warm in winters and cool in summers.

    This collection has Indo-Western silhouettes with Indian embellishments and the colour palette varies from dark shades like emerald and military greens to softer tones like blush pink.

    Of the celebrities you have worked with, who do you think are the most effortless dressers?

    Shilpa Shetty, Malaika Arora and Taapsee Pannu.

    How would you describe Divya Reddy, the designer?

    Zero patience for success. (laughs)

    Your holiday look...

    It has to be extremely comfortable and flowy silhouettes like a maxi dress. I am a no heels person.

    Three things you cant leave without...

    Phone, wallet and kajal.

    Any advice you would like to give to aspiring designers...

    This world is a big place and it has a place for everybody. Dont get intimidated by established designers or people who have been in the industry for a long time.

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  • 12/10/17--17:26: 'I emote with my eyes'
  • For actor Sneha Nair, this has been an interesting year. Just a few months after the release of First Love, she is all excited about her latest release Womens Day. In a candid conversation with Tini Sara Anien, she talks about the movie and her journey so far.

    Are you excited or nervous?

    Im excited and a bit nervous! In First Love, I played a bubbly and glamorous character and in Womens Day, I am playing two characters which will be really interesting.

    What is Womens Day all about?

    The movie is about five friends who plan a trip to celebrate Womens Day. The story is a thriller and the twists and turns in the project will keep the audience on the edge of their seat.

    What is it about the film that made you do it?

    I got attracted to the story because I always wanted to play a traditional girl. I play a village belle as well as a modern woman in the movie. The movie has a strong story which can only be understood when one watches it. It is the right kind of project any artiste could ask for.

    Thriller is a popular genre now. What will make this movie stand out?

    The very fact that the story will not bore anyone. The audience will be pinned to their seats throughout the film and the songs add the entertainment factor to the movie experience.

    Did you ever feel that you would be overshadowed by the other actors in the film?

    Never. I only concentrated on doing justice to my role. All of us -- Saniha, Nisha, Monica, Suhana and I -- have become thick friends now. In fact, we feel like we are family. We stood by each other whenever we fell sick and played pranks with each other too.

    There are many new actors in the industry. What is your biggest advantage?

    I emote with my eyes and I think this is my strongest skill. I always approach
    any subject with a fresh mind.

    Is the Kannada film industry at an experimental stage?

    I feel that there is a revolution in Kannada films now. With movies like UTurn and Ondu Motteya Kathe, which talk about realistic stories, there is a lot
    more that is being done, compared to the past. The audience wants more than

    You are a model-turned-actor. Is modelling the baby steps to films?

    Modelling helps one get exposure and noticed. But to be a good actor, one has to be able to perform.

    As someone who just came into the industry, what are your observations?

    When youre a fresh face, there are a lot of challenges that one faces. One has to continue to stay confident. Its only after you prove yourself as an actor that things become easier for you.

    Any particular roles you want to try?

    I am lucky to have acted in varied movies. I am playing a police officer in my next movie. I just want to continue doing different work.

    How difficult was it to play a police officer?

    I play a person who is stern and short-tempered. It was really difficult for me to portray the character as I am a very cool-headed person. I always keep
    smiling. Even my director would start laughing when I break into laughter just before scenes were shot.

    If not an actor, what would you have been?

    An airhostess!

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  • 12/10/17--17:26: Decking the halls
  • One never falls short of variety when shopping for Christmas decorations. The markets are flooded with Christmas trees and decorations with each store displaying something innovative and attractive.

    There are stars, Christmas trees, buntings, bells, snowmen and mistletoes. Even the traditional Christmas tree seems to have undergone a transformation of sorts. There are trees with in-built lights, those with a dash of white and also white Christmas trees available.

    From the eco-friendly decorations to the downright commercial ones, Christmas decorations are selling like hotcakes. Anju M P, a banker, puts up her Christmas tree in the first week of December.

    "We bought an artificial tree three years ago and we continue to use it. The tree remains the same, but I make sure I change the decorations every year. I love shopping for tiny stars, bells and unusual decorations," says Anju.
    Maria R, an employee with Ernst & Young, who enjoys decorating the tree with her own creations and those bought from the markets.

    "I used to make small Christmas balls and stars. But now after I started working, I dont find the time to make them but I use the ones that I have made earlier. For me, Christmas tree is a symbol of hope, love and peace. I wait for December to arrive to decorate the tree," says Maria.

    Space constraints have deterred many a Bengalurean from decorating the real tree and are forced to settle for small artificial ones. Nikita Paul, a web analyst, says that she misses decorating a real tree.

    "We used to have a real tree but now we dont have the space to keep one. So weve settled for an artificial one. In addition to dolling up the tree with the
    regular decorations, I also buy the small pines and paint them which I later hang on the tree," says Nikita. She also places gifts at the bottom of the tree for her little cousins. "These gifts are an add on to the Christmas tree and are opened only on Christmas day."

    The spirit of Christmas has caught on with people from other communities as well. Shalini S Kumar, an IT professional, looks forward to celebrating the festival and decorating the tree with her colleagues at office.

    "Christmas brings everybody together and we put up a small Christmas tree in our workplace and decorate it with lights, attractive stars, bells and other colourful decorations," says Shalini.

    Theres visible excitement among the shopkeepers in the City to offer the best decorations at competitive prices. Jitendra J, a shopkeeper at a store in Kammanahalli, has displayed Christmas trees with an inbuilt lighting system. "This is a new addition to our store. The lighting system comes embedded in the tree so when you turn on the switch, the whole tree lights up. We also have the regular green trees and white trees with multi-coloured lighting system," says Jitendra.

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    With the semester exams looming up in the near future, students, parents and teachers are all panicking alike.

    Metrolife spoke to a few people to know about their studying habits as well as the stressbusters they prefer when they need a breather.

    Gouri Priya, a student, says, "I make timetables based on the exam timetable and my preferences. I try to study the portions that I have never touched before or that are relatively difficult at first, and then revise the portions I am familiar with. My stressbusters are YouTube videos and dancing to upbeat songs."

    It has been proved that music calms a person and helps them concentrate better. Hence it is a good idea to listen to songs when it comes to taking a break from all the hard work to give your mind some rest.

    Sherine, a student, says "I prefer listening to music while studying. Since I do most of my studying at night, I love to have something warm to drink during that time. A cup of hot chocolate would be a great stressbuster and a great energiser."

    Nida Eman, a student says, "The most important thing is to know what works for you, personally. I have friends who require intensive preparation at least for two weeks, while others who, no matter how hard they try, dont remember anything unless theyve learnt it under the pressure of a deadline. I fall under the second category. Its just the way it is and there is no right or wrong way to study as long as it works for you."

    Dr Safiya M S, a clinical psychiatrist at Mind & Brain Clinic, says, "The only way to prevent any last minute worries and anxiety is to be well prepared. The way to do that is to know your strengths and weaknesses and then plan a study schedule accordingly. One must have realistic expectations and be confident about what they know and also always get proper sleep before appearing for an examination."

    Making a study chart and planning a schedule to regulate studying and balancing it with sleep and recreation is essential so the brain doesnt feel overworked and tired. Good mental health and a calm environment always yields better results.

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    Actor Suraj Gowda is in a comfortable space. And why not? This year has proved quite fruitful for him though he believes that he has a lot more to do. The actor is awaiting the release of his bilingual movie which will be called Snehave Preethi in Kannada and 2 Friends in Telugu.

    He will also soon be seen in Amara Chitra Katha. In a candid chat with Tini Sara Anien, he talks

    Can you tell us a bit about the bilingual?

    The movie is a commercial one. It has all the elements for entertainment like romance, dance and action. The story is a good one and shows a battle between love and friendship.

    How was it working in a bilingual?

    The movie was made in Telugu and everyone around me spoke the language. I am not that familiar with Telugu. In fact, its only when they decided to cast me that they came up with the idea of making the film a bilingual.

    Why did the team choose you for the film?

    It was a surprise for me as well but I am guessing my chocolate-boy looks worked. The Telugu industry has a lot of talent and even I was pleasantly surprised when the director expressed his interest in working with me, especially after watching my performance in Siliconn City.

    What attracted you to the movie?

    I believe that never before has a director from the Telugu industry looked for fresh talent in the Kannada industry.

    I was deeply impressed by the fact that someone from outside wanted to tap the talent here. It was more experimental for me and it satisfied my ego.

    Any interesting moments on the sets of Snehave Preethi?

    I always play pranks on the sets. When we were staying in a hotel in Hyderabad, I cooked up a story that the hotel was haunted.

    We used to play pranks on Farah (one of my co-actors). We would switch off the lights of her room and slip in things under the door.

    The next day, one of us would innocently ask her why she looked tired and she would explain why she couldnt sleep the night before.

    How did it feel to act as a college student?

    It felt great to be a 19-year-old on screen. One cant do it for a long time, so Im enjoying it while I can. It was easy to portray a college student on screen. All I had to do was lose some weight.

    Is working out an integral part of being an actor now?

    Yes. Earlier, one could get away with just their performance. In todays time, one can do a lot with looks. Looks do matter a lot now.

    Do campus-based stories work well still?

    Its not just about the story but also about how it is told. Stories could look or sound the same but the way they are shown on screen makes all the difference.

    According to you, what are the elements required for a hit?

    There is no formula for a successful film. If there was one, there would have been no flops at all. The movie should just appeal to the audience and make a connect. Youth-oriented subjects always attract the youth. The college-going crowd is afterall the biggest movie-going audience.

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  • 12/10/17--17:30: 'We loved the Indian crowd'
  • They are a true-blue rock band from the east of France and its their love for music and friendship that formed Last Train. The band has vocalist Jean-Noel Scherrer, guitarist Julien Peultier, drummer Antoine Baschung and bass player Timothee Gerard.

    They won the biggest French festival for upcoming bands Le Printemps de Bourges and toured across Europe with a whopping 40 shows in two months.

    In association with Bonjour India Rock Tour, the members of Last Train were in the city to perform at The Humming Tree recently. Bassist Timothee spoke to Anila Kurian about their experience in performing here.

    You toured nine cities in India. Which was your favourite city?

    I would say it was the first one in Delhi. It is not easy to play because we didnt bring our stuff here; we only brought guitars and snare, so it is hard to find the sound we usually have. But anyway, it is rock n roll, plug and play, we dont care, lets play and jump everywhere!

    All four of you are good friends. Are there times when you dont want to spend time with each other?

    Yes, of course! We are humans after all, and sometimes it can be hard, you dont want to play or see anybody. We spend about 300 days a year together, and being on tour and in the studio is emotionally exhausting. But weve learned how to live together and respect our friends privacy.

    Sometimes when you want alone time, put some headphones and listen to music, go out for a walk or watch a movie. Besides, we also have different interests in life, movies, cooking and so on.

    Whats your way of brainstorming for ideas?

    We are a band of four persons who try to play and create our songs. Most of the time, its Jean-Noel, our singer and guitar player, who has an idea - a part of the song or an entire song. Then we work on it together. And because we are friends, we can feel things and we dont really have to talk about everything.

    What are some of the things you explored in India?

    We were playing shows back to back and we didnt have time to explore the cities we were playing at. But we got some time off in Puducherry, we rented bikes and went surfing.

    Did you try Indian food?

    Its really not in our French culture to eat spicy things. But we like everything we tried. Anything new can be a good experience, just like in music.

    What similarities or dissimilarities have you found in the audience back home and in India?

    Every audience is different, French or Indian, Japanese or German. It really depends on the city too and how we feel. But we loved the Indian crowd!

    Which are some of the other countries that you want to take your music to?

    Everywhere! We would love to bring our music to the entire world and live new experiences, meet people from everywhere! Thats the best thing about touring and playing music.

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  • 12/10/17--17:32: Fun off the ramp
  • This picture was taken during a fashion show in Bengaluru in 2006. It was taken backstage just before the show.

    Seen in the picture along with me are Vijay, Ajay Balhara and Tony Luke. The four of us have walked the ramp together for many designers.

    I began modelling when I was in college and was only a couple of shows old when this picture was taken. I still remember that there was always so much excitement backstage.

    We would spend our time chatting, pulling each others legs and when our turn came to walk the ramp, we did our job confidently. Vijay and Ajay are twins and are very cool guys.

    They were extremely soft-spoken and dedicated to their jobs. I am not in touch with them anymore but I think Vijay has become a very successful designer.

    Ajay, I am sure, is connected to the world of fashion in someway.

    Tony joined the film industry. He was a successful model back then. We are all a few years apart in age but we all got along very well.

    I started my career with Prasad Bidapa and I have remained with him ever since then. I never thought of modelling as a career option, but after I walked the ramp for the first time, one thing led to another and now I am settled in this industry.

    Prasad and I opened a modelling agency a few years ago and I now head it.

    Bengaluru has always been a special city for me. I completed my schooling from Laidlaw MemorialSchool in Ketti Valley and returned to Bengaluru to complete my degree at Baldwin Methodist College. I hold very fond memories of the time I spent with my friends from college and those from the modelling fraternity.

    Life was more peaceful in old Bangalore and one didnt have to spend so many hours waiting in traffic.

    We used to hang out after every show. We frequented The Club on Mysore Road, Spin on Residency Road and Club X on Old Airport Road for after-parties. I think Spin shut down a few years ago. We enjoyed the ambience at these places and would party till the wee hours.

    This photograph reminds me of the fun we had backstage. It is hard to explain the thrill and excitement we shared during every show.

    I now walk the ramp as a showstopper and make celebrity appearances but
    that fiery spirit that we had back in the good old days still remains even to this day.

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    The designers at Pantaloons are constantly working to cater to the evolving fashion palette of the urban woman.

    The party wear collection includes silhouette variations like pinafore dresses, crop tops, maxi dresses, cold shoulder and culottes in velvet, suede, lace and shimmer fabrics.

    These outfits come in a variety of bright colours like marsala, emeralds, mustards and monotones.

    Talking more about the collection, Nagesh C, head of design and visual merchandising, Pantaloons, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited, says, "The range also offers different shapes like fit and flare, bodycons, shifts and swings to suit the young fashion enthusiast. Our clothes are made to suit all body types."

    He points out that two key points that place the brand ahead of its competitors are style and a balanced aesthetic.

    "Style is the essence and a balanced aesthetic is important for any well designed product. Party wear must make a statement, without being too loud. We focus on simple elements that create a wow feeling," adds Nagesh.
    He says that the in-house team keep themselves abreast with the latest fashion preferences among the youth.

    "We have multiple mechanisms and platforms to capture the customer feedback like meet your designer where the designers regularly interact with customers to know what they are seeking in terms of fashion," elaborates Nagesh.

    He also says that this interaction helps understand the pulse of the shopper and cater to the consumers needs.

    These dresses by themselves are made to appear attractive but Nagesh believes that no outfit is complete without accessorising.

    The brand stocks a variety of accessories that blend with the garments.

    "Minimal accessories with focus on one statement piece helps creating a balanced look. We have jewellery, hand bags and footwear to choose from which makes it easier for the wearer to complete and complement the entire look."

    Yuktha Edigar, a student of Mount Carmel College, wore a maroon dress.
    Punchline: "The colour combinations and accessories are what I found most attractive here."
    Price: Dress (Rs 1,699) and choker (Rs 575).

    Malaika Susan Mathew from Mount Carmel College slipped into a beige dress.
    Punchline: "Accessorise it with a neckpiece, high heels and a jacket and you are ready to go."
    Price: Dress (Rs 1,499) and neckpiece (Rs 575).

    Kashmira HV, a student of St Joseph College of Commerce, wore a red velvet dress.
    Punchline: "The soft feel and the colour of the dress is what I love the most."
    Price: Dress (Rs 1,299) and neckpiece (Rs 575).

    Sana Qureshi, a student of Jain University, wore a black and white top with black pants.
    Punchline: "I like the contrasting colours of the outfit."
    Price: Top (Rs 999), pant (Rs 1,299) and neckpiece (Rs 599).

    M Vindya Niron, a student of Mount Carmel College, chose to wear a pink velvet dress.
    Punchline: "I like the feel and finish of the dress. The fabric is light and easy to maintain."
    Price: Dress (Rs 1,499) and neckpiece (Rs 349).

    Nayantara Ruth Jesudas from St Josephs College of Commerce wore a black netted dress.
    Punchline: "This is a gorgeous dress and is perfect for the parties this festive season."
    Price: Dress (Rs 1,499) and neckpiece (Rs 875).

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  • 12/10/17--18:08: Moulding her destiny
  • Her speech is crisp and concise, much like her designs. Unlike others, Renuka Prakash doesnt believe in embellishing her artistic dedication with words; she lets her work do the talking.

    Renu, as she is known, comes from a family of artists with a common trait - none of them are formally trained.

    "My grandmother, parents, sister, aunt - everyone is into arts and craft. And like the others, I am self-taught and have never taken classes for this."

    This fact evokes a slight twinge of regret in her too. "I always wanted to get into Chitrakala Parishath but my father didnt allow me to go there. He felt that it was too far which also had to do something with the fact that he considered all this a waste of time. I still wish I could have learnt something properly; my dad too repents the decision now."

    But destiny is too small a thing to stand in front of steely resolve and Renu now leads a life steeped in art and craft. Pebbles, used bottles, bathroom tiles - everything is a canvas for her now.

    "I love making zentangles on everything. It helps me relax if I am disturbed and also looks great. Now it has become a habit;
    I need to create something or the other everyday, at least a small piece of zentangle should be there."

    "Even during travelling, I carry my pouch. When I get stuck in Bengaluru traffic, I start drawing," she adds.

    Out of her extensive inventory, her favourites are the bottles and the pebble artefacts. "I pick out the pebbles when I go to different places. The differently-shaped bottles are sourced for me by my friends who come from abroad. I have a huge collection of these now."

    Friends have been the recipients of her creations, as well as her family. "I have an art room where I display all my works. Usually people who walk in will pick up something or the other they like. Apart from that, I gift things to my friends who I meet once in a while. A good friend of mine has displayed my gifts at his house in Sweden while another friend from Hyderabad still talks about the neck piece and bottle I gave her," says Renu.

    Her house is another testimony to her talent. "When we were constructing our house, I was clear that it should only have things made by me, whether good or bad. Its been 13 years now and I have remained true to this promise. I keep making new things and replacing the old ones from time to time."

    Renu occasionally conducts workshops and summer camps now, though she is into designing full time. "Thankfully my family is very supportive. My
    husband is a civil engineer who is into farming and he is very cooperative about my passion. My mother-in-law gets concerned if she sees me sitting idle and asks me why I am not making something. My daughter, a ninth grader, has taken after me. She is into brush lettering now and recently decorated a whole wall in the house writing words about me," says Renu with a smile.

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    Tequila came into our life nine years ago. She was the most fun loving furball that you could ever meet. Soon Laila joined us. Now a two--year-old, she and Tequila are thick as thieves.

    So how did we choose Tequila? Our dog uncle (the owner of the puppies) had got four pups home, two cocker spaniels and two pugs. We were quite excited to see one of the pugs walk around the entire house as if it was completely drunk (if you saw how she walked) and then go to my dads lap and fell asleep.

    She got the comfort of home we thought and we found love. Because of her drunk walking style we named her Tequila - you dont need lime or salt with this one.

    Coming to her favourite activities - she loves going for long walks and car rides. She sleeps for hours, eats food quickly to get her spinach chewy stick treats, plays with her toy (called my-toy), meets and licks anyone who comes home, socialises with everyone during her long walks and spreads loads of love.

    Two years ago we decided to get a companion for Tequila and thats when we got Laila home. Her personality, walking style, sophistication in what she does and her attitude are the key reasons for naming her Laila. Laila is extremely playful, naughty and smart.

    She can differentiate between a hello and high-five and gives you one too. She loves her treats and has more of those than food! Her barks can scare you away but if you pet her once, she will be your friend.

    Trust me, you are better off being friends with her! She too loves sleeping on the bed - you could hold on to her and have the best sleep ever! Both Tequila and Laila are extremely sensitive. They know the happy times but become extremely concerned during the unhappy times.

    They will sit by your side till things become better. Both Tequila and Laila have a huge fan following. Everyone in the locality loves their company and they make sure they spend some time with them during their evening walks.

    Most Sundays are dedicated to having fun at Cubbon Park â€" they put on their cool T-shirts, meet new friends, run around and breathe the fresh air around them.

    Everyone wants to take a photograph with them! You are greeted with the same enthusiasm each and every time you walk in through that door.

    Undoubtedly, the best thing that has happened to me is having Tequila and Laila in my life.

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  • 12/10/17--18:16: The road less taken
  • Blaring horns and endless traffic jams are an increasingly common sight in Bengaluru. Among a host of initiatives taken by the civic authorities to address this situation, the proposition of the Less Traffic Day stands out. It calls for leaving ones own vehicles at home and using public transport options every alternate Sunday.

    While the soon-to-be brought-in initiative has fetched encouraging responses from some Bengalureans, others are wondering about the feasibility factor.
    Mahalakshmi Sanjay, an executive assistant in a bank and resident of Malathahalli, says that this concept might not work for places which do not have frequent bus services. "It is a big struggle for me to find a cab or a bus to reach any place from here. Good bus connectivity is required before such a day is implemented, even if it is on a Sunday. The authorities can look at reducing the fares of authorickshaws and cabs that day," she says.

    Though carpooling and using public transport has become common, the Less Traffic Day would need a lot more planning, feels Krithi Poovamma, a credit assessment officer and a resident of Sahakara Nagar.

    "A Sunday with relatively free roads would be perfect. But there needs to be more infrastructural planning for such campaigns to work," she says.

    Vikas Kalkunte, head of sales at an IT firm, has been using the Metro and other public transport options on a daily basis. "Compared to Chennai and Mumbai, there needs to be more public transport connectivity here," he says.

    He points out that there needs to be extensive campaigning for this concept to work. "From schools to workplaces, a lot of awareness should be created," he adds. For regular commuters, convenience is the first concern, points out Kamala Ramesh, a technical delivery manager with an IT firm. "I think everyone would be alright with the Less Traffic Day on alternate Sundays but for a big change, one should practise this on weekdays too. It will be a good way to analyse if such a measure would work in the city and then increase it
    accordingly," she says.

    Slowly habituating the citizens to a new concept would be the best way to go, she adds. "Added restrictions like one-vehicle-per-family would also support this move," says Kamala.

    Better campaigning from the grassroot level will definitely be needed for the Less Traffic Day, says Ranjeeta Palanivelu, a homemaker and resident of Halasuru. "Will this concept become like the Bus Day, which is almost non-existential now? The new day would be a great way to reduce pollution and the number of vehicles on the road. The process should include spreading the message through educational institutions, organisations and social media," she says.

    Ranjeetha observes that since the day is only planned for every alternate Sunday, it would be easy to work around it.

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  • 12/10/17--18:44: Handcrafted to perfection
  • As you walk on the streets of Shinganalli, a nondescript village on Kumta-Tadasa highway, you can see women sitting in the sit-out of their houses, tying wood flowers to a nylon thread. Garland making has become one of the mainstays of this village over the years. Needless to say, almost all the houses in this village, located in Mundagod taluk of Uttara Kannada district, have one or more members engaged in this activity.

    Shantavva Talavar, a resident of the village, is the one who initiated this silent employment revolution in the village. A humble woman, initially she seemed unwilling to share her experience with me. Later, she changed her mind and narrated the events that led her to this position. She was introduced to the activity of garland making three decades ago by one of her neighbours, who used to make sandalwood garlands.

    Innovative ideas

    Living in the Malnad region, she had easy access to forests and sandalwood trees. Unaware of the forest laws, she used to cut dry sandalwood branches to make garlands. Soon, someone brought it to the notice of forest officials and they questioned her. "That was when I came to know that it is an offence," says Shantavva.

    Later, she started making flowers from the barks of hedde (Adina cordifolia) tree. Again, this was also a variety which was protected under the law. Then she stopped entering the forest for wood and started exploring alternatives. Innovative that she is, she saw the lush green gliricidia tree grown along the fence in front of her house.

    She decided to try making garlands from the barks of this multipurpose forage tree, which is popular among farmers as manure tree for its nitrogen-fixing properties. And, she was successful in making flowers from this plant, supposedly the first person to do so. She skillfully makes octagonally shaped flowers from the thin bark of gliricidia, which is a common tree in the village.

    Paddy husk is stuffed inside to give it a proper shape. Then these flowers are tied to a nylon thread. Once she was confident of making garlands from an easily-available source, she realised that it could be a livelihood activity for other women in the village as well. A team was formed and she trained them. Soon, the word spread and eventually, the number of garland-makers increased. Women from over 200 houses are engaged in garland making today. Some houses have three to four women engaged in this activity. They earn from Rs 100 to Rs 200 per day.
    College-going students also join hands to make garlands. "It is not possible to go and work in the fields during college days. But we can assist in garland making in the evenings and thus support our parents," says Anitha Patil, a college student.
    "These kids make five to 10 garlands. One dozen garlands fetch us Rs 40. The village has 12 self-help groups and garland making is the main source of income for all the groups," says Rekha Patil, a villager.

    Social entrepreneurs

    After paddy harvest, they store the husk with proper care. Some also use the husk of maize. The flower should be stuffed properly to get a proper shape. Dried gliricidia branches that fall from the tree are stored for the purpose. "Men peel the bark from these branches in the morning and make strips. We make flowers after finishing household chores. On an average, one can make 40 to 50 garlands in a day along with other household work," says Surati Melinamani. If one does it full time, a person can easily make over 100 garlands. Around 15 garlands can be made from a one-foot wood piece.

    "Most of the families in the village have small holdings. Paddy cultivation is the mainstay of the village. Both women and men work in the fields during the season. Of late, paddy cultivation has become difficult due to unpredictable weather, particularly scanty rainfall. At a time when we were struggling to earn a living, this art came to our help," says Panduranga Patil, a village youth.

    The garlands are smaller than the ones we see in the markets. Shantavva collects these garlands from the women and sells it to the middlemen. It is said that the garlands are sent to big cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

    While these women make garlands throughout the year, the demand changes with the season. The demand is at its peak during the Ganesha festival. Apart from being a collection centre, Shantavvas house has also become a training centre, helping these farmers hone their skills as artisans.

    Over 500 people have learnt the art from her in the last three decades. Shantavva and other women in the village have developed a working model that shows the way for many others in a similar situation. Thereby, creating a sustainable solution for the village folk. Local people have rightly named it as the skill development centre without walls.

    (Translated by Anitha Pailoor)

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  • 12/10/17--18:50: A museum soaked in history
  • The two domed structures in front of the district hospital on Sedam Road can pass off as one of the many historical monuments that dot the city of Kalaburagi. Historical monuments they are, but they also house the Government Museum, which has many sculptures, inscriptions, palm manuscripts, prehistoric artefacts, terracotta figures, beads, coins, cannons, etc. The well-maintained garden adds to the peaceful ambience of the place.

    For centuries, Kalaburagi has been a melting pot of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Talking about the history of the museum, Shivakumar, archaeological assistant, Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, said that the State government took a decision to establish a museum in Kalaburagi (then Gulbarga) in 1964 to showcase its rich history. Artefacts from different periods of time and representative of various cultures, from the Maurya Empire to the Rashtrakutas, Bahamanis and the Nizam rule are placed here.

    The site

    "The two empty 15th-century tombs that were in a dilapidated condition were renovated and turned into galleries. The first tomb is situated on the left side of the entrance and is bigger than the second tomb, situated on the right. The third gallery, a newly constructed building, was inaugurated in 1997. The museum has three galleries now," Shivakumar added.

    Sculptures, several hundred years old, have been neatly placed on the platforms on pathways leading to the galleries. Besides, sculptures of tirthankaras, cannons, veeragallus (hero stones), nishidi stones (erected in memory of those who performed sallekhana to attain nirvana); Sati stones and other stones dating from 10th century to 18th century and those from Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Hoysala and Vijayanagar periods have been neatly placed on platforms around the tombs. While some of the stones are carved from black stone, others are carved from limestone.
    The entrance to the first tomb is flanked by two ancient cannons. A few can also be found inside the tomb. Among many idols and sculptures, a beautifully carved Natyashiva, a 12th century Kalyani Chalukya stone panel, is unique. It depicts Lord Shiva dancing with Shivagana, joined by other gods, and is carved on both sides. The sculpture, said to be part of a temple entrance, was found at Kalgi in Chittapur taluk in Kalaburagi district.

    Equally beautiful is the 18th-century idol of Goddess Durga, which was found at Sedam. The Jalashayana Vishnu, a 12th-century stone panel found in Kalaburagi, and the idols of Lord Madhusudana and Shiva-Parvati are exhibited here.

    The gallery also houses arrow tips and stone tools from the Neolithic era, including terracotta figures and beads, and pottery items sourced from Maski in Raichur. Palm-leaf manuscripts and models of motifs of the Indus valley civilisation are also on display here.

    This apart, the gallery houses the porcelain crockery used by Colonel Philip Meadows Taylor, administrator of Surpur in Yadgir district. The collection includes a 20th-century wooden palanquin, swords, armour and a few brass and copper utensils. In the second tomb, a majority of the sculptures and stone panels are carved from limestone and date back to the first and second centuries. They were found during surface excavations in Sannati in Yadgir district and are said to be the remains of a Buddhist stupa.

    Most of the sculptures and stone panels, some with inscriptions in Brahmi script, though damaged, speak volumes about the artistic skills of the sculptors from a bygone era as carving is difficult on limestone. The 12th-century black-stone idol of Lord Parshwanatha, a tirthankara, is unique as it has the carving of mango buds. The idol was found at Harasur in Kalaburagi.

    Religion & royalty

    In the third gallery, sculptures, stone panels and the remains of the Buddist stupa at Sannati are housed, along with a few modern paintings. A stone panel depicting winged animals with a human face bears testimony to the earliest influence of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations on Indian architecture. There are many stone panels that have the carving of the multi-headed snake.

    However, most of them are damaged. A fully intact stone Buddha pada (footprint) with intrinsic carving including dharmachakras is a delight to watch. Among the other stone panels, a royal couple seated with horseshoe archway is a unique exhibit. The museum also has a collection of 100 coins from various centuries. Six of them are gold coins from the Vijayanagar period and 44 silver coins are from the Bahmani Sultanate.

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    In a recent study, scientists at the Cancer Research Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Kerala, have devised a new approach that can edit genetic sequences in cervical cancer cells that can knock out the cancer-causing gene. This could serve as an alternative therapeutic approach in treating cervical cancer.

    Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is one of causative agents of cervical cancer in women. While most infections caused by HPV clear up on their own, many women with persistent HPV infections, gradually develop cervical cancer. According to a study, India accounts for one-third of the cervical cancer deaths globally.

    Among the two genetic sequences of the virus - HPV-16 and HPV-18 - that cause cancer, HPV-16 is the most prevalent gene in India. In the recent study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers have used a gene editing molecule that can edit the protein producing gene E7, found in HPV, and has a role in causing cervical cancer and making it malignant.

    Previous studies have identified two cancer causing proteins, E6 and E7. Hence, many drugs have been designed to target these two proteins. The other alternative is editing or correcting the protein-producing genetic code, much like you would correct a wrongly written sentence! Genome editing, as it is called, has a distinct advantage over all other approaches as a particular area of the DNA can be modified with a single dose of gene-editing molecules, which can edit the gene and make it non-functional.

    Total silencing

    Two such gene-editing molecules are Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs) and Transcription Activator-like Effector Nucleases (TALENs). Both are super tiny, molecular scissors that can be designed to chop off specific gene sequences, based on the requirement. TALENs are easier to design and use than ZFNs, and have proven to be effective against infections caused by other viruses like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Hence, the researchers of this study have used TALEN.

    The results of their study showed the
    total silencing of E7. Even in a HeLa cell line, a type of immortal cell line used in scientific research, the researchers observed 10% editing activity and total elimination of E7 proteins produced by the gene.

    But, suppressing the activity of E7 genes is not without consequences. It results in cell death. Biologically, our cells die in two ways. One is a programmed cell death, which is a relatively cleaner death, where all the cell contents are promptly recycled. The second, also called necrotic death, is a messier affair. Here, the dead cell bursts out spewing its contents all around it. Usually, genes when edited by TALENs, result in a programmed cell death.

    However, in this study, the researchers report a cell death by necrosis when TALENs were used to target genes that produce E7 in cervical cancer cells. The advantage of necrotic cell death is that with the cancer cell contents now all spilled outside, the immune system can easily pick this up. Once our immune system knows the presence of these foreign bodies, it triggers pro-inflammatory cytokines - small proteins helping in cell signaling - leading to tumour-specific immunity. This could, in turn, destroy other malignant cells including those that have been resistant to natural cell death.

    So how are these gene editing molecules transported to the nucleus of the cells? Molecular biologists use viral vectors - tools used to deliver genetic material into cells. However, because of TALENs molecular structure and its tiny size, this method isnt suitable. Hence, biologists deliver TALENs using messenger RNAs or mRNAs, which is less toxic and has fewer regulatory concerns. The researchers of the study report that in the case of HPV, TALENs could be used locally along with surgery. By topical application of TALEN based drugs into the cervix at regular intervals, there could be minimal side effects, high efficacy, and minimum risk of metabolic and enzymatic digestion.

    The study, performed on cell lines, suggests that selected TALEN pairs could effectively edit the HPV-E7 gene in cervical cancer cells, and induce their death. However, further studies are required to validate these results in animals. TALEN-based therapy could also prevent recurrence of cancer cells after surgery, claim the researchers. "Such studies offer hope for future therapeutic strategies against HPV-infected cells, since these will not be removed by currently available prophylactic vaccines," signs off Professor M Radhakrishna Pillai from Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and the lead researcher of the study.

    (The author is with Gubbi Labs, a Bengaluru-based research collective)

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  • 12/10/17--19:18: How one cell turns back time
  • None of us was made from scratch. Every human develops from the fusion of two cells, an egg and a sperm, that are the descendants of other cells. The lineage of cells that joins one generation to the next - called the germline - is, in a sense, immortal. Biologists have puzzled over the resilience of the germline for 130 years, but the phenomenon is still deeply mysterious.

    Over time, a cells proteins become deformed and clump together. When cells divide, they pass that damage to their descendants. Over millions of years, the germline ought to become too devastated to produce healthy new life. "You take humans - they age two, three or four decades, and then they have a baby thats brand-new," said K Adam Bohnert, a postdoctoral researcher at Calico Life Sciences in San Francisco, California, USA. "Theres some interesting biology there we just dont understand."

    Recently in the journal Nature, Adam and Cynthia Kenyon, vice president for ageing research at Calico, reported the discovery of one way in which the germline stays young. Right before an egg is fertilised, it is swept clean of deformed proteins in a dramatic burst of housecleaning.

    The researchers discovered this process by studying a tiny worm called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). The worm has been a favourite of biologists for 50 years because its inner workings are much the same as our own. C. elegans relies on many of the same genes that we do to control the division of cells, for example, and to programme faulty cells to commit suicide.

    The germlines secrets

    In 1993, Cynthia discovered that a gene called daf-2 greatly influenced the lifespan of these worms. Shutting down the gene more than doubled the worms lifetime from 18 days to 42 days. That finding, which Cynthia made while a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, USA, led to the discovery of an entire network of genes involved in repairing cells, allowing animals to live longer.

    Humans depend on similar genes to repair cells, too. "Cynthia really pioneered the field of ageing and rejuvenation using C. elegans," said Irina M Conboy, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. The longest-lived mutant worms savoured only an extra few weeks of life, but their germlines kept rolling along from one generation to the next.

    Cynthias curiosity about the germlines secrets was sharpened in 2010 by a study by Jérôme Goudeau and Hugo Aguilaniu, two biologists then at the University of Lyon in France. They took a close look at the proteins in the worms egg-like cells, called oocytes. Most C. elegans are hermaphrodites, producing both eggs and sperm. As the eggs mature, they travel down a tube, at the end of which they encounter sperm.

    Jérôme and Hugo discovered that a worms eggs carry a surprisingly heavy burden of damaged proteins, even more than in the surrounding cells. But in eggs that were nearing the worms sperm, the researchers found far less damage. Jérôme and Hugo then ran the same experiment with a twist.

    They mutated a gene in the worms, leaving them unable to make sperm. The eggs in these entirely female worms were filled with damaged proteins and did not get repaired. These experiments raised the possibility that the sperm were sending out a signal that somehow prompted the eggs to rid themselves of damaged proteins.

    In 2013, Cynthia and Adam set out to test that possibility. (They moved the research to Calico in 2015.) Clumping proteins are involved in many diseases of old age, such as Alzheimers disease. Cynthia and Adam set up an experiment using a special strain of worms in which clumping proteins glowed. In hermaphrodite worms, they discovered, immature eggs were loaded with protein clumps, while the ones close to the sperm had none. The researchers then created mutant "female" worms and observed that their eggs all became littered with protein clumps. When Adam let them mate with males, however, the clumps disappeared from the eggs. "In thirty minutes you typically see them cleared out," he said.

    Adam and Cynthia then carried out additional studies, such as looking for other mutant worms that could not clear out protein clumps even though they could make sperm. Combining these findings, the researchers worked out the chain of events by which the eggs rejuvenate themselves. It begins with a chemical signal released
    by the sperm, which triggers drastic changes in the egg. The protein clumps within the egg "start to dance around," Adam said.

    The clumps come into contact with little bubbles called lysosomes, which extend fingerlike projections that pull the clumps inside. The sperm signal causes the lysosomes to become acidic. That change switches on the enzymes inside the lysosomes, allowing them to swiftly shred the clumps. "Its a huge, coordinated shift," Adam said. Adam and Cynthia hypothesise that the worms normally keep their eggs in a dormant state. The eggs accumulate a lot of damage, but make little effort to repair it.

    Only in the last minutes before fertilisation do they destroy protein clumps and damaged proteins, so that their offspring wont inherit that burden. The detritus might even be recycled, Cynthia speculated, into building blocks needed to make the new proteins that are required to develop an embryo. "Once the oocyte hears the knocks on the door, then it can just clean it all out and even use it as food, maybe," she said.

    In human reproduction

    If her previous research is any guide, then we very likely could use the same strategy in human reproduction. "The hypothesis is that its not just a worm thing," Cynthia said. That remains to be seen. In their new paper, Cynthia and Adam reported that they had tested this hypothesis on frogs, which are much more closely related to humans than is C. elegans.

    The scientists exposed frog eggs to a hormone that signals them to mature. The lysosomes in the frog eggs became acidic, just as happens in worms. "I think its a way to guarantee that you clean the slate for the next generation," Adam said.

    The germline might not be the only place where cells restore themselves in this way. Throughout our lives, we maintain a supply of stem cells that can rejuvenate our skin, guts and brains. It could be that stem cells also use lysosomes to eradicate damaged proteins.

    "That would have huge implications," Irina said. It might be possible, for example, to treat diseases by giving ageing tissues a signal to clean house. But Cynthia doesnt see new medicine emerging from this research anytime soon. "We didnt patent anything from it," she said. "I would think youd need to know a lot more before you know exactly what to do. This is still the very early stage."

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  • 12/10/17--19:26: Partners in the wilderness
  • Elks and magpies get along, so to speak, because the elk needs grooming and the magpie is looking for dinner. But they may have never entered into this partnership if it were not for their particular personalities, suggests a study published in Biology Letters.

    Lets start with the elk. In Canadas western province of Alberta, they have been acting strange. Some have quit migrating, opting to hang around towns with humans who protect them from predators like wolves. Others still migrate. As a doctoral student at the University of Alberta, Robert Found, now a wildlife biologist for Parks Canada, discovered over years of observing their personalities that bold elk stayed, while shy elk migrated. But he noticed something else in the process of completing his research: As elk laid down to rest at the end of the day, magpies approached.

    There appeared to be a pattern: elk of some personality types aggressively rejected magpies. Others did not. "Sometimes the magpies will walk around right on the head and the face of the elk," Robert said. Scientists define animal personality by an individual animals behaviour. It is predictable, but also varies from others in a group. Robert created a bold-shy scale for elk, measuring how close they allowed him to get, where elk positioned themselves within the group, which elk fought other elk, which ones won, how long elk spent monitoring for predators and their willingness to approach unfamiliar objects like old tires, skis and a bike. He also noted which elk accepted magpies.

    To study the magpies, he attracted the birds to 20 experimental sites with peanuts on tree stumps. During more than 20 separate trials with different magpies, he judged each birds behaviour relative to the other magpies in a trial. Like the elk, he measured flight response, social structure and willingness to approach items they had not previously encountered. He also noted who landed on a faux-elk that offered dog food rather than ticks.

    Bolder elk and magpies exhibited riskier behaviours like tolerating the experimenter, approaching novel objects and fending off animals. About half of the elk let magpies land, and just over half the magpies landed on the fake elk. And it was the shy elk and bold magpies that were more likely to engage. This was counter-intuitive for an elk: eyeballs offer easy targets for hungry magpies.

    Mutualistic interactions

    But magpies also eat winter ticks. This tick species waits on tall grass for passing animals, like elk and deer, but preferably moose, which do not notice them until its too late. They clump together and infest by the thousands, remaining on a host all winter, expanding to grape size when fully engorged. They can drain all the blood from a moose calf, and are credited with giving the moniker ghost moose to those that groom themselves hairless.

    Elk have fewer winter ticks than moose, perhaps because they have had more time to evolve coping mechanisms, like habitual grooming. But hair loss around the neck is still a problem. Two decades ago, Bill Samuel, a retired moose biologist, found some moose also evade the pests by tolerating magpies. Perhaps, Robert thinks, shy elk gain an advantage over bold elk and compensate for their bashfulness by accepting magpies.

    Few studies have examined the role that personality plays in shaping interactions between species, especially mutualistic interactions. In one study, however, aggressive spiders in so-called mutualistic relationships suffered compared to docile spiders. And in another study, bold cleaner fish tended to cheat mutualism by consuming the protective mucus around their client fish and swimming off instead of eating parasites. Robert thinks personality reveals a messier mutualism than once assumed.

    While more research remains to be completed, Roberts peculiar observation, described for the first time, demonstrates the complex role personalities play in the animal kingdom. Whether emotional concepts or just behavioural tendencies, personalities exist in all kinds of species and can influence the interactions among and between them. Some combinations work; some dont. In this case, opposites attract - and it seems to be working.

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    They often trumpeted, anxious and confused â€" driven from one village, only to be forced out from the neighbouring village. The herd even took refuge in a lake, the matriarch making desperate efforts to calm the young ones, while villagers stood close by shouting and screaming. The image of five elephants deep in the water with raised suspecting trunks constantly sniffing the air still remains fresh in my mind. And the commotion continued for over 12 hours.

    On November 18, a small herd of elephants that walked into the farm lands in Sathanur, a village in Kanakapura taluk, found themselves at the mercy of irate locals of two villages - both parties using crackers, loud threats to push the herd away from their lands, unknowingly obstructing the gentle giants from escaping into the forest too. The following morning, the Forest Department landed on the scene and tried to bring some order - and finally, the elephants were guided to take another stressful journey back home.

    Constant interaction

    This season, the elephants have arrived as expected. This might not have been the case several years ago. "I dont remember seeing an elephant in Sathanur about eight to nine years ago. But over the last few years, they have been a part of our lives - our crops, harvest, loss-profit, and our very own safety depends on the occurrence of wild elephants," explains Nagesh, a local. "The land I work on has been raided by elephants over seven times in the last four to five years," he adds.

    A ride through small roads within Sathanur town, a few years ago, threw up memories of quaint little village homes with low sloping roofs, fewer traffic, and dark nights, with no lights emanating from farmlands, giving the star-lit sky its due credit. These days, post 7 pm, you will hear locals on motorbikes singing on top of their voice, whistling and shouting while on the move and blinding bright yellow lights stand tall on farmlands. "Things have changed. A few years ago, elephants had raided over 43 farmlands in one night. Today, many people I know have leased out their lands not wanting to face elephants, season after season," recollects Swamy, another local.

    Lets face it, things have changed and for obvious reasons - as highlighted in the Right of Passage: Elephant Corridors of India, a study recently published by the Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Project Elephant and Elephant Family, a UK-based non-profit. The study identifies and records details pertaining to 101 elephant corridors across India. The report states that about 74% corridors are of a width of one kilometre or less today, compared with 45.5% in 2005, and only 22% corridors are of a width of one to three km now, compared with 41% in 2005.

    This clearly depicts the thinning of elephant corridors in India over the past 12 years. Its disheartening to know that in southern India, there is one corridor for every 1,410 sq km of available elephant habitat. Where will the elephants go while we aggressively continue to deplete their right of passage?

    The other side

    Unlike other towns like Hassan, Sathanur does not host any resident (wild) elephants. A lone tusker or a herd is most often heard or spotted only in the late evenings. Santhaur, currently with no Range Forest Officer (RFO) in attendance, is under the supervision of RFO Halagur, Kiran. "As it is the harvest season right now, farmers are perpetually on the edge and we are doing everything we can to support them and ensure safe passage to elephants."

    Things have been changing over the years. With entry to the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary becoming more regulated and low tolerance exhibited by rangers towards locals and tourists who play loud music and drink around places like Muthathi, there are more displeased individuals among the locals than before, states the RFO. "There is anger towards the Forest Department, also because we are not tolerant to illegal chopping of trees and movement within the forests," adds Kiran.

    There is also the issue of participation - when the Forest Department tries to drive a herd away from a farmland, neighbouring farmers block them fearing for their own land. "Earlier, there were four night-watchers, we now have eight and have deputed two vehicles to speed up our response time to SOS calls. There is a small canal bordering the forest, through which elephants find their way into farmlands. We have sent a proposal seeking permissions to build a cement wall at this location to stop this passage," he adds. Many villagers feel positive about the move.

    Its interesting to note that farmers do not hate elephants; in fact, some of the farmers I spoke to expressed their sympathy for the animal. "On some evenings, you can hear the crackers followed by the trumpeting of elephants, the voices seem faint at times. But sometimes, when they get loud, I know its my time to stay on guard. This summer, one elephant was found dead from dehydration. They come near the lake for water. They are also helpless, I truly feel sorry for them," says Hanmanthaiah, a farmer.

    This reminds me of an incident that occurred in January this year. A forest guard was killed by a tusker in Sathanur. The tusker was found at the same spot for the next two to three days. Many farmers, including those whose farmlands were frequently being raided by elephants opined that the tusker felt guilty for killing the man who protects his habitat.

    Many would call this talk anthropomorphism, but it also reminds me of a profound statement made by Primatologist Frans de Waal in his book, The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates, "Those who exclaim that animals are not people tend to forget that, while true, it is equally true that people are animals. To minimise the complexity of animal behaviour without doing the same for human behaviour erects an artificial barrier."

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    Sringeri is a famous pilgrimage centre in Chikkamagaluru district, nestled in a picturesque spot in the foothills of Sahyadri ranges. The temple of Sri Sharadamba was built here by Sri Adi Shankaracharya when he set up the Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham here. The complex is an idyllic location with the serene Tunga river on one side and the beautiful Rishyashringa-Giri hills on the other sides. The main shrine is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Adjacent to the Sharadamba Temple, there is the famous Sri Vidyashankara Temple in the math complex.

    There is an interesting legend behind the setting up of the Sringeri Math and the temple. Long ago, Sri Adi Shankaracharya, during his travels across India, reached Sringeri on the bank of Tunga. There he saw a strange scene, a king cobra had spread its hood to provide shade to a pregnant frog from the hot afternoon sun.
    He understood that the place has some enchanting influence and decided to set up a math here. So, he built the Sharadamba shrine, installed and consecrated a sandalwood idol of Saraswati as Sri Sharadamba in the shrine over a sacred Sri Chakra carved on a rock by Adi Shankara himself. Subsequently, the temple was built in Kerala style, with timber and tiled roof. Later, the sandalwood idol was replaced with the present golden idol.

    Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati raised the present structure with polished granite walls around the sanctum and Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati III consecrated the new temple in May 1916. Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha, the 35th Jagadguru, made several improvements in the temple.

    The mahamantapam has huge stone pillars exquisitely carved with deities like Durga, Raja Rajeshwari and dwarapalakas, all sculpted according to shilpa shastras. The temple is built in the Dravidian style of architecture. A speciality of this shrine is the standing dwarapalikas (female forms) on both sides of the golden door of the garbhagriha.

    The garbhagriha and the mukhamantapa are enclosed in a fine cabinet of polished granite and surrounded by finely covered pradakshina patha. Sri Sharadamba with her beaming countenance, sparkling eyes and serene smile sends a thrill of awe through the hearts of the devotees.

    In the year 1999, the present Jagadguru, Sri Bharati Tirtha, dedicated a golden chariot to Goddess Sharada. Golden doors were installed and inaugurated at the entrance of the sanctum of Sri Sharada temple. The gold covering to the door is a marvellous piece of art. The eight panels have the figures of Ashta Lakshmi inscribed on them. There is also a silver chariot within the premises, which is used during festivals when the deity is taken out for a procession. Beside the shrine,outside, there are two smaller temples, one for Adi Shankaracharya and another for Thorana Ganapathi.

    Vidyashankara Temple

    The Vidyashankara Temple, built by Sri Vidyaranya in the 14th century, is renowned for its architectural excellence. The architecture of the temple is a confluence of Dravidian and Hoysala styles. The main hall in the front has 12 sculptured pillars on which the 12 zodiac signs are marked. It is said that the rays of the sun fall on them in the order of the solar months with only one pillar being lit up by the suns rays each month.

    An ashram is located on the other bank of River Tunga and a small bridge takes us over the river. As we enter the ashram premises, we come across a beautiful garden called Narasimha Vanam, where several spotted deer roam free. A few steps take us to the ashram offices, the meditation halls and the Guru Nivas of the present acharya (Jagadguru). The famous sphatika linga of Chandramoulishwara, made of quartz crystal stone, believed to have been brought from Kailasa by Adi Shankaracharya is kept at the Guru Nivas and is worshipped by the acharya in the evenings. On Vijayadashami day, hundreds of children are initiated into learning at the temple premises.

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  • 12/10/17--18:58: Celebrating winter harvest
  • Yellu Amavasya is a major festival that is celebrated by the farming community in many parts of Karnataka. The festival celebrates the start of the harvesting season, particularly that of jowar. Furthermore, it acts as a way for the people to mark their gratitude to mother Earth for blessing with good crops and, pray for the same in the coming year. On the occasion, the livestock are also worshipped. It is traditionally observed in the month of December or January on a new moon day of the Margashira month.

    On this day, people perform pujas at home and visit local temples. Later, they head towards their fields with their family. With them, they carry the special food that they have made as a part of festive celebrations. The food that is made on this day is unique as it contains grains and vegetables grown in the rabi season. There are several rituals that families perform when they reach their fields. First, they make a temporary temple using sugarcane tops in the middle of the field and then they place five stones around it. Then, a small quantity of food is offered to mother Earth and to the gods by throwing it in all directions of the field with the loud chant of Hovilgol, Surambagigol. This practice is called as charaga chellodu. Some also spread sesame and jaggery all around the field as they are considered to be food for the worms. Once done, the food made is enjoyed by all and the festivities continue through the day.

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