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  • 01/21/18--00:04: Music and dance reviews
  • Purandara Dasa Aradhana

    Purandara Dasa Punya Dina [Aradhana] is being celebrated by different institutions with great devotion and fervour, in many parts of the city. One such organisation Sri Raghavendra Seva Samithi, Sudhindranagara, held the festival at its own Temple premises, with music (both Karnatic and Hindustani) concerts, discourse and bhajan apart from religious functions.

    Varijashree Venugopal is a multifarious talented artiste - a singer (also with cross-cultural musical collaborations with artistes and bands), flautist, composer, actress - so on. She is also a recipient of few awards including Kempegowda Award, Gaana Vinodini (Colombo), Ugadi Puraskar (Chennai), Ananya Prathibhe, Best vocalist (Television music by Kima), best female vocalist (Suvarna and Mirchi music).

    In her concert in the Samithi, Varijashri presented devaranamas of different Haridasas in attractive ragas. Hamsanandi was briefly elaborated with alapana and swara for "Ea Pariya Sobagu". While "Venkatachala Nilayam" was suffixed with ragalapana, the "Sada Enna Hrudayadalli" was a favourite devaranama of yesteryears. With her sweet voice and impactful presentation Varijashree also sang 3 popular padas - Bandaddella Barali in the raga Kaapi, Krishna Nee Begane Baro and Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma. She was well supported by J.K. Sridhar on violin and B.S. Prashant on mridanga.

    Pleasing vocal

    Senior vocalist Vani Sateesh chose devaranamas of Purandara Dasa, Kanakadasaru, Vyasa Rayaru, Jagannatha Dasaru and few others. Ugabhogas are specialities of Haridasas, with its good meaning and narration in an interesting manner. Vani chose several ugabhogas like - Ajaga Dwaja, Deena Nanu etc. The Antarangadali Hariya Kaanadava in Mohana was followed by Aava Rogavo and Bhajisi Badukelo Maanava. Though the nerval (Garuda Seshadrigallu) and swara were brief, was pleasing throughout. Purvi Kalyani was the main raga of the evening for the "Kelano Hari Thaalano", which was rendered with sparkling sangathies. Naneke Badavanu brought nostalgic memories and Vani concluded with a mangalam. Three young instrumentalists - Adithi Prakash, Aravind and Raghunandan accompanied on violin, mridanga and ghata, respectively.

    Meaningful presentation

    Ashok and Hariharan are among the very few male duets of the state and have earned a respectable place, in the Carnatic music field. They opened their concert with the Sharanu customarily, followed by Gurukarya. Apart from veteran Haridasas, they also presented padas of lesser-known composers like B.K. Padmanabha Rao - Gurugala Darushana in Athana and Guru Rayara Dhyana in Dhanyasi - are a good addition to the concert repertoire. They crowned their concert with a pleasant Kalyani for "Dayamado Ranga". Their choice of ragas like Vasantha (Baro Namma Manege), Varali (Idu Bhagya), Natakaranji (Sri Rama Ninna), Neelambari (Marulu Madikonda) - was appreciated by the connoisseurs wholeheartedly. Their good voice, selection and presentation, were appropriate to both music and lyrics. Venkatesh Joiser, B.R. Srinivas and Phanindra Bhaskar were in charge of violin, mridanga and ghata respectively.

    Drishti dance festival

    A Tribute to three veteran dancers was paid in this years Dristi Dance Festival, last week. Few disciples of each Guru presented items learnt from their Gurus, during their training.

    Keertana Ravi, Mithun Shyam, Priyanka Raghavan, Sneha Devnandan and Sruthi Parshwanath - paid tributes to their Guru Padmini Ramachandran through Pushpanjali and Ganesha Vandana. In the "Paal Kadal" Dashavathara was beautifully projected.


    Four students of Narmada chose a fine varna to pay tributes to their Guru through a Bharathanatya recital. Sathyanarayana Raju, Praveen Kumar, Anuradha Vikranth and Soundharya Srivathsa - performed the varna evocatively.

    Kathak Recital

    Three students paid tributes to their Guru Dr Maya Rao, through Kathak recitals. Rajendra and Nirupamas selection was a piece from Kalidasa - return journey of Sita and Rama from Lanka to Ayodhya. With their sparkling abhinaya and expression, they stole the show. Madhu Nataraj with few co-dancers presented a Thumri (More Chede) and a Tharana in jinjoti, which were proof of their good training and talent.

    An overflowing crowd witnessed the Drishti dance festival, well organised by Anuradha Vikrant and T.M. Vikrant.

    -Mysore V Subramanya

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    What do volcanoes and rockets have in common? "Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground," explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida, USA. It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Centre.

    Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights. In the case of rockets, the team thinks their seismometers and infrasound detectors might potentially be used by the space companies as a different type of diagnostic tool, to better understand the performance of their vehicles; or perhaps as a way to identify missiles in flight. In the case of volcanoes, the idea is to take the lessons learned at Kennedy and fine-tune the algorithms used to interpret what is happening in an eruption.

    It might even be possible to develop systems that give early warnings of some of the dangerous debris flows that are associated with volcanoes. "It all started really as a way to test and calibrate our equipment," says Glenn. "We dont have any volcanoes in South Florida. But Kennedy provided some strong sources, and it also gave our students the opportunity to learn how to deploy stations and work with the data." The team has now recorded the seismic and acoustic signals emanating from about a dozen rockets.

    Most have been associated with launches; a few have been related to what are called static fire tests, in which the engines on a clamped vehicle are briefly ignited to check they are flight-ready. But perhaps the most fascinating event captured so far was the SpaceX pad explosion in September 2016. This saw a Falcon 9 rocket suffer a catastrophic failure as it was being fuelled.

    Many people would have seen the video of the spectacular fireball. But Glenns and Steves equipment caught information not apparent in that film. For example, they detected more than 150 separate sub-events in the infrasound over the course of 26 minutes. These were likely individual tanks, pipes or other components bursting into flames.

    Upside down volcanoes

    Of course, the SpaceX explosion was an unusual occurrence, and it is the more routine activity that most interests the team. And some clear patterns are starting to emerge in their study of upside down volcanoes. "As the rocket gets higher and higher and accelerates, we see a decrease in the frequency in the infrasound - thats basically a Doppler shift because the source is moving away from us," says Steve. "And then you get a coupling of the signal in the air into the ground and this produces seismic waves recorded on the seismometer. So, we get some common features between the infrasound and the seismometer, but then theres a little separation of the energy between the two."

    There is a lot still to learn, but the pair think they can distinguish the different types of rockets. There are subtle but significant divergences in their spectral signatures, which almost certainly reflect their distinct designs and modes of operation. Where in particular the rockets could have instruction for volcano monitoring is in describing moving sources.

    A rocket is a very well understood physical process. Its properties and parameters are all precisely known. The related seismic and acoustic signals should therefore serve as templates to help decipher some of the features of eruptions that share similar behaviours. Good examples of rapid movement in the volcano setting are the big mass surges like pyroclastic flows and lahars.

    An objective of the team is to improve seismometer and infrasound systems characterisation of these dangerous phenomena. This could lead to useful alerts being sent to people who live around volcanoes. "Assuming you can find a few safe places to put your instruments that are reasonably close, youd get your advance warning," said Steve. "What youd be doing then is getting the time and the strength of the signal and then watching it evolve to figure out which direction its going. If you can do that successfully then you can forecast with a couple of minutes in advance things like lahars and pyroclastic flows downstream."

    The equipment at Kennedy has been temporary, but the team is looking for a permanent installation. Like everyone, Glenn and Steve are particularly looking forward to the launch of SpaceXs Falcon Heavy vehicle in the New Year. The Heavy should produce nearly 23 meganewtons of thrust at lift-off, more than any rocket in operation today. It is sure to make for some interesting seismic and infrasound signals.

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  • 01/21/18--20:20: Stars of the battlefield
  • History is essentially a set of stories comprising rich detail, anecdotes and lofty names. This particular story is about the devices that were an integral part of the Adil Shahi dynasty. This dynasty ruled from Bijapur, now known as Vijayapura. It was an unlikely choice for a city as there was a lack of natural defence. It is located on the flat plains formed by the rivers Krishna and Bhima. The city was first founded by the Chalukyas.

    Holding the fort

    Yusuf Adil Shah started out as the Bahamani governor of the city and eventually founded the Adil Shahi Dynasty in the 15th century and maintained its sovereignty, while the Mughals ruled in the north. To secure his position in the area, he built a citadel or ark kila that survives to date.

    The succeeding rulers of the dynasty further fortified the citadel often reusing pillars and ceilings from the destroyed temples of the Kalyani Chalukya period. The fort walls are punctuated with 96 massive bastions of various designs. In addition, a bastion flanks each of the five principal gateways. On these bastions were placed the famed cannons of Bijapur. Most of these were cast in iron in the city. A few survive today and each of them has a story to tell.

    The most famous of the cannons is Malik-e-Maidan or lord of the plains, the only one frequently visited by the tourists. The cannon is placed on the largest bastion of the fort, Sherza-i-Buruj (lion gate), named after the two lions carved on it. The cannon weighs 55 tonnes, is 15 feet long and five feet wide. The unique aspect about it is that its cast in an unknown alloy, unlike most other cannons that are cast in iron.

    The inscriptions on the cannon say that it was cast by Muhammad bin Hasan Rumi in 1549. Aurangzeb added an inscription after he conquered the city, recording his victory. The muzzle is shaped like a lions head with the jaws open and sharp teeth digging into an elephant.

    The cannon was cast for the Nizam Shahi rulers of Ahmednagar and was used in the Battle of Talikota (1565) in which the Vijayanagar Empire was brought down by the confederacy of Deccan Sultanates. It was then mounted on a fort under the Ahmednagar Sultan, but was captured from him by the Sultan of Bijapur in the mid-17th century as a war trophy.

    The mount of the gun is missing and the tourists have defaced the surface of the cannon by carving initials onto it.

    Interesting anecdotes

    There are interesting tales about the cannon and the caretaker was happy to share them. One such story is of how such cannons were made and transported, and how one drowned in a river while transporting it to the battlefield at Talikota. Another tale is of how bags of copper coins were fired from the cannon to bribe the attacking soldiers. And, another tale mentions the difficulties of firing the cannon. It is said that the cannon makes such a loud noise that the person firing it had to jump into a water tank lest he turned deaf.

    One of the interesting anecdotes is that during Aurangzebs siege of the town he was seen by Sikander Adil Shah, who ordered the operator to fire at Aurangzeb using Malik-i-Maidan. The operator was unwilling, but he did not want to openly disobey the king. So he aimed as near as he could at Aurangzeb and ended up knocking the lota he had in his hand. The anecdote may not be true, yet it adds to the fascination that surrounds the

    The Landa Kasab Tope is Vijayapuras largest gun and is at least five feet longer than Malik-e-Maidan. Its pompous name translates into the neck-cutter. It is cast in iron and sits atop a crumbling bastion in the southern part of the fort wall. Again, the mount is missing and the cannon is kept on the grass. While not much is recorded about this cannon, I was told by a person at the museum in the Gol Gumbaz complex, that it was cast during the reign of Ali Adil Shah I.

    The Mustafabad cannon from the Ibrahim Adil Shah II period is another antiquity, sadly it was defaced because of neglect. It had rolled down from the bastion it was placed on as the walls around it crumbled. However, it was placed back on the bastion in 2012 by National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets and National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers under the guidance of the historian H D Daddi, but it is again being neglected now. The cannon weighs 10 tonnes and is 12 feet long, it was mounted in 1597. The cannon can be seen from the terrace of Gol Gumbaz.

    The next surviving cannon is called the Lamcharri, meaning the far flier. This is not placed on a bastion, but on a tower built in 1583 by Haider Khan, a general during the reigns of Ali Adil Shah I and Ibrahim Adil Shah II. It is the highest cannon platform in Vijayapura and is a conspicuous structure. The tower is called Haider Burj or Upri Burj. A spiral stairway leads to the top, which houses another long cannon alongside the Lamcharri. The tower may have been customised for the Lamcharri, as it needed to be fired from a height in order to have a long range.

    Over a dozen cannons along with cannon balls made of iron and stone are on display in the museum situated in the Naqqar Khana in front of Gol Gumbaz.

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  • 01/21/18--20:24: Sowing the seeds of hope
  • Mukunda Rao, a retired government official, has a new job at hand: sowing seeds in hillocks that are devoid of vegetation. In fact, he has been doing this as a passion for over a decade now. Several hillocks in Channapatna taluk have seen a green makeover due to his efforts. He generally plants wild species like neem, tamarind, soap nut, peepal, jackfruit and cedar. The ones planted in 2007 have started bearing fruits. The idea struck to him 15 years ago when he was working in Chikkamagaluru. He used to see a variety of seeds dispersed by birds during his morning walks.

    He decided to collect these seeds and sow them in his home town, Channapatna. He made an agreement with the beggars and asked them to collect the seeds for a payment of Rs 100 per week. "I used to courier the seeds to my mother. I would sow these seeds when I returned home during holidays. There is a story behind the greening of each hillock," he says.

    He works with schools to collect required quantity of seeds. He places cardboard boxes in schools and asks children to collect seeds they find in the school premises and put them in the box. Now, schools in different parts of the State collaborate with him to develop vegetation models. Mukunda Rao appreciates the enthusiasm of students and acknowledges the support of friends and family.

    Mukunda Rao and his wife, Lata, prepare the seeds for sowing by coating them with jeevamruta, and then drying in the shade. During monsoon, the couple organises seed sowing camps in places near dry hillocks.

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  • 01/21/18--20:28: A green makeover
  • The rain-drenched greenery is resplendent and pleasant. Sprouted leaves, tender twigs and blooming flowers appear like just-born infants. This is Sandur for nature lovers. The verdant range of hills is only 10 km away from the town and 60 km away from Ballari city.

    Avid trekker and naturalist Srinivas Ramgad, along with his camera and a bunch of inquisitive children, is on a trekking trail in the greenery of serene Sandur. The children are trying to trace the rich history of the region through the eyes of Srinivas.

    He begins with the most loving memory of Mahatma Gandhijis visit to Sandur in the early 1930s, during the freedom movement. Gandhiji fell in love with this paradise on earth, aptly called the Kashmir of Karnataka. Then the struggle for the countrys independence was gaining momentum. The Father of the Nation was here to motivate people to join the struggle for freedom. But alas, little did Gandhiji know that Sandur would soon lose her freedom to the mining barons...

    In those days, aloof from the chaos of outside world, Sandur remained pure in the absence of rampant mining activities. Unlike Ballari, which is notorious for its two-season cycle of summer and peak summer, Sandur remains green and cool for most part of the year, barring summer when the hills are covered with a layer of red dust. The transformation into green vegetation begins in June and lasts until September.

    The range of hills and the entire landscape transform into a green canopy and remain so for the remaining part of the year. No wonder it is called the oxygen tank of the region. Sandur is a popular destination among trekkers and nature lovers, and tourists can experience Sandur in all its splendour in September.

    Mounds of red dust

    True, Sandur has been in the news for wrong reasons. The saga of deterioration began when the region was opened for mining in the early 2000s. As a result, the face of the paradise began to change drastically. With more mining companies entering the region, plundering of natural resources became rampant. The innocent farmers who knew nothing beyond agriculture, had to throw away their ploughs and sickles, and were forced to pound their land for ores. Everyone seemed to encash nature to such an extent that the green cover soon turned into mounds of red dust.

    Shreeshail Aldahalli, a leader with the social organisation Jan Sangram Parishat, shares his memories with the young trekkers. "In the earlier days, when vehicles entered the forest the headlights had to be turned on to navigate the dark interiors of the forest even at noon. The stretch between Kumaraswamy Temple and Devagiri used to be covered with trees that touched the skies. One had to travel all the way from Sandur to Taranagar to catch a glimpse of sunlight. The trees played hide and seek amid fog and mist, leaving the travellers mesmerised," he says.

    As people trek deeper into the interiors of the forests, they can come across a number of temples, streams, flora and fauna. Trekking in Sandur is not about enjoying nature. It is also about putting to test ones stamina, endurance, determination and ability to meet challenges.

    Sandur is also home to several temples. In its vast forests, tourists and trekkers can rest a while at the famous pilgrim spots like Ramanamalai, Swamimalai and Thimmappanamalai. The Ramaswamy Temple, Kumaraswamy Temple, Harishankara Temple, Naviluswamy Temple and Aragina Maliyamma Temple have inspired the saints of the Bhakti movement, who sowed the seeds of love, affection and kindness among people.

    Shrines and streams

    The hill range is the birthplace of many streams and ponds that flow through the year. The Harishankara Teertha is perennially filled with water, fondly recollects T M Shivakumar, also a member of the Jan Sangram Parishat.

    An avid trekker, Srinivas knows his terrain too well. Like a student of Geography, he remembers the names of innumerable waterfalls and waterbodies the region is blessed with. The Kumaraswamy Temple, Veerabhadra Temple and the Eknath Temple have several water resources like Agasthya Teertha, Gajateertha, Koti Teertha, Brahma Teertha, Mallemmana Kolla, Gudani Kolla, Katasina Kolla, Mavina Mara Kolla, Bhairava Teertha, the streams at Ramagad, Thayammana Kolla and Kotekolla.

    And among these water sources, the Narihalla Reservoir stands apart. It was here that the popular Kannada movie, Manasa Sarovara, was shot. The picturesque location, the green hills and the rich vegetation are etched fresh in the memory of cine lovers.

    The deciduous forest is rich with trees like sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood, peepal, gooseberry, jamun, and a number of medicinal plants. The Neelakurinji flowers that bloom once in 12 years can also be spotted in this treasure trove. Once upon a time, the fauna and the avian world of Sandur boasted of peacocks, mynas, foxes, porcupines, hare, leopards, sloth bears, baya weaver birds, and a lot more. Due to the impact of mining, either they have perished or moved away, says ornithologist Samad Kottur. Ramana Malai, the observatory of the British, and the tourist bungalow in Ramgad are some places worth visiting, Srinivas explains.

    After the ban on illegal mining, the plundering has stopped, the screeching of the trucks has ended, the roaring of the machines has halted and the pounding of the land arrested. Sandur is slowly on the revival path. It is turning into a nature-lovers destination again. Srinivas and his clan, who fought to regain her lost identity, now have a reason to smile.

    (Translated by Jyotsna P Dharwad)

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  • 01/21/18--20:32: Scouring the Kodava attic
  • Passionate about relics and all things old, this retired History lecturers face brims with excitement as he shows his collection to the tourists and attempts to provide a theatrical demonstration of the artefacts. Bacharaniyanda P Appanna, a native of Kushalnagar, is a hoarder of historical artefacts that are exclusive to Kodagu. History comes alive in his house not just through the artefacts, but also through his energetic tale-telling enactment.

    The history and culture of Kodagu have been an enticing topic for professional and amateur researchers alike. For most of these researchers, the abode of Bacharaniyanda P Appanna is a treasure trove of knowledge, resembling a theatre of history.

    The dwelling

    Appanna invariably accompanies while the curious visitor explores his collection. Taking you through a small room, he points out at an ordinary bulb. Switching it on, he says, "This bulb has been functioning from January 1, 1973." Such is his precision and enthusiasm for age-old things. One is welcomed by a huge bookshelf at the entrance of his house. There is a kurikutt - a single piece vermilion and turmeric holder made of wood, hanging beside a brass lamp inside the house. Below this lies a chanduka, a compartmented wooden case.

    Sitting beside these dateless artefacts, he says, "I have been hoarding historical objects for over 30 years now. Students and professionals from around the globe come here to learn about the significance of these artefacts."

    Appanna travels to the interior parts of Kodagu and scrutinises each village to source his artefacts. He is interested in exploring old ancestral houses, and says, "I mostly visit age-old houses owned by the elderly. Requesting their permission, I first scrutinise the attic and then the backyard to find the valuables." Thereby, he acquires innumerable authentic and priceless artefacts for his collection.

    Appanna has thoroughly researched and named the artefacts correctly, some in Kannada and the rest in Kodava language. Since his house cannot accommodate all the artefacts, some are placed in a makeshift shed outside the house.

    Several Kodava weapons hang inside the house. They include the amb kathi, meembal, vodi kathi and a variety of rifles strung along with a line of bullets. Spirited, he precisely enacts how the Kodavas used these weapons, and explains, "Amb kathi was designed for the ladies, who were skilfully trained to use them. The meembal was used for fishing."

    Showcasing hobbies

    His makeshift shed is home to antique vessels, vintage knitted baskets and stone measures to name a few. Explaining the functionality of sekala, a huge mud pot with pores in its inner lining, he says, "It was the steam cooker of the bygone era." He then lines up a few measuring bowls, pare, pani and sair, and explains, "One pare is 10 sair, one pani is two sair…" These are local measuring units of the bygone days. Similarly, he lines up a few stone weights and goes on to explain their units, which include pare and batti.

    Furthermore, he introduces the kota kudike, a mud pot that used bamboo leaves and wet sand placed at its bottom to preserve meat and fish for five to six days. He also possesses a wooden device used to make nuputtu, a famous Kodava dish. Next is the batte bari, a knitted basket, that acts as a wardrobe. Showing one of the ancient ones, he says, "This belonged to the wife of Kaliyat Ajappa, a cult deity." Likewise, he shows more items such as the pombana (coin holder), maal pott (jewellery holder), ele thatte (ancient tray), etc.
    He also possesses the ceremonial dowry items given to women during their weddings.

    In the backyard, equipment related to agriculture and fishing is arranged. The design of the ancient fish trap is sure to enthral the viewers. Bacharaniyanda house is open to all enthusiasts who want to experience the culture of Kodagu and the visitors names are jotted neatly in his diary with dates. Appanna can be contacted on 9480730763.

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  • 01/21/18--20:34: The tradition of innovation
  • Various items placed in different corners of this house indicate a new trend in pottery. These art pieces are the creations of Nagaraj Chakrasali in Hamsabhavi village of Hirekerur taluk in Haveri district. Nagaraj has been experimenting with new designs in pottery and successfully tried designs from iconic heritage handicrafts like Villianur Terracotta Works of Pondicherry, Bastar arts of Chhattisgarh, Monpa wooden masks of Arunachal Pradesh, Pokhran utensils of Rajasthan, embossed sculptures of Kerala and dolls of Channapatna, using clay. Interestingly, all these products are well-received by people.

    His transformation from a humble potter to an innovative artisan didnt happen overnight. Like many others of his community, Nagaraj had to bear the brunt when there was a significant drop in the demand for clay pots, plates, jars, and other vessels and utility items due to the wide availability of plastic and metal utensils. Eventually, he migrated to Bengaluru with his family to make a livelihood. Though he tried his hands at various jobs, he was not happy, and yearned to continue pottery. As a result, he returned to his village and decided to continue the hereditary

    The exposure during his stay in Bengaluru helped him think differently and he chose to innovate and give a contemporary character to the occupation. He studied various handicraft designs and explored the possibility of making them using clay. After trying hundreds of designs, he succeeded in making 32 utility and decorative items in clay. They include water filter, cold storage, telephone stand, water bottle, pen stand, table lamp and embossed sculptures, among others. He also makes clay idols of deities, and social reformers like Sarvajna and Basavanna. The size of these idols range from that of a thumbnail to several feet high.

    In tune with the production line, he made use of social media to publicise and market the products. The new products caught the attention of people and as the demand increased, his nephew Shatish quit his job in Bengaluru to assist Nagaraj.

    Nagaraj uses a mix of clay sourced from two lakes in the village. The clay is mixed evenly and then soaked in water for a week. Later, four to five people stomp on it to homogenise it. This ready clay can be kept for weeks when stored in a cool place. Everyday, he uses a certain quantity of clay required for that particular design. Once the products are designed, they are baked in traditional kilns for 18 to 20 hours. Then he gives finishing touches to make these items attractive.

    In recent times, people are shifting to earthenware for health and aesthetic reasons. As a result, innovative and contemporary designs are much in demand. This has come as a blessing for Nagaraj and he gets orders in bulk as well. People from other states have approached him for training.

    At a time when there is a growing concern about the future of pottery, efforts like this, if given necessary support and momentum, can transform the lives of thousands of potters who are in distress.

    (Translated by Anitha Pailoor)

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    Till the early part of last century, astronomy was traditionally associated with the detection of light from celestial sources. Astronomy with other forms of light - photons - arrived on the scene in the 1930s with radio astronomy and infrared, X-ray, Gamma ray following it in the next few decades. However, the particle which has eventually competed with photons in solving the mystery of the cosmos is the neutrino, which was predicted in the 1930s as a possible solution to an academic puzzle.

    Since then, we have a deeper understanding of the particle world in which neutrino is recognised as one of the fundamental particles of nature called leptons. Additionally, three types of neutrinos - electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino - have also been discovered. Neutrinos are neutral particles and have very little interaction with other forms of matter. These can traverse distances of continents without any or little interaction. This necessitates that detectors have to be huge to record any neutrinos.

    Cosmic ray origin

    The first role of neutrinos in astrophysics was in understanding the sun and the stars. The neutrinos, which are also emitted during nuclear fusion, were detected by giant-sized experiments in the last quarter of the 20th century. Known as solar neutrinos, their detection proved that fusion is indeed the reaction in stars. Another great discovery was of neutrino emission along with light at the end of a heavier stars evolution culminating in a supernova. These neutrinos were discovered in February 1987 when a supernova - SN 1987A - appeared in a nearby galaxy. These and other experiments detected a strange property of neutrinos called neutrino oscillation in which one type of neutrinos would change to other type and vice versa.

    Apart from these, there are also artificial neutrinos from nuclear reactors and particle accelerators. There are neutrinos coming from geothermal activity in earths interior. While these neutrinos are of lower energy (MeV), cosmic ray neutrinos (the results of several interactions of cosmic ray particles in the atmosphere) are 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than solar neutrinos. These are called atmospheric neutrinos and were first detected in the Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka. Neutrinos are so ubiquitous that trillions of solar neutrinos and 1,000 atmospheric neutrino pass through our body every second.

    However, the highest energy neutrinos from TeV to PeV energies are expected to arise in processes inside powerful astrophysical sources like quasars, blazars and radio galaxies. These are collectively known as active galactic nuclei. These harbour supermassive black holes at the centre and can accelerate particles like protons to very high energies.

    When these particles stream out they interact with the ambient matter to produce both photons and neutrinos. However, the photons cannot travel long distances because of absorption due to various processes. It is only neutrinos that can pass unimpeded through interstellar and intergalactic space without getting disturbed. A study of these neutrinos, termed astrophysical neutrinos, can lead to the solution of the cosmic ray origin problem.

    Under ice

    There have been several attempts in the past to study these astrophysical neutrinos. Since detectors have to be very big, it was suggested in the 1970s that huge waterbodies would provide the necessary target for the neutrino to interact. The ensuing particle after the interaction would produce a different type of light called Cerenkov radiation in water.

    This could be detected by light sensitive detectors like photomultipliers placed deep so as to minimise the noise background due to neutrinos from atmospheric muons and neutrinos. An example of this is ANTARES, a detector that is placed 2.5 km under the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of France. However, detectors in pure ice were proposed in the late 1980s since water has several sources of background light like bioluminescence.

    Ice as the medium was also preferred since Cerenkov light travels greater than 100 metres in ice without much scatter. Based on this principle, a detector array called AMANDA was constructed in Antarctica earlier and was later replaced with a much bigger detector called IceCube Neutrino Observatory. The observatory, which started working seven years ago, encompasses a cubic kilometre of ice in Antarctica.

    The basic detector is a cable containing 60 photosensitive devices embedded in a hole in the ice at levels greater than 1.5 km from the surface, the depth assuring that most of the noise particles are filtered out. There are 80 such cables spread over a total area of one sq km. Incoming neutrino interacts giving out muon which gives out Cerenkov radiation while traversing the ice.

    This information, picked up by the optical detectors, helps in constructing the path of the parent neutrino and eventually to the point of its origin in the space. The angular accuracy is of the order of a degree. Till today, the experiment has detected more than 80 high-energy neutrinos (60 TeV to 10 PeV), which have been confirmed unambiguously to be of astrophysical origin. This amounted to picking a needle in a haystack since it had to be isolated from a sample which involved more than a million atmospheric neutrinos and hundreds of billions of cosmic-ray muons.

    However, the events do not show any correlation with the following: the position of known celestial sources either in the galaxy or outside the galaxy; no known gamma ray emitting any active galactic nuclei; the powerful events like Gamma Ray bursts; or the gravitational wave sources detected in the last two years. This rather large flux of seemingly unassociated neutrinos is a mystery and can only be attributed to a possible diffuse flux at the moment.

    The other major study at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory is of particle physics. Recently, the experiment detected fewer energetic neutrinos which completely pass through the earth without getting absorbed. This agrees very well with the Standard Model prediction that the probability that a neutrino interacts with matter increases with energy. With many experiments concurrently happening on neutrinos, we may be able to get deeper insights into the nature of neutrinos.

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    Kateel, located at about 30 km from Mangaluru, is a popular pilgrimage centre in Dakshina Kannada district. The place is well known for the shrine of Durga Parameshwari, which is located here. It is unique in the sense that the shrine is on an islet, on the riverbed, in the middle of River Nandini, and connected to the mainland by a small walkway bridge.

    There are two beautiful arches decorated with statuettes and designs at the entrance to the bridge. A large statue of the river goddess Nandini Devi stands next to the doorway, holding a pot of water.

    Inside the complex, there is a large mantapa, an antarala and the garbhagriha. The garbhagriha is built in Kerala style, with sloping roofs. Six layers of series of small oil-wick lamps are placed on the walls. A beautiful gold plated idol of Goddess Durga in a standing posture is placed in the main garbhagriha. The deity is adorned with gold and diamond garlands, and a crown.

    There are two other smaller garbhagrihas nearby, one for Goddess Sri Devis udbhava linga and idol, and another for Lord Ganesha. The utsavamurthy, also grandly decorated and studded with gems, is kept near the chamber of the main idol. In front of the garbhagriha stands a dhwajasthambha (flag mast) overlaid with silver.

    Tales of yore

    The legend of the origin of this shrine is quite interesting. Long ago, the earth was caught in the grip of an unprecedented drought. At this point in time, Sage Jabali, who was in deep penance in a cave near Kateel, woke up and was shocked to see the devastation around him. The sage resolved to eradicate the drought by holding a yajna.

    But the yajna required things which were not available because of the drought. So he ascended to heaven using his yogic powers and requested Indra to spare the divine cow Kamadhenu to provide the materials needed for the yajna. Indra told him that since Kamadhenu had gone to Varunaloka for a yajna, he can send her daughter Nandini if she is agreeable. Sage Jabali pleaded with Nandini to come down to earth to save the people, but she did not agree because evil was predominant here. The sage was angered and cursed Nandini to be born as a river on earth. When she repented and asked forgiveness, Jabali could not take back the curse, but asked her to go down to Kannakachala on earth and undertake penance, meditating on Shakti.

    After rigorous penance, finally, Goddess Sridevi appeared before her and told her that as per the curse, she had to first flow as a river on earth from the foot of the Kanaka mountain. She had to fertilise the drought-stricken earth and remove the hardships of people. Nandini carried out the orders and one day Devi appeared in the form of a linga in the middle of the river and gave her redemption from the curse.

    The second legend is about Goddess Sridevi slaying the vicious demon Arunasura, who wanted to establish a demon kingdom. The Goddess assumed the form of Kali and killed the demons soldiers. When Arunasura himself came to fight, she disappeared into a rock. The asura stabbed the rock angrily.

    Soon, thousands of bees swarmed out of the rock and attacked Arunasura. Sridevi also took the form of Bhramarambika, a giant bee, and slew the demon by piercing his chest with the sting. Sage Jabali helped Sridevi calm down, and regain her normal form.

    On his request, she agreed to stay in the middle of the river as a swayabhu linga. A shrine was constructed over the linga later for Durga Parameshwari, and the idol was placed behind it. Even today, The main offering to the goddess here is tender coconut, as it helped her calm down.

    Besides the legends, this temple is known for the Sri Kateel Yakshagana mela, a Yakshagana troupe associated with it. The troupes performances are so popular that it is booked for another 10 years. The devotees arrange performances if their desires are attained, as an act of gratitude and completing a vow.

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    The brains navigation system - which keeps track of where we are in space - also monitors the movements of others, experiments in bats and rats suggest. In a study published in Science recently, neuroscientists in Israel pinpoint individual brain cells that seem specialised to track other animals or objects. These cells occur in the same region of the brain - the hippocampus - as cells that are known to map a bats own location. In a second paper, scientists in Japan report finding similar brain activity when rats watched other rats moving.

    The unexpected findings deepen insight into the mammalian brains complex navigation system. Bats and rats are social animals that, like people, need to know the locations of other members of their group so that they can interact, learn from each other and move around together. Researchers have already discovered several different types of cell whose signals combine to tell an animal where it is: place cells, for example, fire when animals are in a particular location, whereas other types correspond to speed or head direction, or even act as a kind of compass.

    The latest reports mark the first discovery of cells that are attuned to other animals, rather than the self. "Obviously, the whereabouts of others must be encoded somewhere in the brain, but it is intriguing to see that it seems be in the same area that tracks self," says Edvard Moser, a neuroscientist at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim, Norway.

    Buddy tracker

    Neurobiologist Nachum Ulanovsky and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, designed their study to see what happens in a bats brain when it tracks the movement of another bat. The researchers trained pairs of Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) in a room to fly from one post to another and back, in return for a treat. Another bat - the observer - watched the first animal and was rewarded if it copied the same flight path. The prospect of a reward motivated the observer bat to pay close attention to the others trajectory.

    The team also trained the observer bats to track bat-size plastic objects that the researchers moved between the posts. The scientists implanted electrodes into the observer bats hippocampi to record their brain signals. They were not surprised to see that one subset of cells fired in response to the observer bats own position as it flew, indicating recognition of self location. These were regular place cells. But they were surprised to find that another subset fired in response to the position of the other flying bat; the researchers called these social place cells. They also identified a set that responded to the inanimate plastic objects - and this group had a different activity pattern from the social place cells.

    There was substantial overlap between the subsets. For example, some neurons fired in response to both the other bat and the objects, or to both the other bat and their own positions. In essence, the same part of the brain seems to track both the physical landscape and the social landscape, says Nachum - but using slightly different cell populations. "It will probably add up to an overall population code that will tell the bat which of the nearby moving animals or objects are the most important to pay attention to," says Nachum. He is planning further studies using multiple bats of different social status - for instance, dominant or subordinate, or female or male - flying together.

    The rat study - led by Shigeyoshi Fujisawa at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Saitama, Japan, and also published in Science - made similar conclusions. As with previously identified parts of the navigation system, its probable the phenomena extend to other mammals including humans, researchers say.

    Whether social place cells are exclusively for tracking other members of the same species, or whether they are part of a system of hippocampal cells that encode all sorts of trajectories - be they those of animals or objects - isnt yet clear, says Edvard. "But in either case, it would be exciting."

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    Youll never go to dinner in the deep sea. Its dark, vast and weird down there. If the pressure alone didnt destroy your land-bound body, some hungry sea creature would probably try to eat you. Fortunately for you, something else has spent a lot of time down there, helping to prepare this guide to deep sea dining.

    For nearly three decades, robots with cameras deployed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have glided through the ocean off the coast of central California at depths as deep as 2.5 miles below. Cameras on these remotely operated vehicles captured the feeding habits of anything that didnt flee them. They revealed 242 unique feeding relationships comprising 84 different predators and 82 different prey items. Building on prior research using other methods, these videos enhance understanding of the deep sea food web, particularly the jelly dishes and diners.

    Foraging for food

    It was once thought that these wobbly mounds of water were not worth being eaten. But thanks to the cameras mounted on the researchers underwater probes - and elsewhere on penguins, monk seals and sea turtles - we now realise that gelatinous animals arent just ravenous predators invading the ocean, but major food items in a complex web of interactions.

    Youre probably more familiar with that web as a chain, ending in the tuna on your dinner plate. That beautiful hunk of red meat was once a top predator. But if it werent for the food web deep under the ocean - a whole collection of crustaceans, worms, fish, jellies and squids feasting on one another miles below the fishing boat that caught your tuna - thered be no food to forage and no tuna to catch.

    "Its really exciting and really important," said Anela Choy, a marine biologist at MBARI, who led the study that was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. "Its taking a bigger view and allowing you to see a lot more of the connectivity of the ocean ecosystem." So lets go eat.

    Find something to eat and grab it: No one knows exactly what species one creature is, but Anela calls it a galaxy siphonophore. It waits in the water for whatever swims into its orange curtain of tentacles. The deep sea can be a tough place to find food, and the creatures that live down here have adapted to its fickle abundance. They dont just use tentacles to grab unwitting prey. Consider detritivores, including crustaceans and even some jellies that eat them: they munch on decaying organic matter called marine snow that sinks down to the bottom from sloppy feeders or phytoplankton near the surface. And the black swallower fish: it uses its big jaw to swallow prey bigger than itself whole, like a snake. These different species show there are diverse ways to fill your belly in an unforgiving environment.

    Learn to tolerate gory table manners: One of the most common interactions that Anela and her colleagues observed were cephalopods like the gonatid squid preying on fish. They are abundant in midwaters and play the role of both predator and prey in the food web. Endowed with an insane metabolism, the voracious cephalopods are constantly eating. They dine on deep sea fish including lantern fish, owl fish and dragon fish.

    The species ranges in size from six inches to one foot long, but it can consume fish bigger than its own body. To do so, the squid grasps onto its prey with tentacles lined with hooks and suction cups. Then it pierces the fishs brain with its beak, which is creepily located right between the squids eyes. It bites off pieces of fish flesh, which it chews and swallows through an oesophagus in the centre of its brain.

    Sometimes you have to eat your own kind: Sometimes, a gonatid squid eats other gonatid squid. This kind of cannibalism is common in the deep sea. And for the squid it can be beneficial. By eating competitors from within its species, a gonatus may free up more food and find more opportunities to mate. But they dont just eat one another. Other species of squid, swordfish, bottle-nosed whales, sperm whales, hooded seal and other marine animals eat gonatus too.

    Eat just about anything: In the deep sea, jellyfish from the Narcomedusae order are quite abundant. The institutes recordings revealed that they are major predators, consuming nearly two dozen different sea creatures including other gelatinous animals, especially ctenophores or comb jellies, worms and krill. One example they recorded dining on a ctenophore was solmissus, which is also called a dinner plate jelly.

    Hopefully youre not allergic to shellfish: Crustaceans, hard-bodied creatures like krill and shrimp, are like dinner rolls of the deep sea. Theyre always around, and practically everyone eats them. Physonect siphonophores, gelatinous animals that live in long chains, have a boundless appetite for these tiny creatures. Some eat all kinds of crustaceans, the researchers found, but Nanomia, siphonophores that are quite abundant off the central California coast, feed almost exclusively on krill.

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  • 01/21/18--20:58: Nature Bytes - January 23
  • When breasts and beaks reveal gender

    The Himalayas, famous for their lofty mountains, are also home to more than 900 species of birds, 30 of which are found nowhere else. Scientists from India, Germany and USA have studied the characteristics of one such Himalayan songbird called the green-backed tit. The study found that male and female green-backed tits have different body and beak characters.

    The green-backed tit is a small songbird that lives across the Himalayas and Taiwan. As the name suggests, they have green feathers on their wings and a black breast stripe running vertically from the throat to their belly, similar to the European great tits. Differences in breast stripes and beak sizes are known to exist between males and females of the well-studied European great tits.

    But how different are they in green-backed tits? Can we identify the sex of these birds by just looking at their breast stripes and beak shapes? The researchers of this study have answered these questions by studying a western Himalayan population of green-backed tits.

    The researchers measured breast stripe characteristics like colour and width in the birds. They were classified as male and female based on these characteristics. Genetic tests from these individuals later proved that the predictions were correct 97.9% of the time. The study also found a difference in beak lengths between males and females.

    Origins of a manakins golden crown

    Three related species of manakins occupy adjacent parcels of the Amazon rain forest: opal-crowned, snow-capped and golden-crowned. They are all plump like sparrows, small enough to cup in a hand and have radiant yellow-green upper bodies with golden undersides. Biologists are now unlocking the mystery of how these neighbouring birds became distinct species.

    Recently, a team of scientists confirmed in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the golden-crowned manakin is a unique hybrid species that emerged from a cross between the opal-crowned and snow-capped manakins about 1,80,000 years ago. Though one-off mating events between different species occur across the animal kingdom, the establishment of an entirely separate hybrid species is thought to be relatively rare.

    For a new species to occur, it has to become reproductively isolated, or form a stable population that no longer freely mixes with its parent species, said Alfredo Barrera-Guzmán, University of Toronto, Canada. Opal-crowned manakins wear an iridescent toupee. Snow-capped manakins are topped with bright glacial patches. And members of the hybrid species, the golden-crowned manakin, display a burst of yellow. Scientists found that the manakins warm crown comes from pigments called carotenoids, which they get from their diet.

    Finding the oldest fossils of butterflies

    Any curious kids who have caught a butterfly by hand, only to find their fingers coated in messy powder, have unknowingly brushed off the fluttering insects scales. These microscopic plates cover almost every part of a butterfly, and are what help paint their wings a variety of colours, from shimmering cobalt blues to patterns of orange and black.

    While most people go to a garden if they want to see a butterflys scales in action, Timo van Eldijks, a Dutch researcher, search for wing scales required drilling more than 1,000 feet into the ground. Then, he extracted fossilised insect bits from black sludge using a probe tipped with human nose hair.

    In a study published recently in the journal Science Advances, Timo and his colleagues uncovered approximately 200-million-year-old wing scales belonging to ancient members of the insect order Lepidoptera, which include butterflies and moths. "These scales are the oldest evidence of moths and butterflies," said Timo. "It extends the range to which we know butterflies existed by about 10 million years." The scales may also provide insight into the early evolution of the insects tubelike tongue, which they suggest evolved tens of millions of years before nectar-rich flowers existed.

    Wolverine X

    Finlands forests hide a mysterious creature - a dark shadow that has produced a comic book character. This X-beast is a wolverine, a powerful carnivore with a mythical fame.

    Wildlife tracker and photographer, Antti Leinonen, spent 19 years in the wilderness of Finland and built up an unexpected image of one delicate, untamed community. He used every deceit to get a glimpse of the life of these secretive animals. Through his approach, the documentary Wolverine X exposes the wolverine in a way never seen before.

    Disliked by the public, wolverine numbers have plummeted to precariously low levels. Spending lots of time hidden in the hide is the only way to observe wild wolverines. Over the years, his total commitment has built up an impressive photographic record. To watch the documentary, visit

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  • 01/21/18--21:00: Poaching puts snakes at risk
  • Snake charming has long been associated with tradition and religious veneration in India. Abusing the faith of temple visitors, snake charmers display snakes at temples. What people dont realise is that these snakes are poached from the wild and are brutally tortured. In case of venomous snakes like the cobra, the snakes fangs are crudely crushed using metal pliers and the venom glands are painfully gouged out or punctured, disabling the snakes only means of defence.

    As a result, the snake is condemned to a slow and excruciating death as venom is also crucial to its feeding and digestion. Since the extraction process is crude and improperly done, the risk of lethal mouth infection usually kills the snake. Non-venomous snakes like sand boas and rat snakes are not spared either. Their mouths are stitched shut, making it impossible for them to eat.

    The snakes are kept in tiny, dark and cramped cane baskets for the few weeks that they survive. As a result, they tend to pick up parasitic infections in the baskets. Additionally, by denying them sunlight, snakes will not be able to carry out basic metabolic functions as they are ectothermic creatures. This, combined with starvation, results in an brittle skeletal system that is prone to fracturing.

    Snake charmers in possession of red sand boas use the snake to dupe people into believing that the snake brings good luck and medicinal value. Such blind faith has resulted in exposing the species to various dangers, despite it being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Section 2(16) of the Act defines the hunting of animals as the capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving or baiting of any wild or captive animal, and lists all Indian snakes under the schedules accorded protection by the Act. This makes the capturing of snakes a punishable offence under Indian law.

    The cruelty meted out to the snakes is also illegal as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. This forbids the causing of unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal. It is vital that people and law enforcement agents be made aware of the illegality of such acts, take steps to eliminate such practices and curb the rampant poaching of snakes.

    For favourable solutions

    As human populations grow and urbanisation destroys forest cover, highly adaptable animal species like snakes are forced to live within the limits of urban environments. Encountering a snake in ones home or office can be quite scary for people who arent able to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes. Snakes are found in drains, backyards, bathrooms and any other area that may house a substantial rat population on which the snakes can feed. Often, fear drives people to mercilessly kill the snakes.

    However, the most favourable solution is to call in a trained snake handler who can rescue the snake and release it to its natural habitat with the help of the Forest Department officials. A major part of rescue work involves controlling crowds, pacifying scared bystanders and even dealing with snakebite instances. The majority of snakebite cases across India are by four species of snakes: cobra, common krait, saw-scaled viper and Russells viper.

    There are various efforts underway to rescue captured snakes. For instance, snakes captured by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in Bengaluru are released in Turahalli forest. Wildlife SOS, a conservation non-profit, provides a critical support to the Forest Department by rescuing snakes in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and releasing them in safe locations.

    It is vital that tourists and local residents never encourage the use of any animal for any sort of entertainment. Encouraging snake charmers by paying them for performances or pictures will promote hunting and illegal possession, and continued cruelty towards snakes. People should instead alert rescuers and the local police or Forest Department officials about such persons to ensure that the law is upheld and these important reptiles are protected.

    (The author is retired principal chief conservator of forests, Karnataka)

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  • 01/22/18--21:52: 'Acting is like gambling'
  • Actor Kavya Shetty doesnt believe in going with a plan. She prefers to go with the flow and take things as they come. This approach, she feels, leaves no room for disappointment. While her latest release, 3 Gante 30 dina 30 seconds saw her essay the character of a rich, spoilt brat who owns a television channel, her next film Samhara will see her slip into the role of a journalist. She feels both these projects have given her a chance to go beyond the mundane and explore new territories. In an interview with Nina C George, Kavya, talks about her upcoming project, her love travelling and more.

    Whats your role in Samhara?

    I play a journalist and the character is quite like how I am in real life. I am called Jaanu and I play a fun-loving, quirky and stylish girl.

    How does your role complement Chiranjeevis character?

    We are both childhood friends and theres a love angle to it as we grow up. Chiranjeevi and I have a lot of scenes together. I am with him at every step.

    Any plans to act in other languages?

    Ive been so busy in Kannada films that I have had no time to explore other languages. Language is not a barrier for me. I always felt acting in other industries such as Tamil and Telugu gives one a good exposure into the technical aspects of filmmaking.

    What do you do when you are not acting?

    I love travelling. I spent my Christmas and New Year in Scotland and Dublin, respectively. I take off every six months and every trip is refreshing, because it offers an insight into the life, food habits and culture of the place that I am visiting.

    Were your parents supportive of your decision to become an actor?

    Yes they are. I wouldnt have been able to come this far without the support from my parents. There are ups and downs but if your parents are with you then nothing is too tough to handle.

    Was it easy for you to move from a regular job to films?

    There are a few people who complete their education and work in their specialised field for a while and then switch to something that they love doing. There are still others who strike a balance between their profession and passion. But I chose to follow my heart.

    Do you believe in going with a plan?

    I never plan too much in advance. There are a few things that I have on my wishlist, such as the places that I want to visit, but there are a lot of things that I cant plan because if things dont go the way Ive planned it then theres room for disappointment.

    How do you tide over disappointments?

    Acting is like gambling. You can never predict what works for you and what doesnt. So, I dont get stuck in negativity and move on.

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  • 01/22/18--22:02: Flights of fantasy
  • If a person is found asking for flight recommendations to Antarctica, the immediate assumption is that he/she is either a scientist or one of those extreme travellers who get a kick out of visiting the most inhospitable regions on Earth. Not anymore.

    More and more people are packing their bags to head to ecologically-sensitive spots in the hope of catching a glimpse of these places before they fall prey to climate change.

    This is not a doomsday prediction; this practice, termed last chance tourism has been selected as the travel trend of the year. People are making a mad rush to every place that is in danger of being wiped out due to factors like climate change, deforestation, urban development and erosion due to pollution. As luck would have it, these happen to be some of the most breathtaking locales around the globe like Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Venice, Everglades National Park in Florida, Madagascar, Machu Picchu and more.

    Blogger couple Nisha Jha and Vasudevan Raghavachari, who travel together and blog together at, have checked Dead Sea and Venice off from their list. Says Vasudevan, "The Dead Sea is shrinking. Its size has reduced by almost one-third over the last 40 years. There were some resorts that were built on the beach side some decades back. The sea has receded so much that now one has to walk for almost a kilometre from these resorts to reach the water.

    Nisha chips in, "While the Dead Sea is shrinking, Venice is sinking. More and more water is coming into the city and places like St Marks Square are always flooded when it rains." The couple now wishes to go to Antarctica and Galapagos Island. Travel experts have also placed their bets on last chance tourism.

    Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and CEO of Ixigo, a metasearch engine that aggregates information from different travel portals, says, "We have been witnessing growing interest for last chance tourism. With continuous changes in climate and natural environment, popular tourist spots are fast losing their uniqueness. Travellers are increasingly looking at places like the Great Barrier Reef, Seychelles, Egyptian pyramids, Venice and so on as must-see destinations before all is lost. Within India, the Taj Mahal remains a huge tourist attraction."

    Professional photographer Divya Shirodkar was lucky enough to visit the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand before a cloudburst wiped out the place in 2013. Global warming was widely acknowledged as one of the causes behind the disaster. "There are some places that deserve to be on the list of endangered places because of reckless commercialisation and unplanned development. For example the double decker living root bridge in Cherrapunjee. A road to the place, which is now accessible only by foot, is being planned. This will destroy the pristine beauty of the place," she says.

    While some feel this travel tend will shine the spotlight on the woes of these places, others feel that the influx of tourists will simply accentuate the process of ruination. These fears are especially valid in todays context when a majority of the travellers are competing for eyeballs on social media platforms and these places just serve to act as the perfect destination spots for them.

    "Tourism is necessary but what needs to change is the way we travel and how careful we are while visiting ecologically sensitive areas," says Divya while Nisha adds, "For the time being, this trend will worsen the problem. We need to understand the impact of global warming and focus on responsible tourism."

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  • 01/22/18--22:04: No smoke without fire
  • While the exact cause of the recent fire at Bellandur Lake is yet to be ascertained, environmentalists and citizens feel that the need of the hour is to treat the sewage water that is being let into the water body and ensure that industries dont let out toxic waste into it.

    Environmentalists point out that the callous attitude of the government has led to the deterioration of the Bellandur Lake and many other lakes in the city. Dr T V Ramachandra from Indian Institute of Science, says that he and his team had studied 193 water bodies in Bengaluru. "Our study shows that 98 percent of the water bodies are encroached and 92 percent receive untreated sewage and industrial effluents. Our study has also shown that vegetables being grown around Varthur Lake have the presence of heavy metal and even the fish is contaminated with a heavy amount of metal. The samples of Pudina and Spinach that we examined were all highly toxic, thanks to the contamination of lakes," he says.

    He further points out that rejuvenation and regular maintenance of water bodies, involving de-silting to enhance the storage capacity and increase the recharge potential must be done on a regular basis.
    "The authorities must prevent people from dumping garbage into lakes and stormwater drains and all the encroachments around the lakes and lake beds must be removed on an immediate basis," he adds.

    Whats lacking among people is water literacy, says Arun Krishnamurthy, founder Environmentalist Foundation of India.

    "The unregulated increase in the number of borewells has led to the increased consumption of water. We use more water in our homes and to flush toilets than necessary. Instead of working towards preserving and retaining ground water, we are literally abusing fresh water. This must stop," says Arun.

    He feels treatment of sewage water before letting it into the lakes and stopping encroachment around storm water drains has to be taken up on a war-footing. Ordinary citizens of resident welfare associations across the city have also contributed their bit towards rejuvenating the lakes in their vicinity.

    Prabhakar Rao, a consultant and resident of J P Nagar was a part of the group that volunteered to revitalise the Puttenahalli Lake.

    "One should get to the root of the problem. More than government intervention, I think we should have an independent body (free of all political influences) to monitor, regulate and maintain the lakes in the city. Encroachments around lakes and dumping garbage on the periphery must be stopped," he says.

    Sudarshan H S, a resident of Jayanagar, feels the current system prevents agencies that are
    responsible for lake rejuvenation from doing their job.

    "You see roads being tarred and pavements being laid with an eye on the forthcoming Assembly polls but saving and reviving the lakes dont seem to be a priority for the government. Why? People need lakes. Then what is preventing government officials from according top priority to these lakes," wonders Sudarshan.

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    People want to see realistic stories

    Actor Shankar Bhaddur started his career with the film Thaayi. He was soon seen in Ondu Preethiya Kathe, Chitramandiradalli and Sadagara. The actors last release was Marali Manege in 2017. He is positive that 2018 will keep him on his toes as he has four different projects in the pipeline. In a candid chat with Tini Sara Anien, the actor talks about the varied projects and more.

    You had one release last year. What are you looking forward to in 2018?

    It looks like a promising year ahead. I have acted and co-produced Margaret which should release soon. The other movies in the pipeline are Aatma Ram, Ammu and Aandalama. I have finished the first schedule of Aatma Ram and am working on the other projects now.

    How different are these films?

    Each of the movies is a league of its own. Aatma Ram is a periodical retro-style film which shows a theatre artiste who recollects his time in the 70s and compares it to the todays films and theatre. Ammu is about a cancer patient and how the family takes this news. I play the lord of death in the movie. Aandalama is a horror-comedy, where I play a man with a nuclear family. Margaret is a crime-thriller.

    Did you find any of these movies challenging?

    My role in Aatma Ram is quite challenging. I will be portraying three different phases of a mans life in it. The 60-year-old character is frustrated, agitated and irritated, which was very difficult to depict.

    How do you decide about which roles to work on?

    I dont have to always play the hero. I dont mind coming on screen and leaving within few minutes as long as my role is meaningful. I just believe that each role should add to ones profile.

    Is acting and producing the same film difficult?

    Its a lot of pressure. Acting is a different ballgame and producing is an entirely different role. You have to be very stern when you are a producer. You even end up raising your voice or using harsh words sometimes and Im not comfortable with that.

    Any genre you would like to be seen in?

    I am lucky that I have experimented with a lot of movies. I have tried commercial movies. I would like to do more realistic cinema. Portraying a real character is harder on screen.

    Are you a directors actor?

    I completely depend on the director for instructions in a scene. Every film is a depiction of the directors vision. I do not like to modify much.

    How different is Sandalwood from when you made your entry?

    The industry has changed a lot. People want to see realistic stories now. Movies are not just about romance, fights scenes and drama anymore. The technical side of movies has also changed a lot and making movies is easier now.

    What do you want to change about yourself?

    I have been approached many times to do filmy movies; projects which are just meant to entertain and might not necessarily make sense to me. I should open myself to all films.

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    It was in 2015 that Tamal Paul and wife Vedaprana Purkayasta, who hails from Guwahati, along with their daughter Aditri, made Bengaluru their home. Tamal works as a project manager with Infosys while Vedaprana is an entrepreneur.

    "The city has a magic of its own. You always love the city which blesses you with lovely friends and happy stories," he says.

    Vedaprana likes to call Bengaluru the cool city. "Having lived in a two-tier city, moving to a much bigger one brings its own issues but it was really easy to adjust here," she says.

    "The city does not tie one down with communication problems or other cultural factors, thanks to its cosmopolitan nature," says Tamal. "Bengaluru has so much to offer in terms of cultural exchange and has taught us to co-exist," she says.

    "Initially, when I was working in a college, I remember how my colleagues were curious to know where I was from and where I bought my cotton saris from. They were also excited to share my lunch," she recollects.

    The city offered Tamal the best on the professional front. "For anyone in the IT industry, this is the place to be," he says. But that is not all. "The medical facilities here and the citys living standard are top notch. After living abroad for sometime, we could think of no other city that could match international standards than Bengaluru," says Vedaprana.

    The couple are equally impressed by the places around the city like Kolar. Travelling is one of their pastimes and they love visiting Yercaud and Wayanad which are not too far either. "The city also has so much to offer; it has great malls, delightful restaurants and attractive green spaces to relax at. We take Aditri to Lalbagh and Cubbon Park often as it is a welcome break from the busy day-to-day life," says Vedaprana.

    As far as food is concerned, Tamal likes to dig into North Indian food at Buff Buffet Buff, Koramangala or South Indian delicacies at A2B. "During our weekends, we go for breakfast options like Idli, Dosa and Vada," he adds. Vedaprana picks out South Indian meals as her favourite. "From curd rice to sambhar, I relish it all," she adds.

    The couple strongly believe that Bengaluru has offered them "one of the best phases of their lives".

    "These days, most of our weekends are spent in getting our new house, which is under construction, ready. We are at home and we would like to be here forever," says Tamal.

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    Smriti Mandhana has been playing cricket all her life. Batswoman and fielder with the Indian womens cricket team, Smriti says that it is a dream come true for her to represent the country.

    She was inspired to play professional cricket after watching her father Shrinivas Mandhana and brother Shravan play district-level cricket for Sangli. The turning point came when she was picked for the Maharashtra under-19 cricket squad when she was barely 11. It hasnt been an easy journey for Smriti but she feels that it is the challenges that keep her going. She shares with Nina C George her experiences of playing for the country.

    What made you choose cricket as a career?

    My father wanted one of us to play for the country. I used to accompany him and later, my brother for their practice sessions. I would closely follow their style. This was the beginning.

    We hear you spent most of your childhood playing cricket…

    As children, my brother and I never watched much television. We would play a lot of cricket and most of our fights would revolve around cricket like batting. We had a healthy competition between us.

    Does the notion that girls cant play cricket still exist?

    I think peoples perception about women playing
    cricket changed after the team reached the finals during the 2017 Womens Cricket World Cup. Earlier, people didnt know that a womens cricket team existed, but now they want to know about our next match and follow our performances.

    How was it to qualify for the finals during 2017 Womens Cricket World Cup?

    We never expected to reach the finals. Every member of the team had contributed to make that happen. It was exciting to play before a packed stadium.

    What has kept the team strong?

    The core team has been together for the last three years or more. Just staying together for so long has helped strengthen our bond and faith in each other.

    Who do you look up to in cricket?

    Among the overseas players, I look up to Mathew Hayden and in the Indian pool, I admire Sachin Tendulkar.

    How is your life off the pitch?

    I love listening to music and watching movies. I also enjoy spending time with my PlayStation.

    How do you tide over tough times?

    Nothing is tough for me because I love what I am doing.

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  • 01/22/18--22:14: The way forward
  • Does it take eternity for you to cross a road in the city? For most Bengalureans, it does. The citys traffic clearly has not been kind to most walkers. So in a move to avoid accidents and improve pedestrian safety, the Bengaluru Traffic Police (BTP) will be introducing 60 pelican crossings in the city soon.

    At a pelican crossing, the pedestrian can press a button, activate the red signal and the motorists will stop enabling one to cross the road easily. Manish Rungta, assistant chief traffic warden (Ulsoor) says that assuring pedestrian safety is a priority for the BTP. "The city is big, so some initiatives work and some dont. Bengalureans adapt to changes easily and the BTP is hoping that the signals will be accepted by citizens more. Its an effort to try and educate new drivers on the road," he adds.

    The spots where the pelican signals will be installed are based on the number of fatalities and accidents that pedestrians were involved in. "We will be identifying these spots according to the data we have. The 60 signals that exist in the city are used by pedestrians widely," says R Hithendra, additional commissioner of police (traffic).

    In stretches like Palace Guttahalli, the pelican crossing is used by many, says Hithendra.
    "Since the signals can be seen by all, no extensive campaigns are required to create awareness. The existing ones will continue to be maintained under the annual maintenance contract," he says.

    As a member of Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike, which has been pushing for pelican crossings, Vinay Sreenivasa is happy that BTP will be bringing these signals to the city soon. "This is a welcome move but should be initiated carefully. In the initial days, there needs to be an officer or guard to help people in operating it," he says.

    "Skywalks and underpasses are not pedestrian-friendly as one has to use steps there. Pelican crossing or at-grade crossing is the best way to solve pedestrians woes. Fines should be imposed on those not following these signals and elaborate public campaigns need to be done to make this concept popular," adds Vinay.

    Arun Ganesh, a digital cartographer, is excited about it. "But where they are placed would determine whether it is a success or not. At a junction where a traffic signal already exists, this would be pointless. Identifying spots on highways or long stretches is the need of the hour," he says.

    He adds that not many are aware about the existing signals. "I havent noticed these in the city or used them. I hope the BTP makes the new signals more significant and noticeable for regular usage," he adds.

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