Mhaisal - a village, on the banks of the river Krishna, is in Sangli district of the western state of Maharashtra. Being on the boundary between Karnataka and Maharashtra, it is a confluence of cultures, languages and religions. Though the official language is Marathi, almost seventy percent of the population is bi-lingual. The highway to Bijapur and Belgaum, passes through the village. Agriculture is the main occupation, with sugar-cane, and grapes being the most important crops. Mhaisalkars are lovers of festivals, which are celebrated all year round with fervor and gaiety. (Map)
It is fortuitous that not only do I hail from Mhaisal, but chose, to spend my life here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Currency Of Death

Just the word 'Death' is enough to send a chill down the spine, even for the bravest amongst us. Though cannibalism has never been widely prevalent, even in the earliest phases of human existence, it is strange why humans have resorted to killing as a means of settling disputes. Whether the dispute is over property or ideas.

The earliest tribes fought with each other over grazing and hunting grounds, It could mean starvation and death, if they could not secure these. The concept of a Nation is but an extension of this need. As commerce increased and a better distribution network was established, the need for war and the desire to kill off rivals should have diminished. Unfortunately we do not see it happening.

As humans with our ability to think and conjecture, we have opened up a new theatre for our wars, and that is the human mind itself. It is agonising that we should be fighting even this war which is essentially of the mind, by resorting to killings and maimings just as if we were fighting for pasture land like our ancestors.

There is a great clamour for the abolition of the 'Death Sentence'. The abolitionists claim that it is a 'murder committed by a state, under judicial supervision'.  Some countries have gone ahead and done so. India is still 'debating' the issue. One wonders with armies placed eyeball to eyeball, in umpteen war theaters around the world, ready with their sophisticated weaponry to kill and maim at the slightest provocation (real or perceived), what sense is there in talking of doing away with the death sentence, which any way affects only a minuscule of those condemned.

We have evolved and moved much ahead from our animal brethren, but I feel we could take a lesson from them in choosing when to go for the 'Kill'. They rarely fight, but for food and territory. Never heard of an animal fight, because it thought, its idea of divinity, was superior to that of its rival!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mhaisal Holidays

Summer holidays at Mhaisal - simply unforgettable

Six of us siblings and cousins born between 1956 and 1960, every year at Mhaisal during summers

Days spent outdoors, swimming in wells (infested with snakes, crabs turtles and fish), playing a tree climbing game called 'Sur-Parambhya' (सूर -पारम्भ्या ) , darting- with tree trunks as targets, hunting with sling-shots- garden lizards being the unfortunate victims, building play castles,

Some times even indulging in dangerous stuff like using dynamite powder to dig-up a pond!.

The evenings with card games-

Particularly a game called Ladice ( A trump game similar to Contract-Bridge, but without elaborate bidding). Ajji, our grandmother partnering with us. The game very boisterous, with shouting and hooting, and stretching for hours.

The stories told by Ajji of kings and queens (the king always had two queens, one he liked and the other he disliked), Aesop's and Panchatantra tales, of Chatrapati Shivaji, and off course stories from the Ramayan and Mahabharat. And the stories told by Gidya-Babu (Gidya, a sobriquet, he being a dwarf) of ghosts and magic and talking parrots.

Once in three or four days a movie, on a makeshift screen, in a 'Open to Sky', 'Touring Talkies'. The 'folding chairs' for us carried by our staff to the theater, as it did not boast of any chairs at all,

Then the nights, sleeping on the terrace, watching the stars that seemed to rotate in unison around us from east to west, with sometimes a shooting star, making us fervently wish for something our little hearts desired. The sun would be up, with us still in bed, and Daniel (our uncle Dr.Jaysingrao's assistant), with his clinic tray of bandages and gauze and iodine and nebasulf powder, coming to dress our wounds, results of the previous day's rowdiness.

Of delicacies galore - Layered mutton pulloas,

Bhanga-Rassa (A thin mutton curry- decidedly not for the weaker palates), Wada-Kombda (A Konkani dish of chiken and fried 'wadas'), Puran-Poli, Gul-Poli (Chapatis with a layer of Jaggery) and Rus-Poli (chappatis soaked in sweetened coconut milk), and many many more. Pampered by Granny - of sugarcane, mango, pomegranate even an apple or orange  being served neatly pealed and cut in pieces just ready to be put in the mouth.

The final exam results arriving by post in envelopes submitted by us to the school, bearing addresses neatly written by my mother. Heart beats missed till they were opened and the soothing line read, "Promoted to Std. ***"

Then the last day - our Akka silently crying the whole day - and Mothe-Kaka (our Uncle) giving her his used handkerchief as solace. The return journey car being kept waiting at the last moment for the new uniforms to be delivered by the village tailor- Makbool.

And at last an end to the lovely holidays - to begin a new academic year - of hopes and frustrations till once more the holidays.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day In The Sun

Last evening, I thought I would watch a Guru Datta movie. As I flipped through my collection, I first picked 'Pyasa', but felt it would put me into a sad brooding mood, for which I wasn't ready. Next I looked at 'Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam', but felt the pathos created by Meenakumari, would be contagious. Finally I settled for 'Mr. & Mrs. 55', with Madhubala at her vivacious best.

As the movie progressed, and Johny Walker in his inimitable style, started wooing 'Julie' the typist. His dialogue comparing her dimples with those of an apple, suddenly struck me. This 'Julie' was indeed exceptionally beautiful, I scratched my brains as to who the actress was, but I just couldn't remember her name. This in spite of the hugely popular song "Jane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Ji, Abhi Abhi Yahin Tha ...", being picturised on her.

I did a search, and found that the information available on her was extremely sketchy. The film credits gave her name as Yasmin, searching for Yasmin led to some other actresses by the same name. At last I got her real name as  Vinita Butt, the last any one had heard of her, was that she was supposed to have married James Vining, a British make-up man, who had come to India, for an Indo-European film venture "The Three Headed Cobra". That's all.

For eons philosophers, have mulled over the purpose of our being, sadly, no convincing answers have ever been found. For the theist, this poses no problem, as he believes he is but a part, of some Divine Scheme. But if you happen to be an atheist, there are certainly no answers. There simply does not exist a purpose. In fact why should we - in all our puniness - even suppose, there could be some purpose for our existence?

Yet we all yearn for fame and recognition, we want others to like us and praise us, and feel enchanted while basking in some or other form of glory - be it short lived. Our greatest fear is to depart unsung.

Even John Keats initially could not come to terms with this reality when he says in this sonnet,
"When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance" 
Yet finally he realises
"Then on the shore of the wide world,
I stand alone and think, 
Till Love and Fame do nothingness do sink"

We can also think of the millions, who have come and gone - maybe more talented, more beautiful, yet withered unknown and unsung.
And for solace, shouldn't we be grateful, for we certainly had our Day in the Sun?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This Promise - I Shall Never Break

In the Eighties, I used to travel to Mumbai quite frequently, the trips were usually very short. (Longer ones would  burn larger holes in my pocket, which I could ill afford then.) In spite of the tightness of the schedule, I invariably found time to do a round of a couple of places, I loved. One was the Jehangir Art gallery, where  I would gaze at the paintings, and try to fathom the emotions that the artists were trying to convey through their works of art.

I would then spend what ever time I could spare, at Fountain with the pavement bookwallahs. Just thumbing through the pages of the books that caught my fancy, was therapeutic. Those were not the days when such pavement sellers would simply sell pirated books of the popular kinds. The books displayed, then. were usually collections sold by people who had no use for them, may be a relative of a demised bibliophile, who had inherited them but did not care a dime for books, or a new tenant of a house, who had found the lot in the attic and did not know what to do with it, or simply someone gone old and unable to re-read them any more.

On one such occasion, I was flipping through an old hardbound copy of 'The Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte, when suddenly a folded paper fell from the pages. I, picked it up, it was a handwritten letter. I put the letter back in the book. I already owned a paperback edition of the book, and did not really need another copy, but curiosity prevailed and I bought the book with the letter inside - without even haggling for the price demanded.

That evening in the train, I got the book out, and there was the letter again. This time, I couldn't help reading it, albeit not without some guilt. I thought I was being voyeuristic. The single factor which helped me  overcome my guilt, was that the letter was very old, it was dated Sunday July 20th. 1952.

The letter was from a mother to her teenaged daughter. She seems to have been recently separated or divorced from her husband when she wrote it.

A few days back, while looking for a book, I came across this book with the letter, I had forgotten all about it, As I took out the book, the letter fell down, and old memories came gushing through. I am now in a dilemma whether I should bring it in the public domain through this post or not. But the letter is so good that despite the breach of privacy, I felt it can be published without naming either the author or the recipient, whom we cannot identify anyway.

The fragility of human relationships, is what is most striking in this letter. Here, I am presenting an abridged version of the letter.

Sunday, 20th., July 1952

 My Dear Annie,
By the time this letter reaches you, I will, in all probability be far removed from this presidency. Though physically, the distances that separate us may be vast, yet you shall never cease to be an inseparable part of me. At the time of your birth when the doctors cut the umbilical chord and made you an individual, you showed your resentment by bawling, you were consoled only when I held you to my bosom. This time, I know for sure, you will not make a scene, but my heart tells me, that you would be shedding silent tears, and trying to grapple with the fact that when you return from school I will not be there to hug you.

You are far too young, to understand, why these things are happening to the people in your life. As you grow older, you will see the compulsions that made these events inevitable. For now, I want you to remember that, you in no way are responsible for these developments, and should never feel the burden of guilt for the same.

Many years ago, I had made a promise that for better or for worse I shall always be with your Dad, but I hadn't realised then, that keeping promises is not an effort in isolation, but needs active cooperation of the parties concerned. I, certainly do not want to create the impression that I am a victim, or the one wronged. At this stage, let me just say, Your Dad and I,  were not compatible, and realised this a bit late. It is quite some time since the drift between us began, and I can understand the trauma you have gone through, specially during the summer holidays, when you were with us. Though we meticulously avoided making scenes in your presence, the coldness of our relationship, could not be kept away from you. I could see the myriad questions in your eyes, but I simply did not have the nerve to even look back into them, leave alone answering your unasked queries.

I know, home to you will not have the same connotation as it did before, yet I hope that you will soon accept the new realities. One thing will certainly not change, you shall continue to be the pivot around which our lives will revolve, albeit separately. 

I do not want to end this letter under a pall of gloom, The future is much more important than the past, and you have in store much more 'future' than any of us. Hope life  brings to you all the joys that it can offer. As for me, I shall always have you in my heart- and this is a promise I shall never break.

Credit: above picture from

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012- Mantralaya Fire -1933 Reichstag Fire, Does History Repeat?

               Hitler had just come to power, and was the Chancellor of a coalition government (does that sound a resonance?). He was desperate to increase the number of seats of the Nazi party in the Reich, to pass an 'Enabling Act', which he needed  to consolidate his dictatorship. It is strongly believed by many that to tarnish the image of the Communist Party, and subsequently ban it, the Reich-stag fire came in handy, and was probably the handiwork of the Nazis themselves. Though a communist, Van der Lube, was condemned for the crime, and executed. It was later proved though, that he was insane.

                  It is certain that the Reich-stag Fire was used very effectively by the Nazis not only to consolidate their power, but also to wipe out all opposition. I do not have to delve in any greater detail, of what history had to witness, as a consequence of this consolidation.
                 This was then, there was no live media coverage, or 24/7 panel discussions. Today when people watch the flames raging, and the smoke trails touching the skies, and a pensive Chief Minister with his other colleagues a mere spectator, they cannot but feel ashamed at the sheer incompetence of our administrative set-up.
                As for sabotage, how ever vehemently the powers that be, care to deny it, the street verdict is - as in the case of the Reich-stag Fire- this fire too is the handiwork of someone who stands to gain by it. Trust deficit at play? Maybe, but why so? Let the pensive CM and his team ruminate on it!

(P.S. The picture of the Reich-stag Fire has been taken from Wikipedia and is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 535790.
The Mantralaya fire picture is from Deccan Chronicle e-edition.) 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mhaisal Birds - Through Mayur's Lens

A few months back, I received a call from Dr. Mayur Davda, from Mumbai. He is a Dentist by profession, and an avid nature lover. He had visited my blog and was keen on coming to Mhaisal to see and photograph birds. We decided on a date, I had requested him to come early in the morning at day-break. To my surprise, he was at our door at 6:00 AM! He and his cousin had come all the way from Sangli by motorbike in the chilling November weather.

We went to the Krishna river bank, and began our 'nature walk' from the Kankeshwar (Shiva) temple. We first walked along the bank, and spotted quite a few water birds, like Herons, Egrets, Coromonts, Kingfishers, etc. A large number of swallows, (could be easily around one to two thousand,) were sitting on the H.T. power lines. The interesting thing we observed, was the almost equal spacing (about 20 to 30 cm) between the swallows, as they sat on the power lines, each swallow had allowed a rightful space to it's neighbor.

We then walked along the Mhaisal Irrigation project road and came to our grape vineyard, which is on a lake front. We spotted Munias, Black Drongos, Shrikes, Kites, Hoopoes, Mynas, Peafowls and Sunbirds. Besides the birds, we also spotted a Rat-snake!

At Kedar-Laxmi Niwas, our house, we saw, the spotted Owlet, perched on the canopy support, and Brhamaney Kites, who have decided to make our garden their nesting place, sitting majestically on the tall Drooping Ashoka trees.

Dr. Mayur, went on clicking with his camera. His enthusiasm was so great that some times, when he got engrossed with a particular bird, he would simply not stop clicking and we had to plod him to come with us. 
I must say we enjoyed Dr. Mayur's vist to Mhaisal.

He has just uploaded a compilation of some of the pictures he took at Mhaisal. It is really good. Do watch it.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mhaisal Birds - Rendezvous with the Bottle Brush

Yellow Bellied Sunbird - "What a sweet kiss? Gives me nectar too!"

Yellow Bellied Sunbird, - "I dont mind going upside down, when nectar is at stake"

Oriental White Eye - "Looks like a brush, but mamma said there is manna in it"

Oriental White Eye - "It sure tastes heavenly"

Purple Sunbird - "Would you like to join the party?"

Purple Sunbird - "I, cant wait any more."

Red vented Bulbul - "I just dined on a worm, but I have a sweet beak too"