31 May 2015

F is for Fantasy

I took a break yesterday because my daughter and family were here.  So we were busy playing Scrabble.  Today we are back to just the two of us--hillgrandmom and granddad and so there is time to blog.
The school year starts tomorrow.  So I start work tomorrow.
Well here goes in the Ato Z.  (I wish now I hadn't started!)
F is for Fantasy.  I am a big fan of the Fantasy genre of fiction.  In my childhood there was no such specific genre as I remember.  I read a great deal of Enid Blyton's stories about fairies and elves and pixies and that was the sum of the Fantasy reading then.  When I was a teenager, I did read occasional science fiction.  But there was nothing like the kind of books available now.  I had not read C. S. Lewis' the Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe as a child.
Then came the original Star Wars trilogy, by which time I was married and a mother, and I was completely hooked.  I then read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series only much later and they made my fondness for Fantasy a passion.  I passed on this love to my children and through them I read Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I was introduced to Terry Pratchett's books by my children's friends and I loved them.  To me Terry Pratchet, from the pictures of him that I saw, was like a Gandalf come to life.  I am really sorry that he is gone.  Since first reading the Hobbit, I have read a great deal of Fantasy and totally enjoyed myself escaping into that world.

29 May 2015

E is for Elephants

Elephants are the first thing I thought of for E because they are such a part of Kerala life.  In the early years of my life in Kerala, elephants were much more visible.  There seemed to have been a lot more working elephants at that time.  So it wasn't uncommon to see an elephant walking along the road every other day, with it's trunk holding a big bunch of palm fronds for it's snack.  Here is a recent picture which a friend took, of just such a site :-)

 Till last year, there was an elephant at a sawmill very close to where I stay.  He used to be working at the saw mill and he was almost always there at the mill.  It was a common sight to see him pulling out big logs.  But at the end of 2013, the saw mill started using a crane, mainly because the road was being widened and the elephant needed more space to pull and push than the crane did.  For a while after the crane came , the elephant continued to stay at the mill, but in a retired position and we took my grandkids to see him last year.  Now I think he has gone away.
But elephants are still used for temple festivals, temples considering it very prestigious, to have and elephant to carry the resident temple idol during the temple festival and the more elephants the better. It takes a heavy toll on the elephants because the festivals are usually during summer and they are outside, just standing in the heat.  There are guidelines now though, from the government veterinary departments on the treatment of elephants and often Vets are often posted during big temple festivals.
Here is a picture of the ceremonial 'nettipattam' which adorns the elephant's forehead during a festival--

Around 9 years ago, an elephant was brought to our house.  It was quite a small elephant and was brought in a truck.  His job was to haul onto a truck, some young teak trees that we had sold.  The person who bought the trees had brought the elephant.  It was hard work and once I saw the elephant protesting when he had to haul a big log.  We brought him buckets of water, some of which he drank and some of which the mahout poured on him.  The video here (sorry not too clear--phonophoto) is of that elephant working spliced with the video of another elephant working that we saw at an elephant camp.

28 May 2015

D is for ducks and dandelions

Ducks are a popular delicacy in the area of Kerala that I live.  There are plenty to be seen in the water, near and in the Kerala backwaters--in fact huge droves of them.  The ducks here are quite small compared to the wild ones that I saw near my son's place in the Chicago 'burbs.  Duck eggs too are popular and you see the eggs piled up on the side of the road, if one drives near that backwaters. Here, in my part of India anyway, duck eggs are supposed to be better if you suffer from boils and piles!  I bought 6 eggs recently cos I drove by the sellers.  But my hubby was not too happy, and I ended up eating most of them.
In the case of dandelions, I am posting a poem, actually re-posting, with a reference to dandelions, posted first 9 years back and written even earlier, when my children were just leaving the nest.
I stand, a dandelion stalk in the breeze,
Each gust takes away a few more tufts,
Some fly high and are wafted far;
Others fall nearer.
With the passing of each breeze
I am left a little more alone.
Yes my children, as you each go,
I feel a bit more forlorn,
A little more blue.
But I will never stop you,
Even if I could.
It is your time to fly,
To go your own way,
To follow your own path;
While I will pray
For gentle zephyrs
To waft you high,
Then deposit you gently back to earth
Where you will take root and grow your own
Dandelion stalks swaying in the breeze.

27 May 2015

C is for Curry, Crows and Children

Being an Indian, there is no life without curry of some kind.  Here, in the south, Kerala at least, curry means anything with gravy, as we have varied names for the different dry dishes.  Along with curry I guess I should mention curry leaves, because there is not a single Kerala dish without curry leaves, except maybe raw dishes, like an onion salad or a raw coconut chutney; which is probably why so many of the South Indians in far flung places tried to grow the plant.  There is no way one can substitute dried curry leaves--the fragrance just isn't there.
Crows are a part of Indian life.  They are there, wherever there are people.  They are an integral part of India's bio-degradable garbage recycling too.  Scientists have apparently found out that crows are capable of using tools.  Anyway, I for one, have great fun watching at my bird bath during summer.  I usually keep it full of water during the summer.  The crows come, usually around 5 pm and they take turns to have a bath.  Drinking the water is less important than the bath.  Each one looks around carefully for danger and then steps in and splashes merrily.  The next one waits outside the bath, or on a nearby tree limb waiting for it's turn--all very polite.  I'm linking to a page on RK Laxman--one of our best cartoonists--who was a great crow lover and did a vast number of crow sketches.
As for children, they are central to my life;  I teach at a pre-school and in a junior school.  Then I have my grown-up children and 4 grandchildren, all of whom are, naturally, an important part of my life.  So, particularly when school is on, a fairly large part of my day revolves around children and I, mostly,  enjoy my time with them.
So on to D tomorrow.

26 May 2015

B is for Boondocks and Brouhaha

I know, I missed yesterday.  An unplanned visit by 10 year old grandson drove all thoughts of blogging, A to Z and such like, out of my mind.  So here goes for B.
There are some words that are so good to hear and fun to use.  Boondocks  and Brouhaha both fit in that category.  But I always wondered about Boondocks, as to whether it was a real place like Timbuktu.  But, sadly, so Wikipedia informs me, that is not so.  There is no interesting place called 'The Boondocks".  It apparently comes for the Tagalog language from Philippines, which means mountain and hence far away and rural.  That was a bit of a disappointment.
Brouhaha sounds such a polished way of denoting a hullabaloo, so proper sounding.  The online Thesaurus also gives 'hubbub', 'uproar' and 'katzenjammer'.  Uproar somehow just doesn't cut it--sounds more like denoting children's tantrums; but I must say 'katzenjammer' sounds good.
Well on to tomorrow and C,

24 May 2015

A is aardvarks, armadillos and anteaters

As you can guess, I am an animal lover and aardvark was the first word that came to mind for A!  When googling for information on the aardvark, what got thrown up first was an Aardvark pest control organization, a management consulting firm and then a social search service--which was bought up by Google!!
An aardvark.  It is related to the South American anteater, is a native of Africa and it's name means 'earth pig' in Afrikaans.

Googling for armadillo,  I found that there is an armadillo which has something to do with the computer language C++!  I also found that there are many, many species of armadillos.  I had only heard about the nine-banded armadillos and seen pictures of them, from reading Gerald Durrell's books.  The picture here is from Wikipedia and is of the smallest species called the Pink Fairy Armadillo.  Looks rather like a rabbit wearing armour.

Google didn't come up with anything other than the animal when searching for anteater anyway.  In 'Three Singles to Adventure' by Gerald Durrell, there is a hilarious account of his lassoing an anteater.  The giant anteater is the one that is most commonly thought of as anteater, with it's really long slender snout.  But there are three other species.  This is a picture of a Northern tamandua--rather like an elongated panda!

So that's three types of anteaters.  Tomorrow is B

23 May 2015

Blogging A to Z

After reading this on Jane Turley's blog, I've been wanting to try the challenge.  I haven't blogged regularly for the longest time and never done something like this.  But, after reading Jane's blog, my mind threw up all kinds of A to Z idea, though truth be told, it was only for the earlier letters.  Anyway, here goes--the idea is to post every day except Sunday.  I'm wondering whether to make that mid week and post all the other days.  So I'll start from tomorrow--Sunday as the first day of the week and break mid-week on Wednesday.

16 May 2015

End of a packed 13 weeks.

I wake to a silent house.  I make coffee and drink it sitting with Elsa, my Lab, with no interruptions.  Quietness, feeling like a grey tangible 'thing,' is everywhere.  There is no one trying to hog the computer, no quarreling over iPads; the lights and fans in every room are not on and no random toys in odd places.  I attack one room at a time, sorting, putting away, with no calls of "Ammachy" (grandmom).  But after a little while, I feel my stomach tightening and I cannot continue:
                                           'But I'm bluer than blue
                                           Sadder than sad
                                             Life without (all of)you is gonna be
                                             Bluer than blue'

All my 4 grandchildren were here and my son and wife from the US.  The Indian grandkids live fairly close by and so I will see them fairly often.  But the Americans we will not get to see--in the flesh--only after a year.  Ah well, as always, thank heavens for FaceTime and Skype.