Of rainy cities and public health

This is an expanded version of an article published in Sunday Spotlight submission to Deccan Herald dated September 17, 2017

Recognition is famously a passage from ignorance to knowledge

The above line is from Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement, his recent meditation on how literature has engaged with climate change and its effects. Ghosh laments the absence of substantive engagement by contemporary arts and literature on climate change. Continue reading

Goodbye Jadeswamy

“Sir, pls confirm if yellow-throated bulbul is seen near forest IB”

This was his last message to me a few days back. Jadeswamy was checking with me if the bird he saw was indeed the bird Profile Jadeswamy e1492661564160 considered globally threatened and seen only in stony parts of several south Indian hills. He was watching it near his house in BR Hills. Continue reading

Painting with a broad brush: Stereotyping “tribal” identity

Yet another “tribal” story in a national newspaper. Based on my reading, the story is based on the seizure of a consignment of ghee packets at a forest checkpost by the department. Clearly this indicates that some of the ghee packets under a government scheme are finding ways into private markets for sale. Several reports abound about such “hand-outs” entering private markets. Often, these instances are cited as reasons for not giving subsidies or hand-outs.  Continue reading

What is it like to be a bird?

Bird-sense-cover.jpg

Cover of Tim Birkhead’s book Bird Sense

Can we ever know what it is like to be a bird? As poetic as the question may appear to be, it’s fascinating how the question has captured the attention of a bunch of  scientists, artists and other professionals ranging from neurosurgeons, ecologists, physiologists to bird illustrators and medieval travellers. The fascination with bird flight is possibly as old as language itself. Birds are among the early cave paintings, be it in the subterranean caves discovered by teenage boys at Lascaux, or the paintings of Genyornis in cave paintings in Northern Australia that could be 40,000 years old, dating to the time when man set foot on that continent. In Bird Sense, Tim Birkhead who has written fascinating stuff on history of science, birds and birdwatching and has edited the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology, makes a narrative synthesis of the historical and contemporary knowledge on what it is like to be a bird. An extremely intriguing question throwing up questions such as “Is this know-able?”. Such philosophical meanderings have clearly not deterred several scientists from designing simple and elegent experiments to try and understand this. Continue reading

Of absurd letters and misplaced priorities

It is not too rare to see very bizarre letters. In fact, there have been letters unearthed from over 2000 years ago from the dawn of writing itself often written by people who wanted to complain about services or to authorities. More recent funny letter compilations abound on the Internet, many of them quite lame leave letters supposedly written by staff of  IT companies around Bangalore. But, this letter I chanced upon at one of Karnataka’s tiger reserves (BR Hills) definitely takes the cake on absurdity and ad-hocism, let alone other  more serious issues with the letter like making a mockery of people’s rights for starters. Continue reading