Monday, April 18, 2011

Idiots on roads - 4

Not one but two idiots. In the North Indian city of Gurgaon, shot in 2003. Standing behind an autorickshaw, on top of what seems to be a reinforced rear bumper, these two idiots would look resplendent and regal were they dressed in military uniform, standing on top of a jeep's rear fender. The gentleman on the left seems to have reasonably starched white pants, and black boots. Pity. So near yet so far.

By the way - can you spot the license plate on this vehicle?
© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kindle with Special Offers for $114

 A cheaper Kindle being offered.... At $114 the "Kindle with Special Offers" is $25 cheaper than the current cheapest Kindle. It is available for pre-order from, and will ship May 3.
Very interesting indeed. This cheaper Kindle will be supported by advertising - advertisements while you read and advertisements while the Kindle is in sleep mode. Per Amazon, "Kindle special offers and sponsored screensavers display on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen. Learn more about all three latest-generation Kindle family members--$114 Kindle with Special Offers, $139 Kindle, and $189 Kindle 3G--at Kindle with Special Offers is now available for pre-order to customers in the U.S. and will ship on May 3."

I for one didn't see this coming. I was going with the popular belief that Amazon would come out with an Android version of the Kindle, turning it into some form of an iPad competitor. Of course, such a belief was also fuelled by the desire to see the ultimate consumer-focused company, Amazon, pitched against the perfection-obsessed-can-do-no-wrong-risen-from-the-ashes company, Apple. But, if you think about it, it makes a whole lot of sense for Amazon to not muck up the Kindle by adding to its weight, diminishing its battery life, and making it yet another me-too iPad-envy-bitten competitor. The Kindle's battery life is "legendary", its light weight is a huge USP, and its e-ink screen actually makes reading books possible. The Kindle operates in a space where it is seen as the best in the market - ebook reader. The Kindle and iPad are very different devices, and to try and conflate the two is more in the realm of dreamy what-if thinking than realistic analysis.

But, make no mistake, there well could be some sort of Kindle-pad type of device that Amazon builds. It just won't be a Kindle replacement, for the Kindle as we know it. The Kindle ebook reader has been wildly successful, raking in billions of dollars in revenue for Amazon. Plus, Amazon has built a brand in the Kindle. A brand that is almost as recognizable as the iPhone or iPad. And even more importantly, the Kindle brand denotes quality and an aura that brands much more expensive aspire to. Amazon would be silly to dilute this brand. Doing a brand extension via a KindlePad would be risky, but far less risky than trying to turn the Kindle ebook reader itself into a tablet.
  • John Battelle does not believe this is going to work out. "Oh Lord. I have to tell you, I don’t see this working out. That’s a total gut feeling, but …well we’ll see."


© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Master Switch

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Borzoi Books)

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Borzoi Books) (Kindle Edition

All About Control -To Understand Net Neutrality Read This Book. Clarifies Crisply Why We Need To Know The Past To Protect Our Future

Our notion of information empires acknowledges only recent mediums like the internet, but this book details how each new medium of information has started out with a free spirit, only to be 'corporatized' and monopolized. The internet thus far has proven far more resilient than previous information innovations like telephony, radio, television, even movies. But there are signs, according to the author, that the avatar of Apple in its resurrected version is not only antithetical to its origins but also may prove to be the biggest and most serious challenge to the openness of the Internet. Well researched, well organized, highly recommended.
A minor quibble - the book cover is indescribably ugly. I should not judge a book by its cover, but nonetheless, "clothes do maketh the man,"

We may think the internet is unlike anything that was invented earlier. And it may well be. But what we think of the potential of the internet today is not new. A hundred years ago, 'Thanks to radio, predicted Nikola Tesla, one of the fathers of commercial electricity, in 1904, 'the entire earth will be converted into a huge brain, as it were, capable of response in every one of its parts.'" - is that is a description of the internet and its capacity for distributed computing or what?

The book details the invention, the development, the maturation, and the consolidation of such technologies as the telephone, radio, television, and the movie industry. Each story is also the story of certain individuals that pioneered these technologies, of businessmen who came to control it, of people who sought to bend and craft the direction of the evolution of these technologies to clearly monopolistic channels.

Net neutrality has been around as a concept for a long time. It went as "common carriage" a hundred years ago, prominently enough during the 1876 US presidential elections.
'... Western Union carried Associated Press reports exclusively. Working closely with the Republican Party and avowedly Republican papers like The New York Times (the ideal of an unbiased press would not be established for some time, and minting of the Times' liberal bona fides would take longer still), they did what they could to throw the election to Hayes.'
Though the telephone had been invented, the early telephone system did not work quite well. At one point, 'Hubbard, acting as Bell's president, offered Western Union all of Bell's patents for $100,000. Willian Orton, president of Western Union, refused, in one of history's less prudent exercises of business judgment.' However, this did not prevent Western Union from realizing the importance of telephony, and through its subsidiary, the American Speaking Telephone Company, deploying 56,000 telephone lines by the end of 1878, 'rendering Bell a bit player.' Under attack from Jay Gould, 'King of the Robber Barons', 'Western Union agreed to abandon telephony forever, in exchange for 20 percent of rental income on the Edison telephone, and a promise from Bell never to enter the telegraph market of offer competition to the Associated Press.' Chapter 1 ends with the Theodore Vail being put in charge of a new subsidiary, that Vail himself named 'American Telephone and Telegraph Company'. Thus were laid the seeds of the Ma Bell monopoly that would last for close to a century.

Though private and independent operators had started offering local telephone services, Bell was well on top of its game, and 'would dramatically undercut the rates of local independent telephone companies in any contested area, a tactic known as predatory pricing. Sabotage of equipment was not unheard of...' This however had only limited effect.
So what really tipped the scales in Bell's favor?
What transpired next is something not many people today know of, and much's the pity.
J.P. Morgan (and a group of financiers) wanted to gain control of the Bell company and build 'the greatest wire monopoly the world had ever seen.' What happened next would warm the cockles of any true monopolist.
'In 1907, after gaining Vail's assent, Morgan set his plan in motion. In a lightning-fast series of financial maneuvers, he took control of Bell, forcing out the Boston owners. Vail's title would be president of American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T), now the holding company for the entire Bell system.'
Two years later
In 1909, at Morgan's direction and using his money, Vail seized a controlling interest in Western Union
... in 1913, acceding to a consent decree named the "Kingsbury Commitment" after Bell's vice president. ... Bell made one big concession: it agreed to sell Western Union.'
The Information: A History, a Theory, a FloodOver the next several decades, while AT&T would indeed provide reliable and guaranteed telephone service to millions of Americans, it did come at a price - stifled innovation and high prices.
In early 1934, Clarence Hickman, a Bell Labs engineer ... had invented a device what would be called an answering machine.
The genius at the heart of Hickman's ... machine was the technical principle that made it work and that would, eventually, transform the world: magnetic recording tape.
... soon after Hickman had demonstrated his invention, AT&T ordered the Labs to cease all research into magnetic storage, and Hickman's research was suppressed and concealed for more than sixty years, coming to light only when the historian Mark Clark came across Hickman's laboratory notebook in the Bell archives. 
Eventually magnetic tape would come to American via imports of foreign technology, mainly German.
 And that's not all.
AT&T, out of such fears, would for years suppress or fail to market: fiber optics, mobile telephones, digital subscriber lines (DSL), facsimile machines, speakerphones - the list goes on and on.
The story goes on - covering the advent of radio and AM. Then came FM, and it was suppressed for years and years. Television is the same story, only more depressing, since the powers that be - in this case David Sarnoff - would go to great lengths to control when and how television would be introduced to the American public, lest it hamper the commercial viability of radio.

Kindle Excerpt:


© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Churchill's Secret War

Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II 

Eye-opening, gut-wrenching account of the horrors of famine, of genocide and war-crimes perpetrated on an occupied land.
(Amazon IN, Kindle IN, Amazon, Kindle, Flipkart)
Between 3 and 5 million people died of starvation and famine in Bengal in India in 1943. The drought was a result of nature. The resulting famine and the millions of deaths can be attributed to the policies of the colonial power ruling India - the British, and one person is most culpable in this crime against humanity - Winston Churchill. This scandal is what the author details immaculately, punctuated by impeccable research. Human, economic, political, imperial, racist, and social angles are all brought out in vivid detail. The case against Winston Churchill turns out to be damningly severe, even to the author - "I had no idea the book would end up targeting Churchill to this extent", but the evidence is as strong as could be.

The book is part history.
It tells of the riches in India and Bengal before the advent of the East India Company and then English rule. This is covered in the Prologue. The bulk of the book then deals with the famine of 1943. Since that was a tumultuous period - in India on account of the independence struggle with Mahatma Gandhi at the forefront, and in the world on account of World War II, we are provided pertinent accounts of key events that had a relevant bearing on the famine. Of Mahatma Gandhi's satyagraha, of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, of local uprisings in Midnapore and the now mostly forgotten revolutionaries like Sushil Dhara, Ajoy Mukhopadhyaya, and others, of the Japanese conquest of Singapore, Burma, and their landing at the doorstep of India'a eastern borders, of the Denial Policy (really a scorched earth policy). If resources like grains and rice had to be shipped out of India to feed the English armies fighting the war, if grains from India had to be used to ensure that the Englishman's morale in England did not flag for want of good bread, if soldiers from the Indian army were used to win key Allied battles in the mid-east - these events are recounted with studious attention to references and footnotes.
Starting in May (1942) Amery oversaw the effort to ship from India around 40,000 tons of grain every month, a tenth of its railway engines and carriages, and even railway tracks uprooted from less important train lines. The colony's entire commercial production of timber, woolen textiles and leather goods, and three-quarters of its steel and cement production, would be required for the war. ... Apart from the United Kingdom itself, India would become the largest contributor to the empire's war - providing goods and services worth more than 2 billion pounds. [page 5]

Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War IIThe book is also part character essay.
While there are a multitude of characters who play small and big roles in this tragedy, there are three key players that stand out - Winston Churchill, prime minister of Britain during World War II, Leopold Amery, secretary of state for India, and a physicist Frederick Alexander Lindemann, who was responsible for the government's scientific decisions and who also headed a Statistics Division, or S branch. Through the author's narrative, and through the written and spoken words and actions of these characters we get to learn what drove these people to act the way they did. Whether it was partly on account of loyalty (in the case of Lindemann), wholly on account of cussedness (Winston Churchill), or the desperate efforts of Amery to alleviate a looming tragedy, there is a substantial amount of material available to the reader to form a well-informed picture of these characters.
Naturally I [Amery] lost patience and couldn't help telling him that I didn't see much difference between his outlook and Hitler's which annoyed him no little. I am by no means sure whether on the subject of India he is really quite sane. ... Amery may also have been irked by the reference to moneylenders - a hint that Churchill saw upper-class Indians, in particular Bengali babus, through the same lens as anti-Semites might perceive Jews. [pages 236, 237]

The book is part cautionary tale.
The Shadow of the Great Game : The Untold Story of Indias PartitionIf you are an Indian, this book is a must-read because it provides a tragic and brutal reminder of the unmitigated horror that was India's fate under colonial rule. It opens a chapter of history that has rarely been taught in Indian schools - the real causes of the famine have been painted over with a strong communist brush. For others it is a reminder of what happens when a lack of accountability joins hands with callous disregard for people. Complicating matters was World War II, with the need to feed the vast armies fighting the Axis powers, for which grain and resources were sucked out from India - even as millions starved to death in Bengal. As if this wasn't enough, further complicating things was Winston Churchill, a die-hard Imperialist and dyed-in-the-wool racist who spiced this with a visceral hatred of India and Indians.
In 1949, a session of the Geneva Convention extended the guidelines for civilized warfare and included a prohibition against starving civilians in occupied territories.
If such provisions protecting civilians had been in place before the war, the Denial Policy and the failure of His Majesty's Government to relieve the famine could conceivably have been prosecuted as war crimes. [pages 274-75]
 What this book reveals is that actions can sometimes produce the elaborate and self-serving construction of post-fact justifications. Especially so if the actions require justifications.
In the end, it is not so much racism as the imbalance of power inherent in the Darwinian pyramid that explains why famine could be tolerated in India while bread rationing was regarded as an intolerable restriction in wartime Britain. ... The central evil of imperialism is the inability of subject peoples to hold their rulers accountable - and all the rest, even the racism, may flow from that essential powerlessness. ... She (Hannah Arendt) argued that racism was a direct consequence of imperialism, which 'would have necessitated the invention of racism as the only possible "explanation" and excuse for its deeds...' [pages 276-77]

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in KenyaThe Battle of Plassey (see on Google Maps) was the decisive battle that marked the establishment of British rule in India. Robert Clive, the Englishman in charge of the English soldiers in the battle chose deceit and bribery to win the war and the approbation "Mir Jafar" entered the Indian lexicon, to refer to a traitor who betrays his land to a foreigner. The battle also marked the beginning of the transfer of wealth from India to England. The denudation of the colony's wealth continued non-stop for almost two hundred years, till there was nothing more left to be looted from India.

Clive built his victory on the sturdy and repeatedly proven foundation of bribery. And bribe he did Siraj-ud-daula's general Mir Jafar, who became the new nawab.
As arranged, Mir Jafar paid the East India Company 2.2 million pounds and its officers and troops 1.2 million pounds, of which Clive took a lion's share. Two hundred barges carrying the first installment of the Company's booty set off from the capital city of Murshidabad on July 3 1757, accompanied down the Ganga (or Ganges) river by the trumpeting of a British military band. [page xvi]
Tales of India's wealth are scarcely exaggerations. Till the middle of the eighteenth century, India had been the richest country since the beginning of recorded history.
In late 1665 ... Francois Bernier arrived in Bengal to find a vast, populous delta, its myriad channels lined with vibrant towns and cities interspersed with fields of rice, sugar, corn, vegetables, mustard and sesame. He declared it 'the finest and most fruitful country in the world'. Foreign merchants worked the wholesale markets, offering to buy produce in exchange for silver. They could not trade goods with the native businessman, because Bengal was in need of virtually nothing. ... Bengali merchants ... ate from gold plates and wore intricately wrought brocade clothing, and gem-studded gold jewelry. [pages xiv, xv]

Such riches and prosperity of Indians and of the Bengalis was bound to attract envy. After the plunder of Bengal had continued for decades, the land denuded of resources, and its citizenry beggared, a necessary re-writing of history began, along with the obligatory disparaging and belittling of Indians.
... influential scholars such as James Mill argued that poverty rather than wealth was India's intrinsic and unvarying condition. Hindu legal codes contained guidelines for helping ordinary people through 'seasons of calamity,' and Mill pointed to the existence of such regulations as evidence that 'a state of poverty and wretchedness, as far as the great body of the people are concerned, must have prevailed in India' in the past, just as in the present. [pages  xxiv, xxv]

... Mills and others believed Hindus to be endowed with distinct characteristics, at the core of which lay effeminacy and its corollary, dishonesty. ... Over time, educated Indians came to internalize such distinctions between Hindus and Muslims - although the illiterate continued to worship at one another's shrines. [page xxv]

English men and women, many of them based in Calcutta, penned furious attacks on the babu (often spelling it baboo to suggest a link with the primate). Mill had declared that 'the Hindu, like the eunuch, excels in the qualities of a slave,' and the popular historian Thomas Babington Macualay had dwelt on the emasculation of Bengalis, who'd 'found the little finger of the Company thicker than the loins' of the prince Sirasj-ud-daula. [page xxviii]

... American writer Katherine Mayo in Mother India, a 1927 travelogue that described Hindu males as pedophiles enervated by excessive sex. ... This book, the outcome of a tour organized by British intelligence, would so captivate Winston Churchill that he would pass it around among friends. [page xxx]

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little GoodBut surely, one could argue, that the advent of the Industrial Revolution would have rendered Indian manufacturing uncompetitive, un-viable, and uneconomical anyway. After all, the Industrial Revolution was a European, and British artifact, a critical pillar on which their world domination would come to rest. The looting of India, while unfortunate, cannot alone explain why India became so impoverished and why England became so prosperous. Well, it turns out the facts suggest otherwise. England's Industrial Revolution was financed by the loot from India, and the imperial power worked assiduously to exclude Indian industry from competing with England's manufacturing. And oh yes, much of the advancements in political freedoms in England were also financed by the plunder of India.
General Robert Clive's victory in 1757 had drastically altered India's economic relationship with the United Kingdom. 'Very soon after Plassey, the Bengal plunder began to arrive in London, and the effect appears to have been instantaneous; for all authorities agree that the "industrial revolution:, the event which has divided the nineteenth century from all antecedent time, began with the year 1760,' wrote nineteenth-century American historian Brooks Adams. The tribute from India, which amounted to almost a third of Britain's national savings for the last three decades of the eighteenth century, financed trading, networks, serving as lubricant for the new economic engine. It also enabled suddenly wealth merchants to wrest power from the monarchy and stabilize the British parliamentary system ...Ironically, the lack of liberty in the colonies subsidized the increasing political freedom in the United Kingdom.

Its head start in industrialization meant that 'for nearly fifty years Great Britain stood without a competitor,' Adams continued. [pages 48, 49]

... while its own economy industrialized, the United Kingdom had sheltered it from Indian imports, especially textiles. The new spinning machines were initially banned in the colony, and by around 1800 Indian cotton and silk products were either banned in Britain or subject to import duties of 30 to 80 percent. '[H]ad not such prohibitory duties and decrees existed, the mills of Paisley and Manchester would have been stopped in their outset, and could scarcely have been again set in motion, even by the power of steam,' remarked historian Horace Hayman Wilson. [page 49]

... historian Dietmar Rothermund ... found that each mile of railway track cost Indian taxpayers 10,000 rupees for annual debt service, at a time when their average income varied from 20 to 30 rupees a year. [page 51]

Whereas the colony and the colonizer probably had the same level of prosperity in the mid-eighteenth century (with Bengal having been richer than this average), by the end of the Victorian era the per capita income in the United Kingdom was twenty times than in India. [page 52]

A striking feature of the book is the ability to bring to life, so to say, what the famine meant to millions of Indians. Since this book is about the Bengal famine of 1943, the success in making visceral the horrors of the famine is what elevates this book above an academic polemic.
What was it like to have no real food in the house, day after day for more than a year? ... One stage of starvation appears to be a kind of physical torment - not nausea, not pain, but a violent craving. The things that famine victims have been known to ingest demonstrate that the suffering of acute hunger easily beats the misery of nausea. A schoolteacher in Mohisadal (Wikipedia entry) reported seeing children picking and eating undigested grains out of a beggar's diarrheal discharge. ... Almost everywhere in the world, famished people have resorted to eating human flesh. Amazingly, not a single case of cannibalism was reported during the Bengal famine of 1943, although tens of millions of villagers suffered from acute hunger. The religious lawmaker Manu, writing about it in the second century A.D, had forbidden Hindus to eat human flesh even for self-preservation - but neither did Muslims resort to it, although they were poorer than Hindus and perished in greater numbers. Chances are that Manu's text and other scriptures merely codified a prehistoric taboo that still persists in rural Bengal. [page 167-8]

Nor did the vast majority of people eat dogs, cats, or other creatures forbidden by custom, but that was probably because the starving were too debilitated to catch any prey. ... Instead, it was humans who became prey. By a roadside near Dacca (see on Google Maps), a nun found a groaning woman, her ravaged eye-sockets full of maggots: they had consumed her eyes while she had lain there, too weak to move away. 'It was not an uncommon sight in Contai (see on Google Maps) to see dogs and vultures waiting beside dying children for their share of human flesh,' commented another observer. [page 169]

Despite the horrific ways in which they met their ends, those Bengalis who perished of hunger in the villages did so in obscurity, all but unnoticed by the national and international press. [page 169]

But an Indian who had tried to steal a head of lettuce, apparently fro the vegetable patch of a European residence, was wounded by a bullet, which led to a sergeant major to opine, 'Pity it didn't kill the bastard. One out of 400 million wouldn't be missed, Shoot the bloody lot of them.' [page 170]

Once again the prime minister (Churchill) crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary, consuming meals such as this one described by his personal secretary: 'Oysters, consomme, turbot, roast turkey, ice with canteloupe melon, Stilton cheese and a great variety of fruit, petit fours, etc.; the whole washed down by champagne (Mumm 1929) and a very remarkable Liebfraumilch [sweet German white wine], followed by some 1870 brandy.' [page 239]
That millions were starving and dying was unfortunate in itself. There really was no reason to make a fuss about it, nor let news of this natural calamity let out to the wide world. After all, that would not bring the dead back to life, would it?
Starting in the summer of 1943, The Statesman began to publish editorials excoriating the government for the spreading famine. ... Until Stephens (chief editor of The Statesman) publicized it, the calamity in Bengal had been unknown to most of India and utterly unheard about it in the rest of the world. In a bid to keep the news from leaking out, the Government of India had allegedly destroyed all but one of five thousand printed copies of Hungry Bengal, a collection of sketches and reportage on the Midnapore (see on Google Maps) famine - but it could not suppress The Statesman. In New Delhi, storefronts displayed the pictures of famine victims, and in Washington the State Department circulated them among policymakers. [page 176]
What had happened had happened. There was really no need to get hysterical about the deaths of millions. Especially if the ones writing the history had been culpable for the genocide.
In 1947, Winston Churchill hired a team of researchers and ghostwriters to formulate the definitive history of World War II. As historian David Reynolds has detailed, the treatise was in actuality a memoir of epic proportions, one in which fact often fell victim to selective memory. When Churchill read out loud parts of the history he was writing, Lord Moran, who remembered the events differently, would wonder, 'Could it be that he had come to believe what he wanted to believe?' The Bengal famine received but fleeting mention, in a document that happened to make it into an appendix. Despite their distortions, the six massive volumes became the primary reference for a generation of historians - which may explain why the famine is almost totally absent from the tens of thousands of tomes since written about the war. [page 268]
So, was the famine of 1943 the only one? No. Famines had been a staple of colonial rule in India. While famines had occurred, periodically, in India over the millennia, they became more severe and more frequent under colonial rule.
By 1769, Bengal had no gold, silver, or other valuables left. ... Then the rains failed. ... Recognizing that the cost of rice would go up, the British officers and their Indian agents, who enjoyed a monopoly on trading rice, bought up all that they could, often forcing peasants to part with the grain they had kept for planting. The British East India Company dispatched a shipload of grain for its forces in Madras, stocked up 5,000 tons for local troops, and fearing that revenues would fall short, urged 'rigour' in tax collection.
'All through the stifling summer of 1770 the people went on dying,' Hunter recounted. 'The husbandmen sold their cattle; they sold their implements of agriculture; they devoured their seed-grain; they sold their sons and daughters, till at length no buyer of children could be found; they ate the leaves of trees and the grass of the field'... A third of the people of Bengal, numbering about 10 million, perished. [page xix]
I will try and post more excerpts from the book, time permitting. What I have reproduced here should make it clear that this is one of the most important books to talk about this forgotten episode in world history to have come out, and certainly one of the best books I have read this year.

Kindle Excerpt

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

7 Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art

Calendar art is often a window to a culture's soul. 

Note: since I first wrote this and other reviews of Devdutt Pattanaik's books, I have gained a better understanding of Hindu texts and scriptures. I believe Devdutt Pattanaik's writings are influenced heavily by western frameworks and agendas on the one hand, and introduce subtle and sometimes outright distortions in the interpretation of these texts. A small sample of the kinds of outright errors and distortions that would shame any scholar of Hinduism can be found in this blog post.
I therefore do not recommend any of Devdutt Pattanaik's books that I have reviewed on my blog. - Abhinav, Nov 3, 2017.

Every other page contains an illustration or a reproduction of Hindu art, while the facing page contains the narrative and explanation. Thus you have hundreds of reproductions and a ready reckoner of what that art means.

Selections from the book:
Empathy is sorely lacking in modern times. Everything is judged. Everything is measured. All thoughts are expected to be legitimized through fact and evidence and mathematics and science. But many things in life cannot be explained with logic, least of all life, death, and God. What happens after death. Who knows? Different cultures have different answers. Each is a subjective truth. Each is, therefore, a myth, a story, a belief. [page 7]

All plants grow and change over time but some more than others. At one extreme is the banyan tree. It has a long life, and, while it provides shade, it does not feed human beings. At the other extreme are grass and grain - they have very short lives and they provide no shade, but they provide food. The former represents the unchanging truth ... the latter represents the changing truth. In Hindu rituals related to childbirth and marriage, one finds a lot of importance being given to grain and grass and to the banyan tree. [page 69]

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Nagarhole National Park

The Nagarhole National Park, also known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, in memory of the late Prime Minister of India, is one of four contiguous national parks (posts on national parks) in south India. These four parks are Nagarhole, Bandipur, Mudumalai, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Per Wikipedia, the park forms an area of over 2000 sq kms.It is a part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (posts)

Nagarhole and adjacent National Parks on Google Maps.

View Larger Map

Kabini is perhaps an ideal place to stay at if you want to visit this national park. There are several mid to high-end resorts in Kabini, including Jungle Lodges, Cicada, Orange County, The Serai, and more. The National Park takes about 4 hours to get to from Bangalore, and is a relaxing, calm, soothing, refreshing weekend getaway.

The tattered condition of the board does no justice to either the national park or the memory of Rajiv Gandhi. Our national parks deserve better.

Inside the national park, along a "kuccha" (dirt) road.

Deer and sambhar can be found in abundance. Predators are more difficult to spot.

A wizened "crocodile-skin" bark of a tree.

A machaan for wildlife observers to park themselves at and observe wildlife.

There is an elephant, a wild elephant in this photo below. If you look closely you can spot it. This is not a forest department elephant, but the real deal - a true forest tusker (or maybe not a tusker, since it is difficult to tell from afar). The elephant had come for a drink on the other side of the pond while we were in a Jungle Lodges vehicle on the other side, prohibited from getting down from the vehicle - park rules.

This Swaraj truck is from another resort neaby. Probably Orange County or Cicada. Not sure.

Here is a closeup of an elephant succumbing to the itch to scratch.

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.