After bee the bird…

I have been waiting in anticipation for this picture for nearly three months now, a Coppersmith (aka crimson breasted barbet) has made its nest right next to our main gate. However it is a very shy bird and would never come near the nest when any of us was around….

But my  patience paid off and I could get this series of pictures, It was mostly boring work with getting up early and endless series of blurred bird butts….  I guess I am a sucker for this, a couple of days ago I discovered a Tailor bird nest, this pic is really the only decent picture in the series so far but I am not giving up so easily.

In other stuff I have been toying about with the idea of expanding the scope of my website beyond being a photo gallery and was looking at WordPress, I might do some stuff with that code  but for now I have put away the idea… this journal will continue

In the heart of Tiger land

21st May – It was hot!!
We started about an hour late, around 2pm, in Mr Arjun Dhanwatey’s Sumo. Along with him were his wife and daughter, I immediately was relieved because Aasim had some company and would not get bored, though it was bit of a squeeze in the Sumo for 6 adults and 3 children. The 260 km took us about 7 hours due to stops for refreshments and a detour which cost us 30 mins. The first three hours were as if sitting in a furnace blast. Along the way we saw the occlusion of Venus by the moon, unfortunately we were running a bit late and could not stop to setup a tripod to capture it – I now seriously regret not having done so now. We reached our lodging “Tiger Land Resort” and were welcomed by the manager Mr Denzil Stephens, fondly called by everyone and I mean *Everyone* in Kanha as Uncle Stephens. A middle aged true English style gentleman who has hand reared tiger cubs and has the T Shirts, err… photographs to prove it. We settled into our rough but comfortable rooms, read no AC, no TV, but nice clean beds and clean toilets. We soon sat sipping a drink in the open, Uncle Stephens regaled us with stories of his Jungle adventures and gave us tips on what to do and see on the safari the next day… Some time during this we were visited by a full grown male Chital (Spotted Deer).

22nd May – It was dusty!!
We slept at 12 midnight and woke up at 4 am. At around 5 am we were all sitting in an open top Gypsy 4WD on our way to the core area of the park. Even before we could enter the core area we started seeing the wild life. Chital was the first and then the Gour bison. At the main gate we paid the entrance fee and a guide was assigned to us. The ride was inside very dusty as there was a horde of people who are going insane trying to spot wild life and there are animals all around… The most magnificent sight for me was the peacocks in their full plumage, after about 2 hours of clicking away to glory we were told that we had to go to the Kanha camp site from where we will get information on where the Tiger has been spotted.

Once at the camp, we had breakfast which was packed for us from the kitchen at the “Resort”, we waited for about 45 min, suddenly the air was a buzz that a Tiger had been spotted, we had already been allotted tokens for the Elephant ride. At first I did not understand what it implied, I gradually pieced together that Tigers are usually sitting some distance from the road in the shrubs and vehicles can’t go there but Elephants can! The Elephants are brought right next to the Gypsy and you climb on to them… the tokens are for the queue to get on to the Elephants. The key is lower the token number higher the chances of seeing the Tiger before it moves away. and co had a number 2 less than us and when they returned gleefully told us that there were two tigers a male and a female. managed to get a few decent pictures. In about 5 min we, viz: me , and Aasim, were being herded on to climb on the back of a 47 year old she Elephant named “Chanchal Kali”, as luck would have it the Tigers started to move… the mahout was determined to show us the “Tiger Show” as they call it. What followed was one of the most amazing 10 min of my life and probably I would not believe it from anyone else. The mahout started urging the Elephant up a hill with nearly 40 to 45 degree slope!!! Now I know from my facts that Elephants are NOT made for climbing, still this man managed to drive it at a near clipping pace at the same time clearing the path of the shrubs, bamboo and tree branches. Soon we were so high that looking back made me swallow hard… but this man was determined and did not stop for about 50 feet more. We did manage to catch a glimpse of the tiger fleeing… was awestruck at the Elephant’s performance. We were very disappointed at not being able to see the “king”. Our guide assured us that do not be disappointed there will be another chance and true indeed. In about 30 min there was another “spotting” of the same couple and we were again on the elephant and this time we did manage to see the pair resting beneath a bamboo clump. Also around the drying river bed were so many butterflies that kept exclaiming with sheer delight “There are so many of them!”

Around 11 am we returned to our rooms fully encrusted with dust and sweat, tired and hungry. We bathed, gobbled down our lunch and fell asleep, oh! this resort offers a menu of nice near home like cooking of Indian veg and non-veg dishes.

We were ready for the evening safari at 4:30 pm – without much ado I can say that the evening was a disaster. The guide had his own idea of what he wanted to show us and kept racing from one point to another say that there was a Tiger, all three of us (me and ) were bitterly disappointed. was in a different Gypsy and was more lucky – they spotted a female Tiger and some other animals as well. complained about this to Arjun and made it plain that the next day we want a different guide and that he should accompany us as well. We also made it clear that since we had already seen a Tiger we will not “run” after it but rather take time out to see the jungle, spot the birds, hear the calls and if time and opportunity permitted try and see the “Tiger Show”

23rd May – It was worth it!!
4:30 am, Arun got into the Gypsy with us, and woke up a bit late and were left to come with the other vehicle, however at the main gate they caught up and crossed over to our side as the other team intended to go Tiger spotting. We got a new guide and made it very clear to him what we wanted and he said he will show us exactly what we wanted, He told the driver to take the route through a place called saunf lands, apparently almost no one goes there… and indeed there were no vehicles on the route. The ride itself started out on a lucky note with spotting of the rare “Yellow wattled lapwing” and a pair of Jackals playing in the distance. As we went the route the guide showed us pug marks of a male tiger, a sloth bear, a jungle cat and a tiger cub with his mother, all these were coincidentally were spotted in real life by the other team which had . We came across a herd of a female Barashinga deer which is an endangered species, we spotted the most beautiful Scarlet Minivet, a Jungle owl, two magnificent White-back vultures, a Little Cormorant … A resplendent full grown Peacock almost posed for us, as did a lot of male and female Chital deers… and still more birds than I care to write about at the moment.

In about two hours we were ecstatically happy at being able to do what we really wanted and said to the guide that now let us do what he pleases – to which he said lets go to the Kanha camp and see whats the situation with the Tiger show, we were early there, got a token number of 5 (last time we had 20) and race off to Bison road where the female Tiger named “Indrani” was spotted. We went through the same routine of Elephant ride, spotted the Tiger clicked a few pictures and came back happy.

It was not yet 10 am, so the guide suggested lets go to the place of other sighting… Very satisfied and smug as we were, we agreed but were not really interested, we passed by the spot and came to know that the tiger was sitting right besides the road in some bushes and the Elephant rides were over. Arun told me to keep watching it as he felt it will soon get up and move. It did!! What followed was purely due to the contact and good PR that Arjun had with the mahouts and guides… Suddenly an Elephant appeared by the side of the vehicle and the mahout said “ Chalo, dono kalakar log Chalo!” the urgency in his tone made it clear that it was more of an order! Quickly me and climbed over, he directed us which way to face and took us down the river bed… about 20 feet in front of us the Tiger was slowly walking down away from us. As we excitedly started snapping, the mahout said “Sahab! abhi ruko” implying don’t waste your efforts yet. He then predicted every move of Tiger correctly and said that the Tiger will sit at place X, which he did, the elephant positioned itself optimally for us to get pictures like this one, which I have before this seen only on Nat Geo and Discovery channel. Meanwhile Arjun managed to get on another elephant so that she could also see what we were picturing.

We had a bit of bad luck when our Sumo broke down while on the way back, thankfully very near Kanha and we were delayed by 5 hours and reached back Nagpur at around 1:30 am.

Given an iota of a chance I would like to repeat the experience again, we have promised Uncle Stephens that we are coming back for more and he has promised that this time he will take us on walks through the Jungle. At just about $80 per person (clarification for ) for 3 nights 2 days all inclusive (yeah even transport from and to Nagpur) this is the biggest bang for your buck that you can ever get.

I am still tired but I am also fully de-stressed, there are several things that we have learned on a personal level but thats another story for some other day.

P.S. Some of the pictures have been borrowed from , thanks to him, those carry his credits.

Sometimes you just have to wait….

I have ISO’s of Fedora Core 2 on one of my machine but for a variety of reasons cannot install it as yet… sidcarter andbrainz will be arriving later in the day and tomorrow we leave for Kanha National Park, our guide told us that tigers are on the move and so we have great chances of spotting them – hopefully they will be close enough to get a few decent pictures, somehow pictures taken in “the wild” are more thrilling than those of the same animals in the zoo…

So all I can say is keep watching this space :)
sidcarter has got his D70 and 500mm lens this is indeed going to be fun

Ancestors, Elections and some Photography

Sometime this week we discovered that Swati’s father has a family tree drawing which goes back to 13 generations, spanning nearly 250 years, enthused by this she has decided to put the whole stuff on the web. This lead to some RnD and I discovered GEDCOM format. phpGedView is a great PHP application if you want to put your genealogy data on your website and Gramps is a great desktop application which allows you to create GEDCOM files, yeah it runs on Linux :) However I feel that publishing your data on sites like RootsWeb will enable wider reach.

Did the election results surprise me? Yes! Like most young urban Indian I was also taken in by the propaganda unleashed in the electronic media. Am I happy about it? I can’t really say… The only thing I REALLY hold against the governing by the BJP is the allowing of the Gujarat experiment. What needs to be seen is how Congress will deal with the religious fanatics who will want blood to wash their losses…

For the minorities it always has been between devil and deep sea, Nothing and nowhere in world is this going to change at least in my lifetime – It is just a matter of degrees.

We have also been doing a lot of garden wildlife photography, have managed to take decent photographs of Common Langurs, Garden Lizard, Red Wattled Lapwing but the picture which really surprised me was this I never imagined that Nikon CoolPix 5700 would be capable of such a capture, I was particularly thrilled with the wings being visible… Aasim has also taken some great pictures at a function which was held at Swati’s parents – hope to put those online soon as well

A prayer and a desire

Dil me sanam ki soorat
Aakhon me aashiqui de
Mere khuda mujhe tu
Ek aur zindagi de

Kaise karoon mohabbat
Do din ki zindagi me
Yeh din to beet jayenge
Yuhi hasi hasi me

Jee bharke pyaar karloon
Aisi mujhe khushi de
Mere khuda mujhe tu
Ek aur zindagi de

Sau saal tak sanam ki
Aakhon me doob jaoon
Sau saal aur ho to
Usko gale lagaoon

Sau saal phir milan ki
Duniya nayi nayi de
Mere khuda mujhe tu
Ek aur zindagi de

–Kaifi Aazmi

Ten years is a long time…. Ten years married to the same person seems longer!!! No, am wrong again. I still distinctly remember this day 10 years ago and each of the happenings as if it was yesterday, oh well almost…

That said I would like to share another secret, marriages don’t just last, you have to work hard for it and we are no exception. Being so strong willed and independent as we are, there are bound to be clashes, we knew that from the beginning though perhaps we did not realize that there will be moments so agonizing that we would wish that we can’t go on like this, but on the flip side 10 years ago we thought that the fire would be replaced by a warm glow of contentment – that has not happened either, the fire continues to burn just as passionately so much so that people say it is embarrassing for them at times 😀

But if someone were to ask, have we matured in 10 years of our marriage? I would reply with an emphatic Yes!! We are a very close knit team whose strength is not unquestioning faith BUT unfettered communication, not combination of skills BUT complimenting of skills, not just love BUT also trust.

Then there is parenthood adding a whole new dimension to the array and equation. Aasim is a reflection of what we are and in many ways a mirror for us, he is ours but still not – we are just taking care, nurturing him for his world.

Yet 10 years are too short a time and that is why like the poet, I plead to God to grant me another life(time) so that I may love my beloved as much as I want to…

It’s a jungle out there….

Tigers were recently sited sighted about 40kms for where we live… For those of you who did not know Nagpur is surrounded on all four side, within drivable distance, by National parks and sanctuaries, the best known among them is the Kanha National Park which is in fact the jungle in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book!!

Just to enumerate

North of Nagpur
Pench National Park
Indira Priya Darshani National Park
Kanha National Park
Bandhavgarh National Park

South of Nagpur
Tadoba National Park
Bhanragarh Wild Life Sanctuary

West of Nagpur
Melghat Tiger Sanctuary
Bor Sanctuary
Tipeshwar Wild Life Sanctuary

East of Nagpur
Nagzira Wild Life Sanctuary
Navegaon National Park

Its been a really long time that I visited any of these and there are some that I have never been to… A fact which we intend to rectify this summer

Bird and bug watching

On last Saturday Aasim got promoted to 1st standard, this means after summer holidays he will be in school from 9am to 3:30pm will have to carry a bag and will have exams… He is a BIG boy now!!!

Finally I found a good bookmark server Sitebar. Works great with Mozilla and is written in PHP, allows multiple users, groups and shared bookmarks. Also some time during the week version 3.0 of my earlier favorite text editor JOE was released I am almost tempted to go back but most remote servers only have Vi(m) these days…

The hilarious site for the week was , I found this particularly funny :)

Most of the week I took a lot of bird pictures in the garden… most of them turned out real lousy due to the fact that I had to use at least 1.6 digital zoom. I think if I have a 2x tele converter it will be great. Most of the pictures can be found here.

On Saturday someone raised a bogey of security vulnerabilities in Coppermine it turned out that the said things affect only the older forked versions for PHP nuke and then also depends on a PHP nuke vulnerability to assume Admin permissions… All credits to CPG for CMS team for a fast patch up

On my way to XUL nirvana I came up with a nifty utility – Coppermine sidebar for Mozilla. It displays categories and albums of a gallery as a tree, shows the last uploaded photo and has some small user preferences settings, so if you use mozilla and want to add my photogallery’s sidebar Click Here(Damn, LJ does not allow javascript: in href) will release the code as soon as I write some basic documentation for it