Friday, October 28, 2011

My Illusionist from Florence

This is a sight from a pavement in Florence. I don't know what this form of art is called.All I saw was the artist filling in dyes into his sketch and it was magic unfolding before my eyes. I was amazed at the precision and his pace. He never stopped and never corrected himself, in fact he made no mistakes. He seemed too busy to explain his procedure. Besides, that was not why he was doing it.But, his dexterity was mesmerizing and drew a large crowd. People paid him generously and I could see that he deserved it. He was earning rather than begging for a living. He was what I would call an artist of the street. To him each day was a painting- an imagery he painted, etching memories in minds of his audience.

Thankfully, this city respected art and no wonder it does, it is obviously the city of Renaissance. I saw a very appreciative crowd cheering , supporting and waiting for the artist to unfold the picture. And truly it was a feast to the senses to stand there and watch him paint.There are few days your senses need a royal treatment and to me this was one such day that my senses were gratified.

I asked him what he did once he was done with the picture. He smiled and showed me a brush nearby which I assumed meant he swept the road and cleared the painting. I felt gloomy hearing this because for me all that effort to just sweep it up later seemed so futile.But, then again maybe for him its not an art anymore and just a means of sustenance or perhaps both that he does not bother sweeping it up.Maybe he loves the challenge of doing this daily as a performance, entertaining his audience.But somewhere within I felt a lot of respect for this man who did not beg ( I met a lot of beggars in Florence unlike any other cities in Italy I had been to)

After a point of time I even doubted if he was an illusionist and what if he was mesmerising us with a performance? But then I look at my pics and say nah........ he actually did draw these :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On stamps- that stamped my life

I remember starting off with a stamp collection in 5th grade. Something in me moved, seeing all those pictures and colours and history captured in a small frame and I guess my love for history too began with my stamp collection. I must admit my father was my staunch supporter, and supplied me with stamps from different Arab countries ( thankfully we got letters posted those days with no internet around). But its my mom and her friends at work from different parts of the world who build up my humble collection. Back then getting stamps from letters sent from India was a lovely experience. Those were also times as chidlren we were all asked to take up a hobby. Many stuck to stamp albums and soon we began trading for stamps. Since we all got the stamps of same kinds mostly ( from Arab countires, Indian subcontinent or Africa) these collections ended very soon. My sister and brother were enthusiastic to support me initially but as we grew they got their own hobbies and I was left back with my albums.

I have spend endless hours looking at them, learning from them, categorizing them. The very process of wetting theenvelopes to extracting the stamps ensuring I dont tear the edges to drying and putting them up in albums has been such an aesthetic experience to me. Till date if I find a stamp on a lost cover on a desk , I cant resist begging to the owner to give me the stamp. And to me this is no unscholarly activity. If I remember few countries todays its thanks to my stamps :)

At this point in time being a research scholar I often feel kiddish begging for stamps but I request any friend going abroad to post me a post card with a stamp so that I can extract the stamps from them.

I got acquainted to the art of philately very late in life and it amazed me then and still does that there are individuals who study stamps even without collecting one even once in life. And they are equipped with stamp tongs and magnifying glass to study the rarity of stamps and the processes associated with their making and collecting. I am still a novice in this area and am happy collecting and enjoying them.

My Life with stamps took a swirl 2 years back when my friend from Germany gave me his collection of stamps. We never spoke of our interest for stamps all the while Thomas was at my institute and then during my stay in Padova we spoke about this passion. Maybe he was done with collecting or was overjoyed with my interest and he told me he would share his collection. But I would prefer the term ' inheriting the collection' to 'sharing'. Because one fine afternoon , there arrived a heavy DHL parcel at my instittue office in Chennai and to the surprise of all who urged me to open this covetous parcel from Germany, there came out nearly 12 large stamp albums with stamps more than the albums could hold.

The photos of stamps in this post are some of those precious ones from Thomas's collection. And this post is dedicated to you Thomas. Two years down the line I have still not sorted the stamps satisfactorily. I guess Thomas got tired or busy at some point of time collecting because I got so many envelopes with stamps on which I finished extracting recently. And it has been a pleasure adopting them into my small family of 4 albums. Dear Thomas you made my life with your collection.

And I wonder how an individual could trust me with his entire collection and make me feel so proud. This is perhaps the best gift of my life and they will always be close to my heart. Thanks Thomas for these.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Help for a patient suffering from Cancer

This is the first time I am using this blog to pledge for a cause. Please go through the message below and contribute in anyway you can. Every penny counts please support this patient in every way you can.

A Request For Financial Assistance To Support Chemotherapy
For A Young Man
At Regional Cancer Centre Trivandrum India

Name of the patient: Milton
Age: 30
Category: BPL POOR
C R No: 094110 Date of admission 2\5\2009
Address: Milton , Kalathi Veethil, Kattiparampu, Kannamali, Kochi Ekm District
Doctor: Dr Sreejith Nair Oncologist RCC
Family : A Young Wife With 2 children Stephyia 5 ,Sanjana 4, invalid father [fisherman] and mother.
Milton bread winner of the family; carpenter – repairing wooden fishing boats.
Latin Catholic from Fort Kochi .
Treatment: 2/5/2009 to July 2010, active chemotherapy supported by CAREPLUS Rs.75000/-.
Sponsorship of the education of children Rs.6000/- annually was by Mr.Jison John, ACIS, Technopark, Trivandrum .

Hard times in the family CAREPLUS found a kind hearted sponsor Mr.M.G.Oommen who contributes Rs.5000/- every month to run the home and pay the rent.
Remission – 1 year up to June 2011 – recouped but unable to walk.
Milton came back to R.C.C with a relapse July 2011.
Treatment: Aggressive treatment with high dose chemo was suggested. The family started losing hope because it would cost around 2 lakhs. Dr.Sreejith discussed his condition with CAREPLUS and encouraged us to raise funds for the treatment. Being young the patient had better chance of withstanding the treatment. The next step the doctor suggested is a Bone Marrow Transplant. The whooping expense is Rs.2 Lakhs for Aggressive Chemo and Rs.10 Lakhs for Bone Marrow Transplant. Donation received is Rs.85000/- for aggressive chemo and the patient is admitted at M.O.ward R.C.C from 11-Sept-2011 and is undergoing treatment. Immediate need is to raise Rs.1 lakh to complete this stage for treatment followed by the Bone Marrow Transplant.

A Plea – Well-wishers and donors can contribute liberally to support the treatment. Money transfer can be made to CAREPLUS A/c No. 67011561820 at State Bank of Travancore, Medical College branch, Trivandrum , India . Money transfer should be done only from nationalised banks in India . Please send the complete address of each donor to our email id so that we can issue the receipt and thank you letter.

A word about CAREPLUS :
CAREPLUS is an NGO extending a helping hand to the poor cancer patients identified by the doctors, who come for treatment at Regional Cancer Center(R.C.C.) . And fully supports the palliative care patients who reach the hospital and conducts medical homecare service for the palliative patients in Trivandrum district. Two medical teams conduct this service in two different areas in Trivandrum district, extending medical care to bed ridden patients entrusted by R.C.C.. CAREPLUS has been rendering services to RCC for the past 8 years. It is an organisation that runs fully on donations received from individuals and institutions.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Animals are beautiful people

Animals are beautiful people and beautiful are the people who take care of them

Given a choice between helping old age people, entertaining children or being with animals, I think I would go with the last. There were lots of other options in the CTW 2011 (Community Team Work), organized by my company, but I had made my choice last year itself, that next time it will definitely be something to do with animals. And Wola! I got a seat to go to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) this year.

The WRRC, a Sister concern of CUPA (Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) in collaboration with the State Wildlife Department of Karnataka has constructed the Bannerghatta Rehabilitation Centre (BRC) for the rescue of small wild mammals, birds and reptiles from the Bangalore city. Located at the northernmost tip of the famous Bannerghatta National Park, the seven acre facility houses and treats displaced injured and orphaned urban wildlife. The BRC has modest but adequate housing for veterinarians and other staff, a small clinic and surgery room, post-operative care enclosures, and outdoor accommodation for birds, primates and reptiles.

Despite it being a week day, we didn’t face the dreaded Bangalore traffic and reached the center at around 9am. Our activity for the day was to white wash the staff and clinic rooms and also the kitchen and surgery theatre. After a quick round of introductions over tea, we got the introductory tour of the centre. From here on I will let the pictures speak for themselves and more.

We were a contingent of 13 people, from different departments, with a few people already involved with some sort of animal rescue or rehabilitation. I could sense a reason for happiness in everyone from being there or maybe if the reason was because of a day away from work, I am not debating.

Our tools of the trade was already set right before we arrived and took charge. Buckets of paints and brushes and specially for us - the Corporate types - masks, latex gloves and aprons.

We got to the business without any delay and even though most of us has never got our hands dirty this way, the enthusiasm made us move from wall to wall and from room to room. There was nothing special for me there to do, dip spread and then dip spread. All the while my mind was somewhere else- with the animals.

The largest number of animals or birds that get rescued is the Kite. Bangalore city has a large population of these birds and they seem to be found everywhere. Coincidentally we have a few that come to roost in our apartment building in the night and they make a weird noise similar but not same as the pigeons.

The animals are provided a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables and beef to the lucky ones - the kites. These plantains looked very inviting but I asked the animal in me to behave.

Despite the centre having a few acres of land, so can save a lot by not buying fruits, they detest from planting fruit tress because the elephants come calling after.

I think the most exotic of the animals in there is the Barn owl. People might say otherwise but for me period. I like owls because we share a lot in common - lonely, reclusive, brooder, procrastinator etc. I am sure they are great thinkers and planners. Magnificent creatures.

Found this hanging in the surgery room. I was just hoping that this guy left that room to fly many few feet up in the sky and not a few feet below the ground.

we also met the vet who was kind enough to let us disturb her with our questions when she was bandaging a pigeon or nursing a Kite. She displayed this special warmth towards animals which usually comes from a mother towards her child.

He was the old hand at the centre, the wise one , who had seen many a kites and crows take to the sky and many a snakes pass by.

And as luck would have it, there came a small van filled with rescued animals from the city. Let me take the roll call - one monkey, a green barbet, two crows and many a kites.

Majority of the kites had injured their wings and come to the centre in a flightless condition. The vet then examines them for superficial injures, fractures etc. and provides them with first aid. In other cases of serious injuries shes operates on them or applies casts.

A jab of glucose does good to birds as well.

Iwas the one who you saw flying high; Now you look , standing close by.

I was the one who rode the mighty air; the same wind now only tickles my feather.

I am at this place and getting fine; until my talons grip and my wings shine.

So this then I suppose is - Goodbye; See you soon from the sky!

Once the Kites get healed and shows signs of flight they are moved to a big cage. On that day there were around 25-30 kites recuperating from there injuries. Once the kites recover fully, say about after a month of observation, they are released into the wild. To our surprise, we found out that day there were four kites to be released.

I can only guess who was more joyed. I was over joyed!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Obsessed compulsive hoarders

I grew up in a family of hoarders. Hoarding stuff that meant useless to the world was a hobby at my home. My dad collected miniature liquor bottles and DVD’s, Audio cassettes and Electronic items. My mom collected plastic covers, bottles and cardboard boxes. Dad’s collection cost us a lot but mom’s was a harmless hobby. My sister collected stickers like Barbie and other cartoons. She also had a fetish for cute stuff like small fancy pins and hairclips and bindis and you know- the cute- stuff. My brother was so frustrated to collect something to join the mad family tradition; he kept oscillating between WWF cards and stickers. I inherited my dad’s stamp collection, mom’s coin collection and a fervent fetish for perfume bottles. And till date I beg, borrow and even steal for stamps.

I for once never realized how odd it was to live in a family of hoarders as one. We kept teasing and screaming at each other belittling each others collections while the fact was that we all found some sanity in hoarding. This sudden realization dawned to me last Sunday when I used a plastic cover as a garbage bag. I had a wail a shrieking one from the bed. It was my hubby mumbling some bunkum to a plastic cover. “I will rescue you, you are so pretty “, he said first. “ How could you do this to my precious cover?”, he asked me. I have seen him have such bouts of fits before so I never found it amusing these days. But he was dead serious and upset at me for using a beautiful, sturdy, long lasting ( all words used by him) plastic cover as a garbage bag. He was upset at my demoting a fancy cover to the rank of a garbage cover.

My hatred for plastics and cardboard boxes culminated after our marriage when I saw my husband’s collection of polythene bags treasured since years. I was appalled when he asked the packers to pack the covers carefully. The men gave me a sneer and I realized we had a new member to our family of hoarders.

I still have numerous cardboard boxes tucked into the lofts waiting to be let out but my hubby believes they will be of some use some day. Such is his passion for plastic covers he has segregated them in different locations hiding the coveted ones from me. He even contemplates exchanging them with my mom the queen of hoarders at Cochin. My mom often justifies herself saying the plastics are reused and she does not buy new ones from shops. She packs her veggies and innumerable other hoarded stuff in these bags and mind it no one who ever asked her for a polythene cover went empty handed. My mom often called us and boasted about how she made 100 bucks selling plastics. And my husband would swell with pride and congratulate mom all the while giving me a “ you –never- appreciate- this- sort of – things ,look.

Such predicaments show their true love for plastics. A love I cannot fathom, a love that irritates my aunts who burn up all my mom’s hoarded stuff at the best opportunity.

But then I wonder how would I feel if I was accused for being married to my stamp collection? or books for that matter. But even in the midst of all the chaotic packing and unpacking, We have, you would be elated to watch these two individuals ( my mom and my hubby) silently, nonchalantly, unhesitantly folding the plastics into three or two folds.And I ask myself what pleasure does one get by sorting plastics? And I can see them talking to the polythene bags already. Thank god mom finally got her friend and fellow hobbyist to hoard and black market polythenes and plastics.

I secretly pray that these genes don’t carry their hoarding segments to the next generation.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Animals are beautiful people

We went to a seminary today to get our car blessed. After the official business, Fr Jojy took us around their huge place. Tucked in the corner there was a rabbit hutch and look at what we found. There were lots of adult rabbits and as many small and cute cotton balls.

We are now debating on whether we should bring one home or be happy with visiting them once in a while.