Monday, October 21, 2013


While we were exploring trails around the homestay, we were told that there was one path through the plantation that made for a good walk, except for the abundant leeches there.   I had had only one experience with leeches before.  One had latched onto me during our trip to Wayanad last year, and naturally, I discovered it only after the fat leech, full of my blood, slid down the inside of my jeans.  I wasn't bothered.  After all, it doesn't hurt.  The only thing is  that blood keeps flowing from the wound long after the leech drops off, until the anticoagulant it has injected wears off.  After this instance, I observed with fascination the occasional leech we passed by, how they stand up on one end, and probe the air with the other end, push themselves forward, stand up and continue probing.

Once I got back, I looked up leeches and read about them, about how they inject anti-coagulant and analgesic into our blood before starting the sucking.  And I marvelled at what an amazing creature it is.   So when our host at Mugilu, when talking about the plantation walk, warned us, "In case you have a phobia of leeches..."  I shrugged it off. 

We went to the plantation, and started walking.  Puttachi noticed a big beetle, and we stopped to watch it.  I bent down to look at it closely, and then I saw next to it, a leech, standing on end, probing the air.  Hey look, I said, and then I saw one more next to it.  And then another, and another. All of them standing on end, probing, searching.....  Then Puttachi said, hey, look at your shoes - and we all looked, leeches were already on our shoes, and crawling up our jeans.  I looked down again, and suddenly it seemed to me that the ground was full of leeches, and I felt that the entire forest floor was rising up and reaching out to me through these filament-like fingers, wanting to suck my blood.  It was like a nightmare. I  couldn't breathe, I clutched my head, tears flowed down my cheeks, and I said something like, "I can't I can't I can't I can't...."   I've never felt that way before!  At first, S probably thought I was joking, and then he realized that something was really wrong, and we all immediately walked back up to safe-ground.  We spent the next ten minutes pulling leeches off our clothes, and checking our shoes and socks to see if we were clear. 

That was such a revelation - sometimes you cannot explain why you are petrified of some things, and why you are not..... in fact, the very next day, our host showed us a leech that was walking on his hand, looking for the right place to latch onto him, and I watched it again with the same fascination as before, from inches away, and felt no fear.  It was only down there, with leeches all around me, that I felt that kind of panic.  

Lessen learned. I'll never pooh-pooh phobias again. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A short holiday at Sakaleshpur

We took a little vacation this week in Sakaleshpur, about 200 km from Bangalore. On the way to the homestay, we stopped at Manjarabad fort, a star-shaped fort built by Tipu Sultan in the late eighteenth century.  [Click for google image]  He built it as a defensive location.  And it must have really worked well as a lookout place, because the views from the top are quite spectacular.

We stayed at Mugilu, a lovely little plantation homestay.  Clean and comfortable cottages, superb location, wonderful hosts, tasty and home-like food,  the most stupendous grasslands next to it, and loads of inviting walking trails.   

These are  a few pictures of the grasslands.  We walked, ran, played frisbee, and just sat on the grass.  

We, in places like Bangalore are so unused to places where there is not a single soul in your line of sight.  When we were walking on these grasslands, S and Puttachi went ahead, and for a while, they weren't in my line of vision.  I looked around then, and nobody, not one person was in sight, though I could see so far into the horizon!  What a wonderful feeling it is - the feeling of being totally alone with nature!

There are a number of trails that take you up and down the gently sloping hills, next to bright green paddy fields, towards streams, and little huts and villages, and lots and lots of cows. 

We walked a lot, and could have walked a whole lot more.  When we wanted a break, we just sat down on the grass, and were silent.  We could see the sights like the one below.  We could hear the lowing of cows, and the strikingly loud noise of their eating grass.  An odd bee or two buzzed around, and the wind whooshed through the trees.    We could smell the fragrant grass, and the pleasant smell of fresh cowdung.  And we could feel the heat of the sun on our backs.  Ah, bliss.

The picture below is that of paddy fields early in the morning - and Shunti, our guide, companion, and Puttachi's obsession for the duration of our stay.  She is one of the three dogs that live in Mugilu, with the couple who runs it.

And when we wanted to get back to the room, we put our feet up, book in hand, and watched this sight from our balcony.  Early in the morning and during rains, this is a specially beautiful sight due to the clouds coming in.

And there are a number of spots around the place, in case that is what you want to do, this ancient, quaint, Sindhu Brahma temple being one of them.  And yes, cows were grazing here too.

 You can tell we had a good time, huh?

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Shame, shame"

One of my favourite sights is that of little girls, toddling around in short frocks, their frilly underwear peeking from underneath.  But very soon (far too soon) as the little girl grows, it stops being acceptable.  The moment an inch of her panties are exposed, people stand around, and apply a look of disgust on their faces and chant, "Shame-shame."

Around the time Puttachi was about two  years old, I started putting shorts underneath her frocks so that she wouldn't get sand in her underwear at the park.  I later realized that this served another function too.  She could jump, and twirl, and turn somersaults, and do whatever it is that little children must do, without people crowding around and shaming her with the shame-shame chant.

I detest that "shame-shame" chant.  See, I understand the need for making children realize that certain parts are private.  But that is what they are - private.  Not shameful.  These are beautifully evolved, highly functional parts that help us excrete, egest and reproduce.  Why on earth should one be ashamed of them? Why should we express disgust at the underwear that covers them?

I struggle to inculcate in Puttachi the concept of which parts of the body are personal and private, in view of educating her about child sexual abuse. I have to remind her again and again about what is private and what is not.   If I had gone with the shame-shame strategy, it would have worked immediately.  She wouldn't have nonchalantly  lifted her shirt to show any random person the mosquito bite on her tummy (which she would have done until recently.)

But I think it is worth it.  It is not likely that she is going to be ashamed of her own body.  It is not likely that she is going to be like the mortified little child who went into hiding because an outsider accidentally saw him in his underwear.

I think it is essential to make that distinction between shameful and privacy, and teach our children accordingly.  What do you think?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The story online, and a media report

The story, "Kanchenjunga" is now online [Link]

And here is a media report from Asian Connections, Canada, October 4, 2013.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Won a contest!

Another happy dance from me!  My story, "Kanchenjunga" won the Tagore-O'Henry Short Story Contest.  The prize is $500, which is the largest sum I have won in a writing contest so far.

I'll post a link to the story once it is published online.

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