Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Clever Crow

Most of us would have read in our childhood, the story of the thirsty crow who saw a pot half filled with water, collected small pebbles, threw them into the pot and, when the water-level had risen sufficiently, drank it to quench its thirst and flew away merrily. This was to show that crows are intelligent and clever.

I was witness to an intelligent act of another crow. It was 2006 or 2007 when I was working at Kolkata.

It was early morning and I was on my usual walk. I saw a crow flying, with a biscuit in its beak. It sat down and tried to eat it by pecking at it. But the biscuit was relatively hard and so the crow could not break it. The crow picked the biscuit and dropped it several times, perhaps hoping that this would break it. No, it did not break and the crow must have been disappointed.

I felt sorry for it and sympathized with it. :(((((((((((

It appeared like an interesting scene and I stopped to watch.

The crow did not give up. It looked around, presumably to survey the area and find out a way to eat the biscuit.

I continued watching it more intently, wondering what the bird’s next move would be.

A few moments later, the crow picked up the biscuit and hopped to the nearby drain. It dropped the biscuit on water at the edge of the drain. It waited for a few moments more. When the biscuit had become wet and soft, the crow fished it out of the water, hopped to a dry area, put down the biscuit and started pecking at it and enjoying the delicious meal. :)))))))))))))

After it had put the last remnant of the biscuit into its stomach, like its sibling in the story, the crow flew away merrily.

I was really amazed by the show of such intelligence by this common bird. I instantly agreed with the theme of story, which till then I had considered as a mere fiction.

As the saying goes, seeing is believing.

Doesn’t the derisive word ‘bird-brained’ need a make-over?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Kuber Story

In my childhood, I had read a story about an interaction between Bhima, the second Pandava, and Kuber, God of Wealth. After the victory in the Mahabharat war with the Kauravas and Yudhistir’s coronation as the new King, peace and progress were established. However, after a few years, there was a drought and consequent food-shortage in the kingdom. Yudhisthir sent Bhima to Kuber with a request for supply a thousand cart-load of grains for the subjects.
When Bhima approached the abode of Kuber, he saw from a distance that Kuber was separating pebbles from a small pile of paddy. Bhima was astounded. He thought to himself, “The so-called God of wealth himself trying to salvage a few grains! It would be pointless to ask such a one for a thousand cart-load of grains.” So he came back and told Yudhistir what he had seen. Yudhistir smiled and asked Bhima to go once again and convey his request to Kuber without hesitation. Reluctantly, Bhima went, met Kuber and did what he was told to do. Immediately, Kuber arranged for dispatch of a thousand cart-load of grains. Bhima was surprised but accompanied the consignment.
On the way, but still away from their kingdom, Bhima saw that due to heavy rains, the road (At that time, pucca roads were not in vogue.) had become full of so much mud that it was impossible for the bullocks to pull the carts on it. Not knowing what to do, Bhima went back and told his predicament to Kuber. Without a moment’s thought, Kuber said, “Don’t worry. Spread the grain in the first 500 carts on the road and move the remaining 500 grain-laden carts on it. I am dispatching another 500 cart-loads of grains.” Bhima thanked him and got ready to leave. But before leaving, he could no longer suppress his gnawing perplexity. One, who was trying to salvage a small quantity of grains from pebbles, had asked 500 cart-loads of grains to be spread on the muddy road to make itdry!!! Reluctantly and curiously, he queried Kuber about this action.
Hearing this, Kuber smiled and said, “Never waste anything, be it a single grain or a single mohar (unit of money) but when needed, never hesitate to spend the required wealth. Don’t be miserly then.”
Bhima returned, happy and wiser.
The opposite of ‘thrift’ is not ‘being spend-thrift’.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Dancing Without A Leg

The 8-day International Odissi Dance Festival was organized at Bhubneswar from the 23rd to the 30th December, 2011. At present, Odissi dance is being performed in 156 countries and this dance-form continues to spread to more countries. About 1000 Odissi dancers from all over India as also from U S A, U K, France, Canada, Russia, Japan, Italy, Australia, Malaysia, Sweden, China, Taiwan, Israel, Bangladesh, Peru and Trinidad performed in the Festival. The largest foreign contingent of about 150 dancers was from Italy. The morning sessions were from 10 AM to 1 PM.; the afternoon sessions were from 4 PM to 6 PM and the evening ones were from 6.30 PM to 10 PM. In between the dance programmes, seminars on different theoretical aspects and nuances of Odissi dance were organized daily from 2 PM to 4 PM. The performers included the 77-year old veteran Dr. Minati Mishra, who has a Ph. D in Odissi dance and who has been conferred with an honourary D. Litt. Degree by Utkal University of Culture.and Guru Nityananda Das, whose dancing career has not been affected by the fact that he has lost a leg in an accident and who now dances with one leg!!!
There was a mix of veterans, experts and young and upcoming artists.
On the first day, the 23rd December, 1110 feet, painted red with alta and with 1110 ghoongurs tied to them, danced in tandem to Odissi music. A record number of 555 dancers from different countries performed together for 28 minutes and 55 seconds from 2.30 PM, at Kalinga Stadium. When it ended, the audience, who had filled the galleries to capacity, gave the artistes a standing ovation and a thunderous applause.

The event has been recorded by the authorities of Guinenss Book of World Records.
I had the good fortune of attending the evening programmes for 5 days. To say the least, it was a heavenly experience. While watching the performances, I felt like having been transported to a completely different world, far away from the mundane world and the daily grind of ordinary living. It felt as if time had stood still when the programmes were going on.
Guru Nityanada Das and Guru Bijay Das danced a number titled ‘Priya Sakha’ which is based on the life of the former. The accompanying song narrates how a devoted dancer loses a leg in an accident and feels crest-fallen by the thought that he can no longer engage in his passion. He appeals to Lord Krishna (Almost all the Odissi songs and dances have the Radha-Krishna love lore as the theme.) to restore his lost leg so that he would be able to resume dancing His lore. Then the dancer falls asleep and Lord Krishna appears before him in dream. The Lord tells the dancer that he need not worry about the lost leg and blesses him that he would be able to continue dancing even with one leg. The dancer wakes up and pleasantly finds that he can indeed dance with one leg! And then he dances away to glory.
The performance was simply superb. When this dance-number ended, the entire audience gave him a standing ovation and the huge hall reverberated with roaring applause. After this, Guru Nityanda Das was again called to the stage. His Guru Bimbadhar Das also was invited to the stage. Nityanda Das was requested to tell how he was inspired by his Guru not to give up after losing a leg. He started speaking about his Guru and after a couple of sentences, he was so overwhelmed with emotion that words failed him. He could speak no longer. Tears rolled down his cheeks. The duo was united in a tight embrace, to another thunderous applause from the audience.
The well-known danseuse Sudha Chandran had lost one leg in an accident. Since dance was her very life, she persisted and is able dance with an artificial leg. The Hindi film Nache Mayuri is based on her life and feat.
Nityanada Das has gone still further. He dances with one leg, without any artificial leg. I had watched on TV a programme wherein both these great exponents had performed, Sudha, with one natural leg and an artificial leg but Nityananda with his single leg. At the end of the programme, Sudha, in reply to a question by the compere, acknowledged that Guru Nityananda’s feat was much higher than her own as he does not use any artificial leg.
The title of the film Nache Mayuri is a romanticisation of Sudha Chandran’s grit and determination but the fact remains that Mayuris (pea-hens) do not dance. It is the male peacock with its long and brilliant-coloured plumage, who dances to attract the attention of its mate. The pea-hen has no plumage. And the original cosmic dancer is Nataraj Shiva, a male. Of course the celestial dancers are Urvashi, Rambha and Menaka, all females.
But I have digressed. 
The International Odissi Dance Festival was a great event.
ADDENDUMLater, I watched on T V, a presentation of Odissi dance titled 'Guru Dakshina' (Guru's fee) by Nityananda Das and others based on his life. In this a look-alike dancer plays the part of Nityanda Das before he lost his leg. Nityananda Das himself presents the second part. The accompanying song vividly narrates how Das was a promising danseur when he met with the accident, how he was crest-fallen and lost hope of ever being able to dance again and how by his Guru's motivation and his determination persistence he regained his dancing ability . It is a really touching dance-presentation.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

What Is New, Yaar?

I wish all of you A VERY VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR. :)))))))))))))))

I am reminded of a cartoon by the Late Mario Miranda titled 'What is new, Yaar' published in The Economic Times years ago. Mario died a few days ago and The ET published a few articles on the the renowned cartoonist. The paper also reprinted this cartoon first published on a new year's day. The characters in this series were the business tycoon Boss, his buxom secretary Miss Foensca, his politician friend the bulky Mr. Bundaldass, the film actress Miss Nimbupani and a beggar with a street dog. The beggar used to sit on the street near Boss's office. Boss used to have occasional conversations with the beggar. In this particular cartoon, the beggar is sleeping on a newspaper of new year's day and Boss asks the beggar "What is new, yaar?"