Friday, October 30, 2015

Decline of Lions in West Africa


Think of lions and think of Africa and India. Lions have become an integral part of the African culture and ethos. They are so synonymous with Africa, so woven into their cultural fabric that, to think of them becoming extinct from West Africa is news that comes and hits you hard, really hard. With predictions that they can become extinct in some 50 years, it is time to wake up and realize the graveness of it all. We see them in documentaries, in films, in books. Mention of Africa is incomplete without a mention of Lions.

And in the midst of all this, man progresses. Man’s progress is Lion’s destruction. Man builds, farms, usurps land, they do all but do not protect. And when they hear of lion’s sudden disappearance, their extinction, they come up with steps to show that they care.

While increasing farming and cultivating land seems to be the main factor for this, it is also true that West African nations are among the poorest and funding initiatives are hard to get implemented. Radical steps need to be taken and it will need a Herculean effort on the part of Government and communities to do this. Perhaps it will take international communities to see the problem and help the impoverished nations to fund for saving the lions. Or perhaps they can get a cue from the success of Gujarat, where the lion population soared and thrived. It may have been because of local people’s active participation in conservation efforts and tolerance to the lions or better management of local communities and wildlife land, but the results are there for all to see. But, while we are alarmed at this news, the population of lions in South and East Africa is alarmingly healthy and prospering!!

So let’s hope that lions thrive in these West African states and do not get declining with every passing year.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Molcolm Arnold for inspiration

If I want to go on a fantasy dream. When I am in that mood, when I just want to be in some other place. A place full of wondrous mountains, valleys, little cute fairies, green carpet spread everywhere - but with a little mystery added to it. A danger inherent in all of these beautiful things. An unknown danger lurking behind the veils of mist. 
If I am in these mood, when I want to be sensitive to the many enchantments nature has to offer, I listen to Malcolm Arnold’s Symphony No.5. It is simply superb; in fact it is a very very magical kind of symphony. Just listen to the first two movements and you will be spell struck and transported to a magical fantasy world; a world full of magic, fairies, brave knights, dangerous wizards, evil and all of these.
If you want to create fantasy ideas, want inspiration for writing fantasy plots, or just plain - be in a fantasy world of your own - to soothe your nerves and just to be alone - listen to this work. It is simply magical.

Symphony No.5

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Observations in formation of a poem

poem writing ideas, prompts and inspirations
A poem is born in the fertile valley of emotions and it grows on the thoughts, pains, joy, suffering, happiness, loneliness, helplessness experienced by the poet. Sometimes a poem narrates an event and is coloured by the vision of the poet as he sees it. The poem is inborn and lines come to the poet naturally. It can be philosophical in its form, trying to express the nature of the things with a inherent meaning to all things that happen naturally, as the sun rising or the rain falling or a strong wish to sing a song. The poem gives a meaning to all these naturally occurring events and gives it an emotional appeal.

But isn't the world a reflection of our emotions? When we are happy and in a calm mood, the world seems so beautiful. The moon looks beautiful, the bird on the tree sings a joyful note, the world is filled with different colours, even dull, sombre things in nature look bright. Often such thoughts rise because of love for beloved, or when our lover is sitting besides us, or even just mere thoughts of our lover.

But when we are sad or some tragedy has struck us, the world outside seems to reflect the sadness inside. The moon even if it is bright seem to frown upon us, it may even laugh at us (so the poet feels) the winds seem to just pass by, the bird no longer interests us, and the natural elements seem to have wrecked havoc upon our emotions and our minds. It may even be that we feel lonely without our lover, or in the absence of our lover. At such times, overcome with grief, our heart aches and we feel to just be alone with our thoughts and our loneliness. Such feelings can be expressed in poetry and many times natural elements figure prominently in poems. They give the dramatic twist to the poem and makes the poem readable and interesting.

I came across two songs from old Hindi films and their mukhdas (starting lines forming part of the song embodying the spirit of the entire song) just were so wonderful and seeped with strong emotions.

One is from the film Tarana, the 1951 film starring Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. Great songs by Talat Mahmood and awesome music by Anil Biswas.

The mukhda of the song "Ek main hoon ek meri be-kasi ki shaam hai..." sung by Talat Mahmood is drowned in anger, hatred and grief. It goes like this:

The first line -
jali jo shaakh-e-chaman, saath baaghbaan bhi jalaa
This line expresses that as the garden and its trees and branches burned, with it also burned the baaghbaan i.e. the gardener and his family.

The second line -
jalaa ke mere nasheman ko aasmaan bhi jalaa
Though my small nest (nasheman) was burned by the ruthless sky, the sky itself burned with it.

These lines seem to show anger on the elements i.e. sky that conspired against the poet and burned down his nest i.e. his world. It says that though my whole world is burned so will burn the gardener, though my world is burned by the sky, so will the sky burn also.

The second film is the 1952 film Daag, also starring Dilip Kumar and Nimmi. Great songs by Talat Mahmood and music by Shankar Jaikishen. One particular song and its mukhda is wonderful in its content. The lines are as follows :

Chaand ek bevaa ki chuudi kii tarah toota hua
har sitaara besahaara soch men dooba hua

The moon is always beautiful to look at. But here in this song, it is not beautiful. It is a reflection of the grief felt by the poet. It is crescent, but why? Crescent like a broken bangle of a widow.... 
The stars adorn the night sky and are so bright on a dark night. But here the stars are pondering on something and are helplessly twinkling away in the sky.

Gham ke baadal, ik janaaze ki tarah thahare hue
sisakiyon ke saaz par kaheta hai dil rota hua

The clouds are lying still in the sky. They seem to just stand there. But why are they standing. As if attending a procession of the dead. And my heart sings to the tune of my sobs and tears.

The world is a mirror of our joys, grief, sorrow, happiness and the feelings that we feel in everyday life. The poem expresses just that - our emotions.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Favorite List of Western Classical Music works

Favorite list of Western Classical Music works

  1. Symphony No.5 in B flat major - Franz Schubert
  2. Symphony No.9 in C Major (The Great) - Franz Schubert
  3. Symphony No.8 in B Minor (Unfinished Symphony) - Franz Schubert
  4. Symphony No.6 in F Major (Pastorale Symphony) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  5. Symphony No.9 in D Minor (Choral) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  6. Symphony No.5 in C Minor (Fate) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  7. Symphony No.9 in E Minor (From the New World) - Antonín Dvořák
  8. Symphony No.6 in B Minor (Pathétique) - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  9. Symphony No.2 in D Major - Johannes Brahms
  10. Symphonie Fantastique - Hector Berlioz
  11. Symphony No.4 in D Minor - Robert Schumann
  12. Symphony No.1 in D Minor (Titan) - Gustav Mahler
  13. Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor - Gustav Mahler
  14. Symphony No.9 in D major - Gustav Mahler
  15. Symphony No.5 - Malcolm Arnold
  16. Symphony No.40 in G Minor - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  17. Symphony No.25 in G Minor - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  18. Serenade for Strings in C Major - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  19. Symphony No.3 in D Major - Franz Schubert
  20. Symphony No.2 - Sergei Rachmaninoff
  21. Sinfonia Antartica - Ralph Vaughan Williams
  22. Symphony No.1 in C major - Mily Balakirev
  23. Symphony No.1 in E flat major - Alexander Borodin
  24. Symphony No.2 in B minor (Heroic) - Alexander Borodin
  25. Symphony No.3 in F major Im Walde (In the Forest) - Joachim Raff
  26. Symphony No.3 in G minor - Louise Farrenc

  1. Piano Concerto No.1 in B Flat Minor - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  2. Piano Concerto No.1 in D Minor - Johannes Brahms
  3. Piano Concerto No.1 in E Flat Major - Franz Liszt
  4. Piano Concerto in A Minor - Edvard Grieg
  5. Piano Concerto in A minor - Robert Schumann
  6. Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor - Sergei Rachmaninoff
  7. Piano Concerto No.3 in D Minor - Sergei Rachmaninoff
  8. Piano Concerto No.5 in E Flat Major (Emperor) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  9. Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor - Frédéric Chopin
  10. Piano Concerto No2 in F minor - Frédéric Chopin
  11. Cello Concerto in B Minor - Antonín Dvořák
  12. Violin Concerto in D Major - Johannes Brahms
  13. Violin Concerto in D Major - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  14. Violin Concerto in A Minor, opus 53 - Antonín Dvořák
  15. The Four Seasons - Antonio Vivaldi
  16. Cello Concerto in A Minor - Robert Schumann
  17. Concierto de Aranjuez - Joaquin Rodrigo
  18. Horn Concerto No.4 in E Flat Major - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  19. Piano Quintet in A major "Trout" - Franz Schubert
  20. Violin Concerto in B minor - Edward Elgar
  21. Cello Concerto in E minor - Edward Elgar
  22. Violin Concerto No.2 - Béla Bartók

Waltzes & Ballets
  1. The Blue Danube - Johann Strauss II
  2. Swan Lake - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  3. The Nutcracker Suite - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  4. Sleeping Beauty - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  5. Boléro - Maurice Ravel
  6. Romeo and Juliet - Sergei Prokofiev
  7. The Rite of Spring - Igor Stravinsky
  8. The Firebird - Igor Stravinsky

  1. The Ride of the Valkyries - Richard Wagner
  2. Prince Igor - Alexander Borodin

  1. Serenade for Strings in C Major - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  2. Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No.13 for strings in G major) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  1. 1812 Overture - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  2. Carnival Overture - Antonín Dvořák
  3. Oberon - Carl Maria von Weber
  4. William Tell Overture - Gioachino Rossini
  5. Barber of Seville - Gioachino Rossini
  6. Carmen - Georges Bizet
  7. Shéhérazade, ouverture de féerie - Maurice Ravel
  8. Froissart Overture - Edward Elgar
  9. Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave) - Felix Mendelssohn

  1. Peer Gynt - Edvard Grieg
  2. Holberg Suite - Edvard Grieg
  3. The Planets - Gustav Holst
  4. Lemminkäinen Suite - Jean Sibelius

Independent Pieces
  1. Night on Bald Mountain - Modest Mussorgsky
  2. In a Monastery Garden - Albert Ketèlbey
  3. The Lark Ascending - Ralph Vaughan Williams
  4. Flight of the Bumblebee - Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

  1. Scheherazade - Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  2. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) - Richard Strauss
  3. Má vlast - Bedřich Smetana
  4. Isle of the Dead - Sergei Rachmaninoff
  5. Finlandia - Jean Sibelius
  6. In the Steppes of Central Asia - Alexander Borodin
  7. Falstaff: Symphonic Study in C - Edward Elgar

  1. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor (Moonlight Sonata) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  2. Piano Sonata No.11 in A Major, K 331 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  1. Hungarian Dance No.5 in G Minor - Johannes Brahms
  2. Polovtsian Dances - Alexander Borodin

  1. Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 - Franz Liszt
  2. España Rhapsody for Orchestra - Emmanuel Chabrier

Organ Music
  1. Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 - Johann Sebastian Bach

Fantasy for Orchestra
  1. Capriccio Italien - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  1. Pomp and Circumstance Marches - Edward Elgar
  2. March Slave in B Flat Minor - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  1. Enigma Variations - Edward Elgar
  2. Variations on a Nursery Tune - Ernő Dohnányi

Folk Songs
  1. Fantasia on Greensleeves - Ralph Vaughan Williams

Incidental Music
  1. The Wasps - Ralph Vaughan Williams

Monday, May 28, 2012

Life finds a way....

Even as the list of endangered species is increasing and the rampant industrialization and environmental dangers are posing a great threat to the wildlife habitats over the world, new species have also been discovered. This is both remarkable and amazing because, it shows and reflects the resilient nature of life on earth. It also shows how species adapt themselves to the environmental changes in spite of the great dangers posed by factors such as global warming, ozone depletion, pollution and other man made factors. 
Recently many new species have been found in remote and inaccessible parts of the world and also many new types of life have been discovered in the ocean depths in conditions regarded by many as impossible to live. For instance, Tubeworms have been found feeding on the chemicals emitted by the hydro-thermal vents in the Atlantic ocean floor, where temperatures are very hot. Recent explorations to the deepest point on earth, The Challenger Deep, in the Pacific Ocean, revealed many types of single-celled organisms called Foraminifera, organisms that construct shells. They were found in the sample of dirt from the ocean floor, where the water pressure is equivalent to 50 Jumbo jets piled on top of you. 
These new forms of life shows optimism that life finds a way to blossom and to spring itself, as the legendary Phoenix, the mythical firebird that rises from the ashes, to be born again. In 2008, over 1,25,000 western lowland gorillas have been found in the tropical dense forests of Congo. Recently 12 new frog species were discovered in the ecologically fragile, western ghats of India. Every year, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University along with an international committee of taxonomists scientists who classify and describe new species choose their 10 favorites. These includes :

Sneezing monkey - A snub-nosed monkey found in the mountains of Myanmar, Rhinopithecus strykeri is named in honor of Jon Stryker, founder of the Arcus Foundation. Believed to be critically endangered, it has mostly black fur and a white beard, and it sneezes when it rains. 

Bonaire banded box jelly - This strikingly beautiful but highly lethal jellyfish looks like a box kite with a colorful long tail. Found on the Dutch island of Bonaire, it is named Tamoya ohboya because a teacher in a citizen science project thought a victim might scream "Oh boy!" when stung.

Devil's worm - Only 0.02 inches long, these nematodes were discovered at a depth of 0.8 mile in a South African gold mine and are the deepest-living multicellular organisms on the planet. It was named Halicephalobus mephisto from the Faust legend because it survives at high pressures and temperatures.

Night blooming orchid - This rare orchid from Papua New Guinea has flowers that open around 10 p.m. and close early the next morning. Named Bulbophyllum nocturnum, it is the only orchid known to bloom at night.

Parasitic wasp - This tiny parasite from Spain cruises at just a half-inch off the ground looking for ants, into which it inserts an egg in less than 1/20th of a second.

SpongeBob SquarePants mushroom - This new species of fungus, named Spongiforma squarepantsii, looks more like a sponge than a typical mushroom. From the island of Borneo in Malaysia, the mushroom is unusual in that its fruiting body can be squeezed like a sponge and still bounce back into shape.

Nepalese autumn poppy - This tall, yellow poppy from Nepal lives at altitudes above 19,800 feet. Named Meconopsis autumnalis because it blooms in autumn, it is thought to have been collected before, but not recognized as a distinct species.

Giant millipede - This giant millipede from Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountains is about the length of a sausage and is called the "wandering leg sausage," hence the name Crurifarcimen vagans. At 6.3 inches long, it is the world's largest millipede; it has 56 rings, each bearing two pairs of legs.

Walking cactus - This fossil of an extinct group known as Lobopodia looks more like a cactus than an animal, with its wormlike bodies and multiple pairs of legs. Named Diania cactiformis, the 520-million-year-old specimen was found in Cambrian deposits in southwestern China.

Sazima's tarantula - This iridescent hairy blue tarantula is the first new species from Brazil to be named to the top 10 list. It is called Pterinopelma sazimai and is found on "island" ecosystems on flattop mountains.

All these reminds me of the conversation that takes place in the Hollywood movie Jurassic Park, between a group of leading scientists sitting together in a scene. The park is made by genetically engineering the DNA of dinosaurs and then to clone them so that people have a glimpse of how life was, billions of years ago. They are discussing ways to make the park a leading attraction on earth, but one scientist, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) objects to such a idea, saying it a "rape of the natural world." He could not figure out how such a genetically engineered dinosaur species can be controlled by a park. He is of the view that we do not have the power to control the dangers posed by such an act. Because the dangers are not foreseen by us. This conversation itself, summarizes the whole theme of the movie.

The movie also makes clear the fact that nature has a way to amaze and trick even the most advanced technology available to man. It has a way to protect itself and to reproduce itself in the most remarkable, even hostile conditions.

So protect nature, respect it for what it gives you. Save it, save life itself.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Recently came across two poems by the great Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Just one glance at those poems and I got a glimpse of what beauty lay in those lines. The choice of Urdu words and the clear message that was conveyed through those poems was stunning. One poem is about freedom and another is about the moment. It was like "Wow, what poems."

Just read those lines, "Ye daag daag ujaala". There is brightness, but it is blotted, and has many black spots. The poet hopes for freedom, but this was not the freedom which he was hoping for. Fantastic poems. Salutes to you.


ye daag-daag ujaalaa, ye shab-gaziidaa sahar
wo intezaar tha jiskaa, ye wo sahar to nahiin

ye wo sahar to nahiin jiskii aarzoo lekar
chale the yaar ke mil jayegi kahiin na kahiin
falak ke dashth mein taaron kii aakhirii manzil

kahin to hogaa shab-e-sustmoujh kaa saahil
kahin to jake rukegaa sakiin-e-gam-e-dil

jawan lahuu kii pur asraar shahraahon se
chale jo yaar to daaman pe kitne haath pade
dayaar-e-husn kii be-sabra khwaabgaahon se
pukaarti rahiin baahen, badan bulate rahe

bahut azeez thii lekin ruKh-e-sahar kii lagan
bahut kariin tha hasiinane noor kaa daaman
subuk-subuk thi tamanna dabi-dabi thi thakan

sunaa hai ho bhi chukaa hai firaaq-e-zulmat-e-noor
sunaa hai ho bhi chukaa hai wisaal-e-manzil-o-gaam

badal chukaa hai bahut ahal-e-dard kaa dastoor
nishaat-e-wasl halaal-o-azaab-e-hijr-e-haraam
jigar kii aag, nazar kii umang, dil kii jalan
kisii pe chaar:e-hijra.N kaa kuchch asar hii nahii.n
kahaa.N se aayii nigaar-e-sabaa kidhhar ko gaii
abhii chiraaG-e-sar-e-rah ko kuchch khabar hii nahiin
abhii garaanii-e-shab me.n kamii nahi.n aaii
nazaat-e-deed'h-o-dil kii ghadii nahi.n aaii
chale chalo ki wah manzil abhi nahi.n aaii 

Is waqt to yun lagata hai ab kuch bhi nahi hai

is waqt to yun lagata hai ab kuch bhi nahi hai
mahatab na suraj na andhera na savera

aankhon ke dariche mein kisi husn ke jhalakan
aur dil ke panahon mein kisi dard ka dera

mumkin hai koi vaham ho, mumkin hai suna ho
galiyon mein kisi chap ka ek aakhiri phera

shakhon mein khayalon ke ghane ped ke shayad
ab aake karega na koi khwab basera

ik bair na ik mahar na ik rabt na rishta
tera koi apna na paraya koi mera

mana ki ye sun-san ghadi sakht badi hai
lekin mere dil ye to faqat ek ghadi hai
himmat karo jine ko abhi umr padi hai

Friday, March 30, 2012

Narsihn Mehta

Once me and my wife went out shopping. While buying a trouser for myself, the shop-owner asked my caste. I said Brahman. He at once remarked, "From Narsinh Mehta's caste?" I said yes.

Such is the influence this great poet-saint from Gujarat had on the psyche of the general public. Many a tales have been told from generations to generations about the many troubles he had to suffer from the hands of the then rigid society. And how, in spite of the troubles and threats to outcast him from the society, through his unerring and loving devotion to Lord Shri Krishna, he escapes these threats and lives a devoted life. His life was full of miracles that saved him time and again. Miracles, by the great Lord, whom Narsinh Mehta loved and adored all his life. Generations, after Narsinh Mehta, came to be known as Nagar Brahmans and these generations are indeed, proud to be called after that great saint. He brought glory to an entire caste of people. He created poems, bhajans and songs in praise of Lord Krishna and one bhajan became immortal and is sung with the same devotion. It tells of the moral values, duties and essence of a civilized Vaishnav. It became a favorite of Mahatma Gandhi.