Monday, January 29, 2007

Fire stomping

After a long not very satisfying shoot (the highlight was a Hoopoe sighting) at the airfield, a group of kids ran out of the close-by colony asking to see the snake I was carrying. I wasn't, off course, and told them so. They carried on then with their games, whizzing around the airfield on little bikes. As I got ready to leave, some them started yelling 'fire, fire' and indeed there was one. Someone had carelessly thrown a cigarette. They put out this fire, along with the sole security guard there, using leafy branches, a little piss, water and their little feet. Just as they put one out another smaller one broke out, and threatened to be worse than the first. It was put out post haste.

They told me of a huge fire that had raged here some years ago threatening their houses. Their methods of fire control had proved ineffective and eventually fire engines had been called in. This is the second very large fire thats happened here (that I know of) in the last couple of years. There are always a few small ones, quickly put out by security guards or someone nearby. I helped put out the one in the second picture along with 10-15 guards. Its a scary experience, little ones start from nowhere just under your feet. The smoke is suffocating and your face and eyebrows get singed.

Fire is probably a part of the local ecology and there might be some seeds that need it to germinate. This grassland is a tinderbox in the dry season, waiting for the smallest spark. In the long run, it's going to be a serious hazard. Many of the new buildings that IISc is planning are going to be built around this area. I can just imagine the damage if a serious fire takes root. A glass bottle thrown carelessly concentrating the suns energy on dry fuel, a cigarette carelessly chucked into dry grass. We are so used to doing it in these parts of campus, I can't expect people in IISc will suddenly become careful when they get there. I hope there will be fire management systems in place when they do move. And walls, to keep the fools and their wastes in, and away from the airfield. At least, a designated smoking area (people will smoke, theres no way around it), with those huge ashtrays that used to be seen in old cinemas. And a waste disposal plan that doesn't involve chucking chemical bottles over the wall/fence. And off course plenty of hoses and fire fighting equipment and sprinklers...

Off course, the way IISc deals with trouble usually is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I expect that the whole area will be bull-dozed and shorn to nothing (after the first fire, never before) and we will have lost a unique little ecological system. Or maybe not, maybe someone will think of it, maybe safeguards will be designed? And people will be able to peer out of their high windows over rolling grasslands and hear sweet sweet sweet.

(9th Feb '07: This post has nothing to do with the fire that occurred at MCBL last night. The two places are quite far apart.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


In the mainlawns, now largely bald and dusty from a rainless winter, tucked in a corner there is small tree. Twisted a little, like something from an oriental painting. On its thickened branches are encrusted these flowers, fleshy, red and odourless. A little lustrous, reminding me of coral. I have no name for them. I'm a poor botanist and then this place is replete with exotics. (The truth be told many of the names we know, most of us, belong to exotics; Gulmohar, Trumpet flower, Poinsettia.)
They bloom and the air around them is thick with insects, and the cries of small birds. I didn't know that Tailor birds are nectarivores, or that White-eyes are. Barbets I had already learned are catholic in their diet. I've watched them bring as many termites and large mantises to their chicks as they have brought figs. Our classifications of the diets of many things are largely mythology I think and many birds will attempt rather unkosher things in the lean seasons or when they are harried by young.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Halo / Parhelic circle / what?

Anyone care to tell me which of these atmospheric optical phenomenon this is? Its looks most like one of the halos, except it splits the light up into the spectrum. Anyone with a nice definitive answer?

I've put up a large picture so you can look closely at it, note the second one slightly lower in the image, which I hadn't noticed while taking the picture and cut off. This was taken sometime mid September at the airfield.

The second is just for pleasure.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Secret lives (or the big secret everyone knows): book in the works

Ok, I think its time to start talking about it a bit more widely. I'm planning a book! A book on the biodiversity of IISc called (so far) Secret lives.

The book follows a somewhat alternative view to biodiversity. As opposed to following the idea of taxa as many do, it follows the idea of process, a more mechanistic view. It would be interesting to a wider audience I think. A few of the chapters I plan are: 'Food', 'Water', ' Sex' , 'Babies'. Its largely going to be in a coffee table format, while the text will be engaging, well researched, you won't really need it to enjoy this book. The books about photographs!

I've put up a chapter here so you can get a better idea of what it will look like. Here's what I would like you to do, please pass this on! Particularly to any IIScian / exIIScian you know, but everyone really! And please let me know what you think, I would really really appreciate the feedback! Quite a bit about this book is open, including the title, so feel free to suggest one!

Right now, I'm negotiating with IISc to publish the book for the centenary. If that doesn't work out, however, I will be looking at other publishers or maybe even Lulu. So any advice, contacts in that direction will also be very great and gratefully received.

Pass around the big secret :)

PS: For all those who have written to me, thanks. I will keep you updated on things as and when they happen.