Everyone's Losing Something

By Odette Katrak
Everyone's losing something
What did you lose today?
Our routines have all gone haywire
Taking our comforts away.

Did you lose the privilege of a driver
Whom the lockdown forced to stay home?
Or were forced to cook your own dinner
Pushing you out of your comfort zone?

Are you sad that you lost a holiday
That you had booked so much in advance?
Caught with the seeming unfairness
Of this unfortunate circumstance.

Or did you lose a golden opportunity
To have the biggest wedding you'd planned?
But just ended up with a small one
No big crowds, and no live band.

Everyone's losing something
A privilege, an opportunity, a chance,
But lucky are they who lose just these
Minor hiccups to otherwise smooth plans.

There's the unlucky one who lost a job
And another who lost his mind,
The stress of this pandemic scenario
Has turned out to be brutally unkind.

Someone lost more than a privilege
A brother-in-law, an uncle, a friend,
It's going downhill far too quickly
Can’t wait for this nightmare to end.

So if you missed your maid this morning
Or your favourite TV soap,
Remember the little girl missing a dad
But just doesn't know how to cope.

Extra chores may push you to exhaustion
Or just make you miss that beauty sleep,
Think of the man who lost his wife
But his baby gives him no time to weep.

Each one is going through this nightmare
In varying degrees of dread,
For some it's a minor adjustment
For others, a permanent void instead.

Everyone's losing something or someone
Many are finding it difficult to cope,
But whatever you lose as you travel on
Make sure to never lose hope.

There's light at the end of the tunnel
A definite rainbow after the storm,
Your losses will strengthen your inner core
And you'll learn to cope as you move on.

Remember if you just lost a privilege
Someone else lost a very dear friend,
So ignore that insignificant inconvenience
Think of what really matters in the end.

There are people dying all around us
No beds, just gasping for breath,
Our convenience doesn’t matter as much
As collective onus to prevent each death.

Everyone's losing something or someone
Let’s remember we’re all part of a whole,
One person’s action can hasten the spread
Let's choose right and hang on to hope.

Everyone’s losing something or someone
We've all got to play our part,
And hang on to hope as we journey on
Bruised, broken but never losing heart.

(Odette Katrak is an activist
based in Bengaluru)

The difference between traditional, and improved, design


Just a few touches can mean the difference between old and a vastly improved design. On the left is the traditional coffee filter.

The part where the coffee powder is put (1) fits very tightly into the lower container (2), into which the decoction percolates. The lid (3) also fits very tightly over (1).

The practical problems with this design are: when boiling water is poured into (1), both the upper and then the lower containers (1 and 2) become very hot, and it is very tough to separate them unless one waits for the whole filter to cool. Similarly, the lid (3) falls off unless it is tightly fitted, in which case, it's very tough to open it in case one wants to get a second "pour" and wants to fill it again with boiling water.

On the right is a Vietnamese coffee filter, which solves these problems very elegantly. There is only one container (4) into which one tamps the coffee powder; it sits on any glass or tumbler, without being wedged tightly into it. It has two little bakelite handles which allow it to be removed from the drip container, very easily. The lid also sits lightly (and not tightly) over the container and can be removed with ease if a second "pour" is required.

It can provide coffee decoction for two large cups (sorry, tumbler/davarA!) of filter kaapi, without having to struggle with hot metal! I don't know why we can't make filters like this instead of sticking to the traditional (and user-unfriendly) design. This can be adapted to all sizes of filters.

Blr, 110521

Unhappy Mothers' Days...

Since we finished, yesterday, all the hearts-and-flowers Happy Mother's Day, let me write about the Unhappy Mother's Days.
The mothers who have lost their children to death, divorce or to disasters.
The mothers who cannot bring up their children as they wish to, because of various constraints: overbearing family members, penury, demanding jobs.
The mothers whose children are ill and far away.
The mothers who are terminally ill, and know that they will be leaving their children soon.
The mothers who are mentally ill and no longer even know their children.
The mothers who want to be, but cannot have biological children.
The mothers whose children are ill,
The mothers whose children are physically or mentally handicapped.

Motherhood is a state that comes with anxiety and guilt, and sometimes the difficulties can be overpowering.

The slippery path into the vortex.... "Gold Loans"


Every morning, my newspaper (Deccan Herald) carries these huge lists (covering two or three pages) of gold items that have fallen forfeit, and are being auctioned. To me, these lists are stories of human beings sliding deeper into the quagmire of losing the little they had.

If at all the people who get "gold loans" against their gold (no one calls it pawning these days, but that is what it is) have some chance of redeeming their gold, the other kind of gold transaction that is heavily advertised in all the media, gives no opportunity whatsoever for getting the gold items back.

The "gold purchase" ads show shiny ladies in beautiful homes, all smiles as they explain how all one has to do is to go with the gold to them. The company will a) either purchase the gold at the current rate; or b) redeem the gold from the place where it has been "loaned", and give the person the difference between the rate s/he pawned it and the matter is done. "Take the money," says the lady with her bewitching, bejewelled and coiffed smile, "Settle your problems, and live happily, without worry." No mention is made of the desperate situation which would drive someone to pawn/sell their gold; how that money would quickly disappear into the maws of existing debt, making it impossible ever to redeem that gold, or buy any gold, again.

The gold finance/loan companies obviously are making huge sums of money on these transactions. There is, of course, no room for scruples, human empathy, or care about the unhappy people who will watch their gold being forfeit and sold at auction, or disappearing forever to assuage the urgent financial needs, which, like the Hydra-headed monster, will rear more and more heads each succeeding day.

Surely the companies which offer these band-aid "gold loans" and "gold purchases for instant cash" know that such loans can almost never be repaid, nor the gold ever bought back. Such transactions are the slippery, one-way path to poverty. What else should we do to keep people and families from slipping into this vortex?

How the words come....

Writing poetry
Is not something I can do
I start feeling strongly
About something,
And,over a period of time,
The words form themselves...
They clamour to be written down
Until I must heed their call,
And set them down in black and white.

Karna was born through Kunti's ear:
Jesus' was an immaculate conception.
Others were born out of sacrificial fires.
Poetry is a child
That is conceived in the heart
And takes birth
Through one's fingers,
With perhaps a tear or two
Easing the path of the words
Into the world.

The Ostrich

Let me close my eyes.
Let me not see
These awful scenes.
People dying of the virus.
People dying, not of the virus,
But of the breakdown of the system:
Gasping out their last breath
While helpless families look on.

Let me close my eyes.
Let me not think about
People struggling even to consign
The lost ones, to the flames:
No room at the burning ghat,
Which sports an ironic "House Full" board.

Let me close my eyes.
Let me dream of the times past
When we led untrammelled lives.
When we went where we wanted,
Ate what we wanted,
Hugged whom we wanted.
Hugged whom we wanted.

Let me close my eyes.
But not think of those
Who suffered even in earlier times...
The poor, the oppressed, the suffering...
Whose ordeals did not touch our hearts
Or awaken our slumbering consciences.

Let me close my eyes.
Let me look at beautiful pictures,
Listen to beautiful music,
Think profound, philosophical thought.
Let me not see the ugly truths before me.

Let me close my eyes.
Let me live in my privileged bubble
Of enough money to shield me
From harsh realities, from want and suffering

Let me close my eyes.
As long as ill health, or the virus
Does not hit me,
Let me live, cocooned, without a thought
Of the trials and struggles of those around me.

Let me close my eyes.
Let not tears of sympathy
Or empathy
Escape, and show that I can feel.
Let me close my eyes.

Status Anxiety...the need for "Like"s

We may not admit it, but the truth is that we all seek to be loved by the world. When we are babies, we are loved whether we burp or scream or break our toys. But as we grow up, we are suddenly thrown into a world where people judge us by our achievements or our status (rather than our mothers did.)

Hence our anxiety about how we are perceived. No human being is immune from this weakness. The ego (ahankAra, 'the I-maker') is a 'leaky balloon, forever requiring the helium of external love to remain inflated, and evervulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect.'

There is something at once sobering and absurd in the extent to which we are lifted by the attentions of others and sunk by their disregard. Even great heroes like Yudishtira and Arjuna are guilty of this sort of vanity.

--Gurcharan Das, "The Difficulty of Being Good"

That encapsulates the trait of human beings which Facebook, Instagaram, and other social media address. The need to be "like"d. This is called the External Locus of Control, where we need to be validated by others.

Muthyal Maduvu (several visits over March and early April '21)

Since group (or even solitary) bird/nature outings are no longer possible, I thought of writing about my visits to various locations in the past few months.

One of the re-discoveries of a nature location is Muthyala Maduvu, which translates in Telugu to "Pearl Drops"....which is how Pearl Valley gets its name, where the water droplets of the small cascade are likened to pearls.


Participants on one outing.


is a fairly accurate description of this location. What it does not tell us is that the locals (acting for themselves or for the Karnataka Forest Department, we don't know) let everyone in, and lower a boom across the road and charge Rs.30 per vehicle to let people go!

When I had visited this place perhaps two decades ago, it was so filthy with accumulated trash, and noisy with boisterous tourists, that I, like hundreds of others, stopped visiting.

However, recently, some visitors spotted a very unusual bird, the Eyebrowed Thrush, at this spot, and this sparked fresh interest in visiting the area. Let me not deny that there is still a fair amount of trash, especially along the bed of the stream that flows away from the cascade...but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be. Granite steps have been built, going down the valley to the cascade, which falls into a small pool before tinkling over the rocks as a small stream. There are two gazebos that overlook the valley, providing a great view of the birds in it on the way down, and, on the return, raptors riding the thermals in the skies above.

Since I am not a "tick" birder (one who goes to a location with a specific, unusual bird in mind) it took me a while, and the requests of several birders, to conduct outings here. I may as well clarify immediately that I never ever got a glimpse of the "Hubbu" (eyebrow in Kannada) Thrush. In fact, I got sightings of the Thick-billed Warbler, which is a bird with no supercilium...but that is another story!

On our visits, we seemed always to start with the Barn, Wire-tailed and (later, in increasing numbers) Red-rumped Swallows


sitting on the wire in musical notation formation, at the backwaters of the reservoir. On entering the turnstile, we usually located the featherball Spotted Owlet in the vicinity, while Purple and Purple-rumped Sunbirds flitted and feasted on the Moringa flowers on a tall tree. Coppersmith and White-cheeked Barbets welcomed us with audio and sometimes a video too.

As we descended the steps to the gazebos, Red-vented, Red-whiskered, and White-browed Bulbuls caught our attention. White-eyes, Cinerous Tits, Prinias and Munias flitted through the bushes.

Sujith and his team from Carl Zeiss setting up the birding scope and letting everyone use it. They brought along five pairs of binoculars too. Here Sangeeta is trying it out.

Gazing at the valley from the gazebos, we found a lot of activity; Scimitar Babblers, Blue-bearded


and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters,


Paradise Flycatchers...they delayed our descent down into the cascade area. Ashy and Black Drongos competed with

Bronzed Drongos

in bringing black to our attention when we were looking at other colours!

Black-rumped Flameback.

When we reached there, however, (provided there were no casual visitors there (which sometimes happened) the pool area was excellent for sighting many Flycatchers. Apart from the resident Paradise, Spot-breasted and Tickell's Blue, we also sighted the Asian Brown, the Brown-breasted, the Ultramarine, and the Verditer flycatchers.


The stream that flowed away from the pool rewarded our patience with so many beautiful birds....the Indian Blue Robin, the White-rumped Shama, the Orange-headed Thrush and many more. Some superb DSLR photographs from the participants bear witness to this statement!

The path slowly leaves the stream below and goes as a single-file, rocky path up the hill; many of us explored right up to the brow of the next hill, coming back with sightings of the Indian Eagle Owl as well. However, on one visit,I had just finished telling people in the group that they would have to walk quite a bit to see the Eagle Owl....and as if taking pity on those of us who could not walk up the path, the Owl once sat directly opposite the first gazebo, far away but quite rewarding!

Nor were the birds the only things of interest. Starting with the tall, flowering Moringa tree and the Rain Tree in which the Owlet could be found,and the ever-present Eucalyptus at the backwaters, we found several Honge (Pongaemia sp), Pala Indigo (Wrightia tinctoria), Nile Tulip (Markhamia lutea), Jacaranda and Gulmohar (Delonix regia) trees, some of them beginning, and some of them ending, their blossom cycle. Ficus trees, both Peepal and Banyan, provided dense shade. We noticed several beautiful wildflowers, including Wild Petunias (Ruellia tuberoas), Mexican Clover (Richardia scabra),
Jamaican Spike or Devil's Coach Whip (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis),

Coat Button (Tridax procumbens), and the beautiful ruby seed pods of Piluki (Combretum indicum).

The beauty of the Wood-Apple (Bael) Tree.

Our visits were generally too early for a lot of butterfly activity, but we did notice many...
several Blues, Emigrant, Jezebel, Common Lime, Chocolate and Lemon Pansies, Common Sailers, Plain and Striped Tigers, and Common Grass Yellow, too.

Chocolate Pansy

We noticed a Black-naped Hare running across once, as also a Mongoose; the other mammals were the Bonnet Macaques, and we had to be very careful when we shared our snacks. On one visit, a monkey snatched away the ketchup bottle which Padma had brought to serve with her delicious cutlets. After expertly opening the screwtop lid, the monkey put the bottle to her lips, and was puzzled when no liquid flowed into her mouth! She persevered, but did not like the taste of the ketchup that did finally ooze through. That was, however, the last we saw of the bottle!

The monkey tries to get something from the bottle.

Which reminds me....our snacks were always varied and delicious, and after climbing down and back up the steps, very welcome indeed! Crunchy, healthy, sweet and home-made...all kinds of eatables were downed!



We also enjoyed the easy camaraderie that we had been missing during the time of the lockdown, the forming of new acquaintanceships, and the cementing of previous ones.

Well, we did not expect that Covid would rise again, and put paid to these outings for the present, at least....but the visits to Pearl Valley, and the lovely times we spent there, will not be quickly forgotten by us. As we sit at home, limited to walking only around our apartment buildings, we can think back to these pleasant mornings!

You can see two of the albums of some of the Pearl Valley outings


and at


Wishing you all good health above everything else in these strange times,