Jogimatti forest reserve

Jogimatti

JOGIMATTI is a hill station and a forest reserve in Chitradurga district, Karnataka, India.  It is also known as the “Ooty of dry land areas.”  The Reaserve covers 11,048.97 hectares in Chitradurga, Holalkere and Hiriyur taluks, 10km south of the city of Chitradurga.  Jogimatti is the highest point in the district at 3,803ft in elevation, and one of the coolest places in the state.
The vegetation is dry deciduous forest and scrub.  It is rich in wildlife and, until the 1950s, was “tiger habitat”, but is threatened by encroachment from farms and nearby windmills, which endanger birds.  The tigers and sloth bears are reported  to have almost died out and the medicinal plants, found in the reserve, are endangered.  The Jogimatti Forest Reserve has a total of 84 species of plants belonging to 57 families and a total of 49 species of birds belonging to 21 families of which 45 are resident (R) and 4 resident migratory (RM).  There are panthers, foxes, blackbucks, rusty-spotted cats and a number of snakes.

jogimatti forest

There is a century-old hill-top bungalow, built by the British in 1905, to house travellers, and a nearby temple dedicated to the local saint for whom the hill station was named.  There are 155 steps leading to the temple.  The reserve has a small zoo called Adumalleshwar which the Central Zoo Authority of India ordered renovated in 2012 to better house the animals and an eco-tourism adventure centre, which opened in 2010.  A waterfall called Himavatkedara or Himavatkedra has created a “natural cave” in which a Shiva Lingam and idols of Veerabhadra and Basavanna have been placed.

jogimatti_

The Jogimatti Forest is facing a threat from forest department officials who are expected to protect the pristine environs.  They have sent a proposal to the principal chief conservator of forests in Bengaluru to build a 8-km road from Adumalleshwara Gate to the Inspection Bungalow inside the Jogimatti Forest at a cost of  rupees 1.15 crore.  Instead of spending crores on the new road, the department should fill all the potholes on the stretch.  A 30ft wide road, that leads up to the Inspection Bungalow has been in a very bad condition for a very long time.

Jogimatti_view

India rediscovered

Blast from the past…

SPEAKZEASY

Little known spots have topped the ‘must-see’ lists of intrepid travellers, as we uncover stunning destinations that stand testimony to India’s natural beauty.
(1) 360 degree LETI, UTTARAKHAND
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For those tired of vacations being spoiled by loud, pesky kids of fellow tourists, this place is perfect.  Nestled high up in the Kumaon hills, it is almost too difficult for young kids to reach.  Even for most able-bodied adults, an 8-hour car ride ending with one-and-a-half-hour uphill trek to reach the cottages is not easy.  But the pay-out : Meals prepared by a former Tibetan monk, fine wine and blissful solitude.  The 360 degrees mountain views aren’t too shabby either.
(2) TINCHULEY, WEST BENGAL
tinchuley
Located at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, it is known as one of the hidden treasures of Darjeeling, or in other words, one of those places still safe from accumulated touristy junk.  The residents of this…

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Why children won’t sit still

Not every over-active child has ADHD.  A five-year-old finds it difficult to sit still for long in class.  Next door, a six-year-old has difficulty staying focused.  Parents of both the children have made their diagnoses : ADHD.  Their teachers seem to agree.  But, according to child counsellors, the two children are being, well, children.
childrenSymptoms of hyperactivity are usually apparent in most young pre-schoolers and are nearly always present before the age of seven.  Doctor Richard House says, “Modern educational thinking is making fundamental errors in children’s early development, which then generates behavioural disturbances ——— these get misdiagnosed as “medical problems” for which the child is assumed to require medical treatment.”
 In a recent blog, Angela Hanscom, a paediatric occupational therapist from New Hampshire, said there’s only one reason why more children have attention issues these das.  They are not getting enough movement.  “Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely plat outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues and the hectic schedules of modern-day society.  Children are not moving nearly enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.  Obsessive hours of doodling behind a computer screen and fiddling on iPads and cell phones is making matters worse.”
Anthony Pellegrini, emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, questions if we are depriving our children of normal forms of social play.  And if yes, is the incidence of ADHD, aggression and delinquency symptomatic of a society that has forgotten how to play.
Across the world, too many schools are clamping down on breaks, while choosing to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.  A 2010 study found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9 and 10-year-old children.  How does exercise children photographybenefit a child’s brain ?  The brain produces a protein called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor, when the body is moving.  This protein helps build nerve-cell connections and the stronger the connections, the easier it is for children to retain information.  So, active children tend to experience better cognitive performance and focus, have more rapid reaction time and are likely to perform better at school.  They learn to be more social, gain friendships and sleep well, a crucial element in mental development.
Rajani Pattabhiraman, Principal of Euro School in Mumbai, says, “We have found that children are doubly attentive when they come to class refreshed.  Therefore, the day’s time-table is designed in such a way that classes are interspersed with skating, taekwondo, dance or craft.”  A tiny Nordic nation has known this secret for decades.  On a regular school day, students and teachers in Finland take a 15-minute break after every 45mins of class.  Students head outdoors to play and chit-chat with friends., teachers go to the lounge and unwind.  Tim Walker, an American teacher in Helsinki, questioned the Finnish practice of giving 15-minute breaks each hour.  But he became a convert after he saw the difference it made to his students.  On his blog, Taught by Finland, he writes : no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom……… my Finnish students would —– without fail —– enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps {and} were more focused during lessons.”
During the course of her research, Hanscom found that a majority of children, surveyed, had poor core strength and balance.  The restricted movement pattern means that many children are walking around with an under-developed vestibular(balance) system.  In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their bodies in all directions, for hours at a time.  A child’s body displays a natural reaction ——— FIDGETING ——– so as to get the movement the body needs to “turn the brain on”.  Instead, teachers ask them to sit still and pay attention, putting their brain into “sleep mode”.  Can schools consider extending recesses ?  Teachers and Principals are unwilling to get into this debate, with completion of course work a primary worry.
Doctor Richard House, child psychologist and editor of “Too  Much, Too Soon” suggests that until age six, a child’s physical development should take precedence over cognitive learning.  Physical development needs to occur first, because if cognitive, quasi-formal learning is engaged with prematurely, this can actually interfere with the child’s overall holistic development.
——Khushali P Madhwani

Fascinating train journeys – Part 1

Joining the length and breath of India and touching the heart like no one else does, the Indian Railways has entranced dreamers, intrigued authors and inspired film-makers from Danny Boyle to Paul Theroux for a very long time.  Sneak in to the undiscovered cultures of Indian nooks and crannies, gaze into unexplored landscapes and soak in the invigorating air on scenic train journeys that will certainly change your perspective about travelling in the country.

kashmir railway snow(1) The Snow Sojourn : {Qazigund – Srinagar – Barmulla} ——— Connecting Jammu to Srinagar and Baramulla, this journey promises jaw-dropping views of snow-capped peaks standing guard over this delicate, beauteous vale and quaint frost-covered villages as the train weaves through pine forests.  Travel through the Banihal Tunnel which, at 11.2km, is India’s longest railway tunnel and truly a great engineering feat.  Let Kashmir overwhelm you with its wild beauty.
kashmir railway bridge(2) The Kashmir Railway : {Jammu – Udhampur} —– Taking you to the lap of the Himalayas, Jammu to Udhampur stretch offers resplendent views of the mighty mountains and the gorgeous valleys of magnificent chinar trees and proud poplars marching into the blue yonder.  Jammu rail crosses as many as 158 bridges and passes through 20 major tunnels that pique one’s interest.  And, if you are waiting for the frequently delayed train, the station restaurant, at Jammu Tawi, makes the best omelette sandwiches and masala tea.
himalayan queen(3) The Himalayan Queen : {Kalka – Shimla} —– Take a ride on India’s pretty little metre-gauge railway, the Himalayan Queen, as it takes you to one of the most beautiful destinations in India.  Drink in the splendid sight of orchards blooming with tiny red flowers and rivulets gurgling down the mountain slopes as you cross the famous 102 tunnels, 87 bridges and 900 curves on this beautiful journey.
(4) Aroma of Assam : {Lumding – Silchar } —– Watch vast stretches of emerald green paddy and tea assam railwayplantations go by as the train inches into the lush green Haflong Valley before meandering along the lively River Jatinga into the enchanting countryside of the Barak Valley.  Feel the invigorating mountain air lift your spirits as you gorge on some hot tea and local snacks, bor and pakori.
arakku valley 1(5) The Arakku Valley Railway : {Vizag – Arakku } —— From the palm-fringed coast to thickly forested hills and coffee plantations, the train journey from Vishakhapatnam to Arakku Valley is charming and dream-like  The train meanders through lush green valleys, towering cliffs and thundering waterfalls, before passing through the famous BORA CAVES, the deepest caves in India.
New Jalpaiguri-Darjeeling train
(6) The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway : {New Jalpaiguri – Darjeeling } —- This cute little toy train is your ticket to a delightful tour of the gorgeous, undulating hills of Darjeeling, replete with tea plantations, and forests of cherry and pear.  Traverse through the bustling main road, enjoy the reverse loops and the spiral at AGONY POINT, trundle through the risky curves and, if lucky, see the snowy tip of the majestic Mount Kanchenjunga.

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7) The Konkan Coastal Saga : {Ratnagiri – Mudgaon – Honnavar } —- The stunning of the Konkan Railways hug India’s south-west coastline and takes you on a breath-taking journey sun-lit paddy fields lined with coconut and mango trees, small villages bursting with life and over glistening stretches of water leading out to sea.  You will love this one, especially in the monsoon, when the world outside explodes in green.

dooars (8) The Dooars Voyage : {Siliguri – New Mal-Hasimara – Alipurduar } —– Passing through the deep forests at the foothills of the Himalayas, the new Jalpaiguri – Alipurduar passenger train offers the surreal experience of a wildlife Safari by train.  Travel through the jungle of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Chapramari Forest, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and Buxa Tiger Reserve, teeming with wild life, with the feisty River Teesta playing hide-and-seek with the rushing train.
sethu express(9) The Sea Bridge Ride : {Mandapam – Pamban – Rameshwaram } —- Watch the sun’s rays play on the sparkling azure water of the Indian Ocean and soak in the serenity of the panoramic vista as the Sethu Express traverses over the bridge to reach the Pamban Island in the Gulf of Mannar.  This is a journey that will remain etched in your memory for a long time to come.
ooty(10) The Nilgirii Mountain Railway : {Mettupalayam – Udhagamandalam } —— Remember the famous “Chainya, cahinya ” song.  Well, it was shot on the rooftop of  the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which puffs up and down the Blue Mountains in Tamil Nadu.  The vintage train snakes through mountains, slithers through narrow tunnels, clings to the edges of deep cliffs and rattles over archaic bridges as your eyes feats on a patchwork quilt of deep green forests and manicured tea plantations.

Wonders of nature

Nature’s canvas is so breath-taking and astounding that it leaves one awe-struck.
THE MONO LAKE
Mono_Lake_007

Believed to have been formed 760,000 years ago, the MONO LAKE, in California, is a noted bird-watching destination.  A spectacular feature of this lake is that it also has many tufa rock formations which are a result of rich calcium deposits and carbonates that have resulted in limestone towers.
FROST FLOWERS at Diamond , Missouri, US
Cunila origanoides

A natural phenomena witnessed between fall and early winter, when the temperature and environmental moisture is just so, resulted in such “frosted flowers” that melt away as the temperature rises over the day.
Bio-luminescence at LA JOLLA CAVE, San Diego
Bioluminescence-at-La-Jolla-Cove-San-Diego-California-USA

The stunning cove and beach in LA JOLLA experiences this psychedelic phenomena called “bio-luminescence” which produces “luminescent streaks” in the sea and makes it look like something out of a science fiction movie.
DEAD SEA, Jordan
Dead-Sea

A popular tourist pull for Jordan, the DEAD SEA is famous for being one where one can float given the high saline level of the water.
AVSHALOM CAVE, Israel
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Also called the SOREQ CAVE, the AVSHALOM CAVE in Israel is 91-metre-long psychedelic wonderland with stalactites and stalagmites galore.  These caves were discovered, accidentally, through a quarry blast in the area and after10 years of research it was opened for public viewing.
PINK LAKE in Australia
Natural-Pink-Lake

Quite like the colour of strawberry bubble gum, the Lake Hiller, in Western Australia is famous for being one of the most stunning pink lakes across the world.
The united colours of CANO CRISTALES
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Amazing-Caño-Cristales

This Columbian river located inside the National Park Serrania de la Macarena in Meta is popularly called “the river of five colours”.  A unique species of plant that lines this river floor called Macarenia Clavigera, turns “electric red” in colour during the short span between the wet and dry season.  This is offset by blotches of yellow and green sand, blue water and a million shades in between.  The psychedelic rainbow-effect can be witnessed for a few weeks from September through November.
COLOURFUL ICEBERGS in Antarctica
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Striped colourful icebergs can be seen while travelling south of Antarctica.  Sometimes, when the ice melts and re-freezes over time to form icebergs, dirt and some other particles get stuck in it creating multi-coloured stripes on the surface.
7-COLOURED EARTH in Chamarel, Mauritius
7-colored earth Mauritius

This small village in Mauritius is popular with tourists who visit this place to check out the numerous colours of the earth.  A popular souvenir to pick while visiting this place would be tubes with multi-coloured earth.
SMOKING CRATERS in Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia
Smoking-craters-in-Mount-Bromo-Java-Indonesia

The stunning volcano is nestled inside the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in Java, Indonesia.  Since this volcano could be active at times, it may not be open to visitors.  This also happens to be an important pilgrimage place for Javanese Hindus.

The power of love

alive-painting-oil-on-canvas

Love has its own mysterious ways of being fulfilled.  All of us seek fulfilment in some way or other.  Some seek it in relationships, others seek it in power, name, fame or making money.  But all of seek fulfilment.  All, except “love” put you in a “want mode” and not in a “fulfilling mode”.  Love is the only mysterious energy which makes you feel fulfilled.
So, in the corporate context, can you bring in love ?  Yes, you can.  Do what you love and love what you do.  If you bring this energy to your work front, then you don’t need a holiday from work for the work itself becomes a holiday.
Love is experienced in a way that you accept people as they are and motivate them to peak their potential.  Love makes one enjoy one’s relationship, one’s work and it builds trust in a relationship.  Through trust, you accept the weakness and faults of the other, be it your boss or spouse or spouse and learn to love them as they are.
love_powerIn an organisation, there can be internal enemies.  Instead of being stressed out, learn to love them, accept them, make friends with them and transform them.  The whole process is out of love, and there is fulfilment.  Love gives the power of “direct perception”.  In daily or ordinary living, there is no “direct perception”, because perception is through resistance.  We resist it through our likes and dislikes.  With this background if you operate in the corporate world, you can’t see others objectively.
Understanding the other in your work or at home comes when you see the other “as he is”.  Love is not self-love.  Self-love is exclusive.  Love is always inclusive.  When you exclude the other, you are in conflict with the other and hence there is chaos.  Team spirit happens in such an “inclusive space”.
———– Swami Sukhabodhananda. 
Through Love all that is bitter will be sweet
Through Love all that is copper will be gold
Through Love all dregs will become wine
Through Love all pain will turn to medicine.
——– Jalaluddin Rumi.

Rousing the Devi

Shodasi Puja2

During Navaratri, the mind naturally turns to Devi.  We are reminded of one of her greatest devotees — Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa.  In the initial phase of his sadhna, not only did he have a woman, Bhairavi Brahmani, as his guru, he worshipped Ultimate Truth as feminine in the form of Kali.  Though he would eventually move towards a non-dualistic and, therefore, un-gendered perception of reality, Truth would never lose its femininity for Sri Ramakrishna.
In a radical and feministic interpretation of the Advaita perspective, he said, ” When I think of the Supreme Being as inactive —– neither creating nor preserving nor destroying —– I call Him Brahman or Purusha, the Impersonal God.  When I think of Him as active —– creating, preserving and destroying —– I call Him Shakti or Maya or Prakriti, the Personal God.  But the distinction between  them does not mean a difference.  The Personal and the Impersonal is the same thing, like milk and its whiteness, the diamond an its lustre, the snake and its wriggling motion.  It is impossible to conceive of the one without the other.  The Divine Mother and Brahman are one.”

Nava-durga

While worshipping the “Supreme Being” as feminine, so deep was his absorption that he would see her everywhere, even in his own wife, Sarada.  Once, on the night of the ritual worship of Kali as Phalaharini, one who “destroys the fruits of actions”, Sri Ramakrishna conducted a secret puja where he asked Sarada to take the place of the deity and worshipped her in the form of Shodashi, the Devi as a 16-year-old, also known as Tripura Sundari.
“During the Shodashi Puja, Sri Ramakrishna consecrated Sri Sarada Devi’s body by placing mantras on various parts of it, making it “mantramayi”, encasing the Goddess in human form.  Was it because he wanted to manifest the special characteristics of Tripura Sundari in the Mother of this age ?”, writes Pravrajika Vedantaprana in her essay Sarada Shodashi.
kali

A way of looking at Sarada’s Sodashi Puja is how it acted as a trigger for her own inner transformation.  Once Sri Ramakrishna invoked the Goddess in her, se felt inspired to grow into her role by consciously cultivating the qualities of the Devi within herself.  The point of spiritual practice is not to create pure atman, but uncover it and bring it into conscious being.  The essence is present, but it has to be roused and set in motion.  This is what happened with Sarada, under the watchful guidance of Sri Ramakrishna.
This Navaratri, when we conduct the ritual puja, it would be useful to keep in mind the powerful psycho-spiritual trigger such an event can be.  If done with complete absorption and inner connection, it might well present us with a precious opportunity to expand the boundaries of divinity by igniting the Goddess spark in the human feminine.
———Swati Chopra.