Friday, September 30, 2011

a moon-lit dream

perhaps! that night was on of the best night's i've ever witnessed. I do have a lot of good nostalgic memories of some events in the past. But this one beat them all!

Rain was playing with me beautifully, everyday; making me forget everything else and enjoy its play. I was completely in a trance for those three days of my visit to the Kaas plateau. It was 10.00 pm on the Sunday night and was about to rain. I could feel each rain drop falling on my face had a story to tell me and to move me out of this world. And we were on the move. 

I had never seen such a beauty around me in the night and those Sahyadri slopes looked gorgeous in the night. Moon light was all over and the black shades overtook most of the moments; leaving the rain drops fall helplessly. The road wasn't straight but our direction looked right. Many toads on the road - a few jumping, a few waiting for us to go away, and some lying flat on the road. Many road kills; as many killer roads. We could hear calls everywhere, and we tried reaching them. We saw a lot of beauties and we were moving on to see more. 

As we moved on, the rain danced along. Within some time, we reached the woods and habitat drastically changed. It turned more humid and wilder by the distance. We saw couple of hares shying away from us. And some eyes that were blinking through the trees. It was a place more known for many mammal movements. We slowed down our bike after sighting him standing tall. On the road, staring straight into our eyes. The light made him notice us and he started coming towards us. As he approached we tried to bend down and escape. He flew away. A majestic Eurasian Eagle Owl appeared wilder in the night. It was a whew! moment for us. 

The night turned much wilder with the dramatic rain play over the woods. We stopped the bike again. And we noticed some mammal crossing the road and running into the paddy field. We searched with the torch light but we failed spotting it. We thought it was a Civet. (guess)

Finally we reached our destination for the day. An empty tourist bungalow welcomed us. There was no human in the bungalow. It was as silent as a valley. We started walking towards a small trail that goes into the woods. We saw some more frogs and we were not yet sighted any snakes. The place is supposed to be known more for Sloth Bear movements and I also heard some stories of their attacks as well. After all, it is their territory. So we had very less time to get out of that place. We climbed down for about 20 minutes into the valley and our torch lights were no effective because of the bright moon light. 

For the first time something happened to me. I stopped talking, I was completely blank to see what I was seeing. I thought It was a dream. I had to pinch myself to reassure that what I was seeing was real. Mouth wide open and eyes stuck with a sight; I witnessed something that I had not seen in my life. It was the moon-lit waterfall gorgeously flowing down into the valley. I got goosebumps looking at it. I had only 2 minutes to absorb the beauty in my eyes. I could not hear anything else other than my heartbeat and the wild roar of the waterfall. It never did notice our presence there. But we thought every frog, every small insect, every leaf of a tree were noticing our presence very much. 

(I was struggling to get a picture. It was a real test for me to prove myself that I have learnt some photography in the past. With what I was seeing around, I forgot how to take a picture. The picture i took may not be 1% justification of what I witnessed) 

What I saw was a moon-lit dream for sure!

Thoseghar waterfall under moon light. Photographed on 12th September, 2011 at 00:45 hours. 

With a beautiful dream captured in my eyes, with goosebumps all over my body, with an unbelievable expression on my face, I returned back to my room in Satara by 3 am. 

Thanks to Vishal Prasad who is based out of Satara and working towards conserving Kaas Plateau, for taking me to Thoseghar waterfalls in the night and giving me so much learning on the amphibians and reptiles. It was a thrilling night for sure. Vishal is a herpetology enthusiast and is also doing his research with BNHS. 


Monday, September 26, 2011

We commit to bring change

September 17th, 2011

It was the final round of the Jnana Fellowships– 2011 selection process and I was all excited to walk through the plans for the day. Out of the 400+ who completed the written test, top 50 were selected and were called for the interviews. Interviews were scheduled at the Vikasa Soudha from 9.30 am.  Candidates started walking into the venue from 8.30 am onwards; they were also served with breakfast and coffee. All the candidates were made to sit in a conference hall and register themselves for the interviews.

Two groups of panels were called to carry out the interviews. The general panel was a mixed set of leaders from Government, Private and Non-Profit Organizations. The department panel consisted of the secretaries from all the respective departments where the fellows will be posted.  I was very happy with the mixed set of people in the panel and I was sure of them doing a great job in selecting the final list of fellows. Candidates were called based on the 1st preferences of departments they had opted in their application form. Out of the 50 candidates, 48 of them showed up for the interviews and each interview took about 10 minutes.

My job was to keep talking to the candidates and panels; and make note of some observations. I was speaking to most the candidates and tried understanding their expectations. I was happy to meet some very interesting people with brilliant set of ideas to bring in change. I was ecstatic to hear about their plans and their confidence level with which they decided to risk’ coming out from their current jobs. Based on my interactions, I could categorize the candidates in to the following three sets. First set of people were those with a clear vision of what they want to work, a passion to work with the government, wish to use their experience and talent to bring in change; Second set of people were those who were waiting for such opportunities to use their talents and were ready to work on any assignment given to them and learn from the system; and the third set of people were those who had no specific plans and were mostly there to look out for an alternative job for themselves. I was very happy about the first two sets of people and was moved with the kinds of ideas they had.  I was also certain that the third set of people will get eliminated during the interviews. After all, they never expect candidates to see this as an alternative job.

As and when the panel were done with their interviews, the next department panel were called. And I used to run behind the panel who took the interviews for the feedback. I did get some excellent feedback and some good suggestions from them. Some of them were delighted with the quality of the candidates and their desire work with the system. I even heard that some of them were literally fighting over some exceptional candidates to take them to their departments. It was the eureka moment for me!

Feedback from the panel on the interviews summarized as under:
  1. So far everything looks perfect; we are waiting to see the results at the end of the fellowship period.
  2. Excellent presentations from the candidates.
  3. Candidates are certainly meeting our expectations.
  4. Process is designed very well. For the first time we are seeing a different way of doing things within the Government.
  5. More information about the departments to be given to the candidates much before the selection starts so that it would help candidates getting to know the work area better.
Almost all the interviews were really good. I could see a sense of satisfaction with the panel on their selection. After all, they were the ones who will be working with the fellows for the next 8 months. Some candidates did exceptionally well and some of them tried their best in convincing the panel. Even the panel did their best to give enough comfort to the candidates during the interview so that none of the candidates were disappointed while leaving the interview hall. Most of the candidates offered their help to make a positive difference to the system and some of them did carry the ‘I’m ok, you are not ok!’ attitude during the interview. But the panel were at their best to assess them before selecting them. Here are some of the key points that spoke candidate’s minds to convince the panel:
  1. It is very difficult to do things being inside the system and hence this platform will help me doing things that I want to do (some of them who are working with the Govt already) 
  2. Quality issues and the lacuna in the existing system. 
  3. Bringing the change at the grass root level. 
  4. To implement some of the proven scientific methods and low cost methods in the System. 
  5. To rework on the existing outdated policies in the system. 
  6. I have seen how things work being outside the system and I want to see how it works within the system. I want to assess how I can bring in more value addition being inside the system. 
  7. This is an alternative way to work with the government. 
  8. System is in need of new methodologies and techniques. We are here with what is required.

Finally all the interviews got over by 6.00 pm and candidates were getting exhausted sitting inside the room. They were served with timely snacks and couple of rounds of coffee/tea. We even gave them a round of chocolates so that they can keep themselves awake till the end of the day. We were impressed with the way the candidates conducted themselves throughout the day.

In the end, Dr M K Sridhar, Member Secretary of Jnana Aayoga addressed the candidates and explained them on how the Jnana Fellowships evolved and the integrity and transparency with which the process is being carried out thus far. Candidates did acknowledge on the process and praised the Jnana Aayoga on undertaking such a meaningful effort. The forum was open for candidates to give feedback and here are some interesting points:
  1. We gained more confidence in Jnana Fellowship because of the excellent process and the transparency with which everything is being executed. 
  2. It was completely a different experience. First of its kind. 
  3. We will certainly commit to bring change. 
  4. Selection process was the best and it should be replicated to all other departments as well. 
  5. Preference option in the application was a very good idea. 
  6. No reservations and only ‘capability’ was accounted. 
  7. This opportunity to be extended for those who can work from places other than Bengaluru. 
  8. This was like my second innings to the experience gained in private sector.

Dr Gopal Mahapatra, Senior Director - Organization and Talent Development at Oracle, who was a part of the general panel addressed the gathering for a few minutes. Having enormous experience working on talent acquisition and human resources in the past, he said the process was very unique and was the best he has seen thus far.

I felt very good to see things being executed as per what we had planned. It always feels heavenly to walk through the plans. Even I am eagerly waiting to see how the selected fellows keep up their wonderful spirits till the end of their fellowship term. I am sure of some good results.

No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought - J. S. Mill

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flowers of the Kaas Plateau

It was absolutely like a dream walking through my dream. It was a long pending trip for me to this plateau and fortunately I managed to visit the place this time. It is a plateau of flowers located in the Sahyadris (Western Ghats). This plateau, Kaas, is about 135km from Pune, near Satara town. The plateau of Kaas has becomes home to millions of wild flowers in late monsoons. In monsoon the whole area transforms into an unbelievable carpets of flowers like yellow carpets of Smithia , Pink carpets of Impatiens, Purple carpets of Carvia etc

Because of its sensitivity around issues like mass tourism, destruction and commercialization, I was very hesitant to go to this place. But as a nature wonderer I could not resist myself without seeing this valley of flowers once in my life time. I was fortunate enough to get into BNHS, they organized the visit very well. Unlike tourists, we were a bunch of nature enthusiasts and some of us were interested in Botany as well. The botanist with us, Santosh, was at his best in giving us enough details about the plants and flowers. Many species of wild flowers are endemic to Western Ghats and several species are endangered too. However, till date no serious steps have been taken for protecting the Flora and Fauna of this place and very few organizations are committed to conserve Kaas. We also met with some volunteers who are seriously committed to work on Kaas conservation and it was a good time brainstorming with them on a lot of ideas.

And I could not stop wondering at what I witnessed for three days. 



Senecio grahmii




Butterfly enjoying the Paracaryopsis flower

Impatiens lawii

Impatiens oppositifolia


Smithia hirsuta - the mickey mouse








Phipson's shield tail snake

Green keel back snake

Indian Bull Frog
Based on my observations at the Kaas on several aspects, I sincerely request the fellow travelers to consider the following:

1. Flowers are not for you. Please do not pluck them. Enjoy them just by seeing, they look more beautiful. 
2. Kindly do not sleep/ walk / sit on the flower beds. It is not a garden. 
3. Do not try to take plants from the plateau thinking it might look beautiful in your garden. It will not survive and you will be cursed for its death.
4. Do not take your vehicles over the plateau. Park as soon as the plateau starts and walk around on the foot path. I know you have more energy to walk. 
5. Kaas is not a place to host parties or a picnic. Do not drink, eat and throw the garbage over the plateau. Be more respectful to nature, nature will respect you. 
6. Be careful while walking. You may step on a beautiful flower and cause its death. 
7. Avoid plastic in your travel bag. Do not even let your ignorance to spoil the place. 
8. Do not play football or any game over the plateau. It is not a play ground. 
9. Drive slow on the roads. You may hurt a variety of fauna. Watch out for road kills. 
10. Resist your temptation to allow the beauty to tempt you more. 

Thank you! 
More photographs of Kaas on my flickr here.


Friday, September 16, 2011

kaas landscapes

Grass lands of Sahyadri hills at the half way to the kaas plateau

Lonely tree welcoming us to the kaas plateau. 

Nature enthusiasts enjoying their time at the kaas plateau
Yellow carpets of smithia giving a grand look to the lonely tree.

Beautiful sahyadri slopes at the kaas plateau
A forest guard carefully watches to ensure the flowers are not dis-respected.
White carpets of eriocaulon 
Pink carpets of Impatiens at the kaas plateau
Many varieties of flowers seen at the plateau. Blooming together smiling together. 
Pink carpets amidst the carvia plants
A time comes when all these carvia plants will be in bloom. Guess once in 7 or 9 years.
Gorgeous looking trees, a small pond amidst the impatiens flowers makes it a spectacular sight.
Sun play over the plateau 
Tiny water stream at the plateau cuts through the pink carpets. 

Sahyadri slopes overlooking the Urmodi dam.
Flat grass plateau and the yellow carpets here and there
Gorgeous tree at the kaas lake 

© Srikanth Parthasarathy
September 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

kuch kaas!

Much awaited visit to this plateau and was worth going all the way from here. Some panoramas from the plateau are here.

a welcoming kaas plateau looking west

Sahyadri hills and the Urmodi dam to the north

Yellow carpets of Smithias 

Misty morning on the kaas plateau

Pink carpets of Impatiens on the plateau and white Eriocaulon's on the right

picturesque plateau full of flowers in bloom during September

A gorgeous tree at the kaas lake

Cloud play at the kaas lake
© Srikanth Parthasarathy
September 2011