Monday, October 29, 2012

social behavior

Excerpt from the book Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow

Today most humans live in large, crowded cities. In many cities, a single neighborhood could encompass the entire world population at the time of the great human social transformation. We walk down sidewalks and through crowded malls and buildings with hardly a word, and no traffic signs, and yet we don't bump into others or get into fights about who is going to step through the swinging door first. We hold conversations with people we don't know or hardly know or wouldn't want to know and automatically stand at a distance that is acceptable to both of us. That distance varies from culture to culture and from individual to individual, and yet, without a word, and usually without giving it any thought, we adjust to a distance of mutual comfort. (Or most of us do, anyway. We can all think of exceptions!) When we talk, we automatically sense when it is time to typically lower our volume, stretch out our last word, cease gesturing and look at the other person. These skills aided to our survival as a species, and it is still these skills that allow us to maneuver through the complex social world of the human

Right. Our social behavior is so automatic and unconscious. Even without any conscious efforts, our unconscious is a storehouse of nonverbal communication. And its like me watching foreign language movies without any subtitles and yet I could understand the complete story. 


Friday, October 26, 2012

of what we remember and forget

Excerpt from the book Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow

Moments in time may be forever forgotten, or viewed through a hazy or distorting lens, yet something of them nonetheless survives within us, permeating our unconscious. From there, they impart to us a rich array of feelings that bubble up when we think about those who were dearest to our hearts - or when we think of others from whom we've only met, or the exotic and ordinary places we've visited, or the events that shaped us. Though imperfectly, our brains still manage to communicate a coherent picture of our life experience. 


It is interesting to read through the whole chapter on 'Remembering and Forgetting' from the book. I am trying to remember a lot of things and I get hazy pictures of them. Trying to remember what I've forgotten is very difficult and some times, my unconscious mind tries to create them for me there by making it a false memory. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Panoramic Slopes of Pushpagiri

Any number of visits to this place doesn't satisfy anyone. The more you visit this place, the more you are going to visit this place. This is the place where even 500 meters of walk will tire you out. Not because of its steep climb, but because of its density, the richness of biodiversity. One can keep on wondering looking at the amazing diversity at every step. These are some of the panoramic vistas of this Pushpagiri ranges captured through my lens during my last few visits. 

(Click on the pictures to see enlarged view)

Cloud pattern over the grassy slopes of Pushpagiri

The valleys, the sholas and the grassy slopes. (Looking West)

The route to the Pushpagiri peak from Somwarpet entrance. (Looking North - East)

The Pushpagiri peak to the right.  Highest peak (1712 m) in the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary (Looking North)

The road connecting to Somwarpet. (Looking South - East)

The ranges seen from the Pushpagiri Temple. (Looking East)

The dense woods of Pushpagiri. Cloud play at the peak. (Looking North)

(C) Srikanth Parthasarathy

Thursday, October 4, 2012

'world heritage site' - boon or bane?

I guess it was not a wise decision for me to visit the Kas plateau this year. That I wanted a good break from my routine and also it was my wish to show Soujanya this magical wonder once in her lifetime, made me visit the place. It was a good sign enough when I got to know that the hotel room rates in Satara were almost doubled compared to last year; I could sense that something is seriously going wrong with the place. But I had made up my mind to visit anyway. 

I had not realized until I reached Satara that Kas plateau is one among the 39 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Western Ghats. And no wonder the place was overly crowded and highly commercialized. There are some significant changes/developments in and around the plateau compared to my last year's visit. The purpose of this post is to highlight those changes so that people are aware of what is happening and accordingly take decisions to visit the place or not. 

Plateau, after getting the 'world heritage site' tag, has lost its charm.
  1. Its fenced everywhere making the plateau look ugly. 
  2. More and more people visit the plateau. I think number of people will outnumber the flowers very soon.
  3. Too many restaurants and commercial vendors have taken space around the plateau. 
  4. There are many parking and resting areas.
  5. People are allowed to go over the plateau (towards the north side) and they literally go over the flowers. 
  6. There were 2 shops at the kas lake last year, this year there are 20+ shops. 
  7. They are trying to increase the water level of the kas lake by heightening the dam wall towards the west. And hence leading to the death of plenty of flora. 
  8. Many plants that I had seen during my previous visit have disappeared. 
  9. Near the lake they are trying to build something (may be parking area) and that has flattened many areas and many Utricularia/Eriocaulon plant habitat. They have dumped many truck loads of mud everywhere to create a parking area. 
  10. And around the lake there is no place where you cannot spot a plastic cover/bottle. 
Flip side:
  1. More forest guards to protect the place.
  2. There is an entry fee to the plateau (10 rs per person and 50 rs per vehicle parking).
  3. They do not allow vehicles to go over the plateau during the weekends. There is a parking space created much before (3km) the plateau and a bus to drop off people and pick them up from there. 
  4. Its all fenced, people cannot go over all the places except for designated places.
  5. People are fined 500 rs if they stop their vehicle over the plateau. (But some crazy people park their vehicles just after the plateau and walk back.)
  6. Entry towards Mahabaleswar road is completely blocked for vehicles. People can only walk on the road. 
  7. Except for the fence, the southern side of the plateau is beautiful and not one person can go over it. 
  8. 100 rs fine (is what I heard) if people pluck any flower or plant. 
  9. They have created fenced paths for people to walk around at some places. 
  10. There is a separate parking area created much before the lake and they take parking fee for the same. They try not to allow vehicles to the lake during weekends.
I do not know how it looks for those who are visiting the plateau for the first time; but for those regular visitors it looks sad. It is very disappointing to see all those developments over the plateau and there by losing its charm. I do not know if the 'world heritage site' tag is a boon or bane for this place; but it is very much evident that the magical landscape is getting transformed itself into a commercial tourist destination. 

Fenced landscapes

Fenced landscapes

Fenced landscapes. They are Impatiens, I am impatient!
Every tree has its share. This is the common sight around the kas lake

Vendor stalls right under the woods. I had seen many plants of Habenaria digitata orchid right here. They are gone.
SOS! Tourist people around Kas. This picture was taken at Thosegar waterfall.

Many vendors at the kas lake. Significantly tripled compared to last year.

So, that's the scene around the magical kas plateau after getting the 'world heritage site' tag. If you do go there by mistake, all I can ask you to do is to be responsible. 

(C) Srikanth Parthasarathy

the world we perceive

Excerpt from the book Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow

The world we perceive is an artificially constructed environment whose character and properties are as much a result of unconscious mental processing as they are a product of real data. Nature helps us overcome gaps in information by supplying a brain that smooths over the imperfections, at an unconscious level, before we are even aware of any perception. Our brains do all of this without conscious effort, as we sit in a high chair enjoying a jar of strained peas or, later in life, on a couch, sipping a beer. We accept the visions concocted by our conscious minds without question, and without realizing that they are only an interpretation, one constructed to maximize our overall chances of survival, but not one that is in all cases the most accurate picture possible. 

Mind is like a scientist, it creates its own model of world around us. How do we believe that what we perceive is true? If my unconscious is to fill the gap where there is incomplete information to construct a picture of reality, how can I be confident that my picture is a true one? 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Jewels of the sahyadri plateau

Ah, this post is all about the jewels of nature. I wonder and I am certain that these little wonders of nature inspire us in many ways. That if we try giving a shape to objects around us and bring it in sync with the nature's theme, every design looks beautiful. Only when I carefully observe that I can find these little wonders more beautiful. Gorgeous in their design, symmetry and presentation. Nature has all its mathematical formulations to its perfection that we fail to understand the logic behind its formation. Those intricate details, symmetrical arrangements, their laws of attracting pollinators and protecting themselves by mimicking during attacks are some (among many more) of the interesting facts for me to wonder always. Some of those little jewels I sighted during my recent trip to Satara are presented below. 

Smithia hirsuta - the mickey mouse flower

Dipcadi montana

Eriocaulon and the pollinator 


The trumpet flower - Ramphicarpa

Eriocaulon stellulatum

Cyanotis cristata

Impatiens oppositifolia 

Drosera indica - the carnivorous plant with a kill

Utricularia purpurascens

Rotala sp

Pogostemon deccanensis


Exacum lawii

Begonia crenata

fly on a Paracaryopsis flower

Ceropegia vincaefolia

Murdannia simplex

Habenaria longicorniculata 

Habenaria heyneana

Peristylus densus

Murdannia lanuginosa

Ceropegia media

Utricularia graminifolia

Aponogeton satarensis
(C) Srikanth Parthasarathy