Friday, August 27, 2021

Rats and rat trapping circus

Rats and bandicoots are havoc-making pests nearly everywhere and our garden area is no exception.  Trapping them to reduce their numbers and troubles they cause is a perpetual circus.  

A box rat trap had been set with a 'vade' piece as bait food and kept in a certain spot in the garden overnight.  

Morning...  nothing had been trapped. It was the wrong place for that occasion though they frequent that area. I noticed a burrow opening that was not disturbed [I had kept some dry leaves there] the previous evening, now open and disturbed, thus indicating the burrow resident's presence and fresh movement.  The location of this opening was at the corner of the compost pit where we dump kitchen scrapings and other small organic matter.   I now kept the trap near this opening of the burrow... [Picture].......

........and walked a few feet away to check something in the garden.  Lo and behold! "Bonk"! 
The aroma of the 'vade' bait had drawn the burrow resident and into the trap, within literally two minutes!  Immediately, I decided to give this trapped rat a beautiful ride, fully free, on my scooter to be released safely a mile away.  Sometimes some rats are lucky to get free bicycle rides.  This one was getting a scooter as I had just then returned from my bicycle ride. 

This is another hole nearby that will have a link to the one in the pit.

They dig up holes like these in search of earthworms, often damaging plant roots. 

[Video, 22 seconds] Quite a grown up rat that was!

When I opened the spring lid, it saw a lovely drain in front of it and happily jumped out in joy of the trap to its new environs where it is sure to find new friends.  

Due to this pest's proliferation, such releases have become fairly regular.  I release them at different places away from homes. 

Some record this.... trap-set, trapped, released a mile away  within ten minutes! 
:) :)

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Social media had given me some simple fun ideas of trapping mice. I did try a couple of them. One is the bottle trap.  It worked very well for small mice [bottle mouth was small].  It trapped 5-6 successfully.  One of them I took it to K.R.Nagar, 40 km away and released it at the cricket ground... ... I had gone to play our club cricket match that morning!  And my team mates were curiously looking at this contraption and the rodent in it!

I tried another with a bottle with a slightly wider mouth for fatter mice.  It worked, but since one mouse started to bite the bottle trying to escape, I discarded it. 

My friend's large garden has the problem of much larger and more ferocious bandicoots.  Since he is a fabricator himself, he made a strong cage-trap for these pests.  I had borrowed this once as one bandicoot had proliferated its generation.  I caught the big one - almost the size of a medium size cat!!  It roared like a tiger when I took it out to the far away park to release it. Here's that cage:

This is a juvenile bandicoot fearlessly feeding on rice grains we had put for the spotted dove. These are nocturnal but see their daring in daylight! 

They sometimes enter indoors [mainly in search of food] and it is another thrilling game.... they scamper like lightning.  Armed with a stiff broom and some reflexes I have knocked a few down unconscious after locking the doors and then threw them away from the house. 

A rat had entered the worship room a few years ago. Later it was successfully knocked out. 

Spotted owlets are natural predators but their number seems to have dwindled. Same are here in the south also.  This is a picture I took in Chandigarh. 

This is in the dark, perching on our house.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Shankar, a tribute

There came a phone call on the evening of 18th December, 2017.  Unfamiliar voice, "This is Kiran....".  A simple clue pointed he was a childhood friend.  We had met each other occasionally but not in regular contact and never before on phone.  He goes on to tell "someone with me wants to talk to you .... [gives the phone to him] ... Hello Dinu, this is Shankara.  Remember me? ..............[some pleasantries]...  I have come to Mysore for a few days [from America].  I am right now with JS Kiran..... where and when shall we meet?".  His voice, instantly recognizable, was just the same it was, when I had last met him, thirty plus years ago.  What a delightful surprise! He had suddenly wanted to meet me, on this visit!  Kiran had located my telephone number through some of his known sources.  They were classmates in Engineering and one year junior to me in school. 

Shankar and I were great street mates who had enjoyed playing cricket, hide and seek, chess, carrom, marbles, etc. along with other street boys at Devaparthiva Road where just 50 metres separated our houses.

Not surprisingly, it was just a smile and handshake when Shankar arrived, at my residence now at Vani Vilas Road the following evening.  Shankar has never been one to show too much emotion or was too outwardly expressive.  Only, some words in his speech had 'Americanized' after living there for 25 years plus.  He was the same, simple chap. From a young age itself, his maturity had been beyond his age and his level-headedness was a trait.  He was well behaved and decent in every manner.

Very joyfully, we reminisced the fondest and most enjoyable memories of those beautiful days for close to 90 minutes. He briefed me about how he had switched over to a job that was non-engineering/technical and how he was stressed about it and how he kept his fitness routine. 

  My late aunt had introduced me to play on paper, 'word building game' and sometime during my middle school days, some friend had 'Lexicon', a word game played with cards.   I had then not known about Scrabble, but it was Shankar who introduced me to it with the Set he used to bring here and play.  I reminded him of how we spent hours and hours playing this beautiful game, laughing and laughing so much [what we now term as ROFLOL] esp. whenever we made funny sounding non existent words.  This greatly irritated my grandmother who used to come shouting at us to stop laughing!

Later I made a Scrabble set from cardboard, myself.  [click to read that separate blogpost]

It was also from him I came to know about live radio cricket commentary from BBC in 1973. It was he who showed me that it was aired on the 31-metre band.  He had taken me to his grandmother's house opposite Manuvana Park to show where he had tuned in to that station.  It started off my great fancy for cricket commentary, particularly from BBC and later from Radio Australia for a number of years.

Shankar had known about radio stations from his father, G.Sachidananda [Sachi, popular name in the street].  He was a Hindi Professor at Maharaja's College, jolly chap, fun loving, loved to humourously tease people who passed by his house, in some particularity, womenfolk. He and all his children were intellectually brilliant. Sachi's father was Gundavadhani, a great Sanskrit scholar.  

Shankar had showed me the news magazine from Deutsche Welle [Voice of Germany, Cologne] that his father used to get.  From it, later, took me to the great hobbies of DX-ing/Shortwave Listening and Penfriendship. Details in another post.

In 11th I had failed.  And Shankar became my classmate for 12th [2nd PUC] and we often went to college together.  It was due to Shankar's simple teaching and clearing the doubts that rescued me get through a couple of troublesome subjects.  He made them look so simple, so easy!  So brainy he was.  He never seemed to study long hours. He was gifted in grasping the gist very quickly and was able to put it in simple and effective words and sentences.  He was never known for mugging up the lines, he never needed to, because his memory was very sharp.  It was not a wonder at all that all his school education was done on scholarship [the education dept. paid for meritorious students].  It was a great thing back then, much to some awe and envy of fellow mates.  Not surprisingly, his engineering, also with distinction found him a good job in Bengaluru where he moved and married silently and had moved to America!  That's when we had lost touch.

In the mid 70s I had introduced him to the 'katte', where a group of mostly mischievous friends in late teens, 'wasting time' at a particular spot in the neighbourhood and also played tennis ball cricket.  We were the silent ones, along with 2 others. He continued to go there even after I migrated to another group because of my joining a regular cricket club.  In later years, rarely, I used to see Shankar walking by when he visited home [from America] without stopping at our house.
It was a mystery and will remain so, permanently, because Shankar is no more.

Last April, news about his demise shocked me, as it did to everyone. He had suddenly died, found fallen from the bed at night.  It was not even 4 months since he visited.  And met so many old friends, including me.  As my mother was at home too when Shankar came, his childhood recollection about a couple of incidents with his little brother and grandmother had joyed her.

It makes me think what had driven him to meet so many of his old contacts this time.  Did something in him 'knew' it would be the last time?

When he went back to America, he wrote:

Attached is the picture we took yesterday.  Once again, it was great to meet you after a long time and to have the conversation with you and your mother.      Regards      S. Shankar 

This is the picture from his phone [taken by my w], as it is:

Though he said he had a happy family with grown up children, was it job stress that took its toll?  We may never know.
May his soul rest in peace.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pears Soap and Cyclopaedia

[To enlarge, click on the pictures, all in the post]

Many of us were fond of this transparent [actually translucent], oval shaped, darkish amber coloured, delightfully fragrant and mild bath soap. It was one of the very few soap brands, even doctors and paediatricians were safely recommending to patients esp. with sensitive skin.  Long lasting and hard, the fragrance filled the home when someone came out after a 'Pears bath'. How we enjoyed looking through the 'transparent' soap when it got thin!  How automatically we put it close to the nostrils to take in the smell when a new bar was opened for use!  'Pears soap' was not missed when the monthly list of 'essential items' to be bought was prepared.

Pears Soap is the world's oldest registered brand. Who made this beautiful soap? Andrew Pears. He had trained as a barber and had stepped into manufacturing cosmetics in 1781. Andrew was observing that people who used general cosmetic products were coming up with problems that resulted from the content of Arsenic and Lead in them.  So after experimentation he came up with a soap formula in 1789 with just a few ingredients like glycerin and natural oils that was gentle on the skin.  The first "Pears Transparent Soap" was marketed in 1807.  The virtues of the soap gained people's acceptance because it lived up to its claim as "pure soap".  'Pears' became a household name in the following decades for its pure quality and also due to vigourous marketing and advertising.  "Good morning, have you used Pears soap?" was one of several popular advertisement slogans used by Andrew Pears.

This Wiki link has plenty of information on Pears [Click]

A thumbnail sketch of Pears.

1781 - Andrew Pears, a Cornish barber sets up business;
1789 - soap first produced and sold by Andrew Pears at a factory just off Oxford Street in London, England, the world's first transparent soap;
1835 - grandson Francis Pears joined the business to form A. & F. Pears;
1838 - Andrew Pears retired;
Francis' son-in-law Thomas J. Barratt, [often considered as Father of modern advertising] joins the company; under the stewardship of Barratt, A. & F. Pears initiated a number of innovations in sales and marketing. According to Unilever records, Pears Soap was the world's first registered brand and is therefore the world's oldest continuously existing brand.
1862 - production of the soap moved to Isleworth;
1865 - Francis' son, Andrew, joined A. & F. Pears Ltd. as joint proprietor and ran the factory; Thomas J Barratt ran the head office in London.
1910s - A. &  F. Pears Ltd. became part of Lever Brothers and production moved to Port Sunlight, Cheshire, England;
2011 - Pears soap is now made in India by Hindustan Lever, a company in which Unilever controls a fifty-two percent stake.

Pears also started to publish a Cyclopaedia.  The first Pears' Shilling Cyclopaedia was published in 1897, it aimed to offer a taxonomy 'not of all knowledge, but of necessary knowledge'.  The edition from the following year, 1898, which seems to be the first the British Library has in its catalogue, is split into nine distinct sections: English Dictionary, General Knowledge, Dictionary of Synonyms, Desk Information (how to mix paint, postage rates, how to remove stains from books, the order of precedence of the Royal family, etc), Gazetteer of the World, Atlas of the World, Dictionary of Cookery, Language of Flowers and Medical Dictionary. Here, then, is a compact reference library in a single volume.
And this, the 1898 edition, my great grandfather, had purchased as early as 14.1.1899 for One Rupee.  Here is his account book entry:

Here are some images from this edition, which survived a bad termite attack on the bookshelf.  The paper has become very brittle.  I made some external repairs.

On the right is the 40th edition,  July 1931. Actually, it was published as and when they found demand for it, sometimes more than once a year. 

The first three pages.

The 'English Dictionary' section.

Termites can destroy libraries.

A page from the section 'Language of Flowers'.

There are several entries in my great grandfather's account books having purchased "Soap".  But he does not mention any name, like he mentions "Kesharanjan Oil" or "Eno's Fruit Salt".  So the brand he was bringing home remains a mystery.  It could be Pears, though there were brands like 'Vinolia' also at that time. That soap was also from England. 

My great grandfather's home library had two later editions of Pears Cyclopadeias, both printed in 1931, one in March and the other, July. One had survived with its jacket in tact.  [See picture] But his account book does not have any entry for having purchased these during 1931 or 32. It is also not known where they were sold.

Soap makers by appointment to Their Majesties The King and Queen [King George V / Queen Mary] and to Their Late Majesties Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.

The morning bath is baby's joy. With Pears he wants no other joy.
Pears' Soap is transparent because it is PURE! "It wears, but does not waste" ~ an ad of Pears, 1789.
It did not waste in my time also. When it became nearly paper thin, just before it could have snapped, it was stuck in the concave surface of the new cake.

The painting: St. Paul's from Blackfrairs Bridge, 1840, in possession of A & F Pears. 

3 million copies printed. July 1931.

"Bubbles" the painting [1886] by Sir John Everett Millais was purchased by Thomas Barratt in 1890, a famous advertisement for Pears soap.  See the soap near the shoe of the girl. In the 1931 edition.

Read the first two paras of the above. Interesting.

Section separators with interesting messages.

From the Atlas section.


Section of Dictionary of Photography. Most of the jargon in it for the present 'digital' generation will be like Greek or Japanese!

In 2017, came the 125th edition by which time demand had gone down drastically and the publishers decided that the 126th would signal the final edition which was released this year, 2018. 
Pears' Cyclopaedia, 1897 - 2018

One tin box which my late aunt was fondly keeping is treasured.  
"The original glycerine beauty soap". 

This is a plastic freebie, a soap box Pears offered post 1995, along with a pack of three. 

The beautiful texture of Pears' soap, not too hard on the knife as to break nor too soft to stick to it was found by soap carving artists highly suitable for their crafts.  Around the year 1970, I remember having visited with my late aunt to the house of such an artist in Chamarajapuram's Balakrishna Road.   The best among his many displayed works I vividly remember was Krishna-Arjuna's chariot, a very complicated work of his, entirely from Pears soap, including the thin reins. It was somewhat like this wooden sample:

Millions of patrons found it hard to accept when Pears altered the original formula.  We were no exception and thereafter our Pears' priority dropped low. We are left to imagine and resort to olfactory memory to recall that 'heavenly fragrance'.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Our Jackfruit Tree

Many houses in olden times had ample space around them for trees and shrubs. In the Devaparthiva Road house my grandfather had purchased in 1950, there was a big jackfruit tree, among other fruit bearing trees.  This jackfruit tree with its huge girth, large canopy of leaves and tallness gave an imposing sight. It must have been planted by the first owner who built that house around 1905 or it may have been there even before.  I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in such green environs and yard space to run around, even managing to play my solo cricket on the northern side. The jackfruit tree was the start of my bowling run-up. I would bowl at a single stump and wanted to see it fly, on hitting with the cork ball. 

 Colour pictures [click on them to enlarge] in this were taken as memories during 2007-8 when we had to leave the house to move to another ancestral house in Lakshmipuram.

Cricket in the backyard [posing]. The 'umpire' was the Jackfruit tree!

That was the space for cricket. The rose apple tree is seen. The extra room in the background was built later.

Here, my cousin has climbed to pluck fruits. The branches needed periodical pruning to prevent trouble to the neighbouring house and spreading too much.  

We kept an eye on the eyes of its spiky outer rind to check their widening and yellowing, a sign of maturity.  Its fruity aroma would start wafting in the air, a hint for removal.  But sometimes, crows and monkeys would find it earlier than us, with the opened rind making the aroma stronger.  A hollow sound on slapping the rind with the palm was also a guide for removal. When the fruit was low on the trunk, just slitting the thick stalk was enough. 'Thud'!  For those that were high, a rope was tied and lowered to prevent breakage.  It was kept there for a few minutes for the latex oozed out from the cut portion.  A huge one was a pleasing sight and the first of the season 
was tastiest.

Two cousins on the tree.  See the girth of the trunk up there! I could climb only up to a certain point. 

The sweetest things come at a cost.  This one, by way of sticky latex! Smearing castor oil or coconut oil to the knife and fingers prevented the goo from sticking. In no time, a passing cow stood at the gate having picked up the sweet scent from the jackfruit filling the air.

On the left, uncle is waiting anxiously to lay his hands while cousin cuts and mother already has hers on the sweet bulbs, also called fruit pods!  When I was younger, once I had gobbled up about 40 'bulbs'!  But this figure of 40 is an utter shame.  We had a relative in Shimoga, one Suryanarayana, a renown glutton. He was known to gobble up all the fruit pods in a medium size fruit, from his own trees!  There is a separate post dedicated to his eating exploits, here: [Click]

2009 picture.  Roadside neem tree in the foreground.  The big canopy of Jackfruit is behind.

The tree also attracted jackfruit thieves at night.  They would jump over the tallish conservancy wall [above picture] and got in, but would step on the dry leaves producing a rustle.  The alert neighbour, Acharya's shout on hearing that from his adjacent kitchen made the thief fled. In the dark, we dared to go out there to chase.  The dry leaves were used for the hearth in the bath. Sometimes the dark green, roundish leaves would be plucked and served 'kosambri' during festival -- they were no-plastic days!  The pruned branches of the tree after drying provided plenty of firewood, which mother or I would chop into suitable lengths and store.  The soft wood of the tree is suited for making musical instruments like 'mridangam' and 'veena'. The thick soft seeds are nutritious, finding use in cooking with 'sambar' or roasted on charcoal, both have good taste. There are numerous dishes that can be made out of this nutritious jackfruit.

This picture of the tree was taken from the road a few years after we left and before the new owner started building his big bungalow.  In the open space [foreground, where Acharya's house existed] also a hotel building has come up. The jackfruit tree seems to have survived but suffering due to damaged roots judging by the sparsely leaved end branches that could be seen from the road behind new structures. 

Till we were in that house we got our annual supply of jackfruit and there was no jackfruit tree in our ancestral Lakshmipuram house where we had moved.  But sometimes, one or two per season were sent by our kind neighbour Lady Shenoy, from their tree.  Irresistible temptation shoots when we see good fruits with the push cart vendor [below].  The parcel is taken home, washed and savoured, at times with honey. Seasonal fruits must be eaten!



Grape-like bunch, my friend's tree.  Neighbour's tree.  Another tree in a campus.
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