30 September 2009

African tulip

Each season has its tree.

It’s the end of the monsoon and the tree of the season is the African Tulip. The sight of this tree in bloom is spectacular. It’s quite high and the bright orange flowers make it look as if the top of the tree is on fire. This adds colour to the city scape.

The flowers are quite big and bell-shaped. They fall down from the trees and carpet the roads.

Once while I was walking to dance class I came across a street sweeper who had collected a bunch of these flowers which had fallen on the road. He was busy arranging the flowers in circles around the trunk of a tree. I didn’t have my camera so I couldn’t take a picture – but I’m sure you can imagine it.

Not surprisingly, the African Tulip tree is native to Africa. It is also known as Flame of the Forest or Fountain tree, and – less romantically – by its botanical name: Spathodea campanulata.

It blooms twice a year. The flowers will be back again in the spring.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

25 September 2009

Durga puja

All of India is in the midst of the most important festival season. In Bangalore schools are closed for the ten days of Dasara and the streets and markets are busy with shoppers. With Diwali only two weeks away, I have a feeling this will extend into a non-stop month-long party.

In North India, this festival is celebrated as Navaratri which runs for nine days, while in Bengal it is Durga Puja, the most important festival for Bengalis. Artisans work for months to sculpt and paint life-size statues of the goddess Durga. Each family or community buys an idol to worship during the festival before immersing it in a river or lake.

There is an intriguing collection of images of artisans in Calcutta working on the idols here. If you liked that, you can see more here.

21 September 2009

Eid Mubarak

Today's Times of India featured this beautiful ad wishing readers a Happy Eid.

Eid Mubarak!

15 September 2009

Horn OK Please

Photo: Top Drawer

One thing that always strikes me when I come back to India after having spent some time away is the noise. Europe was eerily quiet… especially on Sundays.

The traffic noise I hear outside my window is a symphony of honks, horns and the general hullabaloo of Indian street life. ‘Horn OK Please’ is the mantra of Indian roads. This is painted on the back of trucks, inducing other motorists to make as much noise as possible. In South India, it’s ‘Please Sound Horn’ or ‘Sound OK Horn’.

Photo: Peter Rivera

Each of the different vehicles on the road plays its own part in this intricate symphony of traffic noise. The auto rickshaws provide a constant drone to the soundtrack of the city’s roads with the sputtering of their four-stroke engines. In contrast, motorcycles purr merrily along before screeching to a sudden halt. Scooters contribute an annoying, loud beeping sound when turning corners. The honk of the city buses sounds like a deep baritone, while trucks’ horns have a booming, authoritative blare. The ring-ring of bells on bicycles is more like music to the ears. Included in this cacophonous medley are the musical tunes which are set off when a car is in reverse. This must be an Indian invention. I’ve only seen (or heard, rather) this in India. I understand the concept of alerting others that you are about to reverse but these jingles are more than irritating. I do not appreciate hearing ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ after midnight as a neighbour reverses into a parking spot. Another neighbour has ‘Jaya ho’ from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack set as his ‘reversal tune’.

Photo: Lazzari

It’s been a long time that I put up a new sound on this blog so this evening I went out to the main road with my recorder and recorded the city’s traffic symphony. Listen to this by clicking here or on ‘traffic noise’ under ‘Listen to the sounds of India’ in the right side bar. Sit back and turn the volume WAY UP!