Tag Archives: photography

Winter song

I love these wintry days in the Central Valley when its dirty brown air has been washed out by the infrequent (but not this winter, gracias El Niño) rain and wrung out to dry with cottonball clouds hanging as if on invisible clotheslines across an impossibly blue sky. Days like this I can even see snow on the mountains of the Sierra Nevada from my office window, pulling my gaze away from the computer screen to wander off daydreaming…

View from my office window, drawing me away from my screen to the snow-frosted mountaintops of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. This iPhone's camera doesn't do justice to what my eye sees...you may have to squint into the middle distance to glimpse the mountains underneath the floating clouds.

View from my office window, drawing me away from my screen to the snow-frosted mountaintops of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. This iPhone’s camera doesn’t do justice to what my eye sees…you may have to squint into the middle distance to glimpse the mountains underneath the floating clouds.

Such days I imagine were the norm in this valley a century ago, before our vehicles and agricultural industry started filling up the air with so many of our effluents as to turn this beautiful air into some of the least breathable in the nation, a murky brown veil hiding the mountains on most days of the year. Yet the people keep coming to fill up this valley, remaking it in our own industrial image, flattening the topography and bending the natural and ancient rhythms of this land and atmosphere to our will. Days like this remind me of those rhythms, of what once was, what might have been, and what could be again in this beautiful place, even as the vision of those mountains seems to melt away the grimy sealed glass pane on my office window out of which I goggle at that impossibly blue sky like a goldfish trapped in a bowl.

Urban conifers against that impossibly blue winter sky. There be Great Horned Owls in some of these trees...

Urban conifers against that impossibly blue winter sky. There be Great Horned Owls in some of these trees…

That window glass is not thick enough to keep out the occasional soft hooting of the young Great Horned Owls hidden in the branches of those conifers, where they were raised a summer ago. And this morning, as I stepped out onto the external staircase, I was startled by the liquid burbling notes of a song that is common throughout the spring and summer around here, but shouldn’t be so loud so early in the year. A House Finch was sitting high up in one of the trees singing his heart out against a background humming with the urban noises of building atmospheric devices and traffic in the distance, and roaring with an occasional airplane flying over.

Looking out east from his high perch, I wonder if the House Finch noticed the snow on the mountains, or heard the chirping of the winter migrants in the trees nearby, but even if he did, these weren’t enough to dissuade him from following whatever internal hormonal clock was telling him it was time to start singing to attract a mate. Already, and it isn’t even the middle of January yet. Global warming, is it, or just the local warming effect from the urban heat island? No matter, this boy is already serenading the ladies about the bountiful spring to come.

Meanwhile, the chipping sounds you hear at the end of the sound clip above might well be the mild panic setting into the heart of the migrant Yellow-Rumped Warbler foraging in the branches nearby, perhaps wondering if it was time to leave its winter ground already even though the air felt cold and the clouds spoke of more rain to come.

Its been a topsy turvy winter (or a few) in California, and living in these disconnected urban landscapes beneath the gaze of those parched snow-covered mountains must be discombobulating even to the wild creatures trying to make this ever stranger land their home. I know the feeling well.

Womb Envy (a poem for International Women’s Day)

Since I’ve been digging up some of my old creative (or nay, you may say) writing lately, and inflicting it upon readers of this blog, here’s something to celebrate International Women’s Day – an image and a poem I wrote some years ago:



Womb Envy
(Old Freud got it upside down)

Freud got it wrong when 
he said, the problem with 
women was: penis envy. 
I think the truth really
is upside down, nearly,
the problem with Men is:
not enough womb envy.

Of course, being born male.
I have enjoyed the fruits         
of centuries of male rule
in education, in science,
at work, play, home,
claiming superiority 
for the male hormones.

Malehood has let me rule,
dominate, subdue, kill half 
of humanity, most of nature.
I revel in my dominion as 
a man, even champion males 
of other species, malehood, 
not humanity, my badge.

How sweet it is when
women come to believe
they have less than I do
and I can tell them their 
problem is penis envy,
they’re doomed, it’s Nature’s 
law, however unfortunate…

We are both bound, I say,
to follow my penis’ lead – 
Mankind’s leadership – 
as we pilot our species, 
and also spaceship Earth
on this testosteroney ride
to nowhere and to doom!

But … No. Wait. I have to
rethink this whole scheme…
We have it all, I admit: power, 
pleasure, security, posterity
and quite cheaply too, for
we generate our lineages with
plentiful cheap wasteful sperm.

While women have to bear 
all the costs and the pain.
Yet, we’ve got it all wrong.
We have everything, dubious 
virtues and benefits, 
but we don’t have that
which matters above all.

Men kill, extinguish, annhilate, 
but can scarcely create life.
After the minuscule male effort, 
to nurture, nourish, and 
to bring forth in the world
every single one of us –
this power is all Woman.

The womb, in the final reckoning
matters far more, than we do,
with our mighty penises.
And I would much rather
give up all my dubious glory
to be able to do that: give birth 
to a single human being.

Yes I envy all you women.
though you oft seem not to 
realize it, appreciate it enough,
you are far more richly endowed.
It is men who have the rough deal
from Mother Nature, hence seem
bent upon destroying her too.

Yes, my dear old Freud
you did get this wrong:
Castration Complex
in women? Not nearly…
It is the men’s Potency 
Complex that needs 
to be cured if doom be 
averted for humankind.

Freud got it wrong when 
he said, the problem with 
women was: penis envy! 
I think the truth really
is upside down, nearly,
the problem with Men is:
not enough womb envy!

– Madhusudan Katti

(sometime in the mid-’90s)

Gaia… we are orphans today



I stood by the sea

watching a procession 

of mourners.


sombre, pensive

stood up, dark

against the glow

of the funeral pyre

to which they had just

consigned the Sun.

Waves… emotions welling up

in the brest of the ocean

floundered against the rocks,

lost in the increasing gloom.

The still wind caressed the Earth,

murmuring –

“Gaia, we are orphans today.”

– Words written by me on 29 September 1986 at  Marine Drive, Bombay.

Image captured by me on 2 January 2012 at Morro Bay, California


Making classical music with young musicians for 60 years!

If you put 100 children ages 6-12 in a room for an hour and a half, you’d expect a fair amount of squirming, right? This is the era of the shortened attention span, after all. Some giggling here, whispering there, one or two sharp rebukes?

Not at rehearsals of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno (YOOF), continues the above nice article in the Fresno Bee, about the concert coming up this Sunday to mark the 60th anniversary of YOOF. As you may know from a previous posting here, my older daughter, Sanzari, has been playing violin with YOOF for a couple of years now. She will be on stage again on Sunday, as part of a much larger group of musicians, mostly young, but also some older alumni creating some unique sounds. Try to be at the Saroyan Theatre in downtown Fresno for the concert if you can (see YOOF website linked above for ticket info).

The two younger groups within YOOF – Youth Chamber and Youth Symphony Orchestras – performed another concert on May 15th. Here are some images I was able to capture of the young kids enjoying making some wonderful music led by their irrepressibly energetic and buoyant conductor Thomas Loewenheim.


I tried to capture the mood with close-ups, sticking to my 300mm telephoto lens for the most part – let me know what you think of the results. Oh, and note that it was Kaberi who posted the images to her Flickr account before I got around to it – so the link will take you to her photostream!

Thanksgiving leftovers, tarkarified

Well, strictly speaking, tarkari might call for a bit more vegetable content than is typically available in thanksgiving leftovers. Nevertheless, here is my dinner tonight: turkey and stuffing, tarkarified, accompanying some pulao. And by tarkarify, i.e. rendered into tarkari, I mean stir-fried in some spicy tarka, that oil-and-masala (here made up of cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaf, turmeric, asafetida, salt, onion, garlic, tomato, and chilies in abundance) tempering base underlying much Indian cuisine. Of course the exact recipe in ths experiment is probably irreproducible!

I’m sharing the meal here mainly because I am a bit bored on my own this turkey weekend, and Elizabeth Enslin on her Facebook wall, mentioned dal-bhat-tarkari as her return to comfort food post-turkey, thus inspiring my dinner.

Bon appetít!

Mirchi – scenes of a harvest picante from an urban organic farm


Warm sun in the backyard

on a mid November morning.

White-crowned sparrows n

Ruby-crowned Kinglets,

in the trees fluttering,

singing, proclaiming their

winter kingdoms, fleeting.

As I harvest the last of the chilies,

summer heat trapped within

their green/orange/red skin,

from green-thumbed Kaberi’s

organic farm, miraculous

in our patch of suburbia.

And listen to the good doctor

cast on the pod, talking films.

(Hello, Jason Isaacs!)

Perfect Saturday!

Except my women are half a world away…