Monday, May 31, 2010


No head, no head! Pat on back,” our safari guide Stephan, a handsome Creole man, instructs a motley group of 11 tourists who are walking with lions at the Casela Nature Park on the west coast of Mauritius. Instructions are necessary: None of us have done this before.
The two lion cubs we are walking with—each one-and-a-half-years-old—are a temperamental duo. One of them, Lundy, parks herself on the grass barely 5 minutes after we have started. Stephan tells us that the walk can last for anything between 20 minutes and an hour. “It all depends on her,” he says, as he plays with Lundy, holding up a piece of meat to distract her from pouncing on a bird.

Green island: (Clockwise from top) Legends, a Feng Shui-themed luxury resort. Photo: Naiade Resorts; Chamarel, a hillock of volcanic origin. Photo: Anindita Ghose/Mint; and walk with lions at the Casela Nature Park. Photo: Casela Nature Park
Green island: (Clockwise from top) Legends, a Feng Shui-themed luxury resort. Photo: Naiade Resorts; Chamarel, a hillock of volcanic origin. Photo: Anindita Ghose/Mint; and walk with lions at the Casela Nature Park. Photo: Casela Nature Park

As crestfallen as this bit of news makes us, we are happy to learn that we are observing these animals as they would be in the wild and that they aren’t drugged (as they are in several “hug a big cat” shows around the world).
What made my first big cat experience even more exciting was that it was happening in Mauritius, an island I had put down as “lazy honeymoon fare” for schmaltzy couples. Without doubt, its luxury resorts, associations with French finesse and its sheer indolence-encouraging beauty, do make it an ideal getaway for the newly-wed. But the sense of impending doom that the Air Mauritius flight from Delhi had instilled in me—sandwiched as I was between three sets of honeymooners—was fast vanishing. We had already quad-biked through a section of the reserve, spotting zebras and ostriches along the way. Now, I was being photographed with a lion, while composing smug Facebook captions in my head. And this was just our first day.
Also See Trip Planner/Mauritius (Graphic)
Up next, some relatively quiet sightseeing in Chamarel, which translates to “coloured soil” in Mauritian Creole, the French-based Creole that is the lingua franca of Mauritius. A hillock of seven-coloured soil of volcanic origin, it is a potent metaphor for the “rainbow” nation where Hindus and Muslims of Indian origin and the French, African and Chinese coexist in a unique fashion. Almost 60% of the population is of Indian origin, descendants of indentured labourers who started arriving in the 1850s to work on sugar-cane plantations owned by the French and English.
Going out of our way, we visit the Aapravasi Ghat near the capital city of Port Louis, a historical immigration port declared a Unesco world heritage site in 2006. The island’s other world heritage site is Le Morne mountain, which was used as a shelter by runaway African slaves through the 18th century, when slavery was still prevalent on the island.
One would think that 150 years in a country with a population less than 1.2 million would prompt ethnic intermingling. But not only is intermarriage among different ethnic groups still taboo, Mauritians continue to abide by Hindu caste distinctions. Ganga Talao, a namesake of the Ganga, is crowded at all times. In the local markets, one overhears snatches of Bhojpuri and Tamil. Curries and tikkas—often bearing no resemblance to what we in India know as curries and tikkas—are ubiquitous on restaurant menus.
The country is strictly striated across ethno-class boundaries. The service sector, for instance, seems to be the prerogative of the large population of Indian origin. The Franco-Mauritians and the small Chinese population (less than 3%) control all the businesses. This is a point of departure for local politics: The general election is held while we are there, and we are amused to learn that the leading political coalitions—L’Alliance de l’Avenir and L’Alliance du Coeur—are divided along conservative Hindu and secular lines.
But even that isn’t enough of an indication of how much of a mini-India this rum-drinking, French-speaking island nation is.
One day, we take a steamboat to Ile aux Cerf, a beautiful lagoon-rich island 20 minutes from the mainland. The attendant who comes up to charge us for the sunbeds is Dev Anand, named after the Hindi film hero. On learning that we are Indians from India (Mauritius has a huge influx of South African tourists who’re often of Indian origin), Anand gives us a little discount. Like the many other Mauritians of Indian origin, he has never been to India and probably never will. But he watches every new Bollywood release and can rattle off the names of every Miss India over the last 10 years. To him, India is the hypothetical motherland.
All this makes Mauritius a holiday richly mired in history, social dynamics and yes, culinary fusion. While we are surrounded by Creole boatsmen and Indian vendors during the day, our evenings are sunk in gastronomic concoctions of strawberry gazpacho, lobster bisques and the high-nosed Sot-l’y-laisse, a dish made with chicken “oysters” (the juicy nugget on top of the bird’s thigh). In French, the dish literally means “only the fool would throw”, referring to the rest of the world, which junks this portion.
We also have an exotic signature dish peculiar to Mauritius called the palm-heart salad, made with shavings of the palm heart found in six- to eight-year-old trees. Each tree yields three salads, but the dish loses its appeal when I learn later that the entire tree has to be hacked to extract this culinary gem.
There isn’t much one can carry back from Mauritius other than bottles of spiced agricultural rum, a souvenir of the island’s sprawling sugar-cane fields. I do bring back saffron, vanilla and herbed sea salts. Now, I often stare at the bottles on my kitchen shelf, hoping they will help me recreate the wonderful week again. At least on my dinner plate.
Child-friendly rating
Very young children will not be able to participate in water sports and safari adventures. On the flip side, most high-end resorts have all-day childcare.
Graphic by Yogesh Kumar/Mint
The writer visited Mauritius on a familiarization trip organized by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority for journalists from across the globe.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yesterday by Beatles

All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

I'm not half the man I used to be,
There's a shadow hanging over me,
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

Why she
Had to go I don't know, she wouldn't say.
I said,
Something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Why she
Had to go I don't know, she wouldn't say.
I said,
Something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

Love was such an easy game to play,
Now I need a place to hide away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.


Lyrics | Beatles Lyrics | Yesterday Lyrics


Thursday, May 27, 2010

What are crop circles?

Crop Circle Locations

Most circles are concentrated in the south of England, primarily in the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire. Many of them have been found near Avebury and Stonehenge, two mystical sites containing large stone monuments.

Photo courtesy
Formation at Avebury Trusloe in Wiltshire
But crop circles are not confined to England. They have been spotted in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, India and other parts of the world.
The "season" for crop circles runs from April to September, which coincides with the growing season. Circles tend to be created at night, hiding their creators (human or otherwise) from curious eyes.
Crop circles can be found in many different types of fields -- wheat, corn, oats, rice, oil-seed rape, barley, rye, tobacco -- even weeds. Most circles are found in low-lying areas close to steep hills, which may explain the wind theory of their creation.
Now, let's get into some of the crop circle theories.

Who Makes Crop Circles?

The answer of who or what is creating these crop formations is not an easy one to answer. Some people claim they are the work of UFOs. Others say they are a natural phenomenon. Still others say they are elaborate hoaxes perpetrated by teams of circlemakers.
The Theories
UFOs and Aliens
Possibly the most controversial theory is that crop circles are the work of visitors from other planets -- sort of like alien calling cards.
People who agree with this theory say that the circles are either the imprint left by landing spacecraft or messages brought from afar for us earthlings. Some eyewitnesses claim to have seen UFO-like lights and strange noises emanating from crop circle sites.
Light Formation
In August 2001, two witnesses in Holland saw "columns" or "tubes" of white light descend into a string-bean field. Shortly after they observed this light, they saw a new crop formation exactly where the light had descended. For a simulated image, see BLT Research: Eyewitness Report
Probably the most scientific theory says that crop circles are created by small currents of swirling winds called vortices (similar to "dust devils"). The spinning columns force a burst of air down to the ground, which flattens the crops. Vortices are common in hilly areas such as parts of southern England.
Dr. Terence Meaden of the Tornado and Storm Research Organization(TORRO) in Wiltshire, England, says the vortices that create crop circles are charged with energy (his idea is called the Plasma Vortex Theory). When dust particles get caught up in the spinning, charged air, they can appear to glow, which may explain the UFO-like glowing lights many witnesses have seen near crop circles.
But the question remains -- how can a few seconds worth of spinning air create such intricate and perfectly defined crop circles?
A few researchers have theorized that small airplanes or helicopters stir up downdrafts that push the crops down into patterns.
Recreation attempts so far have not been able to produce the types of downdrafts necessary to make the perfectly round edges seen in most crop circles.
Earth Energy
Energy Effects
People close to the sites of crop circles have had some strange physical and emotional reactions. Some have reported feeling dizzy, disoriented, peaceful or nervous. Others have said they heard a buzzing noise or felt a tingling sensation. After visiting the Julia Set formation near Stonehenge in 1996, a group of women reported changes in their normalmenstrual cycles. Most startling was a small group of post-menopausal women who suddenly began menstruating again after visiting the site.
Some researchers believe that the earth creates its own energy, which forms the circles. One possible form of earth energy iselectromagnetic radiation. In fact, scientists have measured strong magnetic fields inside crop circles, and visitors have sometimes reported feeling a tingling sensation in their body while in or near the circles.
In the early 1990s, American biophysicist Dr. William Levengood discovered that crops in circles were damaged much in the same way as plants heated in a microwave oven. He proposed the idea that the crops were being rapidly heated from the inside by some kind of microwave energy.
Other researchers say that the energy comes from under the ground or in the soil. Either the energy is natural, such as a fungus that attacks the crops and causes their stems to bend over, or it is a byproduct of something man-made, such as bombs that exploded during World War II.

Photo courtesy
Doug and Dave, in Doug's Southampton studio in 1992
The easiest explanation for crop circles is that they are man-made hoaxes, created either for fun or to stump the scientists. Among the most famous hoaxers are the British team of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, known as "Doug and Dave." In 1991, the duo came out and announced that they had made hundreds of crop circles since 1978. To prove that they were responsible, they filmed themselves for theBBC making a circle with a rope-and-plank contraption in a Wiltshire field (see the next section for information on making a crop circle).
Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) says that crop circles have all the hallmarks of hoaxes: They are concentrated primarily in southern England; they've become more elaborate over the years (indicating that hoaxers are getting better at their craft); and their creators never allow themselves to be seen. But even with crop circlemakers claiming responsibility for hundreds of designs, hoaxes can't account for all of the thousands of crop circles created. Colin Andrews, cereologist and author of the book, Circular Evidence, admits that about 80 percent of crop circles are probably man-made, but says that the other 20 percent are probably the work of some "higher force."

How Do You Make a Crop Circle?

Crop circles appear to be very intricate formations, with many geometric shapes linked in sophisticated patterns. But the basics of crop-circle creation and the tools involved are actually fairly simple.
In general, circlemakers follow the following steps:
  1. Choose a location.
  2. Create a diagram of the design (although some circlemakers decide to come up with an idea spontaneously when they arrive at their intended site).
  3. Once they arrive at the field, they use ropes and poles to measure out the circle.
  4. One circlemaker stands in the middle of the proposed circle and turns on one foot while pushing the crop down with the other foot to make a center.
  5. The team makes the radius of the circle using a long piece of rope tied at both ends to an approximately 4-foot-long (1.2-meter) board called a stalk stomper (a garden roller can also be used). One member of the team stands at the center of the circle while the other walks around the edge of the circle, putting one foot in the middle of the board to stomp down the circle's outline.

    Photos courtesy
    Circlemakers Rod Dickinson and Wil Russell in action
In August 2004, National Geographic contacted a team including circlemakers John Lundberg, Rod Dickinson and Wil Russell and requested a daylight demonstration in Wiltshire in support of a crop-circle documentary. These are the plans they worked from:

Photo courtesy
Here are the tools they used:

Photo courtesy
Circlemaker John Lundberg displaying one of the 'stalk stompers' (and standing in front of the combine) his team will use to create the formation.
This is the resulting crop circle:

Photo courtesy
This formation, created in a field opposite Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, took the team five hours to create.
Circlemakers avoid getting caught by working under cover of night and by hiding their tracks in existing tractor-tire ruts.
Crop Circles for Profit
Some circlemakers are turning their talent into a real business -- and making big profits from it. A team including artist and filmmaker John Lundberg, Rod Dickinson and Wil Russell travel all over the world making crop circles as advertisements for big corporations. Their client list includes a multibillion dollar computer-chip company, a car manufacturer and a digital television company. Although they won't divulge exactly how much they make per crop design, their budgets are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Photos courtesy
For the company Sanrio, the team worked with other artists to create a 200-ft portrait in a wheat field at Yatesbury in Wiltshire to commemorate Hello Kitty's 30th anniversary.

How Do Researchers Study Crop Circles?

When researchers come to the scene of a crop circle, they conduct a thorough investigation, including the following methods:
  • Talking to possible eyewitnesses and residents living nearby
  • Examining the location and the weather where circles have formed
  • Examining the affected crops and the surrounding soil with sophisticated techniques such as X-ray diffraction analysis (firing X-rays at a sample to determine its composition materials)
  • Taking electromagnetic energy readings inside and near the crop circles
  • Analyzing the circle patterns (Some complex patterns are compared with hieroglyphics or other ancient symbols.)

Photo courtesy
This formation was discovered in Eastfield, England, in June 2004. An article in the Western Daily Press called the design "uncannily similar to plans for one of Nikola Tesla's early pieces of equipment."
Researchers have been pondering the question of crop circles for several decades, but they still haven't come up with a real answer as to why they exist.
To find out more about crop circles and related topics, check out the links on the next page.


The Nature of Character

James Glover, a newly graduated teacher, stood at the front of his classroom preparing for another battle.
He glanced at the students as they filed into class – Worn out sneakers, shirts untucked, shoulders slumped. What could his English class give these kids that would help them with the problems they faced in the real world?
He had tried reaching out to them and he knew that he’d failed, but today he was going to try a different approach.
“OK everyone, grab a seat and listen up!
“Today we’re going to talk about the nature of character. So… Damon, what does character mean to you?”
The heavyset boy in the second row shifted in his seat uncomfortably before replying, “Umm, character is the people in a story?”
“You’re right Damon, characters are the people in a story, but the nature of character goes much deeper than that. Let me show you something.”
James lifted two plastic trays up on to his desk so that everyone in the class could see them. In each tray sat a large sponge. He then produced two glass jugs. The first contained clear water and the second contained dark brown drain water.
The young teacher poured the clear water into the first tray and the brown water into the second tray.
“OK, who can tell me what’s happening here?”
“The sponges are soaking up the water?” replied the usually quiet Sharon.
“That’s right Sharon, the sponges are soaking up the water that surrounds them.
“And that’s exactly how we develop our sense of character. We absorb the ideas of the people around us just like these sponges soak up the water.
“If we surround ourselves with supportive, optimistic people we gradually develop a positive character,” said the young teacher indicating the tray containing the clean water.
He then motioned towards the second tray.
“On the other hand, if we continually associate with pessimistic and cynical people, we gradually develop a negative character.”
James paused and noticed that the background chatter that usually filled the class was absent.
“Now what happens when I take the sponges out of the water?” he asked as he lifted up the sponges, one in each hand.
The class looked puzzled.
“How do they look?” prompted James.
“They look the same to me” said Damon and the class responded with a ripple of laughter.
“You’re right Damon, they do look the same on the outside, but there’s one important difference.
“Watch what happens when I squeeze the sponges.” James squeezed the first sponge and clear water flowed back into the tray. He then squeezed the second sponge and released a steady stream of dark liquid.
“You see, even when I remove the sponges from their trays, they still carry their water with them. Its only when I squeeze the sponges that we can really see what’s inside them.
“The same thing happens with us,” continued James, “When we leave our familiar environment, we still carry our character inside us and when life puts us under pressure, our true character emerges from within.”
The class was quiet as they reflected on James story.
For Damon Washington, this was a timely message. Since moving schools he’d been spending time with a group of neighborhood kids who had a very negative view of the world.
In a moment of insight that belied his years, Damon realized that his new ‘friends’ were a lot like the dark brown water in Mr. Glover’s second tray. Perhaps his Mom was right after all – perhaps he did need to find some new friends…
At the end of the period, as the students filed out of the classroom, James Glover received the most rewarding compliment of his teaching career when Damon paused at the door and said, “That thing with the sponges was pretty cool Mr G.”


Monday, May 24, 2010

Masala Dosa Personality Test

Cheers !


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