Mrs Hema Ramachandran, wife of Veteran General PK Ramachandran, posted this image on her Facebook of a Koel (Eudynamys Scolopaceus) who visits her garden.
I was reminded of our grandfather who narrated to us young children as to how the Koel laid her eggs in a House Crow’s (Corvus Splendens) nest. His narration was to teach us to be industrious as a crow and not be lazy and cunning as a Koel.
When we were in Grade 10 at Sainik School Amaravathi Nagar, Mr Paul Sathya Kumar (MPSK) taught us Biology. He explained various tactics in the bird/ animal/ plant kingdom to prove the survival of the fittest theory, and one such case was that of a smart Koel who laid her eggs in a crow’s nest.
The Koel is known as a brood parasite – a species that imposes the cost of rearing its offspring onto another species – the host (House Crow) – by laying its eggs in the hosts’ nests.
Is Koel Lazy? Is she more industrious than the crow? Is she crafty and cunning?
In Sanskrit and Telugu language it is called as Kokila, Thamizh, Kannada, Malayalam –കുയിൽ, குயில் (Kuyil), Hindi-कोयल (Koel.) Many good female singers are referred to as Koel or Kuyil. Does the female Koel sing? No! It is the mating call of the male bird to woo the female bird.
For almost nine months of the year, the Koel is seldom seen because it neither sings nor calls except in the breeding season – April to July. It is difficult to spot a Koel due to its shy nature and secretive behaviour. They mostly remain hidden inside leafy foliage and go undetected, by and large.
In their breeding period, birds mate, lay eggs, rear their offspring and protect them. In India, birds usually breed in summer because their chicks will have enough food in the following monsoon.
Koel is a case of mimicry in the bird kingdom. Its eggs resemble those of the crow in pattern and colour. The ground colour of the crow eggs presents different shades of bluish green while that of the Koel is olive green. Eggs of both host and parasite have similar brown markings in the form of blotches, specks, and streaks, which are more densely distributed towards the broader end. Although eggs of Koel are smaller in size, they exhibit remarkable mimicry with crow eggs.
To ensure a higher chance of clutch formation (clutch is the number of eggs laid,) the Koel cleverly lays an egg in the crow’s nest when the mother/father crow is not around and then throws away one of the crow’s eggs.
That means the crows can count and the mother crow is unaware of the replacement.
Another reason as to why the Koel leaves its egg in the crow’s nest is that the Koel is a vegetarian. Newborn chicks need a lot of protein to grow, and the crows will feed them non-veg protein.
This is a survival instinct and is basically inherent in the genes of organisms in nature. It further proves Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the Fittest.‘
There are other examples of brood parasites in the bird kingdom. The egg of the common Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx Varius) mimics that of its host species, the Jungle Babbler (Turdoides Striata) in size and colour. Such mimicry is thought to have evolved to prevent the host from rejecting any eggs.
Host birds respond to brood parasites using different defence strategies. They attack the parasite outright at times, and at others issue warning calls, hide the nest, look for and remove the parasite’s eggs and aggressively defend their territories. I have often spotted female Koels being chased by crows even outside the nest when they spot each other.
A Koel is so crafty that to increase the chance of survival of its eggs, she lays her eggs in different nests. Remember the adage – ‘Never put all your eggs in the same basket!‘ When the Koel visits a crow’s nest, it also punctures or breaks eggs irrespective of the species so that her offspring isn’t starved of food even during a shortage. The Koel is too smart to ensure that the clutch size is optimum so that the crow can feed and take care of its chicks.
If a host happens to see a parasite laying an egg in its nest or recognises an intruding egg, it will abandon the nest or reject the egg.
Incubation period of the Koel’s egg is about 12 to 13 days and the crow’s 16 to 17 days. Thus, the Koel chicks emerge a few days before the first crow chick hatches. The poor crow hatches the eggs, feeds the Koel chick, and brings it to adulthood to hear the bird coo differently.
The Koel chick keeps chirping continuously. So, the mother crow feeds it more thinking that the chick is still hungry and not yet fed enough. The Koel chicks grow rapidly and become healthier than the crow chicks. They develop feathers and wings earlier than crow chicks and fly out earlier.
Isn’t the Koel industrious, crafty and cunning than the crow??
Can you fall in love at 60? Why not?? We got to be in love at all stages of our life – with someone or the other, to make our existence meaningful. At 60, it is more for companionship, after the children have flown to greater heights.
This is the essence of this book – The Old Man & She! – by Veteran Indian Air Force Officer Avinash Chikte. We trained at the National Defence Academy and he was a year senior – 59th Course – E Squadron.
The book tells the story of Liz and Ravi – she’s 55 and he’s 60. The story confirms that love can begin at any age and stage and there is no place today for cultural or religious barriers. The author has explored the tornadoes that go through the minds of people in a relationship – that too across religions, cultures, and race. I have experienced it and I vouch for the authenticity of most situations well crafted in this book.
A good read, and a feel-good book for those who have an open mind, and are not moored by the chains of religion, caste, and race.
Today, we live in a world impacted by pandemic and natural disasters. We are all going through a difficult phase of our lives. Many are coping with complex personal environments and circumstances. This is where we need spiritual support to fill that vacuum left by the absence of God in us.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” was the catch-line during our tough five week-long Commando training, considered amongst the toughest in the world, designed to push the trainees, testing our physical and mental toughness to an extreme. Our training began at 2 AM with physical training, obstacle crossing, long marches up to 40 km, and ended at midnight with night navigation marches, raids, and ambushes – all while carrying our personal weapon – the rifle weighing over 5 kg and a 30 kg backpack.
This was where I needed someone to hold my hand, pat me at the back, encourage me to complete the tough tasks, push me from the back through those long endurance marches, etc. Here my faith in Christ helped endure through it successfully. I found our Saviour, the Resurrected Christ there when and where I needed Him. Whatever physical and mental turbulence I was going through, He underwent many times more and emerged successful.
Timothy 2:3 says, “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The bible does not offer you space to complain or crib. St Paul was beaten, persecuted, betrayed, drowned, and thrown into a prison, still he never complained. Paul endured his perils by holding to his faith and belief in Jesus Christ. Did Jesus Christ ever complain even while He was dying on the cross?
The essence of resurrection is contained in the verse Luke 24: 5 where the angels at the tomb said to the women who went to anoint Jesus’ body: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” It happens to be the first spoken word after the resurrection of Christ.
This question led the women to understand the reality of resurrection. We must realise how pertinent it is in our daily lives. Resurrection celebrates the moment death was defeated and hope came alive. If you are looking for Jesus among the dead, you will not find him, because he is not there.
We often end up failures, dissatisfaction, or burnout after the long and treacherous hours we put in. Often our efforts do not bring us a sense of achievement and fulfilment. This could be due to the lack of realisation as to how our effort may have helped others and not us. We place an unrealistic expectation on returns that will lead to frustration, anger, and disappointment. It is a way of seeking the living among the dead. Here we are not looking at the joy and happiness that our action has brought to someone else (living,) but we are more concerned about what we will receive in return (dead.)
We look for the dead weighing our success based on our achievements like bank balance, grades scored, promotions achieved, the brands of the clothes we wear, the car we drive and so on. We keep looking for self-worth in our personal image and some end up finding relief in drug and alcohol abuse, leading to addiction (further death) not liberty or freedom or solution to one’s problems (mirage of living.) For some, it leads to anxiety and fear, rather than joy and fulfilment of life.
Looking for the living among the dead also means looking for a spark or a ray of hope when everything around is grim and bleak. While on a military mission, driving on a Himalayan mountain road at about 12,000 feet above sea level, the pickup truck with two soldiers ahead of me suddenly toppled to the side, because the road caved in. The pickup with every tumble lost each of its wheels, finally rested on a tree at bout 1000 feet below. I ran out of the Jeep with my driver and two of my radio operators and we reached the vehicle to see the two soldiers badly injured, bleeding profusely. Upon seeing the state of the vehicle and the tumbles it took, I did not expect any survivors. Here I was ‘Looking for the living among the dead’ as hardly anyone survived such accidents in that area. We carried the two injured soldiers up the steep slope, evacuated them to the nearest first-aid post to be evacuated by the Army Helicopter and they survived.
Until today, I do not know how we rolled down that steep slope, brought those soldiers up the mountain. Everything appeared to be a miracle, where the Resurrected Christ gave me the strength to execute the task. It saved the lives of two soldiers, but for us who participated in it, it was all some bruises left on our body by the bamboo which grew on the mountain slope. No one complained. We were all happy that we could save two lives. That is what soldiering is all about – Risking one’s life to save others.
Whenever I passed on that road again, I felt the Resurrected Christ appearing before me.
This Easter, we must all look for our resurrected living Saviour, one who brings joy and life and hope, the one about whom the Prophet Isaiah said: “Those who hope in me will never be disappointed.”
Recently our friend’s son was getting married and he asked me for some tips.
Will I make my partner happy? What are her expectations? Does she belong to me? Will she accept me as is? Do I have to change in anyways to be more acceptable to her? Will I be able to perform? With the marriage day approaching,a lot of questions are going around a groom’s mind. These questions lingered in my mind a few weeks prior to our wedding.
What happens after marriage, especially on the first wedding night is always unpredictable. Hence do not be paranoid about it. It doesn’t matter if you are a virgin or have some experience. It is all about communication – both verbal and non-verbal and as to how well you can connect with your partner.
Communicating and making each other feel comfortable in each other’s presence helps in setting the tone. Asking questions about each other’s likes, dislikes in their day-to-day life, helps in starting a conversation. It is all about recognising each other, coming together, complimenting each other, and starting a life together. A simple compliment, such as, ‘How beautiful you look today!’ She has spent hours trying to look perfect on this big day. Expressing your love for an ‘I Love You’ at every opportune moment will pay rich dividends. I did none of these as I thought it was being too filmy or that I wasn’t confident about expressing it.
On that day, with all the ceremonies, friends, relatives, photographs, both of you hadn’t had any opportunity to eat or drink. Prior to your first night, ensure that both of you are well hydrated and have your stomach reasonably filled. It would be wise to carry some snacks and water. I realised the importance of it on our first night.
Avoid being a Whisky-Dick. Your friends may advise/ force you to have a drink or two on the garb that it will give you confidence and a boost. Alcohol does no good and it only harms.
Your friends must have narrated many stories of their escapades with sex. You realise they were stories only after a few days of marriage. What you see in those porn movies are in fact not real. Some guys would have told you – “Kill the cat on the first night!” You must know that they themselves did not do it. I too tried it but failed miserably.
Don’t forget about personal grooming and take care of personal hygiene. Grooming is an integral part of wedding preparation. A well-groomed man with less body hair makes a better impression. Make sure to groom your facial hair properly and keep your body hair in check. It would be best if you also cleaned your nails and feet, and you must take care of your skin. Look out for ill-fitted or mismatched clothes. They can make you look shabby.
Begin your grooming session now and repeat it once every month. That is why you are the Groom. Fix an appointment with the spa and go for a complete pedicure and manicure session. You can also wax off the unwanted body hair. A complete body massage and a facial will do a lot of good. Repeat it once a month – even after the wedding. In my case, it was the Regimental barber who did it a fortnight before my wedding on the day I left the Regiment on leave. In those days there were no spas even for women at Kottayam. It was almost like Kamalahasan’s character in the Thamizh movie Guna, where he gets his pre-wedding grooming done by the village barber.
Make sure not to try a new barber for the wedding look. Do a trial of the wedding haircut a couple of months before the big day to see if it suits you. It is preferable to keep some hair spray/ gel handy in case you’re having a bad hair day. In case you are opting for groom makeup, ask for a very subtle one.
When you go through your wedding photographs, you will realise that your fingers and toes were the most photographed organ of your body in an Indian Wedding. So, keep them clean and looking their best!
Start washing your face properly, not just soap and water. Invest in a good cleanser and a weekly exfoliator and you’ll soon notice an extra polish to your complexion. Start a regular eight glasses a day water workout ahead of your wedding and your skin will be clear, clean, in time for your big day.
Your eyebrows should not end up as an angry unibrow. Pluck any stray hairs between your eyes a couple of days before your wedding. Invest in a trimmer to tidy up your ears and a separate trimmer for your nostrils.
Book your last haircut a week before your wedding. This will give enough time to let the style settle. A Hair spray might give you a better hold without looking stiff or shiny. Ensure that you try it out a few times before your weddings. Gels and waxes may become messy.
Always use whitening toothpaste and schedule a dentist appointment a month before. Professional teeth cleaning and whitening is also an option. Remember, brushing your teeth – both morning and evening – and using mouthwash is strictly vital.
If you don’t already have a workout routine in place, now’s the time to start! Even if you’re not worried about losing weight, it’s always great to get in better shape and consistent exercise will give you more energy.
Select a mild perfume and a deodorant. Your body odour is much worse than what you perceive. It should not end up as a put off for the bride. You do not want to give the nostrils of your wife a tough time! If feasible, find her choice of perfume – so do clothes.
Thumb Rule when you get to your long-awaited wedding night, Take Your Time.
You have just had a big day, and now it is the two of you alone. Maybe a bath together, or a message to help you relax. Stretch out on the bed and hold and kiss each other, slowly and gently. Contraceptives are the greatest invention of mankind after computers!
Getting out of the introverted zone and talking will be difficult for both. The groom must take the initiative. Silence on the first night after marriage between a couple can invite bigger emotional problems. Do not be lost for words. Instead, try to make small conversations about recent things. Talk about how beautiful she was looking; has she experienced any inconvenience or has anything she would like to talk about in her mind. Be patient. Do not interrupt. She may take a long time to complete a sentence. Always maintain intense eye contact and find words to fill in the silence.
You and your partner have never been sexually intimate, and both will harbour many apprehensions about your wedding night. She will be nervous- so do you. You start the conversation about what you both are feeling. Try and identify the exact nature of your fears.
It would be prudent to ask her if she fears any potential pain that might occur with the first act of intercourse. Reassure her that you will be gentle and always listen to her if she asks you to stop or slow down. Explain that you anticipate the first act to be a bit painful and that you might be unable to perform or, to the contrary, reach orgasm too quickly to satisfy her. I did not do it and for both of us, it must have been the most horrible sex-act.
Never feel ashamed about communicating about sex as she is going to be your life partner. It is expected that you two will have many such conversations around sex and that’s a great to cement your relationship. Sex is a beautiful part of marriage, and you will always want to feel free to address this topic with each other.
On the first night, carry a tube or bottle of lubricant to help ease the act and make it less painful for both. If your wife did not have pain or bleed with the first act of intercourse, please do not doubt her virginity. Using a lubricant will ensure that things go smoothly and will enhance both of your pleasures. Don’t hesitate to apply again if necessary. I recommend a water based lubricant as it won’t stain your sheets, it’s easy on the skin, and it washes off easily in water.
It is normal for you to be concerned about erection and orgasm. The most common concern among grooms is climaxing too soon and not lasting long enough to bring your partner to climax. If you are used to self-pleasuring, you may want to practice that close to the wedding day, so you last a little longer than if you haven’t climaxed in a while. I practised it as advised by my senior officer.
If you orgasm too quickly, tell her exactly that. Then wait a bit and try it again. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast you will get back to lovemaking after the first orgasm. The second orgasm will be better longer and will be a confidence builder for you that you can perform!
Human nervous system is very complicated and if you are anxious about this being your first time, your penis will get frightened even before you and let you down. One suggested method from my experience to overcome this fear is to explore your wife’s body with your eyes, hands, fingers, and mouth.
Sex is not all about penis and vagina and need there need not be any penetration. There are plenty of ways to help her relax and reach an orgasm that does not involve your penis. Your brain will always want you to get there – your penis even more – but hold on.
Abstinence makes the penis grow stronger so does the vagina. Enjoy being newlyweds. Enjoy the parade of sex. Enjoy talking to each other, caressing each other, exploring each other’s body, and be imaginative.
Don’t feel any pressure to imitate the movie hero and thunder into the bedroom and start rattling the bed posts. Take some time to catch up. You’ve just spent many hours with hundreds of people; this might be your first chance to swap jokes and laugh at her mom’s antics. Take a time-out of the chaos and have a good look at her for the first time after she has been yours.
Indians are among the politest people in the world, coming from a four-thousand-year-old civilisation. How come others consider us as rude?
The question cropped in my mind when I read a news report about a Romanian Mayor calling an Indian Minister who was overseeing evacuation of Indian students from Ukraine arrogant and rude. Was the Minister arrogant or rude? Surely Not!
Most Indians do not undergo any vocal musical training at school, unlike in North America. They do not have to do presentations while at school. Hence most Indian kids end up with only volume control. I too have a similar problem in that I cannot modulate my pitch and tone. To enunciate or to put across a point, I tend to raise my volume and it becomes offensive to a Canadian listener. Some have told me off that I am rude. With practice and help from our children, I have improved a lot. Am I perfect in this regard? An affirmative No!
All Indian immigrants in Canada do not sound rude or arrogant, but the candidates I have interviewed recently, I am forced to change my opinion. These candidates give off an arrogant vibe and an arrogant look. They pad up their resumes to over a page with mostly redundant achievements and in some cases family lineage. They act as if they know it all, have achieved all and are ready to join the workforce. They blow their trumpets. Their claims and lies fall shattered when they are asked to handle a real situation or a process.
The way one is greeted, business processed, merchandise dispensed at the store or on the drive-through in Canada, it involves exchanging a few pleasantries. The conversation by the sales associate involves lot of those ‘magic words’ like please, thank you, have a nice day, etc. Driving through a coffee outlet, I could often make out the nationality of the associate from their accent coupled with the absence of those magic words. They do sound impolite and rude by Canadian standards.
Many Indian immigrants land with a false superiority or prestige. It is all because of the social-media propaganda that all of NASA’s scientists are Indians; Silicon Valley companies are being run by Indians; all doctors in America are Indians; Indians are doing very well in USA and Canada; and so on. Sorry, but it isn’t the truth!
Another opinion is that Americans or Canadians do not study and that it is all Indian students in universities, and they are the toppers. Look at the award lists or achievers list of any North American universities and you will realise the truth.
Next in line is the belief that North Americans are dumb. You must be right!!! That is why every time you switch on a computer or a cellphone or a tablet, look at the company which developed the software and that’s why they are the pioneers of modern technology and medical research.
Indians have only heard of a few hardworking and intelligent Indians in India or outside India. Other countries too have the same percentage of hardworking and intelligent people. The political/ religious leaders pepper their discourses with some history, some mythology, some twisted facts etc. This leaves an impression in the mind of the youth that Indians are the best and have all the solutions for all the problems the world faces today. This has made the youth less tolerant to the other religions/ castes/ creeds. This makes the youth less accepting of others, their viewpoints, their beliefs, and their cultures. A sure recipe to disaster!!
Various debates on national television are a clear indication of the arrogance of the anchors and the participants. Many foreign panelists in such discussions have pointed it out (I too feel the same.) These anchors and participants (some Veterans too) have indoctrinated the Indian youth to believe that the rude and arrogant way they put across their viewpoint is an acceptable one. This further adds to the rudeness and arrogance of the educated Indians without they themselves realising it.
Various propaganda or false information passed on to the Indian youth on social media have influenced their minds. Most youth do not read, but forward whatever they receive to others, believing them to be true. Many adults (including Veterans) too engage in such acts to show their presence on social media by proving that they are ‘Virtually Alive.’ When a Veteran or someone a youth respects forwards a message, they lap it up as true and forward it to their friends without any analysis. Lack of reading, analysis and opinion forming among university students make them narrow-minded. Thus, they become non-creative, lacking original ideas. Look at any Indian social-media groups – it is all about Forwards with hardly any Original work or opinions.
Many youths in Canada (including our children) hardly make any comments or post photos/ videos on social media. On inquiry they said that they do not want their prospective employer to reject them for their social media posts. They do not have friends too who post offensive or arrogant material because it should not surface during a background check. Our son Nikhil did not want his posts to haunt him later when he gets into Canadian politics.
Many North American students take up part time jobs during their high school onward. They work in restaurants, swimming pools, gyms, libraries etc. They must volunteer in community activities as part of the requirement for high school graduation. This exposes them to difficult situations where they observe or participate in customer management. This trains them about what not to speak and how to put across one’s concerns in a polite and civilised manner.
Politeness must be inculcated in children, and it must begin at home. Parents must set an example, especially when facing a difficult situation.
Kindness and politeness are not overrated at all. They’re underused. – Tommy Lee Jones – American actor and film director.
Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. – Clarence Thomas – US Supreme Court Judge