Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Clay Lick

By Donald Brightsmith

Originally published in
Bird Talk Magazine October 2003

A clay lick is a place where birds or mammals come to eat soil. In the US these sites are usually known as salt licks. In Peru they are known by the Quechua word colpa often written collpa or ccollpa), which loosely translates to "salty earth."

Why should hundreds of birds come and eat soil from these special sites? There have been two main theories floating around about why parrots eat soil. The first says that the birds eat the soil to get minerals. Something like an avian daily vitamin pill. The other major theory is that they eat the soil to protect them from toxins in their diet. You may ask why the birds are eating toxic foods in the first place. Is it acid rain? Toxic fallout? Why should parrots eat toxic food? In reality it is totally natural it is just the lot that parrots have in life. It turns out that wild parrots eat mostly tree seeds. Many times they eat young seed before they get ripe. By eating the seed and killing it, they are not helping the plant at all. This is very different from the animals that eat fruit but carry the seed off and drop it unharmed. This is a vital help to the plant. So while fruits are made to be eaten, the seeds are not. A perfect example of this is the common apple. It has a sweet palatable fruit, but its seeds are protected by a sugar that contains toxic cyanide! As a result by eating seeds from hundreds of plants wild parrots are exposing themselves to a dizzying array of highly toxic substances every day (see People Parrots and plant toxins sidebar).

These theories were floating around for nearly a decade without much scientific investigation until a PhD student at the University of California at Davis, James Gilardi (now the director of the World Parrot Trust) came along and set his mind to trying to determine what was really going on. He found that the parrots prefer to eat soils with lots of clay. In particular the soils contain Kaolin clay, the very same ingredient that is found in the human stomach medicine Kaopectate! The very small clay particles have a negative charge and most of the toxic plant chemicals have a positive charge, a perfect match! He found that the soils did a great job of binding to toxic alkaloids (the family of chemicals that includes cocaine, opium and caffeine). These bound toxins then pass through the digestive system and are never absorbed into the blood of the birds. He also found evidence that the clay coats the inside of the digestive system and protects it from being "tanned" by the tannins and other toxic plant chemicals (See Plant toxin side bar).

Dr. Gilardi also tested the mineral concentrations of soils the birds ate and compared them to soils that they didn't eat. In this way he hoped to discover what minerals were important to the birds. Was it calcium the birds needed to make eggshells? Iron for the blood? Zink? No. In each case there were higher concentrations of nutrients in the soils the birds didn't eat. What about sodium? Sodium, the reason we love chips, French fries and all other salty foods, the mineral we all need to maintain the water balance in our bodies and hundreds of other uses? His evidence was not clear. He found that there was slightly higher sodium in the soils the birds ate but it may have been just by chance.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Govind Nihlani's Ardh Satya (Half Truth)

Ardh sathya is a very intense movie.It is definitely one of the top 3 in my all time great indian movies.Om puri's potrayal of sub inspector ananth Walenkar is uncomparable with any acting i have seen so far in india.The intensity with which he has acted is just unbeleivable.

Ananth who is from a typical indian police family (Strict father, subservient, docile mother).Ananth grows up unable to stop his father from beating his mother or making his own choice on higher education. As a sub inspector he is trying to overcome all his inability of yester years by being a strick officer.But he finds it hard to survive in the corrupt world as a straight Shooter. when the politically well connected criminals get away so easily, He feels the same inability that he felt when his father used to beat his mother.He takes it personally as a dent to his male ego.

Nasrudeen shah comes as an once straight forward inspector. Because he was not able to adjust with the corrupt peoples, he ends up losing his job and literally begging on the streets for his livelihood. Nasrudeen shah becomes a symbolic warning for Ananth. Ananth compromises his principles to get himself out of a suspension. He makes himself half true to his self.But realizes it at the end and corrects it in his own way.

Great cast :Om Puri, Smita Patil, Amrish Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Achyut Potdar, Shafi Inamdar

sadashiv amrapurkar is my next pick on the movie.Has played the part of a politician beautifully.Non chalent acting. This was Sadashiv Amrapurkars acting debut and he won the film fare best supporting actor award. Om Puri won a national award for the best actor and the movie won the best hindi film award.It also won the Filmfare awards for Best Film and Story.

The first thing that i thought after watching the movie was, why i didn't see the movie all these time.None of the network channels have played this movie. Don't understand how they can repeatedley telecast so many garbbage movies and forget a gem like ardh sathya.I remember Ramgopal verma telling how Govindh nihlani's ardh sathya was the inspiration for many of his movies. Well i can understand it now.

There is a poem in the movie which is very relevant to the theme. Om puri reads Jyotsna Ghokale's(smitha patel) poetry book and this is one of her favorite poem. It describes his state of mind at that time.

chakravyug mei gusne se pehle
kaun tha mei, aur kesa tha

yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahe

chakravyug mei gusne ke baadh
merey our chakravuy ke beech sirf jaan leva nikhatva thi
is ka mujhe patha he na chaley

chakravyug se bahar nikalney paar
mei mukth ho javun baley hi.
fir be chakravyug ke rachna mei farkh hi naa padega

Marun ya maaron
mara javun ya jaan se mar dhu
iska fesla kaabi na ho payega

soya huva admi jab needh mei se utkhar chalnaa shuru kartha hi
thab saapno ka saansar usey dhubara dhekhi nahi payega

us roshni mei,jo nirnay ki roshni hai
saab kuch saaman hoga kya?

ek paladey mei napun saktha
dushrey paladey par paarush
aur teek tharazhu kei kaantey paar

Ardh sathya

hindi version


Before entering the circle of enemies
who was I and how i was

I didn't remember it

After entering it there was only dangerous nearness
between me and the circle
I didn't realize that

After getting out of the circle
even if iam free
Even then the structure of the circle will remain unaltered

whether i die or kill
This will never be decided

when a man starts walking after waking from sleep
He can never see the world of dreams again

In the light, the light of decision
will everything be equal

on one hand is cowardice and other courage
and at the center is a half truth

Here is my interpretation of that.
It could be interpreted in many ways.The first one is interpreting it to the physical world. Here the poem takes the analogy of chakravyug that abhimanyu breaks in mahabharatha to the corruption & political rowdisim.It says, what i was before breaking the chakravug and what iam now are 2 different persons. He knows that he has changed within the chakravug and he is getting closer to it(meaning his compromises with the politicians and his efforts to get himself out of the custodial death that he did).The structure of the chakravyug will remain the same even if he comes out safely(Meaning the politician , goondaism ,police nexus structure will be the same).It goes on to talk about his indecision in taking on the bad elements(kill them) or submitting to them(get killed).How will his action be interpreted in the eyes of the judicial system. The powerful and cowards on a scale can only balance at the half truth.

The second and a better interpretation is his fight with himself.
Here the chakravugh is the immoral and non righteous side of his mind, which the protoganist is fighting to avoid. And it is a constant struggle between himself on what is right and what is wrong.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Postmen In The Mountains

I remember seeing that movie in 31st international film fesival in New Delhi.I was so taken away by the movie.Especially the photography, it was so stunning.I liked it so much that i wanted to own a personal copy of the movie.i tried searching for it on the internet then. There wasn't much info during that time.I tried looking for it in various blockbuster etc after i came to USA.but was never able to find it.Thanxs for netflix, i atlast found it.

It's a sensitive story between a father and son.The retiring father a postman, is passing his job to his son and on the last trip to deliver the post .They get to spend a few days(well it takes days to deliver the mails in the mountains of hunan region in china) and they understand lot of things about each other that they were not aware of till then.The movie is a physical journey of the father and son on the postal route, and a mental journey of there life till then.The movie bridges the old responsible, patient father and the young careless, impulsive son. Its the coming of age for the son and end of responsibilities for the father.I don't want to go into the details.See it for yourself.

This is a great movie,a poem on celluloid.every frame is so picturesque.But seeing it on the small screen was half enjoyable compared to watching it on a wide screen indian theater.i remember a scene where the son shoots a paper rocket on the hill.The paper rocket floats slowly from one end to the other of the theater screen,with the panoramic view of a valley as the background.Hundreds of dragonflies fly around in the orange evening sunlight.That scene was literally unnoticeable in small screen.

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