Mumbai Diary Page: Saturday scene
The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce
Into the jaws of manholes and potholes
WHAT does one do when road maintenance gets so bad, that one pothole is merely replaced by another? Or when one opened manhole gets closed only for another one to open up further down the road, lying in wait as it were for unwary road users?
Death trap: Quite literally, as this artist shows. PIC/AFP
One artist in Bangalore got fed up and then got creative. Badal Nanjundaswamy decided that enough was enough, and the manhole left wide open and unattended in the middle of the road was an invitation to journey with the god of death himself. So he took it literally and painted the face of Yama, the aforementioned deity, around the manhole with the gaping opening as his mouth.
We don’t know yet whether the municipal authorities responded positively to Badal’s initiative, or whether he was picked up for creating a nuisance (that is more likely in today’s unimaginative times). But the idea is great, and we think it should — nay, must — be adopted by Mumbai forthwith.
Enough of writing about and photographing potholes and manholes and ditches, we say. There are many opportunities for drawing Yamraj and various asuras as well, on the city’s roads. Why that, some roads are so bad that one could even draw all 10 heads of Ravana!
Not everyone can flock to the wetlands to watch flamingoes, but there is nothing to prevent each and every one of us from being an environmentally conscious citizen. And the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) aims to make this possible, with its new initiative, “Right to Environment Education (RTEE), under which it will conduct free educational day tours in Marathi and Hindi at its Conservation Education Centre (CEC) in Goregaon for all underprivileged groups of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane.The programme includes a nature trail, an audiovisual show on the environment, and a module on waste management. The BNHS has called for NGOs working with underprivileged groups to take advantage of this initiative and plan an educational tour, and for donors to support the transport cost of the visiting groups. Volunteers are also welcome to join the initiative as educators. Those interested can contact Amandeep Giran on 9594929107 or email email@example.com.
Go on, make a difference.
'A great eye, lidless'
Readers of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy will remember this description of the Eye of Sauron, which sends chills through the hobbits when they hear of it. Well, what if it were true? Before you rush to find Gandalf, hold on — this “Eye” is in outer space and it’ll be a long time before we get there, or it gets here.
This Eye of Sauron is the magnificent ringed star HR 4796A, in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It is one of the first images produced by Sphere, the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research instrument, installed last month in Chile.
To a typical optical telescope, HR 4796A’s dark centre is a blazing disk of starlight that swamps the weaker glow of the dust ring. Sphere filters out the star’s light to acquire exceptionally sharp images like this. The instrument also corrects for the effects of Earth’s atmosphere and can differentiate between starlight and a planet’s glow, on the basis of the colour and polarisation of light.
These talents will allow Sphere to discover planets orbiting distant stars and study them with spectacular clarity.