Saturday, 11 November 2017


Man is said to be a 'Social animal', so are elephant, deer, monkey etc. Birds of a feather also fly together. Ants and honeybees make huge communities. Thus living in groups appears to be a natural choice for many species including human beings. However, we also know that self-interest is a strong instinct. Might is right being the nature's law of the jungle, the stronger wants to snatch whatever he wants from the weaker and generally is able to do so. Then why do they still live together? It is because the strong are also seen taking care of the weak and protecting them. Some people think it is indicative of presence of the God in their heart, while some other people think it is the result of insecurity. Others attribute it to destiny, Karma etc. or do not think at all. The interaction between an individual and the community is an interesting topic, so also the evolution of a community in relation to its surroundings.

Shri Revindra Apte is a brilliant engineer by education and training. He cultivated his interest in trekking and went beyond the common perception of trekking as a mode of strenuous physical exercise and spirit of adventure. He closely observed the fauna and flora of the terrain he covered and also the living of local inhabitants. Then he went to live with tribal people in deep forests infested with Naxalites, Maoists, seperatists etc. and share their style of living. He helped the NGOs working for upliftment of these tribals by educating them and imparting them some modern skills.

He recently visited Madagasker, a large island off the shores of Africa, where different plants and animals not found elsewhere, were evolved because of its isolation from the mainland. He went there mainly to study the life of Lemurs, a species of monkeys closest to the primates from whom the humans evolved. Then he visited Kenya and looked at the tribal villagers living a peaceful life in their villages and a disturbed life in the city of Nairobi.

He has given his observations and tried to extrapolate them to the virtual communities on social media where people often hide behind various masks and some times they do not even exist in reality. Finally he has tried to relate them to an e mail group, where people are real and though they do not live together, they are close to each other as they freely communicate on internet.  

An interesting discussion followed.   

Madagascar is also habitat of some special varieties ob birds and chameleons. Beautiful videos on these creatures are added to this blog. The Videos on these expeditions are really absorbing. Their links are given below for convinience of the readers.

African Safari     (32 minutes)

  Lemurs of Madagascar    (26:30 minutes)

Ravindra Apte, Nov 2 at 5:08 PM


Recently, Aug – Sept, I visited Madagascar. I was attracted by the famed biodiversity of Madagascar and especially the Lemurs, the closest living relative of the ancestral primates from whom the Humans evolved. The sever loss of habitat has endangered the many species of lemurs.  It was an experience to trek in the jungle trying to spot the lemurs. The Andabise National Park is the last wild habitat of Indri Indri lemurs. There were two groups of Indri Indri consisting of 6 to 8 members. They were territorial and proclaimed their areas by loud calls. With no predator except for the fossa, a civet or mongoose like mammal, the lemurs have diversified into 59 living species as a response to scares resources. Some feeding on top canopy of trees, some near ground, some specializing on insect hunting and some becoming nocturnal in the process of occupying niches in the environment and forming their own small flourishing communities. Is it a process of forming clans and tribes in humans to occupy and guard the niches in the environment?

In the same trip I visited Kenya. In the riparian habitat of River Ewaso, the Sambaru National Park, we visited the Sambaru tribal village of Namaiyiana. There were few huts with traditional design but modern material of discarded card board and plastic sheets and could easily pass for the shanties in Nairobi. The villagers though poor and deprived of many modern amenities were still cheerful and displayed integrity and pride. When I was in Nairobi I was struck by the vacant looks in the eyes of the homeless drifting people and there are hoards of them. Up rooted from their clan and tribe they look desperate and melancholy. It was a period just after the presidential election. The election of Uhuru Kenyata was challenged by Raila Odinga and the case was in court. Our driver and guide informed us that when the election campaign was on most of the people preferred to be with their own tribe and their home towns. This was in anticipation of any post-election violence. The residential schools were closed and the students back in their own tribal home land. (Which explained the deserted schools, both government and of mission, in our travel across Kenya) The history of tribal violence is that of short of genocide, be it in Rwanda, Sudan or Congo. Apart from providing the cultural and emotional mooring the community is expected to provide the strength and safety in numbers.

The idea of various online groups (virtual communities?), like our retiree group is interesting to explore. Apart from the age old communities bound together by the idea of a nation, religion, caste and sub caste, ethnicity and language we had the communities bound by interest like the fan clubs of football clubs and the super stars. The virtual communities are of recent origin. It can be mobbed by faceless individuals with feigned common interests or identity. Leaving aside the danger of falsehood in it for a moment, what purpose the group serves to the individual and the larger community?

Does our group of retiree, I am hesitant to call it virtual community; a better word would be a Distant Community, is just for time pass or for distribution of Gyaan or safe guard the pension or something more? What is there for individuals who are silent for most of the periods (and they are in good numbers)?  Why do I feel writing in this group once in a while?


Padmakar Puntambekar, Nov 2 at 5:43 PM

Dear Ravi
Your post are very much interesting to read and it increases our gyan. Please post few photos of your tour. 
In response to your last para , our group is of  retirees. We have different hobbies intrest still we  have enough time now to read and enjoy our colleagues post on various typics. Already there is lot of bombarding of mails from group members,  so silent members are also contributing to maintain group decipline. 
Thottappilly Premachandran, Nov 2 at 5:57 PM

Dear Sri Apteji,
Your mail gave me lot of insight on unexplored regions where many of us dare to visit. Nicely narrated. 

Thanks for your enlightenment of a new world.


Ravindra Apte - Nov 3 at 5:37 PM

It seems my African Journey has created some interest.

Actually the trigger to write the piece was the article in Indian Express (2nd Nov) The Dangers of a Flawed Poll.  It is about the Kenya's fresh Presidential election and the mess associated with it and the atmosphere of intimidation. I was in Kenya after the Aug elections and heard and seen the disruption it had caused, the schools shuttered and people withdrawing to ghettos. That thought lead to reflections on societies and communities and the roles they play. Reference to my travel was incidental. 

My journeys are not that adventurous or courting danger, just they are off the usual destinations. That is possible because with like minded friends, I am able to plan destinations on our own of our interest. I carry a video camera and taken a few stills. My videos on the trip are ready but they are too long, half an hour each and so I am hesitant to forward the links. But I will do it one of these days. In the meanwhile here are some stills, which I had shared on WhatsApp group (another Distant Community) 

I enjoy sunrise and sunset tremendously and invariable end up clicking them.

Ashok Malhotra : Nov 3 at 8:49 PM

Apteji welcome back after a long long break with recharged batteries from your diverse travelogs. Medagaskar and Kenya are both exciting, unique as well diverse places and we would love to hear your entire stories. The unique rock formations of Medagaskar are world famous. Association of Kenya to India is also very old and its culture and cities have been evoked in the good old films n songs. I still like to hear the good old song "Mombassa-Mombassa". The Kenyan names of Zanzibar, Masai mara also cross the memory. Please go ahead with your travelogs. Thanks
Thottappilly Premachandran : Nov 3 at 9:05 PM

I know that ur trips involves bit of trekking also. In case you permit outsiders of your group,  some from this group may like to join next planned trip where  there is only a limited trekking is involved.

Apart from this we, in AEPWF was also thinking of some trips of our group members . I am told DAE retirees in Kerala regularly meet and undertake local trips. Dear Apteji, can you suggest and take some lead.

Ravindra Apte : Nov 3 at 10:50 PM

Regarding involvement in planning fun trips, my experience is trekkers are misfit for planning it. They simply have different understanding of feasibility, hardship and fun.

Here are the links to pictures again, hopefully they would work. 
Shah Nawaz Ahmad : Nov 3 at 11:41 PM

Mirza ki taraf se ek aur, unke liye jo khil na sakey:----

sab kahan kuch lala-o-gul mein numayan ho gaien
khak mein kya suratein hongi k pinhan ho gaien

Not all, only a few are destined to  bloom and grow
How many flowers lie crushed in dust, none may e’er know
Ravindra Apte : Nov 4 at 12:28 AM

You are quite right on Indian connection with Kenya. The trade is still in the hands of those Indians, migrated years back. They are there more than three generations. The hundreds of acres of rose green houses in Naiwasha were owned by an Indian. Surprisingly when our guide gave this info, he said after three generations and Kenyan citizenship the person is Kenyan only. 
In the hotels one could get chapati and all Kenyan know what it is chapati, only they don't know how to make it in right way. We had chapati made like a pancake and cut like a pizza. 

You are right about the famous rock formation of Madagascar, they are in the south region. Our interest was with the Lemurs in the wild and since we had limited days we were in the eastern region of M. We missed out on the rocks as well as the baobab avenue. But the visit to Andasibe made for the loss. The other parts of Madagascar are exploited for mineral. France devastated the country for chromium and looted the forest for mahogany and rosewood. Today most of the mines are passed their peak production. Canada has interest in mines, especially that of zirconium.    

It is strange how the communities adopt certain customs and rituals. Madagacy  society has very strange custom of honoring their ancestors. This came to our knowledge when we visited the Ambohimanga, the spiritual center and old residence of kings. The guide showed the royal tomb and explained how it is generally laid out. It is a long deep trench and on both sides there are bunks on which the remains of the ancestors are placed, rapped in fine cloths. Every seven years they grave is opened and the remains are taken out, re-rapped  in fine cloth and re-buried. There is a big feast and presents are exchanged. I thought this old custom might be a history, but it is not. Our guide said just last year he has shown the great grand parents to his son. 

All communities have their own versions of after life and they way to remember the departed. They pyramids stacked with gold and  other items and mummies, the Chinese emperors tombs are famous examples. Even the Nabataean nomads of Jordan had the City of Dead, Petra. In Petra I saw the three halls for the great feast lasting of a week, which occurred once in a year. (similar to our पक्ष / पितृ पक्ष )  There are no remains of the dead as they practiced keeping the bodies on a rock pillars for the birds like the Parsi. But the dwellings of the dead are a remarkable work of rock cutting. There are hundreds of such places both great and simple. Closer home we have the samadhi, chattri (छत्री), विरगळ, सती हात to honour  the departed and keep their memory strong. Some times the desire to honour and remember the departed may take the shape of beautiful Taj Mahal. Since we are closely associated with these practices we don't find them odd. 

Even in today's world the idea of after life is carried to a ridiculous level. In North East I have seen a Maruti 800 car being buried along with the departed Naga chief. The story goes that periodically money is buried in the grave, you see to run the car the Chief will have to buy the petrol and the prices being riding rocket the money must be used fast. The grave vandals had reduced the car to a skeleton and robbed the money. Hard luck for the Chief.  

Dear Ahmad Sahab, Good you thoughtfully translated the couplets. 

But Sahab, what about those flowers which bloomed and whose fragrance wafted on the gentle westerly wind and they were never aware of it. 

Ravindra Apte  
Ashok Malhotra : Nov 4 at 7:32 AM

    Perhaps another way to look at the "flowers that did not bloom" is.. "those having a selfish motive of not to share n spread their fragrance".
  Apteji, thanks. You are not only lucky to see all the exotic places in this world but also having the God's gift of the prose. Reading your mails leaves a strange mix of melancholy and envy b'cause it matches with my partially fulfilled ambitions. I am also reminded of the reading of "Gulliver's travels".
   Is Petra derived from pitr? 

Ravindra Apte  : Nov 4 at 12:45 PM

The name Petra is not derived from pitr (पित्र / पितर). It is derived from Greek word for rock.
K.Natarajan : Nov 8 at 6:26 AM

Virtual communities! 

The materialistic aspect of travelogue apart, the philosophical thought of  virtual communities and the introspective ‘why am I tempted to put in a mail to this group once in a while?’  of Shri R yay Apte
  geared me down to this belated response.

Like the determined existence of lemurs, close to extinction, but still steadfastly fighting nature to survive by organizing themselves into different ‘groups’,  the retirees from a unique and purposeful organisation of a sensitive technology, suddenly find themselves without a mooring, and, refusing to settle down to the dull retirement, place themselves in a matrix of different rows and columns  of their creation for a virtual survival and respond from the virtual group of a row or column, as they deem fit.
The motive force is not safeguarding mundane interests like pension etc, or even timepassing,   but , I believe, to preserve the link with our past !

The mass of the virtual group of any row or column creates its own virtual gravitational force to pull the element to respond(or to create) . An element may occasionally feel detached, apparently away from the field of influence, but the ebb and flow of gravitational waves  is sure to pull the element into its fold , sooner or later!

Shri RY Apte’s ‘virtual communities’  and the rhetoric question posed, are  nice thoughts!

anand ghare : Nov 8 at 9:40 AM

I had read an article long long ago titled "Tourists are not travelers".
I might have made more than a hundred official tours  and almost equal number of journeys to various different places in my personal life. Though I was keen to see the places of interest, natural as well as man made and tried to taste locally made food,  wherever I went, it was still only as a slightly more interested tourist.  I am understanding the difference between a tourist and a traveler after reading the accounts given by Shri Apte and talking to him, rather listening to him speaking passionately about the people he met whether in North East India or Africa and now Lemurs, a species I had not even heard of.
He has asked some questions at the end of his first mail. I was hesitant to respond because I do not think to be competent enough to address those questions. I can probably only say पिंडे पिंडे रुचिर्भिन्ना कुंडे कुंडे नवम् पयः।, (meaning every person has a different taste and every pond has different water). So I will not hazard a guess about our virtual or Distant community. It is certainly not homogenous.

Anand Ghare

Ravindra Apte : Nov 8 at 5:38 PM

The Communities

Shri K Natarajan has explained the operational mechanism / principle of virtual / distant communities. I think it has other dimensions as well.

The virtual communities / groups are attractive as they provide a degree of anonymity. You could express your, not so savoury opinion and get away. But in our group there is hardly any anonymity and still I came to know the many shades of personality of the members of the group, which were not revealed when we were interacting on daily basis. One reason could be we were interacting strictly on need based, in the sanitized atmosphere of office and office procedures. It revealed only our competence or lack of it in technical issues or procedural maze or ability to negotiate hurdles in a meeting or being a team member. But as a person you were unknown to many with whom you interacted.

As for you Sir KN, I worked with you for many years and thought I knew you well enough. As a boss you gave an impression that you have no life beyond office, so immersed you were in the technical details and matters of office. (You still show those traits!) Yes I was aware of your deep roots in logical and rational thinking and your rare ability to call a spade a spade without malice. But only in this group I came to know about your breadth of reading and interests from scriptures, philosophy to classical music. It was you who introduced me to T M Krishna’s music and his personality; I had only attended his lecture on freedom in creativity.

Another person is Shri. R. Rustagi. I came to know him before I joined PPED, you see he had visited the training school along with Shri Mahadev Rao to woo fresh trainees to join PPED. He was successful in his mission, some 20 of joined PPED. Later I interacted with him in matters related to the instrumentation of reactivity mechanism and later for the Secondary Shut down System for NAPP. When he left for greener pastures of US and came back to sell the valves, I was still there. I had never suspected his interest in Tulsi Ramayan, his exposure to scriptures and philosophy, his deep veneration for Indian culture and tradition (even though I know the NRIs are more Indian than we Indians). And how gravitates all things to yoga.

I never knew, Anand Ghare writes so lucidly on diverse topics. That is because even though we met, it was in the confines of office, which discouraged informal chats. And that’s why there were many groups for informal interactions. There were those tea groups, lunch groups or buddies, the after lunch stroller’s group, the bridge players group and yes we had that trekker’s group. These groups were rather exclusive, the criteria may be any,  of batch mate, of the same section etc. Rarely one engaged in informal chat outside their group. I remember Mago used to engage is such chats when he was learning Marathi and wished to try it out. He had seen the Hindi version of the controversial Marathi play Sakharam Binder. He wished to know how the Marathi audience has received it. Once by chance I met him and S N Ahmad, after the film show at Metro. The film was that Govind Nihalani classic, आक्रोश. We ended up in the nearby Irani restaurant dissecting the powerful film. I remember the comments of Ahmad when we were discussing the characters, played out by Amrish Puri and Naseeruddin Shah. He said the character of Amrish Puri had made peace with the system. I think many a time this insight helps in knowing how the system functions and why people act the way they act. Such interactions were rare outside the groups.  

The retiree group is a first group which has brought us all together and provided a common platform to interact. Yes it has provided a degree of anonymity, I am sure, for some I am just a name; the way I find it difficult to give a face to a familiar name. There is a transparency in the writing style of members. At times it uncovers the deep seated beliefs and preferences and political opinions bordering on the reason and rationality. We are known to each other for so long that we don’t mind presenting the way we are. And how many times we are going to meet face to face? There is an escape hatch as well, of simply vanishing, when the things being too hot for our liking and still we can keep tabs on what is going around.

As KN has put it the motive force for the group is to preserve the links to our past. Yes it is very true, where would I share my memories from my office days, other than this group?

Ravindra Apte



Ravindra Apte : Nov 11 at 6:31 PM

In Aug - Sept I traveled through Kenya and Madagascar. Here is a brief video account of the same.  

For planning the tour of Kenya the prime attraction was the yearly migration of wildebeests and zebras. Of course the wild life attraction was there, but then we had the idea of a safari in our trip to Tanzania in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. That was more than 10 years back. For this trip, we decided to visit different habitats and in that process chose five national parks / reserves. It gave an opportunity to understand how animals adapt to the habitats. But it also required long, on an average 250 km, drives between two parks / habitats and with the conditions of roads it meant 6 to 8 hours of drive. We traveled from north to south south-east and through the geological marvel of Rift Valley, running from Red Sea to Mozambique a length of 6000 Km. 
All of us have seen, myself a number of times, the excellent coverage in documentaries of Discovery / NG TV channels, of the great migration from Serengeti to Masai Mara of the wildebeests daring the river crossing, saving themselves from the jaws of crocodiles. We were lucky to witness the migration. We have to jockey our vehicle, one in a crowd of 50, to the spot and struggle for the best possible angle and film and at the same time marvel at the scene. Yes, my video coverage is no comparison to the professional job, but to tell the truth the most professional documentaries fail to give the real feel. For that you have to see the live action yourself. 

Our Madagascar trip happened because I could not avoid the temptation to visit it when we were so close to it from Kenya. A biodiversity hot spot being reduced to a desert. It is a fairly large country and the interesting spots are dispersed, with the poor connectivity one has to spend days to cover all the interesting places. We had limited days and budget (yes Madagascar is expensive) and so we concentrated on our main interest The Lemurs.  

On the net there is a reference of a 1932 talk by Shankaracharya of Kanchi, in which he shows the connection between Madagascar and India comparing the names. Yes many of the names sound to have roots in Indian names. But in the local language they may not have the same meaning. But no doubt there is Indian connection. As in rest of East Africa the trade, especially of gold, is controlled by the descendants of the brave and enterprising Bohara and Marwadi traders who migrated years back. Madagacy people believe in astrology, the good time and the concept of Rahu Kal. Our guide informed us the Indian astrologers are the best and in great demand. 

Here are  links to two videos  

        African Safari     (32 minutes)

        Lemurs of Madagascar    (26:30 minutes)

Ravindra Apte   

Ravindra Apte <>
Nov 12 at 1:22 PM


Kenya is not well known for birding destination. But on our Safari we saw many birds, thanks to our guide and driver, Anthony, who was a bird enthusiast and never complained for halting vehicle for bird observation. Some of you may enjoy the video. Here is the link to video, Birds of Kenya about 30 minutes. 

Ravindra Apte


Ravindra Apte <>
Nov 12 at 10:28 PM

Dear Anand Ghare,

This is the last video from my Madagascar trip, may be you would like it to be included  in your blog.

Chameleons are interesting creatures. Their ability to change the body skin color to match the surrounding background is amazing. I am fascinated and wonder how the feed back mechanism must be functioning to have a perfect match. It is a ripe subject for a PhD and many have actually worked on it.

Ravindra Apte 

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