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Many thanks to Michael for publishing my interview on BoingBird website!!!

You can read it here – http://boingbirdtv.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/boingbird-talks-to-photographer-ruhi-malgaonkar-northern-mocking-bird-photo/

And also for picking up my ‘Barn Swallow’ snap as “Bird pic of the day!” 😀

I have also posted the same interview below –

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Boingbird talks to photographer Ruhi Malgaonkar

In an interview with Boingbird CEO Michael Clark, Ruhi Malgaonkar talks about her photography, her master’s degree, her passion for birdwatching and where she wants to go in the future:

Ruhi, what is like to live in Pune, Maharashtra India? I originally belong to a city called “Ratnagiri” which is on western coast of Maharashtra state in India. I am born and brought up there. And then “Pune” happened to me. Pune is called “The Oxford of the East”, due to the various educational institutions. I came to Pune for my higher studies in 1999 and since then I am completely in love with this city. Pune has amazing climatic conditions and gifted by beautiful nature from all sides.

Who is Ruhi Malgaonkar? What is your life’s passion? Ruhi is a simple, optimistic gal. I like to enjoy each moment of life, crack jokes and like make others happy. I make friends wherever I go. I value relations more than anything else. I like smiling faces.

I started working at early age of 20 when rests of friends were busy enjoying their college life. Mine was more of “earn & learn” types. Along with work, I completed my Graduation and post-grads with flying colors.

In simple words,

By Camera, an amateur.
By Heart, a nature lover.
By Passion, a bird watcher.
By Career, a software professional.

What type of work do you do as a software professional? Are you still a student? I am working in a software organization as a ‘Module Leader’. Yes I am still a student. I am on verge of completing my masters in Computers.

Why did you become a birder and bird photographer? My home at Ratnagiri (native place) has a beautiful garden. Thanks to my Mom for her gardening hobby. It attracted lots and lots of birds. Some to name among them are Rose-ringed Parakeets, Cattle egret, Asial Koel, Purple-rumped sunbird, White-throated Kingfisher, Red-Crimson Sunbird, Oriental Magpie Robin, Tailor Bird, Orange Headed Ground Thrush, Red-vented Bulbul, Red whiskered Bulbul, Indian Mynah, Pond heron, etc.

Bulbuls, sunbirds, robins had usual nests. I was always fascinated with them and spent hours watching them nesting and feeding their young ones. I grew with up them and knowingly or unknowingly birding started since I was a kid.

There is huge ‘Sacred fig‘tree near and a flowing water canal behind my apartment in Pune. And birding continued. New birds were Indian Grey Horn bill, Parakeets, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Babblers, Pied Kingfishers, Cormorants, Darters, Oriental White-eye, Coppersmith Barbet, Kite, with bulbul, koel, crow and pigeon as common ones.

I became a Bird photographer much after birding. I capture birds because I like them. Still bird watching remains first love and then comes clicking. Given an option among these two, I would go for bird watching rather than photography.

When did you start your birding hobby? How long have you been a photographer? I don’t’ remember when Birding hobby bug hit me but roughly it started when I was 2-3 yrs old. I still remember my first pet was a Rose ringed parakeet when I was 2. It was gifted to me by my grandma. I enjoyed playing with it and feeding it. After a year or so, I just opened the door of the cage and set it free.

Photography started much later when I bought my camera in 2006.

I do have few friends who have similar interest i.e. photography. I belong to some few great groups on flickr.com. I have participated and organized in few photography exhibitions here in Pune. Our exhibitions financially supported some social causes like a deaf-and-dumb children school and an orphanage. It was altogether different feeling to interact with those children in our exhibitions.

What brought you from India to Dallas, Texas and what is the travel time from your home to Dallas? My work brought me to Dallas, TX. Travel time is approx 22 hours.

What do you think is unique in your approach to birding and bird photograpy? The unique thing about my approach is I don’t wish to disturb any bird while I do birding or I do bird photography. I won’t disturb it or its natural habitat for sake of my hobby.

I prefer wearing camouflage kind of clothes rather than wearing bright color when I do birding so that birds don’t get annoyed. I do take calculated risks on own in pursuing my hobby like climbing huge stone to get a desired shot, etc.

What methods and equipment do you use? I use a simple Canon digital camera – Canon S2 IS. I wish to upgrade to DSLR soon.

Talk about your experiences in Dallas and in America. I really enjoyed my stay in Dallas. It was good work (profession wise) and great fun at personal level. I stayed in Irving. The main reason behind enjoying is again “birds”. There were lovely birds around my hotel place. I got to see new American birds like Northern Mocking birds, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwings, Grackles, Swallows, etc.

When I found any new bird, I searched for bird’s name on the net and soon found that there is extensive birding done in TX. I was lucky that I visited here rather than any other state in the US. I quite liked Dallas but not sure about other states in the US.

I visited Nashville, TN and Catherine State Park in Arkansas. I also went to Fossil Rim Wildlife centre, Glen Rose, TX and enjoyed being with wilderness.

Where do you plan to travel to in the future for your birding and photography? I like driving, traveling, birding and photography and together they make great combo. I have already listed down quite a few places around Pune for monsoon trips.

In near future, I wish to travel and explore my own country across its boundaries. In India, we have all the essences together, from ice to deserts, from beaches to lakes, from naturally formed pot holes to mountain peeks, from rivers to wild life sanctuaries, from religious holy places to historical heritage monuments. It is my dream to see entire India.

On the other hand, definitely I would like to travel all around the globe and see the world!

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I have been to Pataleshwar couple of times but all the times were without camera. This time I went with intention of taking some snaps. One fine morning, I decided to leave early for office and halt at this place.

Pataleshwar - Nandi MandapPataleshwar cave temple literally means “God of underground”. The word is derived from two words “Patal” (means Underground of the earth) and “Eshwar” (means God). This temple is a rock-cut cave temple, carved out from a single rock in the 8th century in the Rashtrakuta period. The entire structure is carved out of basalt or black rock.

The temple is dedicated to God Shiva. There is an exotic arrangement of circular stone at the entrance. It highlights acute sense of architecture of ancient era. There are also many seating arrangements for the devotees and visitors. Then there is huge circular umbrella shaped canopy called “Nandi Mandap” which is supported by massive stone pillars.

Serenity - PataleshwarThe actual cave temple has huge pillars sabha-mandap (hall like area) and Gabhara (sanctum sanctorum) which has shivalinga. There are small beautiful statues of  Sita, Rama, Laxman installed outside the sanctum. We can find some or the other devotee sitting in the sabha mandap enchanting the mantra jaap or reading holy book.

It is said that the temple was left incomplete, possibly because of a fault line found at the back of the sanctum sanctorum, which made the further sculpting unsafe.

Outside the cave temple, there is grass lawn surrounded by some old trees like banyan. We can find many students studying here beneath the trees’ shadow. Also beside the temple on the left side is the ‘Jangli Maharaj’ math which is also worth seeing.

Pataleshwar is one of the finest examples of rock cut architecture. The mesmerizing site needs to be maintained carefully by government as part of heritage and treated responsibly by all of us as glory of our ancient era.

The calmness in the cave is mind soothing and freshening. The atmosphere is very blissful. I love this place for its serenity. 🙂

Pataleshwar is certainly a ‘not-to-miss’ place among all the site-seeing places in Pune.

Note: See more snaps here –http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/pataleshwar/

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Trishund Ganapati TempleI remember it was night of 29th July 2007. We came home in late evening after some shopping and cooked dinner. We almost finished eating when we got call from my friend’s cousin asking whether we would be interested in visiting ‘Trishund Ganapati Mandir’. We were bit tired but info which he gave sounded very interesting and we rushed to the temple. It was Guru Poornima day and the underground (cave) of this temple is only opened to public on this day till 12 in the midnight. We reached and joined the queue for ‘darshan’. It was an amazing temple carved in black stone. I never imagined any antique temple like this in any of this peth areas. After the temple entrance, on right hand there are stone stairs to go to underground cave. There was knee-deep water due to fresh water springs below. The water was pumped out by the water pump so that devotees could walk properly. There is small Ganapati idol in the stone wall. Also there is a Samadhi of Bhimjigiri Gosavi who has built the temple. We took darshan and came up. It was such a divine atmosphere in the temple that night that I cannot forget. We thanked my friend’s cousin for calling us promptly and without him, we would have never known this temple and about the cave beneath it which is opened only once in a year. We came back late night from the temple. I kept on thinking about our visit in such haste to this place that night. Some things are bound to happen. We couldn’t click any snaps that night and that urge remained in my mind for quite long.

Trishund MayureshwarFinally two days ago I made plan to visit ‘Trishund Ganapati Mandir’. Today morning I got up early and got ready. One of my colleagues too joined me and we went to the temple. We were lucky to get morning pooja and arati.

In the crowded mess of narrow lanes and much hidden in today’s concrete jungle of Somwar peth, this elegant and beautiful black stone temple of ‘Trishund Ganapati’ comes as a pleasant surprise. This temple built in 1754 to 1770,  is a masterpiece of stone masonry carvings. There are two sculptured ‘dwarpals’ (doorkeepers) at the entrance along with other elaborated carved peacock, parrots, elephants in combat, chained rhinos with soldiers and mythological figures from ancient era.

After a spacious sabhamandap comes the sanctum where the idol of the unusual three-trunked Ganapati, sitting on a peacock (Mayur) is installed. Hence the name ‘Trishund Ganapati’ or ‘Trishund Maruyeshwar’. Riddhi-Siddhi stands on sides of the idol. The historical information says that this temple was built as Samadhi temple and a practicing school for mystics – Hathayogis and disciples of Mantrashakti!

The temple is built in two levels – the upper level is opened to public throughout the year and underground only on the day of Guru Poornima.

Exceptionally beautiful Trishund Ganapati temple is an archeological heritage which needs to be preserved as pride of ancient India. A must visit place for people who love to see some thing unique and antique along with religious facet.

NOTE: Here is the Google map image to get directions to go to ‘Trishund Ganapati Temple‘.

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Bell TowerIt is human tendency to overlook the things or the places which are close to you. We think that we can see or visit such places anytime as they are near-by and then the thought always get somewhere back of your mind and you forget and keep on postponing. I decided not to let this happen to me as far as Bell Tower was concerned. ‘Ghorpade Peth’ being my daily route, this Bell Tower always caught my attention.

It was a holiday on 1st of May last year and I went to this church. I parked my vehicle somewhere and starting clicking some snaps from outside. Some kids gathered to see what I was doing. A teenage girl too came up to me from the near by house and stood by my side while I was clicking. She told me by the hand gestures (sign language) to go inside the church to get good snaps. She was dumb but her encouragement in the form of sign language made me speechless.

I entered the gate of the church with bit of the hesitation as I was visiting a church in Pune for first time. I spoke to the old man who was security guard there. He mistook me to be a reporter as he found camera hanging around my neck. I told him I don’t belong to any newspaper and my interest to see this place brought me to this church. I sought his permission to click the snaps. He happily allowed me to do so. He also opened the garden gate which was locked so that I could get full view of tower for clicking snaps.

Windows and bricks - The Holy ChurchThe huge Bell tower is situated in the arena of ‘The Holy Church Of The Holy Name’ in very crowded area of Guruwar Peth. This Basilica Gothic style Anglo-Catholic church was erected in 1885. The brick structure has been designed in the famous basilica style. The Panch Haud Mission’s Holy Name Church is unique because all services here are conducted in Marathi. The church, which has completed 124 years, is celebrating Christmas with a lot of enthusiasm. The society of St John The Enenglist took the initiative in building this church which is equipped with eight bells brought from Laughingburg in UK.

The tower is 135 feet high and has stairs to reach to the top. The tower is opened to public on the eve of Christmas. The Bell Tower is the only tower in South Asia which has 8 Bells, with “Holy Name Of Jesus” carved on it. The eight bells ring with several holy songs and prayers including our national anthem.

The brick and stone structure of the church was designed by a person called “Bell”. Hence the name is “Bell Tower”.

The Panch Haud Mission already runs an orphanage hostel in the same premises. As the church and the tower come under a heritage grade, it is definitely worth a dekko.

I came out of the church and I searched for that girl again. She came up running to me and I said “Thank you”. I showed her the snaps on my camera LCD and she made a sign for “Good snaps!” She made a cross over her shoulders to tell me that she was a Christian and she was happy to see the snaps of her church. Speechless communication through gestures and then smile on our faces, I was so touched. Meeting this girl was quite a experience, something that was as great as seeing the beautiful church.

I feel lucky that I have met many people like this girl at different places and different stages of life, across the globe and I communicated with them in some or the other way. These people have some share in your life for some time and then you have memories to smile upon. I don’t know whether I will meet these people again in rest of the life or not but I would like to say a sincere “thank you” to all of them for making my life worthwhile.

For some more snaps you can visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/belltower/

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We headed for airport in early afternoon of 18th and I bade good-bye to Aritra with a heavy heart. I came back to Pune at 4:30 AM on 20th Apr. It was again a very loooooong and tiring journey. Flight which was supposed to reach Mumbai at 9:45pm but was delayed by 4 hrs. Journey was Dallas – Atlanta and Atlanta – Mumbai. After 2 hr of take-off from Atlanta, an old lady got heart trouble in plane and we had to do emergency landing on JFK airport, NY to hospitalize her. Weather was bad and plane was too heavy to land so they just threw excess fuel out of the plane to make it lighter. So NY was long break of 4 hrs. An old lady was hospitalized and rest time was spent in re-fueling the aircraft. Total journey back home was 27-28 hrs. 😦

The dinner which was supposed to be served at 10 pm was finally served at 2 am. They didn’t even bother to serve water to rest of the passengers. Thanks to inefficient staff of Delta airlines. Only the good part of it was – a life was saved.

We reached airport and havoc was waiting for us. The cell# of the cab driver was not accessible. It was turned off. We came out of airport and found a driver with company name and our names appeared as “Mr.” instead of “Ms.” Obviously he was looking for guys and not gals. We assured him we are the one whom he was looking for, and finally he was convinced. We started from Mumbai and reached home.

It is such a feeling on happiness and relaxation to come back home. 🙂

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home
.

John Howard Payne US actor & dramatist (1791 – 1852)

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“Parting is such sweet sorrow” says William Shakespeare.

Meadow CreekFinally the last day arrived. I got up early in the morning. Baggage was all set to go since last night and had nothing much to do. I got ready and walked down the hotel. I decided to give a try to capture swallows and Blue Jay (if possible). There were light showers and it was a lovely morning. Moreover it was my last morning in Dallas and this thought made it more special. I went to Meadow Creek. This is just 2 mins walk from my hotel place. As the name suggests, there is a flowing creek. I went and sat quietly on the grass. There were few Barn swallows. Slight rains played hide and seek with sunlight. Swallows are hard to capture as they don’t rest in one place for long. I clicked few snaps but was not satisfied with them. At last, I just prayed God that I just wish to get some nice shots of them in next 10 mins or else I will leave.

Barn SwallowThe wait was on…and suddenly this cute colorful swallow rested on the iron rod. I captured it through my lenses. It was so damn cute! I thanked god and left the creek. It was already 9:00 am and I had to check out at 10. I went to breakfast room and got an apple for me. I was about to enter my hotel building and a noisy bird caught my attention again. I knew it was none other than Blue Jay. I kept my apple literally on the ground and went to the tree. I could see it but branches in between made it impossible for me to click its snap. Even then I clicked one to keep as record shot. This bird is supposed to be very intelligent among the birds. It stared at me for while through the branches and became silent. After a while it immediately flew away as if it just came to bade me good-bye!

Funny thing, I came back to pick my apple and guess what – Mocking bird was already enjoying my apple. I waited as I watched it. I left the apple for it and came back to my room.

Aritra came to pick us up from hotel and we went to his apartment. We cooked lunch together and enjoyed it. I came to balcony for a while to see some birds. Last but not the least was Purple finch and Red-winged black bird. Red-winged black bird came to the roof of apartment and disappeared in few moments. I clicked some record shots. The day before that day on similar lines, Northern Cardinal pair gave me a generous visit near my office. I spotted a cardinal pair and just enjoyed their beauty.

Many thanks to all these birds, God and nature for letting me enjoy all the birding moments.

I felt bit sad while leaving Dallas. I made some good friends here and parting from any place or good people is always painful. I really enjoyed my stay in the US. Thanks to all the people like Arita and Sandeep who made my stay memorable.

Texas trip was good work and great fun and I enjoyed both equally. As they say “Don’t mess with Texas”, I preferred not to. 😛

Note: It rained in the last 2 days and this time I could enjoy the rains there to some extent. There was very light fragrance of soil compared to India but ‘something is better than nothing’. It was moreover like “Badla mausam, badle najare aur badala hai najariya!” 😀

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New year!

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