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Prabhu and the Prawns

The still, muddy water glistened with oil. There were no signs of any life as Prabhu stood by the side of the narrow canal and squinted hard, anxiously searching the depths of the murky pool. But the slick surface made it hard for him to see anything beneath the surface. Fear crossed the eight-year-old's face. If he couldn't find what he was looking for,...

It’s a Zoo Out There!

Almost 400 years ago, Mughal emperor Jehangir acquired a new animal in his private collection or zoo - the zebra. This unusual, striped animal fascinated him so much that he wrote about it in his memoirs as a strange creature. Some even imagined that the animal's stripes had been painted! The emperor decided to find out whether the zebra was...

The Nine Nights of Navaratri

This year, the end of September marks the onset of Navaratri or "nine nights" in the Hindu calendar. With this begins one of the most festive phases in India, with Durga Puja in east India, Dussehra in north, central and west India, and Saraswati Puja in South India. It also sets the stage for Diwali in the near future....

Save rivers, lakes from worshippers

Before every Ganesh Chaturthi, people from across India, especially Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa, get busy with preparations for celebrations. But, as the momentum of activity increases, officials of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) start feeling queasy in their stomachs. For, though festivals like Ganesh Puja and Durga Puja are a time for fun, it is...

The Truth about Zoos

Last week we carried a piece about the relevance of zoos as the last refuge of endangered species. But in India it appears that zoos should be the last place for animals of any sort, let alone the endangered variety. It is no secret that most Indian zoos are in a bad state. Although zoos claim to educate people and...

Tiger Target

October 16: A few months ago, the accidental death of a dozen Royal Bengal tigers, at an Orissa zoo, shocked the nation. The news made headlines and gradually got relegated to the inside pages of newspapers before vanishing altogether. Yes, public memory is notoriously short and people eventually forgot about the whole episode. Now, yet another tiger death has shaken...

The Long and Short of It

November 4: In a throwback to the age of British rule, constables of the Indian police force in a few districts of Andhra Pradesh, might go back to wearing knickers. No, it's not nostalgia for the uniforms of the colonial period. Neither is it a matter of airing the legs in the intense Andhra heat. It appears that the state...

How Did the Indian Postal Service Start?

Although methods of postal delivery varied from one country to another, it is believed that in India, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya who ruled the country between 321-297 BC, was the first to introduce a form of postal communication to dispatch confidential reports to distant posts in his empire. However, the first recorded mention in history is to be found in the...

The Day it Rained Fish

August 12: Last weekend saw some 'fishy' happenings across the world. In Britain, for example, it rained fish. It happened in Great Yarmouth, a fishing port in Norfolk. Residents found a shower of dead but still fresh fish called sprats raining down on them. "I thought at first I might have had something wrong with my eyes. The whole of my...

The Beggar who is a Money Lender

August 5: A beggar is someone who is so poor that she has to beg people for money. For, she generally has little that belongs to her. No money to buy food, no proper shelter to live in, not even perhaps, two sets of clothes to wear. Or, at least that's what we're told to believe. But Bhanwari Sethani forces us...

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How Does Ice float?

A cool glass of water topped with huge chunks of ice is sure to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. But, before...

Where is Manbhavan?

"Where's Manbhavan?" Nitya cried. Her pudgy face showed great surprise. "Where is Manbhavan?" repeated Bhavna, peering into Nitya's cupboard. The cardboard box in which he...

Why are Zebras Striped?

As a child I was always full of questions. I remember asking my parents why zebras were striped or why did giraffes have such...

Iftar: The Meal that Breaks the Fast at Ramadan

It is the month of Ramadan (Ramzan) in the Islamic calendar and, for those who believe in it, each day of the month follows...

Double it up!

Raju and Savitri lived in Tanjore in the state of Tamil Nadu. Raju worked in the rice fields of a local landlord or zamindar...