Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Our Pet, the Praying Mantis
by Utkrishta Mulmi 

Scientific name: Mantodea
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Order: Mantodea
Class: Insecta

Pallav sir found a praying mantis near the Pulchowk Engineering Campus. There is a jungle there and Pallav sir saw a female praying mantis. Along with different types of insects, there are snakes, birds including family of parrots, and other animals and insects there.

We learned it was a female mantis because they are big and are cannibalistic while male mantises are smaller and mostly not cannibal. Praying mantis fold their front legs like they are praying. Their life span is a year.

Of course, because it was such a fine sample, we decided to keep it as a pet. Over the next five to six months, we learned a lot. We learned about how they behave, what to feed them, how to take care of them and more about their lives.

Mantises are an order of insects that contains more than 2,400 species. Mantises are insects that can be found all around the world in forest or bushy places. They have triangular heads with 2 big and 3 small eyes. According to Amulya Pradhan, our four year old, “I really liked its green eyes and its body colour. Sometimes its eyes would turn purple.”

Well, not exactly purple, but like all mantises, they have the ability to adapt to their background and the eyes would sometimes turn dark and black and sometimes lemon green!

They have a flexible neck that can turn 180 degrees. Their elongated bodies can have or cannot have wings but all Mantises have scythe like front legs that are very large and used to catch its prey.

That evening, because our ecosystem was not ready, we put it in a cardboard box. Since it had not interacted with humans it was aggressive, only Pallav sir could hold it and it would still try and bite him. Whenever we let it out it would fly towards the windows and we were worried that it would injure itself on the hard glass surface. We kept them all windows closed.

It was time to go home. The next morning all of went running to see the praying mantis first thing to see if it was there, if it was all right. We got out our ecosystem bowl. We had Amata Hubeneri moths in there before and had successfully though surprisingly been able to convert the caterpillars into moth (read a different blog on this).

Now that all the Amata Hubeneri moths had flown away, the bowl had been empty for a couple of weeks and it was perfect to create a praying mantis ecosystem there. We filled it with leaves and twigs for it to move around in. We looked at YouTube videos and research the ecosystems of the praying mantis and tried to do the best job possible.

According to our Shila Shrestha, “We would look for leaves. We would collect avocado leaves and mango leaves in the playground. We would climb up the play system and on to the roof of the store room and pick the leaves. Since we moved to the new place in Jawalakhel, we have been collecting leaves from the plants. We changed the leaves two times a month at least or sooner so the eco-system is fresh and has good moisture.

“We would take the praying mantis out and let it play and exercise as we refreshed and cleaned its living area inside the glass bowl. We would cover the bowl with cellophane wrap and poke some holes in it so it there would be air flow. Sometimes, if the leaves dried out too fast, we would sprinkle water inside.”

Before we knew what to feed it we gave it some rice as we had seen one Chinese man feed his mantis. She did not like it and the day passed. We tried again and started getting desperate around day 3. Our mantis just would NOT eat.

Then we had to do some more research and found that they eat cockroaches live. The drains of the house in Chakupat had a lot of cockroaches. We were able to seek out and catch one and Pallav sir put it near the praying mantis and after a couple of tries, she attacked it very fast and ate it.

We were so happy. Over the months, we gave it caterpillars, cockroaches, earthworm, flies, bees and it ate all of those. When we tried giving it dead insects, sometimes, she would not feed. We learned she only ate insects that she hunted down on her own. Since she was an adult, she did not molt.

She started to get fatter and fatter and we found out that we only need to feed her 3 times a week and let her out of her bowl to jump around and get exercise. One day I broke the jar while putting its food for it. We taped it up so that it would not walk out and fly away.

She was a beautiful green with lovely green eyes. She would turn around and look at us when we went near. As the days went by we grew friendlier and less scared of the praying mantis and so did she. When we first got ger nobody would go close to her. Now we would let her crawl all over our bodies and not be scared it would bite us. She became our pet.

She would jump from one hand to another, climb up our arms and back and even go walking about in the hair. Especially Vidheha liked to let her out and take care of her and have her walking about her body. Anita also was not all that afraid. We would have classes in which we would get roaches, earthworms and let her out and practice our photography and observation skills.

We then moved to a new building where roaches, worms, and insects were few. One day, because we were having difficultly feeding her, Pallav sir brought back 13 caterpillars in a little plastic container. We put them in thinking she would eat as she got hungry.

However, it did not work that way. She over ate and had finished 5 by morning and was very very full. We were worried. She needed to work off the food so we let her out and left her to wander around in the night.

Unfortunately, it seems that she jumped from the window screen on to the floor and we found her in the morning with one front leg injured and turning black. She could not move that leg when she walked and she was again angry and would not let us near her. When Pallav sir picked her up to put her in the eco-system bowl, she tried to bite him which she had not done for many months.

We hoped that she would work off her injury but two days later, but six months since we had her, we found her dead on the floor under the cloth of that covered the table of our classroom.

We felt bad and we miss the praying mantis. But we had for six month of her year-long life so that was pretty good I think. I learned a lot from her life.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Surface Pressure
by Eena Shrestha
20 December 2017, Wednesday

On 23 October 2017 we worked on experiment on Surface or Water Pressure.

We needed a plastic bottle, tape, water, a measuring tape, and scissors.

This time around, we first wrote down all materials we would need and the procedure that we would follow. Sushant sir was helping us.

First, we made 3 small holes vertically measuring the distance. Then we closed the holes with tape.

All of us had to write and draw, including the small ones who are now 4 but getting the hang of taking notes and making illustrations.

We filled the bottle up to the top with water. After an orientation, we removed the pieces of tape off the bottle.

Our attempt failed because the bottle that we chose was leaky. Then we got a better hang of things, got a better not leaky bottle and repeated the process again.

The end result was that the water from the lowest hole went a little bit further away from the bottle. The water from the highest hole was flowing closest to the.

Therefore our conclusion was that water pressure depended on the height between the surface of the water.

Alien Invasion SUM 1
By Utkrishta Mulmi
Directed and written by Christian Pasquariell; Starring Iwan Rheon, André M. Hennicke, Reiner Weiner, Zoe Grisedale, Niels-Bruno Schmidt; Runtime 93 minutes.

We watched a pretty scary movie called “Alien Invasion SUM 1.” The movie was so scary that it made Eena sleep. She is silly and the fact that she slept proves it. Even though the movies was scary, it was great and I hope you enjoy reading this review. 

I felt like it was more interesting. It was about aliens Nonesuch attack earth and everyone has to evacuate and go down underground and only soldiers come on the surface. A soldier whose name is SUM 1 comes on the surface to a watchtower to replace another soldier who was evacuated.

The movie shows the same images often (putting Eena to sleep) but manages to keep them interesting. He finds a white mouse and names it Doc and talks to him like it is a person. 

The story gets more and more scary as he finds out that he is not alone. He tries to approach a neighbouring tower to learn more. The neighbour ignores him and he cannot get closer because he has an implant that does not allow him to go beyond a certain radius.

This is where Eena is up again.

However, the neighbour later gets in contact with him and he tells him a story about the Nonesuch and says it can emit sounds that make your ears bleed and mind go crazy leaving victims screaming and very disturbed. 

He says, his friend cut off his own ears because he cannot suffer the sound. SUM 1 has to be on duty, solitary, for 100 days however, he starts seeing and believing that the stories that he has been told are all false and there are no aliens. There is something very wrong going on.

He decides to break the defence circle believing that there are no nonesuch. However, he finds out that nonesuch are for real. He hides in the neighbouring tower and that is where the movie leaves us. 

We do not know if SUM 1 gets eaten or if he manages to kill the alien. I’d give the movie a solid 10/10 even though it gave me da chills right dauwn me spine.

Eena would give the movie 9/10. The minus 1 is because it sent her to sleep. The 9 is because she had never stayed up so late watching movies.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
A Book Review by Vidheha Ranjan

Utu's feet have ten toes, yes! And what did he do to his socks? We are sure his mum will be smiling.

When I was so so small, I had a happy birthday. I became two years old, I am told. For my birthday I was given a book by Baba and Mamu. Baba read it out to me. I enjoy reading with my Baba.

Now I can read the book on my own. I am four years old.

In a town there is a baby, the baby grows in a house. The baby has a mother. There is the Himal. There is so much water. There is a street colored red. There are green rocks and black rocks. Another baby comes and grows with her mother.

Both babies play with their toes and their fingers. One goes walking and the other shows us her fingers and goes, “Ten little fingers and ten little toes.”

Now there are three babies, the new one is in the town and there is another one yet. All so far are in a town. They show us ten little fingers and ten little toes.

The babies are growing. The four are together. Two of them are growing up together and they are friends. They are hugging in a sleeping bag. The other two are in another town. They are so cute.

The babies are of different color. One is black and has black hair. Another one is white and her hair is white. Then there is one that has very small eyes with black hair and white skin. The other one has orange hair.

They show us their ten little fingers and ten little toes.

In a picture we see another baby and there are sheep and sheep and sheep and sheep and sheep. There is grass and grass and grass and grass. On another page is a baby taking medicine. The baby is wearing striped pajamas. He is on his knees.

The baby has a runny nose. One baby is wiping her friend’s nose. Four babies are watching the two babies.

Now the babies are playing in a playpen. They are showing ten little fingers. Now they are lying down and showing their ten toes. The babies are enjoying the game. There is a toy dog and there is a toy duck.

Here is another little baby who is born on the ice. It is snowing and there is a little penguin. There are mountains. Baby is wearing gloves and scarf because it is so cold.

There is a new baby and three chickens and the baby is watching the chickens. It is sunny and the baby lives and grows in the tent. I like the ice and the tent.

There are eight babies in total now. Two babies are playing with the scarf. Others are sitting on the stairs and watching them.

The babies are now playing on the swings. The ice baby is showing his hands. The brown baby is showing his feet.

One baby is on mother’s lap and the mother is on the couch. The couch is red.

There are eight babies now. Wait a minute ok. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… yes eight.

They are standing in a line and they are looking at the new baby. The baby is not wearing clothes. The baby is sitting on the mother’s lap and mother is sitting on the couch.

And the baby has ten little fingers. The mother is giving baby a bath and playing with the baby. She is tickling her feet. The baby has ten little toes.

Now the eight babies are playing and laughing and smiling and mother is kissing the baby on the tip of his nose.

I liked this story book. This is the ten little fingers and ten little toes book. I liked the whole book. I liked the artwork. The baby with the runny nose and eight babies laughing and hugging like this [hugs Baba 😄] are my favorite.

Can you now write 0 to say the story is finished?

- 0 -


I got a smiley face! 🌝

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
by Mem Fox, artwork by Helen Oxenbury, is an amazing book if you wish to share it with your child or even if you want to read it yourself.

Friday, December 22, 2017

All About Water People
by Utkrishta Mulmi

Photographs by two famous photographers on the loose in New York. Rajendra Mulmi and Sagun Basnet. 

What do you mean fishes and turtles are not people? I am sure, they would say weeee are NOT people. So for the time being we will say all that live are peeeeple. And yesterday, my father sent me a bunch of photos and videos of these water people in an aquarium that he went to during his visit of the US.

Now don’t ask me where in the US. He was in DC, New York, Florida and other places also I bet, so the aquarium could have been anywhere.

Now back to the fish peeeeeple. The fishes that he shared with me were actually in their natural habitats. Remember the piranha experiment we did in Nepal?

When Pallav sir saw the photos and videos, he said well, we could do a little sharing with everyone and we had a great time looking at the photos and videos at school. In their natural habitats were the Piranha, Ranger fish, seahorse, ribboned sea dragon, starfish, shark, rays, emperor penguins, and stonefish.

Eena: Now talking about Piranhas, remember the Piranha study that we did at school? Our fish delivery guy gave us a fish saying that it was from a river in Nepal (not true) and it was very tasty. Pallav sir said, it belonged to the Piranha family. Utu researched the fish and said it was a Pacu to begin with. He was pretty sure so Pallav sir also said, lookie lookie, Pacu have human like teeth. So we all discussed about the Pacu in theory and then Pallav sir tried to open the fish’s mouth to show us the human teeth and got poked in the finger by the teeth which were really sharp. Pacu is supposed to have teeth like Utu (or us humans). So HIS Pacu turned out to be a Piranha, a close cousin and definitely a chicken burger loving, meat eating Piranha!

He had sent me exotic fishes of Australia and Rio Negro. Many of the ones from Australia Eena had not even seen and she was in Australia for many years.  We saw a white crocodile which was pretty cool. The sea horse was the size of a coke can, I wish I could ride a sea horse and go exploring in the deep. Or maybe like we could do a “He’ll be coming round the sea Mountain when he comes!” I could have like have a million sea horses pulling me about.

The ray fish were pretty like Batman. They went through the water so smoothly. Sharks were there but maybe they had lost their teeth, we did not see any on them. The ribbon sea dragons were all hiding because the water had turned off their fire. They would come out and play with the sea horses sometimes though.
The star fish were great and Baba and his friends were allowed to touch them and the sea anemone. They were not allowed to eat them though. And it was a great idea not to put the piranha in there because, I don’t think they would have followed the rules. More likely, they could have bitten my cousin brother Nibu as he dipped his finger in the water to touch the star fish and the anemone.

It was really nice of my father to send me those photos and share his experiences with us. We spent a couple of hours look and discussing and further researching what we watched.

All my friends want to say a big THANK YOOOOOOOU! Me also, of course.

Eena: Hello, sorry that we have woken you up in the middle of the night [That was Utu, instead of opening the file on Skype, he dialled his dad at 2 am]. But I just wanted to say thank you for sharing the videos and pictures with us, I liked seeing the corridor that had the glass ceiling with the rays ;-).

Vidheha: I liked the sharks, horsy fish, and penguins. Thank you for the video.

Shila: I liked the fish that was good at hide and seek, it’s called the sea dragon I learned.

Tina: I liked the starfish and I want to touch it as well some day.

Anita: Thank you. We enjoyed this class. I liked the seahorse very much.

Bishesh: I liked the Piranhas. I like eating them too. Thank you.

Me: hello and I want to come to America now! And I want to replace the girl in the penguin habitat when I come. I loved the rays and the sharks. 

Oh My Goodies!
Story of Anita Balami, a local restaurateur
by Eena Shrestha

We were all very very hungry and all we could see was a sea of trees, grass and rocks. Now we can’t eat that! And to make things worse, Pallav sir, Sabita didi and Bhagwati maam were talking about what to eat, where to eat, and what would be really hot, fresh, tasty. My mouth was watering at the thought of momos and chowmein and other meaty meats and I was asked about gwaramari, sel rotis, samosas and pakodas. Only asked, mind you. We were still driving away.

We had come back after a long time of walking and were starving. We saw the KC shop and the other tea houses and small eateries. The van sped on past them and Pallav sir kept saying no no no. And when he went yes yes yes, Bhagwati maam and Sabita didi would say no no no.

Now it was more hopeful. We were in Thaiba. And this was a township. He asked the driver to go through a smaller by way and pointed to another street and asked that the van be stopped. The van stopped and we got off in search for a place to eat. We would keep walking until we found someplace we liked, he said. The kids were waiting where the van had stopped while we, the olders were going through the street.

Far far away, we saw a glimmer of what we probably sought, we had struck a bonanza three shops next to each other! A dairy where they sold milk and tea and bakeries; a momo shop that sold meats like heads and feet of chicken (which I did not want) and momos and sekuwa fried meat and chowmein; and a samosa restaurant that had on display a big pot of cooking oil, samosas, pakodas and gwaramari and jeri and sel roti.

The gwaramari is something I love, so I wanted to go to the samosa restaurant… but Pallav sir had a different Idea and went to the dairy to find that they only sold tea, milk and bread so I hoped we would go back to the samosa restaurant but once again… nopes… we were left standing and talking and he went to the momo place from where he came out and asked if we wanted to eat chicken feet! I wanted to jump up and down because chicken feet disgusted me, I don’t want to eat the feet of anything because… just no, Nooooooo! Yup, it was right then that a pigeon pooped on the inside of Pallav sir’s glasses so he had to go into the samosa place we were standing at to get that cleaned!

Finally at the samosa restaurant, we try a gwaramari, it had been like 2 or 3 months since I’ve eaten one and it was great [By the way, I had 5 gwaramaris for breakfast this morning]. After eating the gwaramaris standing outside the shop, we washed our hands and went inside to have a seat. When I went in I also saw jeris I wanted to eat them but no one ordered jeri and that made me sad.

We then went on a eating spree: we then had pakodas, and then it was time for spicy chowmein and then we had samosa. Utu couldn’t eat the spicy chowmein so I got to eat more.

Then came our learning session. We had to interview the shopkeeper. I found out that her name is Anita. And of course that was more than a little interesting because Anita is also my friend at school and we went to an art exhibition where the artist was also Anita!

This Anita’s husband was Bishnu and she had two sons: Abim and Ashish. Anita was carrying her youngest son who was 19 months old. Her older son, who is nine years old helped out at the shop as I talked to her. He sold hot samosa and pakodas and took the money counted out the change and did very good business.

Soon, all the gwaramaris, samosas and pakodas were gone and another lady in the shop started making more as Anita talked to me and my friends. She told us that they had owned the show for seven years. Her husband Bishnu had been working as a waiter, helper, and cook at Indian food restaurants since he was 12. He started by washing dishes and used to get paid 300 Nepalese rupees per month.

Over the years of watching and learning, he became an accomplished cook. “We are famous around here,” he told us. Indeed, the gwaramaris, the pakodas, and the samosas that we had were great. For me, I would have liked them to be a little less spicy, especially the chunks of green chillies he had put in the samosa and pakodas were something to watch out for! But the others just loved their food hot in terms of freshly out of cooking oil and super spicy.

They make everything in the shop and there were many sweets and delicacies there also. I asked Abim what he liked best and he said that he likes the samosa, (chicken), and jeri the most. He is in grade 3 and just a year younger than me. It is wonderful how he balances helping out at the shop and going to Everest School.

Now let us talk about the food that they sell:

Gwaramari: Most of us Newars have happy memories of eating Gwaramari and warm milk or tea for breakfast during the chilly winter months. In fact, gwaramari wouldn’t taste half as good without some milk or tea. There is an art to eating this food. First of all, you select the largest gwaramari in the batch that’s in front of you so that no one else can have it. Then, you carefully break it in half and keep the other half where no one else can get at it. Then you eat the inside of the gwaramari until only the edges remain, it becomes a tiny makeshift bowl. You now scoop up milk or tea in that tiny bowl and eat it while still crunchy with milk or tea. In the Newari language ‘Gwara’ means round and ‘mari’ means bread so Gwaramari means round bread, exactly. To people who have tasted it and liked it, it is not just any normal bread but a very delicious one with a very different taste.

Sel Roti: Sel roti is very common and popular Nepali traditional bread made by people who live in the hills. Sel rotis are thinner in shape and larger in diameter than a normal donut. It’s made with rice flour, sugar, oils, fruit such as banana, and other stuff. Sel rotis taste AMAZING when it is fresh, it becomes slightly tough the next day, even though it still tastes good this way. Well, sel roti can last for months and months and was the main delicacy of Tihar, the festival of sweets so you can imagine that it super. Sel roti is made and eaten throughout Nepal in Tihar (Dipawali), during wedding parties and other special events as well. It is an important food in most Nepalese cultural and traditional events. In Nepali ‘Sel’ means donut shape and ‘roti’ means bread, Sel Roti is very enjoyable by itself, but can also be eaten with plain yogurt, tea, and milk.

Pakoda: In Sanskrit pakoda comes from the word pakvavata,  pakva meaning cooked and vata meaning small lump. The best pokodas have lots of vegetables held together by besan, or chickpea flour. It is important to deep fry it in oil and eat it while its crispy and hot. Onion, cabbages, spinach, cauliflower and other stuff can be in it and the best ones have less flour and more veggies. Healthy and often very spicy, pokodas are fun and warm you right up, especially your cheeks if you are feeling cold.

Samosa: The samosa is claimed to have been created in Arab countries such as Turkey and Egypt, where it is known as sambosa previous to the 10th century. Now thaaaat is ooooold. I wasn’t even born then. I have only been alive for a decade you know. Samosa comes from the Persian word sanbosag. The name of other baked goods in other countries can also come from this source, such as the arc sanbusak or sanbusaj in Arab, and samosa in India. It is triangularly shaped with wheat flour exterior that has some seeds. Inside is potatoes, beans, onions and spicy stuff. Lovely. The samosa is deep fried in boiling hot oil. It is yummy. And we were wondering how much more yummy if it were filled with chicken mince instead of potatoes!

Sweets: The Rajkarnikars are Newari, supposedly the original people of the Kathmandu Valley, which is the capital of Nepal. Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur are in the valley. The traditional Rajkarnikar occupation is making candy and sweets, known as "mithai" in Nepal. Although slowly falling in number, hundreds of Rajkarnikar sweet shops can still be found in the valley and in other cities and towns with traditional Newar communities. Some of the popular sweets from sweet shops are Jeri Swari, Puri, Burfi, Laddoo, Malpuwa, Halwa, Guwaramari!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Skeletons, skeletons, skeletons
Assisted by Anita Bhattarai

I like science. At school we do experiments and research related to science. Right now, we are studying the bones of the human body. In order to do this, we have done different types of study and have started with the human arm.

Lesson 1: We looked at the pictures of the skeleton and a short video on Youtube. For some of the young ones, they had no idea that there were bones inside of us. We had done studies of insects and had talked about exo-skeleton and indo-skeleton, however, so the word had been used before.

Lesson 2: Next, we looked at the skeleton of a bird. We found a very well preserved skeleton of a bird when our school moved building and saved the sample. The skeleton had been lying on the window sill for some time and I think it is the skeleton of a pigeon. The bird skull, the leg, the rib cage are very clear and easy to learn from. We looked at this sample very carefully.

Lesson 3: Next, Utu was our volunteer and our live model. We drew the bones of the arm on him. He said that he felt very ticklish and we had a lot of laughs as he wiggled and giggled. We also labelled the names of the bones on him and all of us did a spelling study and test thereafter. It was really easy to think of the human bones once they were drawn on him and we learned a lot.

Lesson 4: After that, we sang the bone song which was very funny. While the song on Youtube was very simple and went, the head bone is connected to the backbone, the backbone was connected to the hip bone, the hip bone is connected to the leg bone… etc. We made a new song. We really should get about to learning the flute and keyboard notations to this song and adapting it into our music classes.

Bones, bones, bones of the arm
Bones, bones, bones of the arm
Bones, bones, fun bones of the arm
The scapula is connected to the acromion
The acromion is connected to the humerus
The humerus is connected to the capitulum
The capitulum is connected to the ulna
The ulna is the friend of the radius
Ulna and radius are connected to the carpals
The carpals are connected to the meta carpals
Meta carpals are connected to the phalanges

Phalanges are our finger bones
Bones, bones, bones of the arm
We have learned
Bones, bones, bones of the arm
We have learned the bones of the arm

Lesson 5: After the singing fun, we then looked at some x-rays. We learned who discovered the x-ray, it was Roetgen and our famous two time Nobel prize winning Marie Curie, who else, created mobile x-ray. We had just seen the French movie on this first woman to win the Nobel prize. Connecting things to each other is a lot of fun. Bones, songs, birds, scientists….

Lesson 6: We are also doing artwork and sketches of the bones. See what we have done. Even the small ones have done really good with their science studies and can generally connect what is where now. Utu pretty much knows all the bones and is reviewing while we on the other hand are just starting out.

As you can see, learning is a lot of fun at Spiny Babbler Evolution. I have to go now, our boxing teacher is here and I need to get my arm bones moving.

Sitar at 90
Keshab Narasinha Shrestha
by Eena Shrestha

“There is nothing like a heart attack to make you appreciate things,” my grandfather says. “I had to have a heart operation when I was 68. That made me review life.”

My grandmother Aasha says, “After the operation, he wanted to learn new things. He got into yoga and became very interested. He started teaching yoga at the Bihar. But the people there said it was not the right place to pursue this form of teaching as, essentially, it was the Buddhist dhyan that they were more interested in.”

So hajurba started playing the sitar at the age of 68. What inspired him? He says he went to a friend’s place and saw a beautiful instrument. He wanted to possess it. He badgered Herwanada Rajopadhyaya until he was willing to give him the sitar for 4500 NRs. Mr. Rajopadhyaya thought my hajurba would never learn to play the instrument. He was just too old. He added, “You can return it to me if you do not want it anymore.”

Mohan Prasad Joshi, a famous sitarist and music teacher got involved. Hajurba was taught sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa and byanchuli (music that is played in the morning). Grandfather thought music was easy. Mr. Joshi kept praising him and praising him with a little, “It is not completely right,” here and there.

Mr. Joshi allowed hajurba to sit in any posture he wanted, play any song he liked. Now, hajurba wishes he had been much more strict. Hajurba has found out that it takes one whole year just to get the posture right. Mohan Prasad Joshi’s praises were welcome. Grandfather felt great when he said how he played was nice but he did not listen carefully when Mr. Joshi said, “but a ‘little’ not right.”

Mohan Prasad Joshi owned a music school called Badhya Siromani Gharana near the Ashok Hall. He was used to teaching those who were pretty good at the sitar and not all that keen on teaching those who were learning the basics! Hajurba thought he had better go down to those who taught the beginning when things started getting more and more difficult.

A couple of years had gone by before he joined the classes given by Ram Saran Shrestha in Kupondol at the recommendation of Mr. Joshi. He was the only sitar student there and sometimes he would be placed in the kids’ vocal classes, sometimes in the tabala classes, sometimes in the harmonium classes. If there were visitors, especially international ones, he would be asked to sit in the front so as to impress them: “See, we are even teaching the older generation here!”

Time passed by and he would forget to attend classes sometimes. Sometimes, he would leave home for classes and never get there. He would forget his notes and my grandma had high blood pressure and was worried a lot. She would call him on the phone and he would call her on the phone constantly asking and telling each other where he was and when he would get where and how safe he was.

Ram Saran Shrestha was very nice even though he did not know my grandfather very well. Hajurba had learned many things related to the sitar the wrong way so Mr. Shrestha had to start from the basics. Mr. Shrestha and hajurba would chat and listen to others play and drink tea mostly.

After a while, hajurba got tired, he had already played songs and he felt lazy doing the basics. That changed when Dr. Iswari Acharya (his doctor) told him during one of his checkups that he could not play the sitar because he was too old! Hajurba felt that he had to learn the sitar to save face! He felt young and felt "nothing is impossible."

He had stopped attending music school in Kupondol regularly but he continued to play and learn. The came another shock. One person, while they were conversing, said, he could well play at home but surely he could NOT play in good venues like the Mangal Bazaar Mandala where many people gathered and listened to musicians!

Hajurba was annoyed. Of course he could play in front of other people, whether it was the Mangal Bazaar Mandala or wherever. He demanded and was assigned a date to play in public. But that was really because of his age and their kindness, he felt. Hajurma, my grandmother, did not attend the public event thinking that he would embarrass her and everyone else.

“Mohan Prasad and the other teachers were concerned. Their name had been pulled in as his teachers and if hajurba did not do well, they would lose face in public.” When the day came, he was surrounded by his teachers who blocked him from the crowd and sat in front of him and watched him practice worriedly. All his teachers and the organizers thought it was highly possible that the crowd would not be happy.

After a while, when they heard him several times, it was announced! He was going to play! Mr. Joshi got up and said, “80 year old Narasinha taught me yoga and I taught him the sitar. Here he is!” Everyone clapped.

Hajurba began playing and everyone listened enraptured. The word spread. There was much conversation about it and a great buzz. People called each other on the phone, recorded him playing, and talked about how an old man had learned the sitar at 70 played at the palace square when he was 80!

“People were calling me when I got home. Some were annoyed and angry that I had not invited them to my performance,” he smiles.

Now, his life in music is gentler. Sharmila Sharma comes over to teach him but normally he learns by himself and I go and see what he is doing. I very rarely listen to him play but he is dedicated and spends a lot of time practicing. My grandmother says that he forgets the notes, sometimes he finishes a song all at once correctly and sometimes he finishes it but it’s all wrong.

I hope I have the dedication and the direction in life to do what he has done. He is truly an example to me.

Dragonfly or the Anisoptera
A Sympetrum flaveolum (?) sample
by Utkrishta Mulmi

We were looking through our file photos and I found pictures of the dragonfly experiment that we did during last year’s winter adventures and it was so interesting that I wanted to revisit and review what happened.

Here is the scientific classification of the insect.
Scientific name: Anisoptera
Kingdom: Animalia
Clade: Euarthropoda
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata

The class started with research on the dragonfly. It’s an insect (arthropod) so it obviously has six legs. It has transparent wings attached to its thorax. Its head has two compound eyes and two thin antennas. It also has a long segmented abdomen. Our sample was old. We had found it on the window outside. It had probably died of age and exhaustion in late autumn and now we were into mid-winter.

The sample was fragile and in a way it was good because we could break it into pieces and study the leg, the wing, and the head, thorax and abdomen more clearly and separately.

We looked at the leg which was serrated and the joints could be seen clearly. We could also see the pointy feet like structures coming out of its tarsus. The wing was transparent but we could see the blood vessel type of appearance. I have not really studied the wing in detail.

The head had huge eyes, similar to the praying mantis. The jaws certainly looked formidable like pinchers. The thorax was squarish in shape and hard to the touch. The abdomen was long and in segments. The female have the cercus and paraproct at the end while the male have cercus clasper and epiproct at the end. Since it was a year ago, I did not check to see if it was male or female, if we do the dragonfly study again, which I am sure we will, I will try and check this out.

I learned that even with 6 legs, the dragonfly doesn't walk very well and is rarely found walking. It is a great flyer though. It can hover in one place, fly extremely fast, and even fly backwards, like the helicopter! They are one of the fastest flying insects in the world flying more than 30 miles per hour.

Dragonflies have four clear life cycle stages. They undergo metamorphosis.  The adult female lays eggs, the egg hatches into the larva or nymph, the adult emerges from the nymph. It spends five years in water and during this time, if anything goes wrong with the ecosystem, the dragonfly is in danger.

After research, we had to make some presentations. Through presentations and discussions, we learned dragonflies live all around the world in warm places and places near water and usually show up in the summer. Sometimes, there are thousands of these insects flying in the evening sky together.

Dragonflies normally do not attack unless you are its prey (which is normally smaller insects like flies gnats and even smaller dragonflies) or it is hurt or you attack or threaten it.

Dragonflies have two compound eyes that have a thousand smaller eyes that see out its prey and its predators. The dragon fly is similar to the praying mantis that it is high up on the food scale and it is a hunter. It creates a basket with its legs and it swoops in and holds the prey with its jaw it usually eats its prey while flying.

It has been around for 300 million years and is an impressive hunter. A prehistoric dragonfly’s wing could be 2½ feet long! So guess how long the actual body would be? I would thing the size of a park bench. I am glad those biiiiiig bugs are not around really.

Pallav sir said that he and his friends used to catch dragonflies when they were young and because they felt threatened, they would gnaw on the fingers!

While some of us were older, there were some smaller children who were as young as 3 who were very fascinated by the dragon fly sample, the artwork that all of us made, the conversations and the fun involved in the learning.