A Guest in the Backyard

Winter is settling down in Windhoek. Days have shortened. Early mornings and evenings bring cold winds. At times it blows really hard to bring down the wires of electric fence or dry branches, and to create loud banging music by slamming open doors or window panes.

The other day, the windy morning was quite agitating. I went in the backyard as usual to access the clothesstring. While I was putting the wet clothes one on the string, I heard some rustling noise in the nearby bushes. I stopped for a while and tried to follow the sound. But as I kept quiet, the rustling also stopped.

After a long pause I continued my work and the rustling started again. Someone was surely there around. Could it be a snake? I knew the snakes also liked basking in the morning. 😮 The thought of having a snake nearby brought goosebumps on my neck. There were some clothes still in the bucket waiting to go on the string. I left them as they were and moved back as slowly as I could. There was no rustling for a few minutes. I decided to wait.

Rock-Dassie

The rustling started again and this time I could follow the direction of the sound. All I could see was a little wondering face behind some succulent plants. 🙂 I had never seen him before in the backyard though I had seen numerous birds and a couple of mongooses there. It was somewhat like a hare and a rat. Thank God, it was not what I thought to be!! It appeared slowly from behind the plants and I understood it was a little Rock Dassie 🙂 It went to a stone and sat on it to bask in the warm morning Sun. It was staring at me with all the curiosity in the world gathered in its glass-bead-like pair of eyes. It was the first creature I found super-cute while staring!! 😀 Yes, only while staring.

When he yawned, I could clearly see its sharp incisors. Then I decided to keep distance from it. I stood there for some time. It must have become tired of sitting there. It went towards the fence, and climbed the wall. The neighbouring dog started barking as he must have noticed the Dassie on the fence. He jumped into the yard of neighbouring house. He must have managed to escape the ferocious dog as the barking stopped and the rustling of the dry leaves too.

I couldn’t see him again for long since then.

San Villege: The Land of Plenty

Who doesn’t know the English classic comedy of 1980, The Gods Must be Crazy? The innocent, credulous, and curious face of Xi only brings smile on our face. 🙂 The Namibian actor late Mr. N!xau Toma, had played the character of Xi, a man from San community. The actor himself was a San bushman. We were fortunate to meet his grandson Dao when we visited San villege.

Ju/’Hoansi-San is the first living museum of Namibia. Run independently by its own, this living museum displays traditional hunter-gatherer culture of San, one of the oldest cultures in Africa. San are the first people living in Kalahari desert since last 1,00,000 years. Out of more than 90,000 Sans existing in Africa today, only 3,000 Sans are following their traditional lifestyle.

Sans move around places in search of natural resources such as water, resourceful plants, and game animals. They speak Khoisan language in which some consonants are spoken with clicking sounds made by tongue. It sounds so rhythmic! 🙂 San people wear just adequate clothes to cover the waist. They are mostly made of antelope skin.

San Community

The San men prepare bow-arrow, traps, and spears for hunting. They flay animal skin and season it by sun-drying. They also make bags and belts out of the seasoned leather. Recently, they have started helping the academic visitors by being forest or poacher trackers. The San women look after their kids and gather natural resources such as water and firewood. They use beads made of ostrich eggshell and various wild seeds to make ornaments. Sans eat ants, various other insects, mice, squirrels, as well as large antelopes.

Our guide Steven was a man of 30 from San community of Grashoek village. He had learnt up to grade 10. He spoke flawless English. He changed his dress to a waist-wrap and joined us. First he took us to Dao, the senior man and the medical healer of the community. When we asked Dao about his late actor grandfather, he proudly said that he knew his grandfather was a regarded actor of Namibia. Dao himself was too young then to understand his grandfather’s acting skills, and movie picturizing. We asked Dao how old he was then. He told that he doesn’t know his current age but only remembers that he was born in summer.

Dao the San Medicine Healer

Dao, the San Community Senior and Grandson of Xi

We started out tour with Steven and Dao from a place where they had made a San hut. The hut was very small. It was made of dry sticks, which provided a very basic shelter. Just in front of the hut, Dao took two straight sticks of Mangetti tree, one of which had three holes in a line. Dao demonstrated how to create fire with those sticks. He first took a bunch of dry grass. Then he held the stick with holes horizontally on the grass gripping it with his big toe. He placed one end of another stick into a hole and swirled it hard in a whisking action. While doing so, he was speaking to invoke their fire-God. He said he never used firestone for creating fire. Soon we could see some smoke and then the fire came in full flames. He lit up his smoking pipe filled with dry local tree leaves used as same as tobacco.

San People Creating Fire

The Sans, Dao and Steven, creating Fire

Steven and Dao then lead us to bush-walk. They showed how various medicinal plants that cure common illnesses such as cough, cold, fever, toothache, and common wounds as well as blood pressure, any problems with eyes and ears, tuberculosis, and even infertility. Steven showed a Ration Berry plant on which ladybugs go through their life cycle. He also mentioned that the ladybug larvae are so poisonous that they can kill an animal as big as an adult giraffe. Their poison was very resourceful in hunting. They applied it on spearheads or arrowheads while hunting large game animals. San Drinking Water Accumulated in Tree Trunk.jpg

Dao showed how they find out the sweet water collected into the tree trunks and drink it with the help of hollow hey straw. Soon we came out of the wilderness and Dao started creating a bow and an arrow. Seeing him make it traditionally was very interesting. He took a couple of long leaves from Sisal plant, which provides fibers. He tore the leaf into small parallel portions with a sharp blade. He went on breaking those portions of Sisal till they came out as thin strings of fiber. Then he took small bunch of fiber and rolled it with the support of his lap. When it was half done, he joined another bunch of fibers. Thus he made a long seamless string that was as strong as a nylon string. He selected a thin and flexible stick for making a bow. He then chiseled its bark away and made the bow. San with Bow and Arrow

While Nishant and Arun were taking bow-arrow-making lessons, I sat next to a San lady, Naomi, who was busy making ornaments from beads. San people make disk-like beads from Ostrich eggs. They break the shell into pieces and rub each piece against stone to make it roughly round. Then they pierce holes into them.

San Jewelry Bracelet

The bracelet gifted by Naomi

They roll the beads into ash or soil to color them brown and heat them directly on fire to color them black. That is why, their collection of ostrich bead jewelry had so beautiful earthly colors! They also collected various colorful seeds and made beautiful neck-pieces, bracelets, headgears, and anklets. I learnt to make beads, string, and bracelet from her.

Sans follow a few hunting rules religiously. Steven told that there are few words of wisdom shared in his community. San always considered quick and quiet hunter to be successful. They never hit a human being and consider that such kind of act always would bring pain and bad luck to all involved. They also believed that after death the soul of a person is transferred to the supreme God and continues influences the mortal lives.

Shortly we arrived at an open area to view their traditional dance. They dance at the time of wedding ceremony and at the end of the effortful day. They also dance while seeking guidance on medicine from ancestral spirits. I joined them in dance, which was a very joyous experience. 🙂

San Women and Children

A Cherished Moment with San Women and Children

San have so small dwellings and wear so little clothes… They eat limited variety of food and are happy with their bare possessions. These warm-hearted people believe that God has provided plenty for them. 🙂 They are most close to Mother Nature. They don’t know about any soaps or expensive face creams; yet their faces glow. They are the perfect balance of aggression required for hunting and cordialness needed to stay together harmoniously. They lead simple lives years away from civilization, free of any law, complications, or speed… It’s not that everything is wonderful with them. Average lifespan of Sans is just about 45 to 50 years. Today they find it difficult to maintain their traditional lifestyle because of land enchroachment by local farmers; still they are contented.

After spending around half a day with them, we took leave of the community seniors and other members. On the way back, Steven’s words were lingering on my mind. As he said, “Nothing or none is really good or bad here. Everything or everyone just is in its own form. Created by God.”

The Sans are truly living by this statement. 🙂

A Love Story a Magic Pen Started

It was not exactly the Valentine’s Day but a few months before it during year 1994 when their love story started. It was also not long when they both met and started knowing each other. They had met just a couple of times.

That day, he was about to go to a remote place. Since they were not going see each other for long time, he had come to see her in person before boarding the train, which was scheduled in the following couple of hours.

He presented a small gift to her, as a token of his remembrance.

She uncovered it carefully and found a beautiful black pen with an intricate print on it. Her eyes twinkled with happiness. 🙂

He: “How do you find it?” 🙂

She: “It’s beautiful!…Thank you!” 🙂

He: “You know, it is not a simple pen. It is a magic pen.” 😉

She was surprised and confused at the same time to hear what he said.

She had never believed anything since her childhood without knowing the whats, the whys, and the hows. But she believed in what he said just as she believed in him completely. If he says, then it must be surely magical…But she couldn’t hold her curiosity about the pen’s magic. He observed her funny expressions.

He (playfully): “Whenever you write a letter to me with this pen, it would automatically reach me.” 😀

She (curiously): “How is that possible?” 😮

He (smiling): “Why not?… But yes, you need to do one more thing to make this pen’s magic work.”

She (anxiously): “And that is…?”

He: “Each time you write a letter with this pen, you need to write my address on the letter too, and put it into a nearby post box.”  😉 😀

She understood. 🙂 She liked the way he indicated his interest to know her more. He wanted to understand her and take their brief introduction with each other to a next level. She remembered, she had got some freshly plucked jasmine flowers. She put them into his shirt’s pocket. She promised him to write letters. After spending some silent moments together, they took each other’s leave with heavy hearts.

Those were the no-cellphone days. It was not easy to speak to a remotely located person. If they did not have STD/ISD facility on their landline telephones, they used to stand in the queues of STD/ISD booths to make a long distance call. During those days, writing letters was a reliable way to stay connected.

The pen was one of her most precious possessions. During their separation times, she wrote numerous letters with that pen and sent to him from miles away. The pen went on playing its magic and wiped out the physical distance between the two hearts in love.

I still fondly possess my magic pen. 😀

love-story-with-a-magic-pen

How to Avoid Plagiarism?

The industries working in content development, advertising, or product design and development look for not only creativity but also originality. Plagiarism is disrespected in all the fields ranging from academics, art, engineering, and science. To stand out from the crowd, your creation needs to be distinctive and unadulterated from plagiarism. Here comes an obvious question: How to avoid plagiarism?

no-plagiarism

Short Practical Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

Here are some tips on how to avoid plagiarism:

  • Plan Your Time in Advance. Creativity needs investing time for deep thinking in an out of the beaten path manner. Planning of time enables you to think in an appropriate direction. If you use your time wisely, no need occurs to hastily copy and paste. You do not miss out any minor details or leave any silly errors when you have adequate time in hand before writing or designing.
  • Be Yourself. Know the topic. Understand what exactly you need to create. Understand the audience for whom you are going to create and then create it in your own way. Project your own ideas. When you do not plagiarize the ready made creations out there, your own creation can turn out as unique as you are. 🙂
  • Appreciate. Whenever you find others’ creative work appealing and compelling, appreciate its creator then and there. This habit molds your mind to admire others’ creativity wholeheartedly and respect their intellectual property.
  • Live with the Presence of Mind. Real life offers unique experiences and one can learn a lot while living with the presence of mind. Observe. Notice the details. Read a lot. Build your vocabulary. Know the shades of word meanings and colors. Build your own viewpoints. Keep yourself tuned to the latest updates in your domain. This attitude of getting the inputs from surroundings can help you generate your own distinct ideas, and eliminate the temptation to plagiarize.
  • Acknowledge. Last but not least, if you absolutely need to take the inspiration from others’ creation, acknowledge the creator in your work. If you need to use others’ creation directly, take the creator’s permission before you use it. Understand how to acknowledge or cite others’ work and then cite the original creator in your work.

Am I missing on any point? If you think I do; you are welcome to share. 🙂

Plagiarism: The Intellectual Property Theft

It was 15th January, the Indian Army Day. Since it was Sunday morning, I was little easy on the daily work. I started going through my Facebook posts. All the Facebook groups, communities, and pages were pouring their greetings to the soldiers. I was browsing through plenty of them and oh dear! I was awestruck to see an image that I had clicked under someone else’s post!

plagiarized-image

Screenshot of the Plagiarized Image taken on HTC Desire 820

I remember, last year I had written a post on how it was my life being an army wife. I had described my personal experience as being one. I was looking for some relevant images which could add value to my article.

original-image-from-my-blog-post

Screenshot of the Original Image from My Blog Post

I had clicked this picture when Arun was getting ready for the office. The morning light was just perfect and his actions too. I caught the moment in camera. I wrote the post, added this image, and published it.

It was something I had created. I had applied the best of my knowledge and skills of handling the camera and editing the image. And now about seven months later I saw this image being reused by someone, who did not have a courtesy to take permission, or give due credits to me while using it against his/her own post. I was little restless. 😦 Since it happened on Facebook, I contacted the Facebook team for help. Within a couple of hours, Facebook removed the post from the timeline of that community where the image was reused, and sent me a confirmatory e-Mail.

It was the case of Plagiarism, the term they frequently use in the field of creativity, designing, writing, and academics.

What is Plagiarism?

It is the activity of using or copying the Intellectual Property of a creator without taking the creator’s permission or acknowledging the creator’s work, and presenting it as one’s own.

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

It is the property resulted out of human intellect and/or creativity. Intellectual property includes the following pieces of work:

  • Ideas, inventions, thoughts, and patents
  • Books, quotes, articles, columns, and paragraphs
  • Translations into other languages
  • Novels for screenplays and movies
  • Recordings of music composition, narration, addresses
  • Architectural, industrial, commercial, or engineering designs
  • Pictures created using software, or captured by digital devices or analog cameras
  • Artworks such as sketches, paintings, and sculptures
  • Software code

Intellectual properties are protected under Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to ensure creator’s rights on his own property.

Why do People Plagiarize?

There are various reasons to why people plagiarize:

  • Lack of Knowledge – Some people do not know, what plagiarism is. They do it unknowingly. In such case, it can be said that it is an innocent or accidental plagiarism.
  • Lack of Creativity – Not everyone is creative enough to generate own ideas. Some people need to borrow others’ pieces of work or take inspiration from others’ creations.
  • Laziness – Some people are lazy. They find it easy to open a search engine, take the most appropriate piece of work, paste it in their own work, and present it as theirs. According to them, who will invest time and efforts in studying the topic or thinking out of the box? 😀
  • Carelessness – Some people absolutely know what plagiarism is, but they don’t have hearts broad enough to acknowledge the creativity of the original creator. Or they are not bothered to acknowledge others’ work when they copied. It is called intentional or deliberate plagiarism.

How can I Detect Plagiarism?

There are various online tools available to detect plagiarism. They require you to submit a piece of text or the entire written work and produce a report. They are very helpful for educators, teachers, journalists, and the organizations working in the domains of publishing, e-learning, and web content development. Some plagiarism checking tools are free and the others are paid. Whatever tool you select to use, it is worth it.

Why Plagiarism is not a Good Practice?

It is very easy to get into plagiarism these days due to availability of enormous information on Internet that the powerful search engines bring up in milliseconds. But falling prey to plagiarism is not a good. Plagiarism is associated to academic dishonesty. The plagiarizer knows deep in his mind that it is not his own creation. It limits his creativity as well as questions his credibility, annoys the original creator, and deceives the consumer.

Plagiarism has its own legal consequences. They results of plagiarism can range from having to pay monetary fine to a period of imprisonment. Either or both of the results can destroy a plagiarist’s professional reputation.

Plagiarism might save one’s efforts and time but it cannot save one’s skin. After all it is stealing. It is better to not to participate in this unethical activity of stealing others’ creations.

The Ongava Experience

We got an opportunity to visit Ongava, a famous private game reserve spread over 30,000 hectares. The conservation has highest number of lions, and a wide variety of antelopes and birds. Since we always wanted to see a lion’s pride in natural habitation, we started our journey with the hope to definitely spot it at Ongava.

ongava-game-reserve

It was early evening when we reached Ongava after travelling about 425km towards North. The staff welcomed cordially with wet scented towels and chilled lemon water, which we appreciated very much after a long journey in the blazing Sun. We took over our rooms. The chalets were so sparkling clean and cozy! Every piece of amenity inside was provided with a keen interest and thoughtfulness. We kept our luggage into the rooms and rushed towards a beautifully located swimming pool. The Sun was still glorifying the west horizon.

After a few dips in the pool we went to the rooms and got ready to sip coffee in the lounge. The thatched lounge of Ongava is designed such that the viewers can see the twin waterholes just beside and the Savannah plains that spread over acres till the horizon. While we were sipping coffee, we could see a pair of rhinos and a pair of giraffes; two of the five big animals of Africa. Our dedicated guide Abner told us that there was also a watch-house just next to it; smartly hidden in bushes. The route to watch-house was covered by bamboo stripes entirely, so that the viewers could be completely hidden from the animals. We speedily went there with cameras while the Sun was still flashing its last rays of the day.

animal-watching

Rhinos came and made giraffes wait till their turn of having water was over. They went into nearby bushes and ate. They again came to the waterhole. They didn’t allow giraffes to come near waterhole and poor giraffes were waiting for their turn. After multiple toggling trips to waterhole and bushes, the rhinos disappeared into the bushes once and for all, and giraffes came to the waterhole slowly. They stretched their forelimbs wide apart to be able to reach the water and drank it. So inconvenient it was for them! Giraffe is most vulnerable to become a prey while having water. Sun descended completely and we walked back to the rooms.

Since the chalets had dense vegetation around, a staff member escorted us to the dining area. Around 8:00pm we went to the lounge. It was pitch dark on the western side, barring a lamp at the waterhole. The dinner was laid next to a big braai. It was chicken kebabs and butternut soup; very well adorned with streaks of cream. The aroma of meat wafted in the air. The wind carried scent of dry soil and bushes to us.

While we were having dinner, Abner came to us to decide on next day’s plan. We expressed our wish to see a lion’s pride to him. While we were in the discussion, we saw a safari vehicle approaching back to the chalets with head lights on. Shortly a group of happy tourists arrived at the dining area and announced that they saw a pride of lions! 😮 The group so excited to have spotted lions that they shared their experience with twinkling eyes. 🙂 Their real story increased our anxiety to see the pride of lions even more. Abner was happy for getting a clue about where the pride could be.

Abner escorted us to our chalets and we straight went to the beds. Yet another awesome night beside the Savannah plains… 🙂

Early morning around 6:30, father and Nishant heard the roar of a big cat. Lion’s roar can be heard from a distance as long as five miles. At the time of breakfast, Abner came to our table and suggested that we should first visit the south-west terrain, where the other group of guests saw a lion’s pride the previous evening. We boarded the safari vehicle hopefully.

Abner took the sturdy vehicle through thorny bushes, ditches, and deep marked trails, which were left by other safari vehicles. We tried to keep ourselves from those thorny bushes and heat. We roamed the terrain looking for the presence of lions about an hour; but no luck…Abner, little disappointingly suggested that we go to the Etosha Pan and return to the west-terrain again to search the pride. We could see a large number of kudus, springboks, impalas, water bucks, elephants, ostriches, zebras, oryxes, wildebeests, and a lazy pair of lions, but the pride. 😦 The pair of lions we saw had tracing collars around their necks and they were lazily slumbering near a cement water tank. Sun was showering its warmest rays and the lion couple seemed to take years to move. 😀 I knew the lions were very lazy, but never knew they were that lazy!! 😀 Abner informed that they were together for making babies.

Sun was on our heads and Abner seemed to be little upset on not being able to follow the pride’s trail. He offered us for some juices and cold drinks to stay hydrated. In Etosha Pan we saw a giant tusker hurriedly coming to the waterhole. He was a darker than the most usual elephants. He drank from the water hole’s fresh water source and went his way. Abner told that the elephants splash water on their skin and then coat a layer of sand over the wet skin to make a mask, which saves them from the heat.

elephant-with-tusks

So the dark tusker seemed to have arrived from the terrain where there was dark soil. The tusker vanished into the bush with the same speed that he came with. A large herd of elephants came at the waterhole to quench their thirst. A little elephant cub was looking indeed cute 🙂

We decided to return to our chalets. We were little upset as we had only that evening left and we hadn’t yet spotted the pride. We were suppose to leave Ongava the next morning and time was running fast… 😦 We had chicken pies in lunch, took rest for an hour, and once again started the safari drive in search of pride. It was about 5:00pm with still a bright day outside. We all were sitting quiet in the vehicle and keenly looking around for any yellow furry patches or long brown mane…En route, Abner stopped the vehicle to show a beautiful fly catcher and few other small birds. But that day, we had eyes only for lion’s pride.

We roamed about more than 150km in Savannah plains in search of the lion’s pride. Abner was getting despondent and we were being desperate…The sky was clouded heavily and winds swirled up the dust in the air spirally. We were quiet and almost on the verge of losing hope… 😦 Sun was about to descend in some time. Abner again gathered his enthusiasm and took us to a nearby waterhole in anticipation of getting the pride’s trail…We spotted two mighty elephants at the waterhole, who were least bothered about our appearance. Abner stopped the vehicle at a little distance.

The elephants were munching leaves from the nearby tree, breaking its branches, and removing the bark…We keenly looked around again…

And all our efforts were paid!! 😀

It was there. Twelve of them. Camouflaged in the dry brown bushes. 🙂 Quiet and completely untamed…Spread around the waterhole. Young and old, males and females, and toddler cubs. Some lions were basking in the evening Sun.

lions-prideAbner read their body language and said that they had consumed their prey and arrived at the waterhole to conclude the day. The leader of the pride was keeping eye on elephants. He was little away from the elephants as well as from his pride. He looked ferocious with a steady gaze, full grown mane, and commanding gestures.

the-lion

Abner started the vehicle and parked it almost between the two elephants on one side and the pride on the other. After a lot of eating, the elephants approached the waterhole, where two lionesses were having water. One active elephant shooed them away by a loud trumpet and a thump of a forefoot. The lionesses made space for elephants and went aside. The elephants then started having water as if the waterhole was their own property! 😀 The pride kept anticipating their next moves and waiting for their turn to have water.

elephants-at-waterhole

A couple of lightening streaks appeared on the west horizon and we saw a massive cloud approaching towards us like a shower head. It carried a drizzle to us. Then it moved aside to make place for Sun to show its magic. Soon a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky! It was magnificent. 🙂 The elephants, the Savannah plains, a lion’s pride, and the colorful sky!! The sight was so captivating!! A few hours before, we had wholeheartedly wished for the view of lion’s pride and He showed an extra-ordinary view of nature. 🙂 We were fortunate to be a part of that magical scene!!

Soon, the Sun went down leaving a hot orange streak in the western sky. Abner drove us safely back towards the chalets. It was so hard to get over the wonderful experience! We took dinner and went to bed.

ongava-managers

The managers, Ongava Game Reserve

The next morning, we took a lavish breakfast and met the staff to pay thanks. We expressed our deep gratitude to the lodge managers for hosting us. The staff members were so hospitable, and warmhearted that they effortlessly made us feel at home. 🙂 Their dedicated service with polite yet clear communication was unparalleled.

Ongava visit helped us to create one of the best memories during Namibian wildlife safari. As we know, we all retain best memories; for we can retrieve and revisit them, and smile again… 🙂 Holding memories of the unique experience at Ongava game reserve, we started back to Windhoek.