The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

My first Wallcreeper

Late in December 2009, as a birthday present to myself, I went on a solo trek to Dayara Bugyal, a high-altitude alpine meadow in Garhwal. I meant to write about the week I spent in the mountains, but upon my return, I found the experience too overwhelming to try to describe all at once.

Some six months after the trek, I posted a a photograph from my first campsite. Nearly a year later, I wrote about my decision to forego a field guide on the trek; that's where the paragraph quoted above comes from. It's been nearly five years since then, and I've typed that first sentence a dozen more times, but I never got much further.

One of my most enduring memories of the trip is of a small grey bird crawling up the face of a rock cliff just below Barsu village. I was driving back to Uttarkashi in the late afternoon after the trek, and I caught a flicker of movement on the cliff from the corner of my eye. I knew instantly what it was—a Wallcreeper, a bird I had been hoping to find for the past five years. I had barely a minute to admire it, but I'll never forget the sudden flash of scarlet when it flew away.


It's almost Wallcreeper season where I live now. They're a familiar sight in passage to lower altitudes in early winter, but that first sighting will always be the most precious.

Orchha (June 2008)

Hassath and I scraped a few days off from a busy month to visit Orchha with Ammu over a long weekend. We had a surprising and refreshing getaway that helped us to recover from the disappointment of having to cancel a visit to Munsiari in early June.

Update 2015-11-08: I started writing this in August 2008. Seven years later, I can no longer remember what happened on the rest of the trip well enough to complete the account, but I'm posting what I wrote back then.

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Confluence-Hunting in Uttaranchal, January 2005

In January 2005, inspired by, Gaurav Rai and I decided to look for three degree confluences North of Delhi:

  • 29N 79E (visited successfully)
  • 29N 80E (not attempted, but subsequently visited by someone else)
  • 30N 80E (visit abandoned due to snow)

These are my recollections of this long-overdue trip to the mountains. Rai has written his own account of our travels.

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Managing DNS (from Red Hat Linux 7.2 Unleashed)

This chapter was commissioned by SAMS Publishing for "Red Hat Linux 7.2 Unleashed" in 2001. They graciously allowed me to reproduce the text here (with minor changes to the original).

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An Identity Crisis

I think of myself in a mirror,
thinking about thinking of me.
I laugh at scary reflections,
not recognising the things I see.

On Mondays, I'm brightly coloured:
the week gives me time to fade.
By Friday, I'm a dirty gray,
and on Saturday, a paler shade.

Which leaves a single day to clean
a muddied palette left to dry.
to prepare for the week ahead,
to wonder who I am, and why.


I had a favourite shade of blue,
and suddenly, it's no longer there.
a vanishing hue,
leaving my canvas strangely bare.

It might not be a special blue,
or one that you've never seen.
it defies accurate description,
and it beats the hell out of green.

I have a favourite shade of blue:
a colour,
memories of you.

The Need for a Holiday

I live
inside a cheerfully lit,
tastefully decorated bubble
and I call it my home.

I breathe
non-toxic fumes; filtered
through my bubble
and purified.

I'm swimming through concrete
which has appeared,
unnoticed, from somewhere.

I think about this
while eating my mock turtle-stew.
and it's really quite good:
the stew, I mean.


The sheep are numbered,
colour-coded; arranged
in distracting patterns
on the brink of wakefulness.

My mind unravels after them;
threads of the wrong colour,
too interesting to be ignored.

Everything conspires
to wake me as I float
towards a darkness
which eludes me.

The flesh is willing,
but the spirit
dissolves into consciousness

I want my money back.


I remember
standing by a waterfall
and watching water
from a height,
aim for me... miss,
hit the ground,
and fail to escape from
the seething cauldron
at the bottom.

A cold, deep pool
amidst the rocks
and a little mumbling stream
twisting hurriedly away.

I remember the sea
in peaceful slumber,
breathing slowly in my ear
as I stood beside it.

I look at the green plastic bucket
full of water
in front of me
and enjoy my bath immensely.

A Fairy Tale

A short while ago, in a forgotten land, lived a fairy. She was, contrary to popular supposition, not young beautiful and kind, but fat, short, ugly and severe. Her land was a beautiful land, where everyone worked together for the good of the land and each other. This poor fairy protected her people from the charms of the evil, rich witch. The fact that the witch was evil should tell you all about her. She was a capitalist witch trying to destroy the economy of the land. Quite unlike her fiercely communist counterpart, the witch was slim, tall and beautiful. Several of the more impressionable workers fell under her spell and gave up their socialist ideals for more worldly ones. Since only the hard-headed party workers stuck to their ideals, the usually hard-working nation began to show signs of discord.

The fairy noticed something was amiss when her leprechauns began to show signs of disobedience and inefficiency, both of which the fairy hated. Unbeknownst to her, they were falling for the witch and her ideas. The usually docile leprechauns were fast being transformed into evil little entrepreneurs, ready to start production of capitalist propaganda booklets. After certain discreet enquiries, she came to the conclusion that someone was infringing on her territory. The poor fairy was, understandably, a member of the fairies' union. What this association lacked in funds, they made up for in goodwill and organisation. The fairy appealed to them for help against the rich witch. After lengthy deliberations, they decided to wage war. A nationwide emergency was declared and the process of liquidating the witch was begun. Several enthusiastic young members were overheard by the press saying that things would soon become too hot for the witch to handle. Of course, because of the emergency, they could not print this information.

This was not easy. The witch, after such an encouraging response from this land, had no intention of leaving. She had grown eviller and richer than ever, and commanded a large army. When she heard rumours about the attack, she flew in a whole contingent of junior capitalists (Shelved elves, limp imps, chrome gnomes, evil weevils and gobbling goblins).

The war, like many other wars, was very boring to watch. Though the fairies' union succeeded in sowing the seeds of discontent among the workers whose hearts the witch had so insidiously won over, the witch was strong enough to resist any uprisings. However, when the witch became old and fat from her profits, the workers drummed her out of the land. Her refusal to allow them to produce for anyone but herself shattered their dreams of a free market economy and gave them the courage to act against her.

After a brief session of massive restructuring, everyone breathed a sigh of relief at the once more orderly state of the land. The fairy returned triumphantly to her club, The Antibodies Association, while the witch and her cohorts plotted revenge at their club, Viruses and Bacilli Private limited.