The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Walking a dog through airport security

Long ago, I somehow convinced the director of airport security to let me take Bertie into the arrivals hall at the Delhi Airport.

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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.

Buying a textbook

I walked down to the market this evening to buy some textbooks for my daughter's new school year. I bought three out of the six needed at the first shop, and another one at the next. The third shop I went to had an old man slowly adding up the prices of a stack of items, while a crowd of customers gathered around.

In the shop was also the man's young daughter, who was doing much of the fetching and carrying. She darted out to ask for some change from a shop nearby, then returned and started dealing with the waiting customers. I asked for the two remaining textbooks, and she checked and said they had only one. Another customer asked for a certain kind of pen, and she went to see if they had any. A third customer gave up on the man and stepped around to her side of the counter.

Throughout all this, the father was (while still adding up numbers) grumbling about her. When she left to find change, he complained that she had not braced the flip-top counter correctly. When she asked him where something was, he would reply as if greatly put upon (paying no heed to the customers). He ignored some of her questions, and snapped at her when she repeated herself to double-check if they had the other textbook.

She brought the textbook from a shelf to the counter. Then she took a sheet of plastic and a roll of sellotape, and covered the book with a few swift, well-practiced movements. She took my hundred-rupee note, and politely asked another customer what they wanted while looking for change in the till. When she couldn't find change, I offered to come back for it later; but she asked if I was sure I didn't need anything else (pen? notebook? file?), and I realised that I could use a new pen.

By this time, her father had finished with the stack, and moved on to the next customer. Then he scolded her for being in his way.

I've always been bad at judging ages, but the girl looked only a couple of years older than my fifteen-year-old daughter. Or perhaps it was her spectacles that made her look older. I smiled and thanked her when she handed me the neatly-wrapped textbook and pen, but she was already turning away to attend to another order.

I never did get that last textbook.

I still miss Bertie

It's been two years since Bertie died. It still feels like yesterday.

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Orchha (June 2008)

An incomplete account of a refreshing monsoon getaway to Orchha, which included wading across a flooded river, riding bicycles with no bells, and the worst restaurant food ever.

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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 edits).

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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.