Music 101 : The Practical Challenges

The total number of notes to decode are quite small in number. All in all, there are just 12 notes and their octaves. Since the octaves sound similar, registering just 12 notes should be enough to decode all the music in the world. Compare this to some of the other things we remember –

  • Thousand of faces
  • Before the mobiles came around, hundreds of telephone numbers
  • Thousands of dialogues in movies
  • Characters in a language script, words and their meanings
  • Innumerable axioms, theorems, formulas

If we just look at the number of notes, compared to all of the above examples, learning music should be pretty straight forward! But, in practice, it seems much harder. Why???

Our ears are not perfect spectrum analyzers. They were not meant to be. Music is something that humans invented (please don’t quote examples of singing dolphins and whales, when I say music, I mean really complicated music). Nature made our ears capable of distinguishing various calls, voices etc. to help us survive. Having fun was probably a by-product of evaluation that came much later in time and much lower in priority. While identifying a frequency, our ears get confused very easily due to some other aspect of the sound being different. Listed below are some of these aspects (The list by no means is exhaustive) –

  • Volume of the sound
  • Sequence of notes played before (Like hysteresis in electronics)
  • The time the sound is played for (Like hold time in electronics)
  • The instruments (The timbre. This does not play much of a role in discerning the relative pitch within the same instrument. But plays a role when one has to listen to one instrument and recognize a another note played in some other instrument)

Volume of the sound

Try to identify if the notes are going up or down in frequency when I play the notes in the below clip.

The answers are –

  1. Going up
  2. Going down
  3. Going up
  4. Going down

If you got it right, you have one problem less to bother about.

 Sequence of notes played before

Listen to the clip  I play below and identify if the last note in sequence 1 is higher or lower in frequency than the last note played in sequence 2.

The answer might surprise most people. The two ending notes in both the sequences are actually the same!


Listen to the clip below. The two sequences have the same notes in the same order, but a novice may not recognize this similarity at all.


Error due to change in instrument is one of the less serious problems and most of you may pass the below test. Take a listen –

I have again played two sequences with exactly the same arrangement of notes. But the second sequence has a note of flute in it. Do they seem similar in frequency to you? If they do, you are doing good!

In the next class, we will deal with only two notes C and G and try to register them correctly irrespective volume, sequence and timing.

Other posts in this series

  1. Music 101 : Why am I writing this series? (2014-April-13)
  2. Music 101 : The Math (2014-June-14)
  3. Music 101 : The Practical Challenges (2014-June-29)

Music 101 : The Math

Musical notes are related to each other through ratios of frequencies. Our ears have a roughly logarithmic scale. Therefore, pairs of notes which have similar ratios, sound alike in arrangement. As an example, in the below clip, I am playing a C4 and F4# first and F4# and C5 later (first on a flute and then on a piano). The frequencies are 261.63 Hz (C4),  369.94 Hz (F4#) and 523.25 Hz (C5). Ratios are 1 : 1.414 (√2) in both the cases. Note that the type of the instrument hardly matters in discerning the arrangement. 

Real instruments don’t produce pure tones, there are a lot of harmonics and each harmonic fades at a different rate. This set of characteristics of a particular instrument is called timbre. Timbre makes instruments sound different from one another although they ma be playing the same note.

Ears recognize tones with a frequency ratio of two to be in harmony with each other. For example, C4 (261.63 Hz) and C5 (523.25 Hz) are basically the same note but C5 has twice the frequency as C4. Therefore, a musical scale extends from one note to the next note that is twice the frequency.  Within a scale, most modern musical traditions have a maximum of 12 notes. 

Just Intonation vs Equal Temperament

Research has shown that for some not so completely understood reasons, we like notes that have a simple ratio of integers among themselves. The most basic example is that of the octave itself. That is, notes with a frequency ratio of two appear to be same note. The next smallest set of integers that can be used to form a ratio is 2 and 3. Infact, this happens to be the case with the notes C and G ( Sa and Pa in Indian notations). Therefore, C and G also happen to be the next most harmonious pair of notes. The Just Intonation temperament constructs all the notes within a scale using such simple ratios. More details here.

But, Just Intonation presents a practical problem. Singers don’t come with machine tuned voices. They would want to shift the reference scale as per their comfort and the mood of the song. If we want to shift the reference scale to another note other than C, then we have to re-tune all the notes around the new base note as per the ratio requirements. Imagine a pianist tuning all the strings every now and then to suit the singer. That would be disaster (although modern electronic instruments make this easy again). Musicians worked around this problem and approximated these ratios to the nearest numbers that formed a equal geometric progression. Such an arrangement is called Equal Temperament. For most people including several professional musicians, the difference between Just Intonation and Equal Temperament notes is not noticeable at all. Very few audiophiles and musical geniuses may be able to tell the difference between the two. More details here.Therefore, to make life easy, I will use Equal Temperament notes for all discussion from now on.

The 12 notes, the 7 major notes and scale shifting.

As mentioned previously, most modern musical traditions use a maximum of 12 notes within a scale.  Some Arabic scales use 24 notes while there are other cultures which use only 5. Nevertheless, the fundamentals of learning music remain the same. Therefore, I will continue to use the 12 notes with 7 major notes as the reference through the rest of the series. It was also discussed that these 12 notes are in a geometric progression. Therefore, it follows that the frequency ratio between each note and the next is 1:21/12.  Within these 12 notes, for reasons unknown (probably due to the obsession with number 7 and the cultural positive reinforcements over centuries), 7 of these notes happen to sound very natural and comforting when played consecutively. These are called the major notes in the west (Sargam in India). If we denote the step size from one note to the immediate neighbor as one, then the major notes can be represented as below –

Position Western notation Western numbering Indian notation
0 C Unison Sa
2 D Major Second Re
4 E Major Third Ga
5 F Major Fourth Ma
7 G Major Fifth Pa
9 A Major Sixth Dha
11 B Major Seventh Ni
12 C Octave Sa


On a piano, all the major notes are white keys. The minor keys are black keys. The same applies to Indian instruments such as the harmonium. We can now place the 5 minor notes between the major notes. These are just the missing positions in the above table. i.e 1, 3, 6, 8 and 10. The complete set is given below.

Position Western notation Western numbering Hindustani notation
0 C Unison Sa
1 C#/D♭ Minor Second Komal Re
2 D Major Second Re
3 D#/E♭ Minor Third Komal Ga
4 E Major Third Ga
5 F Major Fourth Ma
6 F#/G♭ Augmented Fourth Tivra Ma
7 G Major Fifth Pa
8 G#/A♭ Minor Sixth Komal Dha
9 A Major Sixth Dha
10 A#/B♭ Minor Seventh Komal Ni
11 B Major Seventh Ni
12 C Octave Sa



Piano keys with notations for reference


Now on, through this series, I will be referring to the western notation and the positions for ease of teaching. Positions are very useful in teaching relative arrangement of notes. If the difference in positions of two pairs of notes is the same, then the pairs sounds similar. Going back to the first example in this post, the position difference between C and F# is the same as F# and the next C. Therefore, the two pieces sounded similar.  I recommend that people use a piano/electronic synthesizer vs any other instrument for the first lessons on music as these instruments reflect the math in the music in the simplest manner. To test the theory of relative positions, you can try the following experiment – Play the two sequences below on a piano and check if they sound similar –

Case 1 : C, D, E, F, G, A , B, C (Positions are 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12)

Case 2 : C#, D#, F, F#, G#, A#, C, C# (Positions are 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13)

The two sequences played are the C and the C# scales. You can here me play it below –

Just for fun, you can try all the other 10 possibilities with different starting positions (D, D#, E and so on..) while keeping the relative positions between the successive notes same as the above examples.

Now that we have understood the theory, we can get started with the practicals. In the immediately following posts, I will elucidate the techniques for synthesizing and recognizing a small sub-set of notes which are the easiest to start with.

Other posts in this series

  1. Music 101 : Why am I writing this series? (2014-April-13)
  2. Music 101 : The Math (2014-June-14)
  3. Music 101 : The Practical Challenges (2014-June-29)

Modi – Middle path, anyone??

As always, opinions are quite divided about Modi and the change he will bring about. To some he is the silver bullet for all the problems that India faces. To others, he is the next Hitler who is going to exterminate all Muslims. There seems to be hardly anyone around who is taking a more pragmatic view of the man.

In 2002, I chose to do my graduation in Gujarat. I did so, very well knowing that it had witnessed one of the worst plagues in 1993,  an earthquake in 2001 and one of the worst riots in 2002. The reasons were simple. There was some fascination about Gujarat. The land of Mahatma, Sardar and now Ambani. The land from where all good/bad was imported into India. East India company had it’s first base in Surat. Parsis came in from Gujarat and the list goes on.. My close relatives were like .. “Are you crazy??, You want to get yourself killed?”. When I landed in Gujarat in Sept 2002, I felt vindicated. Surat was very different from anything that I had seen in Karnataka (including Bangalore). As they say, there was some energy in the air. Even the chicken center guy outside the college had something that you could learn from. Entrepreneurship runs in their blood.

Coming back to Modi.. There was some unmistakable efficiency about everything that happened around us. I saw the road in front of  our university getting converted to a concrete road. It was done in 3-4 months flat. In 2014, in the heart of Bangalore, I see that a much smaller section of road is getting converted to concrete since 1.5 years and is still in pathetic shape. Roads used to be always damn clean! And interestingly, I had not seen any sweepers in the morning. One day, on one of our early morning outings at about 4:00AM, I realized that the sweepers come in very early and swank it up well before the wake up alarms go off. Modi started the now famous Biennial Vibrant Gujarat programs. These programs are conducted in a different district each time and have a very energizing effect on the business in the chosen districts. I was lucky to witness the one in 2005 as it was in Surat. Come Navaratri every year and you could actually see what ppl outside Gujarat talk about. Girls on scooties go around without fear at midnight. Crime rates in Gujarat have always been among the lowest in India. Occasionally, you would hear a crime related to the diamond market (It is not surprising given that more than 85% of world’s diamonds are cut in Surat). But that’s about it. In 2006, the notorious Tapi flooded Surat for the n’th time. I visited Surat for the convocation ceremony 3 months after the floods and I could not see any tell-tale signs of the flood. A similar occurrence in Bangalore would have crippled the city for months.

On the whole, while it looked like while Modi was an able administrator, it is hard to pick faults in his predecessors, as Gujarat was almost always a front-runner on any good statistic. His specialty comes in the way of small innovations he does to make things more efficient. He is also  special because he works exceptionally hard. He has no family to run and works 24×7. On the negative side, it is hard to believe that he had no active role in the Gujarat riots. See this video and tell me he is doodh se dhulahuwa (A phrase in Hindi which means pure, washed of milk).

India is much more diverse than Gujarat. Moreover, Modi took reins of Gujarat when Gujarat was already doing good. It is easier to take good to better than it is to take bad to good. It is unfair to expect some magic in 5 years. But, mind you, he is very good at making small changes that are directly visible and will win him votes again while working on longer term improvements in the background. It is this trait that makes him a very good politician apart from being a good administrator. Also, considering Modi’s political maturity, I am sure 2002 won’t happen again. When 2002 happened, he was a political fledgling and had almost nothing to lose and everything to win. Now, with one bad move, he has everything to lose.

In summary, the road to glory looks like a long one and Modi will hopefully take us there without any events that we would want to forget about. Eagerly waiting to see a more vibrant India in 2024 voting Modi back to power.

Bansuri – The Hindustani Flute


Flutes are probably the oldest of the man-made musical instruments. A cut bamboo might have served as the first resonating column and the wind, the first flautist that inspired a passerby nomad. My guess is that the first flutes probably looked like the pan flutes shown below –


Image – Courtesy : Wikipedia

I theorize that the idea of making multiple holes within the same bamboo and to cover/uncover holes to produce different notes requires some ingenuity and would have taken several centuries if not millenniums before we got a transverse flute that looks like the one below –

File:Venu or Pullaanguzhal.jpg

Image – Courtesy : Wikipedia

This kind of transverse flute was independently invented by the Europeans and the Indians. The association of flute with Krishna (Indian god and an Avatar of Vishnu) indicates that this instrument was already quite popular around 2000 BC. Given that Krishna was a cowherd and played “cool” folk tunes for Gopikas, Krishna’s flute was probably closer to the relatively short south Indian Venu or the smaller versions of Bansuri than the modern north Indian bass Bansuri. Infact, it took nearly 4000 years before the Indians reinvented the Bansuri. Pannalal Ghosh(1911-1960) was one of the first musicians to employ the Bansuri for serious Hindustani Classical Music. In the process, he experimented with the bore size, number of holes and the length of the flute to invent the bass Bansuri that I am going to describe in more detail in this article.

A typical Bansuri covers 2 octaves. Depending on the construction quality and the bore size, some notes of the 3rd octave can be played too. Smaller bore sizes allow reaching higher octaves. Why? Smaller bore size means lesser volume of air. To sustain the standing waves in the flute takes a lot of energy. And to sustain notes of the higher octave takes even more energy. Therefore, with lesser volume of air, the higher modes of vibration become more viable.

You can hear me playing a D4 flute below.  The notes are D4 (fundamental), D5 (first harmonic, 2x) and A5 (second harmonic, 3x). I paid nearly 66$ for this flute and it is totally worth it.

What is this D4?? This is the lowest note that this Bansuri can play (technically, there is one more lower note, but this where the transposed C starts for this flute. In other words it is the scale of the flute). In Indian musical terminology, this would be Re. The fundamental frequency is 293.66Hz.

The Bansuri like all other flutes uses a resonating column of air to produce the various notes. The blowing end has a cork that blocks the energy from escaping from the blowing end. The other end is the first open hole. The fundamental mode of resonance has nodes on both the ends and just one antinode in between. Therefore the length of the column is half the wavelength. Here is an interesting puzzle..  If you actually measure the distance between the open ends, multiply this distance by 2 and name the value is λ, divide the speed of sound (c)by this λ, you would get a frequency that is higher than the note that you hear when you blow. Infact, when I tried this, I got an error of 10% !!!. Engineers like me would be jobless if simple mathematical models worked. Thank god, they don’t. The devil is always in the details. The actual phenomena is much more complicated than the simplistic theories of a both ends open pipe. For starters, the energy does not escape efficiently from only one hole. The next hole plays a part too. To test this, I tried closing the next hole and got a variation in the frequency. This proves that the simplistic assumption that only the closest open hole plays a role in deciding the frequency is wrong. Therefore, it means that the effective length of the column is actually more than the distance between the blowing hole and the first open hole. Experts who make flutes have to take this into account among several other such non-idealities. It is no surprise that a good concert Bansuri sometimes costs more than 10x that of a normal one.

To be cntd… The most important part – Playing the Bansuri

Make your own Baby Hammock

I became a father on 22-Apr-2014. As per the prevailing superstitions in India, one is not supposed to shop for a cradle till the baby is born (Nobody mentioned anything about making one 🙂 ). I made part of the hammock ready before the d-day. Got rest of the act together in a couple more days. My princess loves it. Cumulative effort including this documentation was about 6hrs (The 6hrs don’t come easy as babies keep everyone busy all the time)

First find a suitable place. Make sure the hook is strong enough and well supported. Hang S-links from the hook so that regular links can be then added.IMG_3892

Secure the S-links. IMG_3903

Add as many links as necessary to get the right length.  If necessary, add a ring at the end of the links to connect to the springs.IMG_3893

Add springs. Choice of the springs is the most important part of the hammock.  The effective spring constant has to be such that the assembly stretches neither too less nor too much. A good rule of thumb – A stretch of 15 cm with about 5 kgs of load gives decent results (Natural frequency of about 2Hz with a 3Kg newborn which will drop down to about 1.4Hz in 4 months  when the baby will be about twice the birth weight).  Pune being an auto-hub, made my life easy. I got these automobile springs within 10 minutes of search.IMG_3895

Make sure the springs are secured properly.IMG_3896

You may want to add one more ring at the end  to connect to the hammock hanger.IMG_3897

Since it concerns babies, it is better to put in some safety measures. The springs are the weakest link in the design. To be prepared for contingency, additional flex cables can be used to connect the top and bottom ring. The flex cable length should be such that there is no tension in the cable under normal circumstances, but when the springs fail, the cables should hold. IMG_4287


Find some hanger like component to hold the hammock. I found this nice hanger shaped steel rod. Use some thread to secure the hanger to the ring.IMG_4290


Use a nice cloth to cover up the not so nice looking mechanics. It is important to uncover the cloth and inspect the whole system atleast once in a week.IMG_4294

Tie the hammock securely. I used an old Saree. Old, used cotton Sarees are specially soft.IMG_4291

This is how it should look..IMG_4295

The hammock is ready for action!!  IMG_4296

But wait! Use atleast 10kgs to test the whole structure for 1-2 hours. Place the baby only after thorough testing.

The results seem good. My princess sleeping peacefully…IMG_4303


Look at her swing all by herself..


Savandurga Trek

Savandurga is one of the largest monoliths in Asia. I had been waiting to do this trek since more than a year. Whenever I travelled towards Mysore, I would look on my right and keep admiring this single rock beauty. I also had the perfect day in mind to climb it. It should be a full moon day and the next day should be a holiday. So finally, the opportune moment presented itself. Thursday the 17th was a holiday in view of the Great Indian General Elections and 16th was almost a full moon day. Harsha, Nikhil and I decided to climb on the evening of 16th . Nikhil was in-charge of the food,  me in-charge of the tents and equipment and Harsha in-charge of firewood. Nikhil and I did our duties. Harsha thought I wasn’t serious when I mentioned that he needs to get firewood. He hadn’t even arranged for some fuel. He was banking on Nikhil’s vodka bottle. We set off from Harsha’s home at about 3:30PM in the afternoon. Our hope was to cover a good distance while there is light and spend as much time as possible in one place at night. The view en-route was enjoyable too. Typical idyllic life. After about an hour’s drive, we lost track and wandered about for 20 minutes before getting back on track. Although the hill was visible all the time, we were just going round and round. We finally managed to get to the temple at the foothills. Parked our car and started off at about 5:00PM. Looks daunting, doesn’t it? Anyway, this is not where we started. We had to go around and find a more gradual slope. After about 20 mins of climb, we took a small break. We also noticed that a dog had been following us. It would later dawn upon us that it was not following, it was leading!  Thats Nikhil trying to catch up. Can you spot him? As per Pole (Harsha) the lizards’ way up. The view after another short climb of 10 mins. That’s pole. Nikhil slowly fading in. After more than an hour’s climb, we were still not anywhere near the top and it was getting dark already. Nevertheless, it was already beautiful up here. The water body is the Manchanabele reservoir. After one more quick climb of about 20 mins. We decided to camp for some time and wait for the moonrise. That’s Bangalore. The moon wasn’t showing up and we had no work to do. So we thought we will shoot a few ghosts. In the excitement, we forgot about the moonrise and the moon was already smiling upon us before we realized. Thats the Manchanbele reservoir gleeming in the moonlight. HDR-Moon-HighresFinally! The moonshot I was hoping to get when I thought of getting up on this hill. It is a combination of two photos. One with a 30 second exposure to get the city lights and another with a 1 second exposure to get the moon. We started our climb again. This time, with the dog leading us from the front. Reached the top in another one hour’s climb. It was quite windy and cold on the top. We were definitely under-prepared. We found one rock shelter and quickly finished our meals. We need all the energy to prepare the tent for the night. After a lot of struggle with the wind, we managed it!! We were not sure if it will stand the test all night. Nikhil dozed off. Pole the firewood in-charge finally got to work. Thankfully, he had got some matchsticks and camphor.Things weren’t looking up. We needed some dry grass to start the fire. The wind made it all the more hard. We were running out of camphor and matchsticks. Finally!! Got some warmth for about 20 minutes after 1 hour’s struggle. That’s our tent with the Nandi in the background. The moon was now almost at the zenith bathing everything in milky white light. You can see a faint Jupiter in the background. The night was crazy!! We saw some torch-lights at a distance. While Nikhil was sleeping peacefully, Pole and I got worried. It is not uncommon to get robbed in this area. So Pole and I were standing guard all night. And our weapons? Just a thick Lathi and a small knife. We had hid all the valuables(including my DSLR) behind a big boulder and were ready to give off the rest of the possession in the worst case. Finally at about 4:00AM, some of the strangers came close enough so that we could call out and converse. We then realized that it was just another group of trekkers. We then happily went off to sleep. The Nandi looking over the hills. It was morning and all our belongings outside the tent were still there. We started our descent as Nikhil wanted to be among the first ones to vote. The climb in the night in this part of the stretch with all that gear wasn’t easy at all That’s actually the sun! It was so cloudy. Managed to reach the city at about 9:00 AM. Dropped all the gear at home and went directly to the polling booth. Voted for Modi, came back home and dropped dead.

Music 101 : Why am I writing this series?

By usual standards, I started learning music quite late. I was already 20 when I first started toying around with a keyboard and a flute. Like me, I guess there are a lot of ppl who start out late either because the environment they were brought up in did not offer such avenues or simply because there were other priorities earlier in life.

Learning music does get harder with age. First of all, neural connections are more hardwired in an adult brain. Secondly, it is widely believed that unused connections are broken and the neurons are repurposed for other tasks.

With the limited time available for pursuing this hobby, I have experimented for 9 yrs now. I would have spent an average of 1-2hrs per week.I usually dont like to train under someone as I believe that the training will prejudice me. Also, ppl tend to teach adults in the same manner as kids. That hardly works.

After all these years, I have realized that if I had discovered the right techniques, I could have learnt as much in less than 1 year with the same effort. Unfortunately, I could not find such material online. Most sites start of with some instrument. Learn piano.. learn the flute… they teach you all the musical notations and so on…. But true music is hardly about the instrument or the notations. Its is about the ears and the brain.

Through this series, I am hoping that someone else will benefit. I am not trying to teach directly, as that would mean that I will end up prejudicing some one else. I am just trying to elucidate some techniques of learning. The actual learning is a process of self discovery that one has to walk on his/her own. Each person has his/her own style of learning and should stick to it for best results.

Other posts in this series

  1. Music 101 : Why am I writing this series? (2014-April-13)
  2. Music 101 : The Math (2014-June-14)
  3. Music 101 : The Practical Challenges (2014-June-29)

Huliyurdurga Trek


Huliyurdurga (translates to The fort of the tiger’s town) is not particularly well known. I guess Pole (Harsha) and I were among the handful that got on top of the hill this year. Infact, most people we met in the town were not aware of the trek path. As it is with a lot of other things, the less explored path is also likely to be the more adventurous and interesting one.

We started off from Pole’s home at about 6:00AM in the morning. Reached the village in about 1 hour. We had a hard time finding the scalable side. Our first effort went in vain and we had to climb down after a point. Luckily, we caught sight of a bird hunting a lizard live. The bird was generous enough to pose for a full video till the lizard gave up.

Finally, after going around a bit, we found a temple and the trail. For the convenience of others, I have put a local map below with the red path showing the path to the starting point of the trek-Huliyurdurga-route

Some helpful trekkers had marked a few rocks. The start of the climb was quite steep. Harsha went first.IMG_3243 IMG_3242IMG_3247 IMG_3251

There were some more interesting stretches.IMG_3259 IMG_3257

We were on the top in less than 45 minutes.  IMG_3263 IMG_3264

As soon as we reached the top and looked around, we found a Pelican flying at about the same altitude. Interestingly, we could not spot a big water body around. Must have been an adventurous pelican.IMG_3269IMG_3282

The Brahminy kite seemed to be staring right back at us.IMG_3310IMG_3317IMG_3319IMG_3320

Not to forget the common kites..IMG_3342 IMG_3331

The old temple as seen from top..  IMG_3417

The panaroma –IMG_3355


The remains of the fort were pretty disappointing..IMG_3358IMG_3448IMG_3415IMG_3402

We left our mark on a tree –IMG_3374

“Kadu Mallige” (Wild Jasmine) was growing in plenty on the top.IMG_3370IMG_3372IMG_3387

Spent about 2 hours on the top and started our descent.IMG_3456

View of the hill from the old temple…IMG_3463

The toughest part was yet to come.. I had to drive for 3 hrs straight through the traffic jams of Bangalore.






Elephant Collaring effort in Dubare

It was May, 2008. Exciting times. We had just completed the final testing of our first set of collar electronics, got the servers and the website ready. We felt a great sense of accomplishment that we had completed our final year MTech project successfully! We could not have been more wrong about the completion part. Infact, the project had just begun. We did not do our project just to earn grades and let it rust in the archive cupboards once we were out of the university. We did it so that it will have a significant impact on the lives of atleast some real people (or animals).

Once the electronics was done, our professor (Dr. Andre Pittet) started looking for some serious customers. In the meantime, we kept the collars running and tested them rigorously. They were fitted in our cars and tested under all weather. The packaging wasn’t trivial. We needed something that will withstand the elephants’ ways of life. To get an idea of the wear and tear involved, one should see the elephants rub their bodies against a tree. The collars also had to be water proof (Elephants are excellent swimmers. Infact, they even swim 1-2m under the water).

In May 2011 we heard from a team that showed some real interest. The Aanemane foundation in Dubare maintains semi-wild elephants and they needed to track the elephants’ daily movements. The collar would also be helpful in locating the elephants when the semi-wild elephants wouldn’t return to base for a long stretch and they had to be brought back by the mahouts.

Finally, on July 8th, we headed to the forest with two collars. We set off quite early in the morning as it wasn’t going to be a long day in the forest and it gets very dark very early.  We were four of us.. Our project guide Dr.Andre Pittet with his wife , Radhika (my project partner and wife) and myself in a Black Scorpio. The journey till the forest was quite uneventful. We got into the forest at about 3:00 PM in the afternoon. It had rained recently and some of the stretches were quite tricky even for the Scorpio.  Finally, we got stalled at a point very near to the Aanemane camp.

Our Prof trying to get the car out of the muck
Grass was out and there was no friction to make use of

We had to finally crank the car out.

Me helping Prajna with the crank

We made it after about an hour’s struggle. The view was totally worth it. A beautiful wooden home in the middle of nowhere.DSC04535We explored a bit of the surroundings, rested, had food and dozed off quite early for the day. The night was quite eventful. Prajna had already warned us about the rats. But what I did not expect the rats to do was to lick my pinky toe in the middle of the night. I woke up with a loud thud and spent the rest of the night in a semi-sleep state.

The morning was delightful for more many reasons. We had kept one of the collars for testing and for the first time it was working in actual jungle conditions.

Collar kept for testing
Collar kept for testing

We were getting our other collar ready. The electronics packaged in an aluminium housing is shown below. The square patch antenna is the GPS antenna. The smaller antenna on the left is the GSM/GPRS antenna. The top of the package (not shown in the image) was a durable plastic.

The radio collar which will be put on the elephants
The electronics packaged inside an aluminium box.

We did some last minute testing with the debug module.

Prajna’s daughter Ojus Curiously looking on..
Getting packaged along with the collar belt.
The mahouts arrive with Kunti and Dharma
First some feeding before anything else
Dharma was temporarily chained
Kunti’s collaring
Here comes Kalpana

The elephants took the collars well. They did not seem to mind the extra 2Kgs. They were looking pretty!


Kunti Collared
Kalpana Collared
Trial run
Radhika posing with Kunti
Kunti allowed me to take a ride
Happy Tracking !!
The elephant tracking family!!

We were done by about 4:00 PM in the afternoon and started back to Bangalore before it got dark. During the testing, the collars have worked for more than 6 months at a stretch with 24 fixes and 12 transmissions per day. It has been more than a month now and the collars are still ticking. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

Catch up on Aanemane news here

phew!! done with a sem at IISc

Originally posted here on my ancient blog site.

My friend Ayan had called me up the other day. He was asking me if I was free. I replied,”Ya I am free, done with my projects and assignments finally,tomorrow have an exam”. Thats the extent of freedom I have had in the last 4 months. Exams infact are a big break. With such good profs. who needs to study?Infact it was during the exams that we decided to freak out and watch a few movies. Watched Dhoom-2 right in the thick oftension.Kinda pleasure to do the craziest thing when u r in deep ***t.

IISc seems a lot different now. We are no longer those enthu freshers now. We are worn out veterans. A month back the only way I cud solace myself was by saying,”If u can get thru this, u can get thru anything else in the world.” When a 5000 odd transistor ckt suddenly stops working the whole world seems like plotting ur suicide. I m sure ppl would have a climbed the dept. building and given a thought about taking a jump.

But finally, here comes vacation.Infact the last till may 2008!!!. 15 days of nothing. By nothing I mean absolutely nothing.. I sleep for 16hrs a day and still crave for more. probably recovered all the sleep lost in the last 4 months. alrite, I m feeling sleepy again..

May come with a decent post before May 2008.