All posts by Sukanya Ramanujan

Multi-lingual professional with varied interests such as reading, travelling, music and photography.

Photo Essay- Year of Sunrises

I recently celebrated my birthday. It amazes me that yet another year has just rushed past me. It has been an interesting year- I have not managed to do everything on my wishlist but I still managed to live through some unlooked for yet fascinating experiences.

I’d like to call the year that went by the year of Sunrises- not metaphorically- well maybe that too a bit- the year was full of new starts. But I did live through a few wonderful sunrises for real.

I almost missed a beautiful sunrise at Angkor Wat. You may have already read the story here.

A beautiful late (by my standards anything past 7am is late) sunrise at Langkawi.

The last most spectacular sunrise I experienced this year was at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It involved an early 5am start from our room- my sister and I trudged to the bus stop nearby to catch the shuttle bus to one of the view points on the rim. The thing about canyon sunrises and sunsets is that there are a vast number of points along the entire rim where you can live through the experience. However, this also means that there is a lot more confusion about where to go- especially when you are confronted with limited time. So it was quite helpful that the driver of our shuttle bus recommended Powell point to us.

Over the next one hour I captured a series of photographs of the canyon from Powell point. These photographs hopefully give you an idea of how as the sun rises, the canyon morphs from a dark form into a land of light and shadows. Truly the canyon at its most spectacular self early in the morning and late in the evening when the shadows are longest.

Just as the sun rises- the canyon is still completely dark except  Hopi Point which is bright as it juts inside into the canyon
Just as the sun rises- the canyon is still completely dark except Hopi Point which is bright as it juts inside into the canyon
You can see some of the highest points inside the canyon getting brighter
You can see some of the highest points inside the canyon getting brighter
Sunlight is drawing out some of the features of the canyon
Sunlight is drawing out some of the features of the canyon
The day has certainly begun- now there is no escaping the light
The day has certainly begun- now there is no escaping the light
Light floods the canyon
Light floods the canyon
By now we need our sunglasses
By now we need our sunglasses
This is about 30 minutes after  I started observing the canyon
This is about 30 minutes after I started observing the canyon
The canyon after a glorious sunrise
The canyon after a glorious sunrise

California Condor

I was incredibly lucky to be able to observe the California Condor for a small duration of time during my recent visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim in September. The condor is the largest North American land bird with a wing span of nearly 3 metres. It went extinct in the 1980s but thanks to conservation programs- it has been re-introduced into the wild including in the Grand Canyon area- where the birds are marked by their unique number tags on both wings. The one we observed was Number 87.

California Condor 87
California Condor 87

I had been so obsessed with getting a good spot for capturing the sunset that I first did not even notice the condor sitting at a distance from the rim. As with all birds the condor was just sitting out of the reach of my 300mm lens and so I managed only to get distant shots.

The bird observed the tourists, took its time preening itself and then set off on it’s dinner date looking all proud and majestic. I made a few video clips that I’ve put together so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about. The video quality is quite poor- this is because youtube for some mysterious reason wouldn’t upload my original quicktime format movies correctly and so I had to convert the format using windows movie maker.

I Read Real Japanese :)

One of things I really loved about Dubai (apart from the super futuristic skyline) was the uber huge Kinokuniya bookstore at the Dubai Mall. The book store is by far the largest and the best book store I’ve ever been to (unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the store) and has a vast collection of books in not just English but a variety of other languages. Of course Kinokuniya is a Japanese chain so I wasn’t surprised to find a mega section of books in Japanese (both for native speakers as well as for those pathetic souls such as myself trying to learn the language).

One of the books I picked up was this one

Read Real Japanese- Looked promising
Read Real Japanese- Looked promising

The editor of the book (who very interestingly describes the learning of a language as a train journey except one where we don’t know the destination- and the journey to learning tougher languages as one where the landscape changes slowly- I agree with this) curated 6 modern REAL Japanese short stories (not ones put together for text books but actual short stories read by actual people for reading by people learning Japanese.

Right to Left, Finish to Start
Right to Left, Finish to Start

What is really cool about the book is that it feels like a real Japanese book- one that goes from the back to the front and from right to the left and vertically! Woohoo! On the right hand side you have the actual text (with the furigana for the kanji) and on the left you have the author’s translation aide. So as long as you know your Hiragana and Katakana (which as the editor says can be learnt over a long weekend- over optimistic especially as katakana always tends to melt away from your memory) and a basic mastery of your vocab- you can start chugging along reading real Japanese literature.

Grammar & Dictionary
Grammar & Dictionary

There is also a quite detailed customised dictionary and grammar explanation section at the end of the book where you can check individual words and sentence patterns if you so wish to. I think the editor has put in a lot of effort to almost explain every sentence.

A Bit steep but totally worth it
A Bit steep but totally worth it

I bought this book in early 2013 but only now got around to reading the first story in this book. This is my usual habit and the Japanese have a word for it

Tsundoku
Tsundoku- Image courtesy saz1o1.blogspot.com

A charming story called “Kamisama” roughly translated into “God” or more contextually “God Bless You” or “God of the Bears” (these translated versions exist!). The story features a warm and fuzzy theme (although surreal) and makes you realise that the important thing when you tell a story is not always the plotline but how you tell it.

At about 100 Dirhams (25 dollars/ 1400 rupees) the book is quite an expensive buy but totally worth it if you are a Japanese language learner as it makes you feel good about reading a real story. You can buy it here

My next book to buy- Read Real Japanese Essays

Perfection in Little Things

I recently saw this flower- I was amazed by the details on it- It looked like one big flower with a ring of smaller flowers around it.

Ring of Flowers
Ring of Flowers

What was amazing was how small this flower actually was. Here’s another photograph of the flower with my hand beside it for scale. Isn’t that amazing?

Small is amazing!
Small is amazing!

So next time- take a good close look around you- you never know when something extremely beautiful will pass you by.