18 September, 2018


Ideally, cherry trees require at least a month of very cold weather conditions for flowering. But, they are hardy enough to settle for less - until, they get used to the weather conditions they are forced to live in, i.e.

More than 10 years after the promised 2-3 years, we finally saw some fruits on our cherry tree this year. Thanks to the attractive colour of the fruits, the tree was a sight to behold! But, of course, looks can be deceptive.

This cherry has a sour taste and is made up of equal amount of pulp and hard pits. That's why, the monkeys and the birds decided to leave everything to us!

For a while, we thought of letting the fruits be - allow them to drop off naturally and enrich the soil. Somehow, that didn't seem okay. It was like doing injustice to our long wait. Since the fruits have a low shelf life, I decided to see if I could preserve it.

I'm not a stranger to making jams and preserves. For jams, I follow a standard recipe shared by a grand aunt of mine. It involves marinading coarse pulp of the fruit in sugar for about 6 hours. Cooking this mixture on a medium flame until reaching the jam consistency, and, a few drops of lemon at the end completes the process.  

 Things were going on predictably - until I removed it from the fire! Even before cooling, the jam became so hard that I couldn't pierce the sharpest knife in my collection through it! The sugar, probably, was the culprit. I had added a little more than usual to counter the sourness of the pulp.  I should have probably added some bananas instead.

 Quite a hopeless feeling, you know! After de-seeding about 300 cherries, I had cheered myself up by saying that the toughest part was behind me!!

I then thought of the only knight who could save me from distress of this kind......
 Apparently, a common kitchen disaster, Google had several reassuring  solutions to my problem. I decided to try the  easiest one -  to add water and re- cook.

As if by magic, the mix softened. This time, I removed the pan from the fire just before the mix reached the jam consistency and all was well.

Here's the result - not exactly my best, but edible. Hopefully, the next time I'll get it right!

13 November, 2017

Century on the Bronze Anniversary!

This is my100th post, and today is the eighth birthday of Alter Idem!! That's an average of a post per month......1.04 to be precise!!

I have always celebrated Alter Idem's birthday by sharing a short story that comes to my mind when I begin to write the 'birthday post'.

Today's story is from the Ramayana. I thought of it as I was unloading photographs from the phone a few minutes ago. The pic below was taken at Amritapura.

The Amriteshwara temple, like other temples built in the Hoysala style, has carvings on the outer walls depicting episodes from our epics and mythology. And, let me tell you, it is such a pleasure to recognise the anecdotes depicted by the sculptor!!

Looking for Seeta, Rama and Lakshmana reach Kishkinda and befriend Sugreeva. Sugreeva seeks Rama's help to kill his estranged brother, Vali. In return, he offers to help Rama track Seeta.

However, Sugreeva is not sure if Rama could match his brother's strength. To prove it, Rama shoots an arrow which pierces through a row of seven mighty trees. After piercing through them, the arrow touches the earth, and returns back to Rama's quiver! Convinced that Rama can help him, Sugreeva seals the friendship. As promised, Rama kills Vali - from behind a tree while the latter is engaged in a battle with Sugreeva and the story moves on...

Now, it is the snake in the carving that's intriguing. Rama seems to be standing on it. The arrow doesn't seem to strike it. So, what could be the story behind it's presence?

Over the centuries, stories have been added to, and perhaps removed from the original Ramayana.  According to some versions of the Ramayana, a snake was used to align the trees in a straight line when Rama had to prove his strength to Sugreeva. According to some other versions, Rama hid behind seven trees and shot the arrow that killed Vali.  

This version was probably prevalent during the Hoysala period. Because, I came across a similar carving at Halebeedu.


You know, the monkeys in the first picture seem to be afraid and pleading, while the ones in the second seem to be revering Rama! Now, is that my imagination...or are/ were there other versions of this anecdote?!

20 February, 2017

The Story of a Seed

It was a visiting Sunday - six years ago at the Poorna Prajna School, Sangameshwarpet. As usual, all the hostelers were waiting for their parents and the goodies they would bring from home.

While walking through the tree - lined path, I saw this eight year old boy. His parents had not yet arrived, and he was whiling his time by striking a young tree with a stick. The moment he realised that I was walking towards him, the boy threw the stick and ran away....some basic instinct must have warned him!!
Well...... I didn't spoil his day by chasing him and giving him the sermon he deserved!

As I removed the stick from the pathway, I realised that the boy had broken it recently from the powder-puff shrub nearby. While putting the stick out of the way, I found that it carried a seed pod. I decided to save it, and then, forgot all about it......

Till about three years ago, the seed pod was lying forgotten in an unused compartment in my handbag.   Even though I knew that seeds do not sprout after more than an year, I took a chance. Because, well... one can never be sure about these things!

Not-so surprisingly, one of the 5-6 seeds did sprout! And, today, it flowered for the first time - giving me a few moments of reminiscence!

Powder-puff Flower

18 November, 2016

Looking for bliss

These are turbulent times - easily, the worst in my over two score years of existence. There is impatience, unrest, vehement pro/ anti news & views - here, there and everywhere! Often, I have wished that I could live far away from all of this - somewhere in a cave under the deepest sea!

On second thoughts, I could settle for transforming myself into a child again!

 Thoughts that came to me yesterday when I passed by these children on my way elsewhere...

Schools in Karnataka were shut yesterday - for Kanaka Jayanti. These kids had spent their morning making a small cart of sorts, using old bicycle tyres and sticks. They were on their way to the periphery of the forest nearby to collect firewood. When I caught them, they were thoroughly enjoying the tough time the calf tied to the yoke was giving them! It was quite obvious that he was in no mood to pull a cart on a  sunny afternoon.

 After appreciating their cart and exchanging a few pleasantries, I waved my byes to them. As I watched the receding team, I wished I was one of them. The calf.....for, he had his way!!

13 November, 2016

7-Year Blogiversary!

The year between the sixth and the seventh b'day of Alter Idem has simply flown by! I could manage only three posts in between. And, I am yet to score my century! 

I have noticed that it is not ONLY me. Most of the blogs that I follow have been going through this inactive, rarely- updated phase. No doubts.... we have been charmed by the likes of Facebook, Whatsapp, etc!

Speaking for myself, social media has also reduced the quality time I used to keep aside for reading - something that I'm realising now, when I have to come up with an interesting short story for the birthday post.  Thank goodness, my resolution for the anniversary post is to share a story that has stayed with me long after I have read it!

This year, I'll share a lesser known story from the Indian mythology - of how a tree came into existence.
I had read this story in a book called 'Brahma's Hair' by Maneka Gandhi. The book is a collection of myths and stories from all over the country - of about thirty sacred plants and trees, along with some historic and botanical details. 

One day, aeons ago, Indra, the king of the Devas, craved for Soma - the intoxicating brew consumed by the Devas. Unfortunately, Indra's pantry had run out of  Soma, and his orchard did not have the vine from which the drink was made. Now, this vine grew exclusively in a garden belonging to the Moon, and it was heavily guarded.
To ensure an unending supply of the drink, Indra decided to steal the vine, and a celestial bird was  commissioned to perform the task. In a surgical strike of sorts, the bird succeeded in catching the sentries off-guard and flew away with the vine.
One of the sentries though, recovered quick enough to shoot an arrow at the flying bird. The arrow missed the bird. But, it struck the vine, and one of the leaves from the vine fell to the earth. This leaf grew to be the Palash tree.

I do not know if some kind of a drink is brewed from any part of the Palash tree.....
 For the unfamiliar, here's a picture of the Palash Tree from my surroundings. During late winter - early spring, it lives up to its English name - Flame-of-the-forest.




Ideally, cherry trees require at least a month of very cold weather conditions for flowering. But, they are hardy enough to settle for le...