17 December, 2011

Growing Vegetables

There is a belief among farmers - that for best results, seeds of flowering plants should be sown during the period of the waxing moon & seeds of vegetables & fruits, during the period of the waning moon. The same belief holds good for planting cuttings/ saplings of flowers/ vegetables & fruits. Of course, there is no logic or scientific explanation to this - only a psychological comfort that one has begun correctly!

Early summer is the best time to grow vegetables, if one can ensure plenty of water to the plants. But, for most of us, summer is the time for vacations - quite inconvenient to provide constant attention. Early monsoon is also okay, but, the saplings could waste away if heavy rains set in just after sprouting. Of course, the quality of seeds are very important. Sometimes, seeds that are more than a year old don't sprout at all :(

The grower's woes begin right from the moment the seeds are sown - ants simply love them. The organic method is to sprinkle some coarsely ground rice on the seed bed. Ants, you see, prefer rice to vegetable seeds!

Once the seeds sprout, ash, preferably from the hearth, has to be sprinkled liberally. Again, to avoid ants (ash makes it difficult for ants to move about - they avoid 'ashy' zones).

Soon, the sprouts have to be relocated - to bigger beds/ pots/ polythene bags,... Very soon, the saplings are about a foot high and it is time to provide proper, sturdy supports, lots of water, organic nourishment like cow dung/ goat droppings/ groundnut cake,...

Your joy on seeing the flowers will be shared by insects and other assorted pests. Once again, it is time to sprinkle ash/ spray pesticides. Diluted decoctions of the crushed leaves of either neem, marigold or siam weed, diluted urine of cow are some excellent natural pesticides.

More days of regular watering, de-pesting, providing nourishment, and, finally, finally, the fresh, ready-to-use vegetable! Phew! a very tough job! Just imagine how hard it must be for the professionals! In addition, they have to contend with the fickle markets.

Speaking for myself, I lost access to hearth ash, farmyard manure & rustic wisdom ever since my friend Guttappajja passed away. Now, I make do with kitchen waste and commercially available organic manure. For supports, I place the pots near existing sturdy shrubs. Some trial & error methods with what I know... all this, simply for the joy of plucking fresh vegetables from my own back yard - at least, once in a while!

Thankfully, not all vegetables are fussy. Some, like the Malabar spinach (basaLe) and the Ivy gourd (tonDekai) are okay if one can make provisions for plenty of water and sun light. But, the prize for the most non-fussy vegetable must go to the variety of spinach in the pic, locally known as 'Nela BasaLe'. It thrives even when totally ignored!!

Growing vegetables is often equated to raising kids - for the amount of care and attention that's required. Between the two, I prefer kids - any day!!

13 November, 2011

"Second Self" is two!

Alter Idem turns two today :)

For no particular reason, I began by sharing a favourite short story.

While thinking of a post to mark the first b'day, I decided to start a tradition - of sharing short stories on Alter Idem's b'days - preferably, stories that have been with me for ages after I have read them.

Here's Annayya's story....set, I think, in the 1950s-60s.

Annayya, a Brahmin from Mysore, goes to the US for higher studies. He settles down well to the American way of life, food habits,..... Often, Annayya's lady-friends ask him questions about Hinduism and to be better equipped, he begins to read books on Hinduism! Soon, he develops a genuine interest and spends a lot of his free time in the library - reading books on Hinduism.

One day, Annayya chances upon a newly published book by an American, on customs and rituals among Hindus. He flips through the pages - references to verses from ancient texts, photographs, detailed descriptions of the various customs and rituals of several castes,....at first glance, this book is easily the best one on Hindu culture that Annayya has come across & he is totally in awe of the white man's methodical approach to the subject.

While turning pages, Annayya chances upon the cremation rituals for men belonging to the Brahmin community, with step by step pictorial details. At college and away from home, he has never witnessed/ participated in the funeral rites of family members. Since he has only heard about the elaborate procedures, Annayya decides to check out the chapter. Reading through the pre-cremation rites, he takes a look at the picture of the actual cremation. Near the funereal pyre is a man with tonsured head who looks a lot like his cousin.

To verify, Annayya turns to the foreword. Here, the author has thanked Mr.Cousin - for allowing to take photographs of the various Brahminical rituals like naming ceremony, thread ceremony,.... during the author's two year stay in Mysore.
Annayya goes through other pictures and recognises family members/ neighbours in most of them. Admiration for Mr.Author soon changes to irritation towards Mr.Cousin - for allowing the intrusion into family functions.

With horror, Annayya also realises that a male member of the family is no more. Who?? Mr.Cousin's tonsured head could only mean one person......

On impulse, Annayya checks the chapter on 'Widowhood'.

Murderous rage towards Mr.Cousin welling up within him, Annayya is left gaping - at the portrait picture of a 'Hindu widow' - clean shaven head half covered by her sari - his mother ......

I had read this poignant story by Mr.A.K.Ramanujan in an anthology of Kannada short stories - a few monsoons ago. I had thought that it was quite an eerie story. Also, people who went abroad those days must have been so disconnected from their family members in India. I guess, many a time, letters - the only means of communication- would get lost :(

24 October, 2011

Travellers' Woes

You can classify travellers in these parts into two main categories, i) the indifferent local - born and brought up here, he takes his green surroundings for granted.
ii) the city dweller aka the tourist traveller- for him, every step is a moment to be clicked and captured.

And then, there is the 'in between i) & ii)' traveller like yours truly! As the number of years that I have lived here is inching closer to my number of years in big city, I'm neither indifferent to nature, nor do I gush over every other landscape.

Take this scene for example ....

The local traveller is speeding on his tractor. While the tourist traveller may have spent his few moments behind the tractor gaping at the unusual vehicle, I spent my few moments noticing the verse on the trailer!
Hudugiya hinde hodre goLu
Nanna hinde bandre dhooL

Loosely translated, it means
'Follow a girl, woe.
Follow me, dust'

Flawed rhyming, wrong punctuation and one of those mean- to- women things!
Well...it was a narrow stretch. And, for a good 5-7 minutes, we were the dust-receiving followers. At least, we had the option to shut out the dust!
As we overtook the tractor, I wished I had a marker, a sheet of paper and cello tape. The time too! To write & paste on the rear window......

Eega nimage dhooLu,
dhooLininda, goLu
Now... dust to you,
and, woe, due to dust.

05 October, 2011

The Umbrella Repairer

Over there! That man in the lungi! He is the umbrella repairer! A nomadic umbrella repairer, in fact! His dress, his paraphernalia and his sudden appearance in mid-June....make me wonder if he has hopped out of an R.K.Narayan book!

Calling out 'Koday repayri? ' (Umbrellas for repair?), he walks along the length and breadth of the town and repairs umbrellas at his client's door step, except, on market days. On this day, his clients come to him. You'll find him near the bus stand, the busiest part of the town on market days.

Now, if you live in the Malnad, the brolly is one of your most important accessories for at least three months. Mid-June to mid-September, everyone lugs one around. Losing/ misplacing umbrellas is a common occurrence.

When regularly used, umbrellas are prone to some common complaints. The most common one is of the cloth/ spokes slipping off at joints - such a nuisance!

A simple looking problem, but, try fixing it! Within no time, you'll realise that it is a job that is best left to an expert! No wonder, the umbrella repairer's a professional in great demand during these three months!

It's now October - the rains have almost disappeared. The umbrella repairer has disappeared too! Maybe, he has another vocation during the dry months. Or, maybe, he does live inside an R.K.Narayan book!!

09 September, 2011

Darshan views

Twice, on Alter Idem, I have written about my dates with Kannada movies - here and here.

Well! Music class is quite irregular now and the only silver lining is that I don't have to suffer jhalaks of Kannada movies.

Today, the Kannada news channels were going on and on about the arrest of 'Sandalwood' actor 'Challenging star Darshan'- for abusing his wife of 7 years or so. The actor has been sent to jail - at least for the weekend and, in a strange way, I'm pleased!

You'll understand me when I tell you why! On 4 occasions, I have suffered the same bits of the same 'Darshan movie'. No doubt, the 'bus fellows' switch on the movie at the same vantage point :/

On all 4 occasions, I sat down to a very heavy dose of violence as Darshan, playing the top cop of a small town takes on the local goons. Later, at home, he receives a call from his amma - she has chosen a bahu. With a 'your choice is my choice', cop cuts the call- to attend to official duties (more dishum-dishum).

Meanwhile, the phoren - educated bride-to-be tells her scandalised parents that she wants to spend some time with the man they have chosen for her and only then decide whether she wants to marry him or not. She also tells them that she is not 'that' type of a girl and has retained her cultural values inspite of her longish stay in a phoren land....

One day, cop comes home, and, hey! there's a new chatterbox naukraani there! He accepts her vague explanations about her presence. More irritating chatter through which naukraani alias bride-to-be, offers gutkha, cigarettes & booze and is super-thrilled to learn that our cop doesn't touch any of these.....

Here, it was time for me to get off... probably, I narrowly missed a dream sequence/ song :)

From the news reports, Darshan's movies come across as movies with loads of violence. I guess, some of his screen culture has seeped into his life off-screen. And, also, into the lives of his fans :(

How else can one justify the fans' mindless acts of stone-pelting, shouting abuses,.... when they heard about their idol's arrest?

28 August, 2011

Glorious! Superb!

This flower, Glory Lily, blooms around Ganesh Chaturthi. It is locally known as Gowri Hoovu (Gowri flower).

I was under the impression that this plant was a weed. We didn't plant it and I don't know how it came to be there. I noticed the plant about 2-3 years ago, when it bloomed for the first time. Since the flower is so unique, I decided to keep the plant.

Today's edition of the local newspaper carried an article on the flower. Gowri hoovu is called so, because, it is considered to be a special offering to the Goddess on the day of Gowri pooja (Ganesh Chaturthi eve, usually). What tickled me was the botanical name - Gloriosa superba . According to the article, the gora scientists exclaimed 'Glorious! Superb!' when they saw the flowers for the first time and decided to name the flower so!!

This tickled me so much that I decided to google it up. I couldn't locate the last bit of information ... maybe, it is a tall tale!!

However, I came across some other interesting bits. This plant, inspite of being poisonous, has several medicinal uses. And, quite surprisingly, it is a plant that is fighting for survival (must take care to preserve the one in our garden).

Another bit of news is that it is the national flower of Zimbabwe and the state flower of our neighbour- Tamil Nadu!
That's a little odd! Because, the flowers are red & yellow- the only two colours in Karnataka's flag ;)

12 August, 2011

Some Idle Thoughts

This hoarding adorns the compound wall of our Taluk Office, also known as 'Mini Vidhana Soudha'.

It's a hoarding that cannot be missed. That pic, of course, was taken during the 'World Kannada meet' in Belgaum in March 2011. The hoarding tells us that -
i)The meet was successful thanks to enthusiastic participation by lakhs of Kannadigas,
ii) The meet was hailed by dignitaries from all over the world and,
iii) The meet provided an opportunity to 1000s of national & international artistes to showcase their talents.

As far as I know, Taluk offices are places for files & records of land surveys, births, deaths,.... why this particular hoarding HERE? Yaake? Yaake? Yaake?

Poor Anil Kumble! Half hidden thanks to that handfan - like protrusion from Mr.Y's turban! Now, if he was seated next to Mr.Y...... he would have made the pcs in Kannada!

But, would anybody bother to take a second look at the hoarding if AK/ some colleague of Mr.Y's was sitting next to him? Would I have bothered to take a pic & write about it...inspite of the happy contents in the message?

I don't think so!

08 August, 2011

Monsoon Miseries

Every year, every child I know here prays for heavy rains. And, on most years, the rain Gods answer the collective prayers!

About 40-50% of the school kids here have to cross streams & travel through forests & plantations, to reach school. The chances of blocked roads due to fallen trees and flash floods in streams are very high during the peak monsoon. Fearing stranded children, the Block Education Office declares 2-3 days' holidays to schools whenever there is a non-stop, heavy downpour for 3-4 days....now you know why our children pray!

Quite magically, the intensity of the rain decreases from Day 1 of the holidays ... God letting us know on whose side He is !

As it is, in these parts, monsoon is non-stop, steady rain for 100+ days. Some of my friends, in their 80s, tell me that the monsoon now is nothing compared to the monsoon of their youth! They mean that back then, the rains were heavier and lasted for about 150 days!

The rains may not be the same, but, the woes brought about by them don't seem to have changed at all. The woes that I'm about to list are the same woes that my elderly friends complain about.... Getting up in the morning, managing the kid, who frequently has the 'I - don't - feel - like - going - to - school - today - :'( ' mood, extremely erratic power supply, clothes that seem to be perpetually wet, molt and a musty odour that clings to upholstery, blankets & clothes, slush, puddles & slippery pathways, chills, ills,.....

Then, there are the various bugs, slugs, frogs, insects, snakes & other fellow creatures who seek shelter in your home. And then, there are family members - who lock themselves up and refuse to have anything to do with chasing these unwanted guests - this last woe seems to be exclusively mine :(

Of course, all these woes seem negligible when we see/ hear about the water shortage woes faced by people elsewhere, sometimes, as early as Jan - Feb.
Thank rains! For not allowing us to know the meaning of the term 'water shortage'!
Touch wood!!!

18 July, 2011

Priceless Discovery

Lakkinakoppa is a very tiny hamlet - about 10-15 km from Shimoga on the
Shimoga- NR Pura- Koppa road. This deserted, aesthetic building in Lakkinakoppa had always made us wonder - 'Doesn't look like a house...what could it be?'

Forever in a hurry, we had left it at that...until that afternoon 2-3 years ago. That day, we had plenty of time! Slowing down, we realised that the building was a museum called Amulya Shodha.
Amulya means 'valuable'/ 'priceless' & Shodha means 'discovery'.

Built on the boundary of a beautiful arecanut plantation and surrounded by a well maintained garden, Amulya Shodha is a private museum belonging to retired history professor, Mr.H.Khandoba Rao.

We decided to check it out and were taken aback when the caretaker told us that entry was free! What we saw inside was a mind boggling collection by a single individual - of pots, pans, cutlery, utensils, lamps, weapons, musical instruments, indoor games, clothes, coins, jewellery, wine bottles,...... all belonging to a different era, all arranged in an orderly manner and maintained well. Very impressive! Of course, the first thing that impresses is the fact that someone has actually set up a museum in a remote region and is maintaining it well without help from other sources.

It didn't seem okay to experience so much of history without contributing anything to the museum's upkeep. Writing so in the book kept for visitors' remarks, we bought a book - naaNya (Coins) by Mr.Khandoba Rao that was on sale. Mr.Rao is an expert on coins. That explains the huge collection of coins & currencies - belonging to various nations & civilisations!

A brochure that came with the book informed us that the sole purpose of this venture was to preserve the representatives of a bygone era for the younger generation. How noble!

The visit to this museum came back to me when it was featured in the 'Plan your weekend' column of the newspaper. Amulya Shodha was recommended as 'Must see' on the way to the Bhadra Dam at Lakkavalli.

I agree! I agree!

05 July, 2011


Soon, the monsoon will turn heavier here & most of us will have nothing much to do outdoors. Time to catch up with our reading/ writing/ art/ needlework...... Time to play indoor games too. Computer games have already phased out board games like chess, scrabble & ludo, carrom, cards,.... And, to think that not so long ago, these games were blamed for phasing out the traditional indoor games like chennemaNe!

ChennemaNe is popularly thought to be a traditional game of the 'rain-rich' Malnad & coastal K'taka. But, it is not so. It is known in the west as Mancala and is believed to have come to coastal K'taka from Egypt (sea trade links) many, many centuries ago..... so long ago that we believe that we invented this game!! Actually, Chenne is the local name for a tiny, red seed (popularly used to play this game) & maNe means plank/ board.
I won't be surprised if this game is known elsewhere in the country, by other names, of course!

To play chennemaNe, you'll need this plank with 14 + 2 pits, 56 tiny seeds (4 in each small pit), and, of course, 2 players (actually, 1 can play for 2 too!).

I know one version of this game. In this, player 1 has to pick up the seeds from any one pit on his side. Starting from the adjacent pit and proceeding anti-clockwise, he has to drop 1 seed into each pit. At the 5th pit, he has to pick up the seeds and carry on. Soon, he'll end at a pit and find the adjacent pit to be empty. He wins the seeds in the pit next to the empty pit (to be placed at the 'home pit' to his right). It's now player 2's turn. He picks up the seeds from any pit on his side and plays and wins seeds like player 1. When all the seeds are won, the player with the most is the winner.

Well, that's only Round 1 ! The game can be continued. The loser plays with lesser seeds & pits and the winner has extra seeds at home. Played this way, it can be a never ending, challenging game!

I know, it sounds like a simple game, but, it's not! Picking the right pit to win the maximum number of seeds requires some mathematical skills... something that you realise and learn as you play the game!

You'll find very artistic planks in museums and in ancient households. The one that I have posted here is the one at dad's - hand-made by my mother. Well...she wanted to play this game, and, back then (during my school days), B'lore did not have sports shops selling traditional games. Hunting for an idle carpenter & explaining this board to him would have been a very tiresome task. My mother made her own board instead, with some available plank! Scale, compass, a sharp knife and emery paper were her only tools.

You know, my mother would have turned 60 this month. We lost her - a few weeks before her 53rd b'day, and, this particular chennemaNe board, to us, is one of the reminders of her skills & spirits.

27 June, 2011

The Silent Companion

My mother was the only person in the family who could and would tolerate P. The rest of us would acknowledge his presence and then, go about our ways.

P, in his early 20s then, belonged to my parents' hometown near Kasargod. He had come to B'lore in search of employment. He ended up as a peddler - of different products at different times. If it was pure honey at one time, it was banana chips, kokum products, tickets to cultural events (that nobody would attend),.... at other times. Since he would refuse to leave until she bought, my mother ended up being P's permanent customer :(

It was when P was selling leather bags that my mother bought this brown bag.

I thought that it looked more like a bus conductor's bag than a college girl's! And so, for a long time, the bag stayed in a corner, unused.

I don't remember when & why I used the bag for the first time, but, once I discovered the convenience of the multi compartments, the bag became my permanent accessory! If I had to change bags, I'd have had to transfer such a lot of 'must have' things that I simply stopped changing bags. Anyway, it would go with most of my clothes.....

After many years of regular use, the bag began to look a little haggard & dog-eared at the edges. I would feel embarassed if caught in its company (feeling a little bad about admitting this one!). I finally stopped taking it out about 6-7 years ago. And, I don't have the inclination to throw it away..... it now serves as a container for trivia & stuff that mean a lot to me.

Recently, I was sorting out some papers and came across some of my kid's earliest scribblings. While keeping them safely in my brown bag, I couldn't help thinking that, by silently sharing so much of my life, this bag was also doubling up as a close companion!!

17 June, 2011

TambuLi thoughts

TambuLi is a side dish - unique to the cuisine of certain communities in Karnataka. It is very easy to prepare and is believed to be a digestive restorative. All tambuLis follow a similar recipe - grinding some part of a plant (main ingredient) with coconut. Adding salt & buttermilk completes the cooking. It is a bland dish and chilli/ pepper, if used, is more for the aroma than for the spiciness. Depending on the main ingredient, one either boils the tambuLi or serves it cold. Seasoning is optional.

When it comes to whipping a tambuLi out of any plant on earth, the prize must undoubtedly go to the women of the Havyaka community - I mean the women of a bygone generation, of course! The tambuLi range is so vast that the main ingredient could be anything from fresh ginger to dried amla to pickled lime, mango,... to tender leaves of the guava, pomegranate,... to mature leaves of herbs like Brahmi, Doddapatre,... to dried rinds of orange, pomegranate,....Phew!!

Take this flower for example.

This flower/ plant is called KuTaja (koDagasana in the Havyaka dialect). The tambuLi out of the dried flowers is supposed to be a very effective controller of the 'Delhi belly'.
Wow! Considering that this plant flowers for about 15-20 days, once a year during summer, who first thought of this tambuLi?

While I was checking out this plant bordering our hedge, a farm hand passed by. He went on to volunteer that the resulting liquid from chewing the bark (very bitter) could cure snake bites.. he'd tried it successfully on his snake-bitten cow!
Wow! Wow! Who had the presence of mind to come up with this one first?? When bitten by a snake, to actually tear out the bark of a nearby plant, chew it and spit it on the bite!

Another passerby, listening in, said that the water in which fresh flowers were soaked for some time was a good soothener for tired eyes!

Wow! 3 different 'medicines' from the same plant! For a fleeting moment, I wonder if I should be showing interest in other wild plants...free classes from passersby would equip me with enough information to be a 'home-remedy specialist'!!

And then, there was this Kannada thriller by Mr.K.N.Ganeshaiah that I had read last year. In it, an American pharmaceutical company assigns two separate, unconnected groups of Indian scientists to conduct research. Their job is to inject virus strains on monkeys and the Jarawa tribals of the Andaman islands respectively. The scientists then had to follow and record the reactions to the feverish symptoms - what leaves/plant parts were consumed for relief,.... and send the report to the pharma company. The ulterior motive - of course, to patent the cures... It was a book that had left me feeling quite uncomfortable.

But, could that be it?? Could it be that we first learnt self-medication from the monkeys??? If so, who taught the monkeys??? ..... a never ending series of questions!! :)

P.S. To make Kutaja TambuLi : Fry about 10-12 sun-dried flowers and 1 red chilli in ghee . Grind this with about 1 cup of coconut gratings and some water. Add about half a cup of buttermilk & salt to taste. Dilute to required consistency and boil thoroughly. Season with mustard seeds and curry leaves if you want to. Serve with rice.

03 June, 2011

The First Novel

If a kid pesters you with 'Say sorry', you can be very sure that he/she will retort with something that rhymes with 'sorry'. If the kid is from Mangalore, the retort is sure to be 'Hampankatte Byaari' ( Elsewhere in K'taka, the retort will be 'One plate poori' ) !

Hampankatta (katte in local lingo) has been one of M'lore's business localities for centuries. Byaari is the local Muslim tradesman...a descendant of the 12th-13th century Middle East trader who settled down.

This bit of nonsense - 'Sorry....Hampankatte Byaari' - comes to me every time I pass by Hampankatta! And, that hot afternoon in May was no different. Thinking of HB & other things, I was walking down the main street. Huge buildings on either side of the road had barred Mr.Sunshine... making the whole experience of walking on a summer afternoon very eerie!

Suddenly, this very attractive cover on a book-shop window caught my attention.

Durgesh Nandini (d/o the lord of the fort) by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya --- an author I'd read and liked before. Turning over, I read the opening line...'The first novel in Indian literature'
Really?! I HAD to read this!

Written nearly 150 years ago, Durgesh Nandini has been translated into English from the original Bengali by several people. This version is by Arunava Sinha.

'The Chieftain's Daughter' - as the title has been translated - is a triangular love story set in the Bengal - Orissa region of the Mughal era ... Akbar's era, to be precise. It is romance and drama with a dash of history!

The chieftain's daughter falls in love with the prince of the enemy camp. Prince is captured by a second enemy. Wounded, he is revived by the second enemy's daughter - and, guess what? She falls for him too! Wow! some Prince Charming here!
Quite a lot of sub-plots and surprises later, things end neatly... of course, not happily for everyone involved. The unhappy, thankfully, accept their situations matter-of-factly and move on.

Like in other Bankimda books, women here have a strong presence. They're free spirited and independent in thoughts and deeds. Wonder if women in the 16th century really had that freedom!

You know, one of the two women in love is bold enough to write a letter to the prince. When the ink smudges due to fallen tears, she tears up the sheet and takes a fresh one! I'm not at all sure if 'ink' & 'sheet', that too in the women's quarters, were known in the Bengal-Orissa of the 16th century. Also, if a Pathan princess could write in a language that could be understood by a Rajput prince!

On the other hand, it could be some local stuff that had to be translated as 'ink', 'sheet'... and, as for the language issue, lets assume that our Prince Charming/ Pathan Princess were linguists!

Actually, the theme of Durgesh Nandini has been replicated several times in several stories/ movies. Inspite of that, there is a certain charm to the story... maybe, the translator has quite succeeded in bringing out the flamboyant prose that Bankimda is well known for.

It is a book that's witty and fast paced enough to quell the misery and gloom caused by pre-monsoon thunder storms. Read it if you don't mind something that has been written by and for a different generation.

26 May, 2011

Things of Beauty

'Go away now..come back when you are a butterfly'.... in his books,
Ruskin Bond throws out caterpillars from his room with these words. My exact sentiments!!

It is so magical that an itchy, creepy, crawly thing like a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly after a few days inside a cocoon. That's what's called 'beauty sleep', I guess :)

Born and brought up in Bangalore, I was quite indifferent to nature. Now, living in the most beautiful Malnad part of Chikmagalur, I'm surrounded by nature on all sides... I only have to look out of an open window to see these fascinating creatures flitting and fluttering by - seemingly careless, while performing the duties assigned to them by nature.

Butterflies love the lantana flowers and sunshine. Infact, lantana makes up for 50-60% of the plants in a butterfly park. Once the rains arrive, the butterflies disappear - to goodness knows where! Old timers here, in the Malnad, missed the butterflies so much during the 4-6 months of rain, that they called this variety of 'monsoon rose', ChiTTe gulaabi (Butterfly rose)

North East India is supposed to be a haven for rare butterflies. Often, one reads about the rampant smuggling of butterflies from Sikkim, etc. Now, what does one do with dead butterflies?? Well...they are chemically treated, mounted and framed. Such pieces are touted as great things to adorn the walls of well decorated homes. A recent trend is to wear such butterflies as pendants, rings,... :(

Huh!! the ideas that the human mind can come up with!!

Come to think of it, this one, resting on a Canna plant will make a great brooch!

Not for me, though! I like to let my fellow creatures be....taking a pic is the closest that I can ever come to catching a butterfly!

18 May, 2011

The Town Crier

Come summer, and its time for the annual car festivals (Jaatre) at most temples in Karnataka. It is also the only time when an unusual professional in our town gets to exercise his vocal chords...the town crier.

On some days in summer, this man walks along the length and breadth of the town - beating his drum and shouting out the Jaatre notifications in between. He is probably meeting the ritualistic needs of some culture. I feel so, because, even in a small town like ours, for most public announcements, he has been replaced by loudspeakers and ads on the local TV channel.

Once upon a time, a town crier must have been a very important professional all over the world - the only advertising medium! His distinct drumbeat would have made everyone sit up and listen to him. He was probably entertained with refreshments on any veranda he chose to stop by after those long, tiring hours in the sun....

The town crier may now be extinct, but , we still use this expression when one is asked to keep a secret...'Don't tom-tom it to the whole world' (Tom-tom is the name of the town crier's drum).

Did I say extinct? Wait a minute! I don't think so!! I sometimes feel that his tribe has increased! Didn't get me???
Don't you think that in a stange way, we're all town criers (global town criers, actually!!!) ..... thanks to networking sites, blogs, etc!

19 April, 2011

Twilight Zone

I'm quite addicted to my evening walk. My regular route takes me along the lane that leads only to the temple.
One rainy evening long ago, I fell for this landscape, and, ever since, I have been a regular on this route.
Earlier, I used to joke that armed with a stick and a whistle, I could replace the beat police :) .... only, there is no such creature called 'beat police' here! And, I'm sure... at 6-6.30ish in the evening, he doesn't exist anywhere!

Of late, a change in another part of my beat has been catching my attention... the 200m stretch on either side of the temple. What was once a haven for weeds now looks like this -

No fancy plants here, only hardy, flowering shrubs, but, looked after well.

When I ran into the manager of the temple the other day, I complimented him on the nice garden. The manager said that it was thanks to the latest inmate of Jeevan Sandhya, the old age home run by the temple and pointed to an old, lanky man.

Oh! The 'sky gazer'! I see him every other day...often alone, sitting on the edge of the culvert and looking vacantly at the horizon....so, he was the magician!
The next time I passed by him, I complimented him for his good work. He smiled, namaste d as if to say 'Thank you' and said that he watered the plants twice a day and spent most of his time pulling out weeds, loosening soil,....
After that, we didn't know what to talk to each other. I carried on with my walk.

The man was on my mind till I reached home. He seemed to be in his late sixties.... that's about as old as my dad. His dress and his Kannada accent told me that he was from the Belgaum parts of K'taka. What could have displaced him by about 500-600 km from home? Could it be that someone who's looking after a garden has no one to look after him?

Well...whatever his story, I like the way he is dealing with the evening of his life...God bless him.

25 March, 2011

Queen of Summer

Bougainvillea!! Shrubs that add a lot of colour to the summer months! A native of South America, the bougainvillea is one plant that has really taken to the Indian climate.

Strictly speaking, the 'flower' is the small, white, well...flower- like thing you see in the picture. The surrounding bigger petal-like thing is some kind of a leaf variation. During summer, when the rest of the plants demand water, the bougainvillea shuns water. Excess watering encourages the green foliage. So, during the monsoon months here, this plant is just an ordinary, thorny shrub. There are some varieties with dual coloured leaves for such times...they look ornamental even when not in bloom (unfortunately, none in my collection).

Here's another beautiful bougainvillea .... where the flowers aren't visible.

One nice thing about the bougainvillea is that it can be grown in pots and trained to nice shapes. Since the plants are very hardy, available in 40-50 different types and resistant to pests, they are popular among gardeners and landscapists. Pruned bougainvillea in well maintained gardens look very aesthetic.

Speaking for our garden, our very modest collection of 5-6 colours also serve as a hedge....so, we have allowed them to be a little reckless! Even so, they look beautiful!

I remember reading about some botanical institute in the country (in Lucknow, I think... not so sure) where different types of bougainvillea are evolved and released for landscaping/ gardening purposes. You know someone actually names them too! I remember a couple of odd names..... 'Thimma', 'Wajid Ali Shah',....
One nice name I remember is 'Shubhra'.... for the white bougainvillea :)

18 March, 2011

Cuckoo, Cuckoo

These days, I wake up...no,.. am woken up... at 5 - 5.15 in the morning...by the cuckoos. Such noisy birds! I'm sure, all the poets who praise the cuckoo's 'melodious' voice have never had to live near them! Or, maybe, they're sound sleepers!!

You know, the cries of the male and the female cuckoo are different. While the male's is the extended 'koo....ooo' (the celebrated cry!), the female's is a quick, curt, 'kukukukuk...'. And, though you can hear them, it is very difficult to catch sight of these elusive birds, especially the female. And, they are birds that seem to stick to a regular routine - a sort of a time table. Maybe, that's why, the clock makers decided to make a 'cuckoo clock' instead of a 'parrot clock, 'sparrow clock',... :)

Every year, during Feb-March, around 8.00- 8.30 a.m., I see them from our kitchen window... having a breakfast of chikoo fruits from our neighbour's tree! I like to watch them while I'm cooking our breakfast (no, I don't burn ours in the process!).

Slightly bigger than the crow, the all black male has striking red eyes. The female, of the same size, is a dull shade of spotted brown with brown and white striped feathers and the same red eyes as the male. Very neatly, they open their respective fruits, have their fill and fly away. What remains, is hogged through the day by the squirrels, smaller birds, insects,...

All my attempts to take a picture of the cuckoos have flopped since they are very sensitive to human movements. I have given up trying. But, here's a bulbul feeding on the remains...

It is the nesting season for birds...and, I simply love the sight of the birds moving around busily - carrying twigs, dry grass,... for building their nests. The cuckoos supposedly don't take time off from their singing for mundane activities like building nests. They are believed to encroach on the poor crow's shabby nest.

There's probably some truth to this belief. You know, crows chasing cuckoos is a common sight during the nesting season. Curiously, it is the male cuckoo that the crow seems to be chasing away!! So.... is this their ploy?? Maa cuckoo uses the crow's nest while Paa cuckoo diverts the crow?

Cuckoos are believed to be bad at parenting too. And, since this crows - chasing -cuckoos behaviour carries on for a few weeks, I have even wondered if the cuckoos conduct routine checks on the eggs/ chicks.
Now, that's so unlike the other definition of 'cuckoo' !!

22 February, 2011

Lotus, Rose

Ask anyone about his/ her favourite flower and 90-95% of the time, the answer will be 'Rose'!
Roses are among my favourite flowers too. Agreed, they don't last as long, but, I prefer the hardy, aromatic 'local' varieties to the hybrid ones.
The 'Taavare Gulaabi' is one such non-hybrid rose. Taavare is 'lotus' & Gulaabi, 'rose'.
I won't say 'Well done!' if you get the origins of the name right, but, if you still haven't got it, check out this lotus at a lake nearby...

04 February, 2011

Remembering an old friend

Brr...it's co--ld...makes me wonder if this is global cooling!! My friend, Guttappajja (Grandpa Guttappa) would have predicted a good monsoon for the coming season. You know, according to local wisdom, if the winter is co---ld, the following monsoon will be heav---y. Mild winter = low rainfall.

The weather used to be Guttappajja's favourite topic. Not surprising, because, he was a farm hand.. and, the weather was THE deciding factor for all his works. When I knew him, Guttappajja had retired from active farm work. He would spend his mornings idling here and there. Some times, around mid-morning, he would drop in and do some gardening works at his discretion - pulling out weeds, loosening the soil around plants, providing supports to weak plants,...

After about half an hour, he would call me and that would be my cue - to provide some breakfast and tea/ buttermilk. The first time, I had offered him money for his work, and, he had refused...he had even snubbed me! Obviously, I had offended him. After that, we never talked about money.

While eating, Guttappajja would talk to me - about the weather, gardening tips, town gossip, his family,... Having spent a life time as a farm hand, he knew everything about growing plants - such a BIG help for a novice like me, especially with the kitchen garden (must share those simple, organic tips some time). After eating, Guttappajja would abruptly leave..to smoke a beedi perhaps, and I wouldn't see him again that day!

Guttappajja had poor vision due to old age and if I realised that he was pulling out weeds, I would rush out and linger around...just to make sure that he wouldn't pull out the ornamental plants- he didn't care about them!
He would always chide me- 'No fruits, no flowers.. why do you want them!'

Well... a few years ago, Guttappajja passed away - peacefully, in his sleep. In fact, just 2 days before his death, he had loosened the soil around some of the plants here :(

Sometimes, just like that, I remember Guttappajja and his mostly one-sided conversations with me.
Last evening, I had noticed that the bamboo plants are in bloom. According to another bit of traditional wisdom, flowering of the bamboo implies drought. Must wait and watch... and form my own theory :)
Every time I see Guttappajja's college-going grand kids, I'm reminded of how he used to criticise his sons (farm hands) for 'wasting' money by sending their children to schools.
But, it is when I see vegetables like this in the garden that I think of him the most.

He wouldn't have allowed this to happen :(

26 January, 2011

Janam Din

I complete 2 scores today :) It was wonderful to receive so many wishes, and, also wish the other three 'same b'day' people I know.

My day began with a phone call from my 4 year old nephew, Milind, and I couldn't have asked for a more entertaining start....

Milind (very chirpy & cheerful) : Happy, b'day, Soumya doddamma!

Me (equally chirpy & cheerful) : Thank you, Milind.

Milind (very musically) : What sweet?

Me (equally musically) : No sweet.

Milind (very musically) : What cake?

Me (equally musically) : No cake.

A very panicky & alarmed Milind to those around him : She's saying 'No sweet, no cake', She's saying 'No sweet, no cake',....(about 4-5 times)

At this point, his big sister pulled the phone from him and asked me: Not even Jamoon?

Me (trying not to laugh): No

Niece (without much cheer): Okay..happy b'day...Milind wants to talk to you.

Milind (hopefully): Do you have chips?

Me: Yes.

Milind (relieved): What chips?

Me: Banana chips.

Milind (very relieved): Hahn! Have a nice day!

Maybe, he liked the thought of me eating chips thro' the day :D :D


It's also 'Republic Day'. Kids & teachers of all the local schools, officials, interested public,.. gather at a common venue for the celebrations. The kids of about 4-5 schools have to pass in front of home to reach the main parade ground. I like to see the marchers, slogan-shouters, school bands,.... In fact, their enthusiasm inspite of the morning chill, is quite contagious! I always rush out to see them, and, I even know the regular slogans...

'India... Zindabad' , 'Bharat Maata ki...Jai', 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star.... India is my sooper star', 'Ene barali (come what may) ...... oggattirali (let's stay united)', 'Shaanti (peace) .... Shistu (discipline)'.

While all the above are quite sober, this one never fails to tickle me.. three times an year... 'Namma, nimma taatha (grandpa to you & me).... Gaandhee taatha (Grandpa Gandhi) :D ... Looking forward to I-day, now!


Well...the day didn't progress as cheerfully...

We had innumerable power cuts - prompting me to work (yes!!) for some time.

A speeding bus killed a young cow right in front of the gate :(

To cap it all, the plumber who was supposed to come 2 days ago, called up to say that he would come in the evening. He didn't specify the time and, I spent my evening waiting for him...

Well! I decided to write this while waiting for the plumber.

And, oh! I also ate chips while writing :D

15 January, 2011

Going for Jack

Yesterday, our family friend sent me a link..... http://panasamwonders.blogspot.com.
It's a blog dedicated to the jack fruit.

The jack season is round the corner. Soon, households in the Malnad, Udupi, Mangalore, Kerala,.... will be making their favourite jack fruit dishes. First, tender jackfruit palya . Later on, dosa , varieties of dishes, curries, chips,... And, finally, the ripe fruit - as itself, and, in dosa, idli, payasam,... Alongside, the raw fruit will be preserved in brine and as papad. The ripe fruit will also be preserved as jam, papad,...

With so many time tested recipes, it's not surprising that there is such a huge demand for processed jack fruit, both, within the country and abroad. The farming community in India has woken up to this demand. Though in its infancy, the processing/ marketing industry is rapidly growing thanks to the efforts of a group of committed people - through jackfruit melas, print media, blogs,...

Not exactly my favourite fruit. But, I support the view that what is popular and grows abundantly without extra care/ investment should be marketed - to supplement the agriculturist's income.

Here's wishing the cause well... :)

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!!...