Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's the time to MANGO

Vijay Thiruvady who conducts the Lalbagh botanical walk in Bangalore and floors his audience with his amazing well researched knowledge on the history of lalbagh botanical gardens and the flora of Bangalore once remarked this….

‘If you think Cricket is what unites us Indians as a country, think again. If there is anything as grand and diverse that us Indians experience that we can uniquely claim as our very own it is our mangoes.’ ( Sorry Vijay .. I may not be quoting you Verbatim but I think I have’nt lost the essence of  what you wanted to convey )
Dussheri, payari, langda, chausa,  badami, pairi, raspuri, haapoos ( alphonso), sindoora, mallika, banganapalli, imampasandu, sugar baby( Sakkara kutty) , malgoa, Totapuri, keshar and the late season entrant Neelam (my favourite) …     

It is a shame I can hardly remember a few varieties.
There are probably thousands of them and that is the one thing that so unites us Indians much more than cricket.

Remember the five day test cricket version with two tea breaks, one lunch break and a rest day in between with an option of win, lose or draw at the end ?
That one we inherited from the English.

It is indeed a far cry from the 3 hour IPL match where the cheer leaders seem to slog ten times harder than the players of the game themselves.
Cricket has evolved over the  decades and the last century to cater to popular needs and primarily for commercial survival.
Like Cricket, Mangoes too have evolved over the decades and the last century.

The neighbourhood mango tree with raw mangoes that do not easily ripen, the wild and sour mangoes, the bruised ones, the ugly looking ones, the squishy ones that can embarass  you when not eaten in privacy, the ones with fibres that can get stuck between your teeth  have all commercially competed with the better strains of hybrid varieties that have evolved through horticultural research over the decades.

It is survival of the fittest and the plants and fruits seem to have magically known this since Post -Darwin days. ( After all Charles Darwin only discovered it .. he did not invent the term)

 It is the sweetest and the ripest that gets eaten by squirrels, monkeys and most importantly homo sapiens. It is their seeds that have the highest probability of being dispersed and thus being propogated. It is therefore that Mangifera Indica, the tree that bears the king of fruits has evolved over the decades to cater to popular human taste as well as commercial instincts.

Lalbagh botanical garden is hosting a Mango mela with more than 30 varieties of manoges organically grown from all over Karnataka  and one from Krishnagiri in Tamilnadu. 
Along with Mangoes there is Jackfruit, arguably the queen of fruits. That it is relegated to the ‘jack’ status among fruits is a grave injustice, but we shall let it pass for now.

Everything from homemade clumsily packaged Jackfruit to commercially sold and therefore neatly packaged Alphonso mangoes is now of sale in the Mango mela at the Lalbagh botanical gardens. 

For all the fuss about alphonso, I have always been partial about Neelam and even Mallika who are not so commercially successful and glamorous like Alphonso.

I have a little grouse about this Alphonso variety from North Karnataka. It may be the same breed and the same DNA strain that the Karnataka farmers have adopted.  But they are not the same as the ones from Konkan. The red manganese rich Konkan soil breeds much aromatic and better Alphonso than the ones from North Karnataka.        
Why don’t the farmers get it ?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My creepy wild forest

I spent this weekend lazing around at home, soaking in the art of doing nothing. In my mental 'to-do' list lingered the long pending dusting, tending to the little balcony garden that was getting wild and reading Fritjof Capra’s, The hidden connections, all in no particular order.

It has been a couple of weeks that Capra's Hidden connections has been besides me on my bed now. 
This one is not one of those unputdownable ones that grips you and engulf you with a passion that cannot stop until you reach the climax and then linger around for a while taking in the little joys of a creative price of work. ( The last I experienced this was a couple of months ago with Amitav Ghosh's 'Sea of Poppies' ) 

Capra is a slow and steady read... that lingers on and on. It is a book you can pick up and flip through any page any chapter, depending upon what takes your fancy and reflect upon it like a cow chewing its own cud.
Some chapters are heavy on me and some are not. It is one of those profound reads that can linger around you if you need a book to put you to sleep.     

When I linger around like that for too long, I get my guilt pangs especially when it is broad daylight and I am still curled up with a book on a day when I do not have to go to work ( read weekend). Today was no different. It was time to get up, atleast to finish those necessary chores like breakfast and then settle down to sip a cup of mint flavoured tea with mint picked up fresh from my little garden .

My humble balcony garden is now getting to be a little wild forest.
My little wild forest  is partial to climbers and creepers. It is not like we do not have plants.  But it is the creepers that seem to thrive. They just creep up from nowhere and climb all over the balcony. I try and tie them connections to creep around, but they seem to follow a pattern on their own. 

Podalangai ( snake gourd) amidst pudina (mint)
There is this seedling that has sprouted in my garden.
The amazing thing about this is that we never planted it.  Sometimes we leave our vegetable waste as compost for the soil in the pots. There were a few seeds that were drying up on one of the pots and it is possible this one flew by or was pollinated by a pigeon or honey bee or any other insect that visits our mini forest and placed it into the pot where we were growing mint ( pudina). It must have been one among millions that was destined to come to life, and sprout. It might flower and then spread its seeds, create more life and then wither away. Who knows ...
Ah … the power that lies in a single seed.
It is amazing to see it all unfold before your eyes.  

Amma, who is a natural in identifying plants,. says this creeper is podalangai. (snake gourd)
It needs lot of climbing space and spreads deep roots.  She is not sure how it will cope up in a tiny shallow pot.  

However I am optimistic. Our earlier success with bitter gourd 
( Karela) makes me look up to podalangai with equal optimism and excitement.

Amma said something about podalangai’s life cycle in tamil that was very profound. 
Apparently the maturity phase of podalangai is like that of little girls. They just suddenly grow up and before you know they have procreated and their youth has withered away.

So true of that journey from girlhood to womanhood. … I am eager to watch it unfold with the Snake gourd creeper in my garden.
Drooping Papaya

Another one of those seeds was that of a papaya.  It sprouted and took a life of its own in a flower pot that would have been smaller than a fully grown papaya fruit. Determined to get it to live and grow, I did the most practical thing that I could have done. Uprooted it from the small flower pot and planted it in a big  gardening bag filled with rich soil nutrients brought from a nearby nursery so that its roots could spread themselves broad and deep  when they grow up. Two days later I am not sure if my decision was a right one.  The little papaya plant has drooped and is not taking to its displacement from the place of its birth very well. Only time will tell if it will live on.  
I wish it does.  In an ecosystem overly partial to creepers and climbers we need diversity.  I do want to see a tall papaya tree flourishing and flowering in my balcony.

Fingers crossed for now.         

 Around September last year, this was a Shankh pushpi creeper that had grown, flowered, propogated plenty of pods of seeds before a white insect epidemic took over and destroyed it along with the Karela 
(Bitter gourd) creeper in our garden who grew up in the same plastic container that had once been a five litre potable bisleri water-can before it got bruised and dirtied to be declared unfit for carrying clean drinkable water. I picked it up for ten bucks from the waste paper mart round the corner. 
Shankh pushpi I ( June -Dec 2012) 
Pods and Seeds of the aging Shankh Pushpi ( dec 2012)

Karela ( Bitter Gourd) harvest Oct 2012

With a heavy heart I uprooted the two creepers and gave them the burial that was akin to two living beings who brought so much joy and happiness ( flowers and vegetables) into our hearts (and stomachs)  as they passed through their life cycles in a span of few months.

Second Generation Shankh Pushpi growing wild  


The bisleri water-can turned plastic flower pot that nourished them had been lying empty for a while. A couple of weeks back, just out of nowhere the hardened stem started sprouting fresh leaves and the creeper is back spreading itself wild all over the balcony albeit in a different direction in which its parent spread itself.

Seeing the second generation of Shank pushpi creeper flower away gives me a feeling of now being something like a bhishma pitamaha ( a veteran ) of the little species of plants in my garden.

I do some dusting around the house to make up for lack of any physical exercise and then spruce up the garden a little bit to evade the guilt of being a couch potato and then curl up to a few more pages of Fritjof Capra.

The lines that I now flip through ring a new meaning and perspective into me….

‘...when  we look at the world around us , we find that we are not thrown  into chaos and randomness but are part of a great order, a grand symphony of life.  Every molecule in our body was once a part of previous bodies – living or non living – and will be a part of future bodies. In this sense , our body will not die but will live on, again and again, because life lives on. We share not only life’s molecules but also its basic principles of organization with the rest of the living world. And since our mind, too, is embodied, our concept and metophors are embedded in the web of life together with our bodies and brains. We belong to the universe, we are at home in it, and this experience of belonging can make our lives profoundly meaningful.’
Page 60 – The Hidden connections - A science for sustainable living – Fritjof Capra -  Harper Collins- 2001
A flower blooms far away from chaos  

Chaos in order

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Flowers amidst the urban jungle

This unusual flower caught our fancy when we went for a walk into the layout this evening.
We asked the man who tends that garden and he said it was called ‘bald lily’.
He allowed us inside his garden to take some up and close pictures of the exotic flower .        


It is the season of Gulmohars. The gulmohars are in full bloom all over at this time of the year.

The bright orange colour of the trees is striking from a distance.  

Somewhere in March it was the season of Cherry Blossom.
In just about a week’s time trees all over Bangalore blossomed and withered away before you knew it.
Around the third week of march , just about it was time for Holi I was doing a lot of drving around since Appa was admitted into the hospital.

What could have been days of extreme stress were lightened up by the amazing sight of these cherry blossom trees planted all along the road. This must have been the foresight of Hindustan unilever about 25 years ago,  who owned a good part of the real estate around Brookfields before it became the concrete jungle that it is today.

I had parked my car underneath a cherry blossom tree and gone into the hospital.
When I came back a couple of hours later , I did not have the heart to drive away my car as it was compeletely showered with the falling flowers from the Cherry blossom trees.

 ‘Etthanai kodi inbam vaithai engal iravaa … ‘ I hummed the song almost involuntarily.
How many millions of little things there are in this world that give you joy….   

Little things that give you joy.   

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Karmanye vadhi karaste ...

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I could not miss out on my Sunday afternoon nap.

However a vague sense of duty kept reminding me of an unfinished task on this day.

Billboards of good looking kannada stars like Ramesh Arvind and Aindrita Ray have been up all over the city reminding its conscentious citizens of their duty to vote.

On my way to work a good looking Ramesh Aravind ( although he now looks a little middle aged) has been beeming out of billboards and starkly reminindg the onlookers that they have no right to complain about the state of affairs if they do not bother to vote.

That is a fair statement. And a compelling one on the conscience of all the globetrotting Information Technology workers who drive the  past  the billboard on their way to work.

So compelling, that I cut short my Sunday afternoon nap, picked up my voter id card and went to the polling booth, braved the long queues to cast my vote.

About fifty meters away from the polling booth, some very helpful volunteers peered through pages of voter id register to get me a chit that identified where I needed to vote and handed it to me very politely reminding me to vote for the BJP.   
I smiled and walked ahead. Another very helpful volunteer reminded me to vote for the congress which was 4th on the serial list of electoral ballot.

The policemen and the special task force appointed by the election commission were constantly on the prowl to identify the canvassers, trouble makers and the overly helpful volunteers and keep them away from the polling booths.

The area around the polling booth which otherwise serves as a non descript  municipal school building had plenty of skodas and BMWs and Honda and Hyundais parked around. There were many who came to vote . This was contrary to my belief that the elite and the middle class do not care to vote.

I tuned in to the evening news on television which announced that there was 62% voter turnout in Karnataka for the legislative assembly elections.

I was one of them. 
I must admit this was the first time I voted.

कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।  

English translation of lines :“You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty.”

Well I am not so selfless ... I have done my duty and I expect a better infrastrucutre , a less corrupt governnance and a lot more in the next five years. ( If my candidate wins !!!!) 

Lessons in Humility at the Golden temple

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