Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Remains of That Day

Nature never fails to surprise you and especially when you least expect it. So it was for me the other day. 
But i wish i had done enough with the surprise to share it. Like capturing the surprise in my cyber-shot for memory sakes owing to the very transitory nature of the sight.
But that's one typical attitude with commoners like me and many a times the spectacular sight just stays captured in the memory. To be explained animatedly to hapless victims like friends or family who are careless enough to show the slightest interest.
If not,  then what better way than to blog about it.

The surprise had vanished and what remained was just the remains and it looked good enough but then not the actual thing.

i had missed the sight at first. Because the way the pot was hung and blame it on photrotropism or my hurried self,  i missed noticing the spectacular beauty at first. In fact when i picked up the grass like clump from the nursery i was more enchanted with the ornamental aspect and had no clues about it’s flowering or anything else what to talk of even it's name. The rich shiny green with the blades looking much more lush than common ornamental grass. The aesthetic appeal of the green clump as it sprung from the clay pot was what attracted me towards buying it and placing it next to the showy spider grass in the balcony of my humble flat.

And then i was surprised one fine morning when in an attempt to clean the hanging pot of the dried sprigs/wisps hanging untidily at the fringes of the planter,  i happened to see the most innocent beauty conversing happily with the sun. Now i got too carried away and just simply felt happy about the bloom which took me by suprise . For a few seconds perched precariously on my stool i remained motionless as i admired it with bated breath, my heart thumped with excitement and thrill at both the beauty and the discovery. Afterwards ran to bring in the others to share the surprise. So because of my own folly i can only rely on this borrowed image of what i saw. In any case since i am no photographer of sorts, i doubt if my own would be able to give an honest glimpse of the pristine beauty.
                                                             Zephryanthes grandiflora
                                                                 Zephyranthes candida
                                                                        Z  candida
                                                                        Z grandiflora

i wanted to know it's name and hence tried searching the net but in vain. The net gave many results of flowering ornamental grassses but none matched my beauty and it seemed like a wild goose chase. Perhaps it was the intense desire to know the name of this and still many others that i may encounter henceforth,  that led me to being head over heels over this huge and heavy book called BOTANICA which is an illustrated A-Z of over 10,000 garden plants. It was quite expensive but my purse strings were loose enough for my indulgence.
And a patient analysis that too with the helpful guidelines in the book, led me to something called Zephyranthes and under it the common names like Wind Flower, Zephyr lily, Rain lily.
The one i had in my balcony looked like Zephyranthes too and specifically Zephyranthes candida...Flower of the west wind, Storm lily and Zephyranthes grandiflora...Thunder Lily, Storm Lily.
Still my last fiasco with Trumpet vine/Flaming vine prompted me to be doubly sure. Nature just like words has synonyms and though at the outset they make look the same there is a subtle difference which only a naturalist can single out and make people like me notice. My anxiety can be ascertained by the fact that around me were very similar ornamental grasses which looked almost the same. Only a close perusal and some borrowed knowledge can help make out the difference.
Naturally an ignoramus like me wouldn't know the difference unless someone pointed out.

 So who else would i turn to but my Man Friday in identifying the correct names, Karthik

So that’s how i found out the name of the blossom springing out like magic from what i thought was just another ornamental grass. And the name was as poetical as the flower itself.
Pronounced Zephry-an-thees. Commonly known as Thunder lily, Storm lily.
Zephyr is a poetical word which distinguishes any usual wind from the one which is mild and soft. A west wind characterized by it’s gentleness is zephyr.
Zephyranthes…and the name conveys it all.
A beauty that is mild and soft. Maybe all flowers look soft and mild but there is a beauty in Zephyranthes that brings forth the thoughts of Innocence.
Something that is pure, untainted and delightful and never fails to surprise.

i had silent admiration laced monologues with what i thought was ornamental grass. Although at that moment i never thought of anything but admired the crocus like dainty flower perched on the slender green stalk looking towards the heavens with pride that is clearly distinct from egoistical pride. It looked so confident, so self assured while i wondered awestruck at it's delicate features. i was afraid even to touch it lest it gets damaged just like what would happen if one touches the delicate wings of a brilliantly hued butterfly.

The very next day when i eagerly looked towards the foliage squinting my eyes to single out the bloom, i could spot on that same slender green stalk 3 green beads from the centre of which hung the skein ...time burnt remains of my almost lavender like pink lily.

It was just yesterday that i saw it looking so sure.
Hidden from plain sight and almost blotted to obscurity against the blinding white light of the sky and yet it remained with it's head held high just yesterday. Actually still remains... looking towards the heavens... head held high but in another form,  ready to resurrect to life...thanks to nature.

Now as i wait for the bloom to surprise me yet again although it will surprise me no more because now i am expecting it to happen any day i can't help but remember Khalil Gibran the only one i can think of right now because i confess i am not well versed with any what to talk of the spiritually philosophical poet. None other but this one.

Song Of The Flower

I am a kind word uttered and repeated
By the voice of Nature;
I am a star fallen from the
Blue tent upon the green carpet.
I am the daughter of the elements
With whom Winter conceived;
To whom Spring gave birth; I was
Reared in the lap of Summer and I
Slept in the bed of Autumn.
At dawn I unite with the breeze
To announce the coming of light;
At eventide I join the birds
In bidding the light farewell.
The plains are decorated with
My beautiful colors, and the air
Is scented with my fragrance.
As I embrace Slumber the eyes of
Night watch over me, and as I
Awaken I stare at the sun, which is
The only eye of the day.
I drink dew for wine, and hearken to
The voices of the birds, and dance
To the rhythmic swaying of the grass.
I am the lover's gift; I am the wedding wreath;
I am the memory of a moment of happiness;
I am the last gift of the living to the dead;
I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.
But I look up high to see only the light,
And never look down to see my shadow.
This is wisdom which man must learn.

An afterthought...
Was my dainty, petit and innocent one also conversing with me? Trying to whisper sweet nothings into my ear or something major but softly? Something that i was not receptive to as i was too caught up with her transitory beauty?
Was it trying to tell me something by it's demeanor when i was just enraptured by it's sudden physical appearance ?
Something like, "Keep Your Face To The Sunshine And You Cannot See The Shadows."
Was it?...
Now watching the green beads of seed and the skein that still remains on the slender green stalk i realize that the dainty lily never counted the moments and just lived well enough to suprise me, then make me happy and finally also teach me something valuable.
i just wish i could be like the storm lily...set aside my worries and just live fully each day, each moment...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Litti, Sattu ka Paratha and The works

i have often been questioned about Sattu in Chennai that is every time i have sattu ka paratha to offer to my guests. Surprisingly i have to exhibit the flour every time my explanation fails to give them a clear picture of sattu. This when they have their very own pottukadalai with which they prepare their chutneys every day to go with their dosas and idlis. Pottukadalai is Tamil for the dry roasted gram or chana dal/ Indian Chickpeas. So i have to explain to them that this pottukadalai or de-husked gram/chickpeas is pulverised to convert them into powder form to get a flour which is called sattu in Hindi. It is a major culinary revelation and mostly my guests ask me for the recipe.
However it becomes imperative to explain the difference between gram flour ie besan and sattu because at the outset both look the same.
The difference being that whereas besan is the flour of raw gram, sattu is the flour of the roasted gram and may look slightly coarser than besan.
The teacher in me does not miss the opportunity to explain that besan is raw gram flour only , but sattu is prepared not only of roasted gram but many other cereals. 
So in Bihar we not only have gram sattu but also corn/maize/makai sattubarley/jau sattu and of late because of it's intrinsic value as a health food manufacturers have started preparing sattus like jaljira mix sattunimbupudina sattu mix etc to make it even more delectable and easy to prepare . 
In fact the standard sattu that was forced as a staple breakfast item or as a drink to us was a mix of 2/3 of fresh roasted chana and 1/3 fresh roasted barley.

The dinner/lunch conversation now sees me once again taking centre stage at a surprised barrage of questions ,"As breakfast..and how is that it sweet...???"

Of course i am passing through that phase when everything and anything becomes a narration, nostalgic but now with a renewed sense of pride
Memories of how easily we replaced sattu as a staple breakfast item with bread and butter come flooding back. Just like how kids today would make a bee-line for pizza, pasta, burgers and last but not the least Maggi so did we clamor for toast and jam instead of our own nutritious local delicacies. 
Just like the kids of today these were not delicacies at all...they were just some rustic, local grub discarded from the palate with a frown that proclaimed distaste and dislike. 
As kids we would watch relatives on the table mix sattu with a little bit of water and salt and knead it softly to prepare a big ball of dough. Then they would divide the dough into smaller balls as they popped these balls into their eager mouths and ate with relish their favourite breakfast snack with pickle, onions and fresh green chillies.
Once in a while when it looked tempting we would reach out for these balls but nevertheless  bread, butter, jam dominated our palates.
i remember the fuss created when this gruel of fresh sattu in hot milk was offered to us. Sometimes as a drink and sometimes as porridge with mashed bananas, jaggery/sugar  and a bit of crushed cardamom for added flavour. This during the winters.
During summers sattu was mostly consumed as a cooling drink. One could have it either with salt or with sugar as one preferred.

A tablespoon of sattu mixed in a glass of cold water into which a dash of lemon juice and salt is added can be a cool refreshing drink that not only energises but also takes care of the small hunger that one may experience in between meals. 
Alternatively this drink could be a sweet one if instead of salt, sugar/jaggery is added. If this had to be made richer still with more added calories then instead of plain water sattu was mixed into cold milk or hot milk as one preferred it.

Today i explain with enthusiasm not only about the secret ingredient which went into making these exotic and delectable parathas sitting invitingly on my table but also about the medicinal value of that secret ingredient. That apart from it being a nutritious drink it helps to combat acute gas problems and even constipation.

Considered earlier to be a poor man's food,  i still remember the road side stalls piled high with conical mountains of different varieties of sattu in large aluminium plates with turned corners. Not the regular stalls that we see these days but a shaded area maybe under a tree or else a make shift shade created with four bamboo poles and canopied with jute sacks that gave it a tent like appearance.
These stalls were the dining cafes of poor labourers, richshaw pullers who could afford only sattu for their lunch or dinner. The balls that i just talked about was eaten with onions and green chillies and when the purse allowed, a small plate of any vegetable curry or simple potato fry that the stall owner had prepared for the day.
Sometimes when they had earned well enough they would be seen eating yet another item with the curry of the day.This was litti. A baked ball of wheat dough stuffed with sattu masala.  
Now those stalls have vanished into thin air and sattu is no longer the cheapest item. 
What is still surprisingly new is the sudden appearance of kiosks and mobile vendors selling litti chokha which are approached by one and all. In fact you could now grab a bite of litti chokha at all major stations in Bihar.

Sattu has a low shelf life and although can be stored in the freezer, it tastes excellent when it is fresh. It is the main ingredient that is used as the stuffing for litti and sattu ka paratha.
i have not tampered with the sattu stuffing in my attempt to get innovative. So the basic stuffing masala for both remains traditional which is : 
  •  1 cup Sattu (Gram Flour) 
  •  4 pods Garlic (finely chopped) 
  •  1 " Ginger (finely chopped) 
  •  2-3 Green chilies (chopped)
  •   Finely chopped coriander leaves 
  •  2 tbsp Masala of Red Chilli Pickle or mango pickle
  •  1/2 tsp Onion Seeds (Nigella seeds)
  •  1 tsp Ajwain (thyme seeds)
  •  1 tsp Lemon Juice 
  •  Salt to taste 
  •  ¼ to ½ Cup Water (to make the stuffing moist and easy to fill.)

What makes my parathas unique is the slight change in the way i prepare my dough.
Ordinarily wheat flour is kneaded with yoghurt or just plain water to prepare a soft dough. My dough needs the following :

  •  1-1/2 Cup wheat flour and 1/4 maida flour 
  •  1/4 Cup cooking oil 
  •  1 tsp pepper powder
  •  1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves )
  •  a pinch of Heeng (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  •  enough yoghurt to knead the dough. A mix of a cup of milk and water can also be used if there is no yoghurt.
The wheat flour and maida flour is mixed evenly along with all the dry items. Then a well made into this mix into which we pour the cooking oil. The flour is mixed again using the fingers before being kneaded into a soft dough using the yoghurt or the milk water mix. The dough when ready will not stick on the fingers and will look as soft as a baby's bottom.
The rest of the procedure is the same as we prepare aloo parathas.
First make a cup out of the flour dough, as shown in the picture below

Now put the stuffing into this and close the openings as shown below

Finally press the ball gently to flatten it a bit, as shown below

After this the choice is yours. Which is... either you can roll it into rotis and fry it on a griddle with cooking oil or ghee (clarified butter) to make sattu ka parathas or if the craving is to eat litti then just bake these slighty flattened balls in a hot oven.
The littis when done would have dark brown spots and might look cracked. Which is best because then they soak up the clarified butter ie ghee even better. If not then it is broken open with slight pressure using both hands before dipping them in a bowl of melted ghee.
Both these items taste great with mutton curry however the basic vegetarian side dish that tastes yummy with litti or sattu ka paratha is chokha or bhartha.
So now for the chokha :
  • 1 Roasted Egg plant (Big round Brinjal or aubergine) 
  •  Potato  - 2 (baked potato best but boiled potatoes can also be used)
  •  Tomato - 2 ( roasted) 
  •  1 Onion ( finely chopped) 
  •  2 Green chilies (finely chopped) 
  •  2 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  •  1/2 inch Ginger ( peeled and grated)
  •  Finely chopped coriander
  •  Mustard oil - 2 tsp 
  • Salt (to taste)
  First the brinjal/aubergine is roasted on fire over low flame. This is done best by turning it over on the flame at regular intervals to allow it to roast evenly on all sides. The peel should turn black and flaky. 
Then it is allowed to cool and the burnt skin is removed carefully. Similar procedure for the tomatoes too.The roasted brinjal/aubergine, tomatoes, and boiled potatoes are then mashed properly till there are no lumps. Now the rest of the ingredients are added and mixed thoroughly. The chokha or bhartha should look like this:

So far as litti and sattu parathas is concerned i must however remember to point out that since these dishes are made rich using lots of clarified butter or ghee to achieve the perfect taste it does induce extra thirst at times.

i am sure that it is not unusual to crave local dishes when you are away from your homeland for a real long time. i guess it is the absence or a lack of it for a substantial period of time that creates the sudden craving. For what is easy and commonly available we won't even bother. Further to develop appreciation for both local cuisine and culture a particular mature age is needed. After having been there and eaten that...
i still see the same thing happening around me and it's like history repeating itself.
So to all my friends who have kids fussing and creating a ruckus over local cuisine and asking for burgers and pizzas i always have the same thing to say.
" Let them fly out of your nest and you'll see them asking you for your regular dal,  even greens, and all the regular local grub when they come back during semester breaks...have patience. Wan't it the same when we were young?..."
The look of irritation evaporates and nostalgia sees us smiling and comparing notes of forgotton foods and many many more. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stopping By the Kitchen On A lonely Evening

It was just a routine check...on the facebook i mean. Now i must confess that i am a voyeur who prowls quietly on facebook just listening to conversations and doing lots other than actively participating.
First wishing friends on their birthdays...thanks to the reminder notice by facebook. Then
- smiling at funny comments.
-checking out the video links on almost anything that catches my fancy.
-joining forums mostly related to my hometown, school or university.
- sometimes butting into conversations if i have something to say.
-rarely chatting with friends online that is if they have pinged me (don't precisely know why but never taking the first lead).
-Sometimes trying out the quizzes already tried by others.
-indulging into photos put up by friends and aquaintance of their happy family life, foreign tours...
-Finally breaking a cookie to read my fortune for the day before signing off.
All this when i have sufficient time to spare on facebook alone.
Mostly i see the notifications and check the messages, reply and sign off.
Actually i am quite a boring user and will not deny that my active friends have given up on me but i really don't mind that. So long i am able to share their happening lives i feel entertained for that time spent on facebook.
More than that i really don't care.

So it was a routine check just the other day but something happened during this routine check and that's what this blog is all about. In fact i got inspired enough to do something which i would not do otherwise.
This inspiration shattered another myth that i had been entertaining for quite some time. The myth being that a woman  does not cook for herself.
i always thought that if left on her own the lady of the house would never take pains to cook a delicious meal for herself. She would make do with the least and probably bite into some sandwich or something and wash it down with some beverage. End of the boring kitchen routine cause she'd rather do something else.
Now i really don't know if the picture on facebook was responsible for this revelation or i know my own kind less... whatever but that particular day i cooked a meal for myself and i want to share that meal and that experience.

What made me cook that meal was this picture on facebook  of a local delicacy called Litti. Here is how it looks like.
i was faced with a choice then when i saw this picture of litti.
Either to ignore the rumblings in my stomach and swallow the drool and silently bite into my sandwiches or to pull up my lazy socks and head to the kitchen.
Thankfully i had all the cooking ingredients i needed in my pantry excepting for i major item required to bake such delicious mouthwatering stuffed balls of ghee dipped heaven.
Litti in this form can be achieved by baking the stuffed balls in a brazier that has burning charcoal/ cow-dung cake fire.
Incapacitated by my lack of resources and also by my enthusiasm about being innovative i came back to my lappie...stared at the litti and as if i wanted to compensate for my loss i headed to the kitchen again with a new determination.
"Tonight's the night baby...", i said to myself . "Tonight i am going to cook a good meal for myself which should take care of my craving and everything else...". Yeah it was true that i was also feeling lonesome and quite fed up of my reading and whatever i was doing to cut boredom. i was missing my son, my husband and last but not the least i was missing taking care of myself. In a way i was beginning to wonder if i was turning into a sloth.

So how did the meal look like after i had prepared it only for myself ? i must say that it looked appealing after i had laid it on the table. Which was that it looked like this.
What i cooked for myself  was sattu ka paratha and mutton curry. What was remarkable was that this time i actually found the process to be more therapeutic. The entire process of selecting the particular two dish meal to the chopping, grinding, kneading, cooking and finally laying the table. For all that time i ceased feeling lonesome and was just busy first in the preparation and then later trying to be a wee bit innovative in my curry.
 i have often wondered about this friend of mine who does not flinch about cooking her dinner herself even when she is back from a hard day's work at the office. It was she who had first told me about this therapeutic aspect that many of us consider as mundane chores .
Frankly i has no such experience until now and this was my first that i had attempted which should see only me relishing what i had cooked.
So then coming to the point about shattering the myth, i have to agree that it was shattered only partially. That i did cook for myself is fine but coming to relishing part, i guess i was unable to do justice to all that effort taken on my part. For not only was i satiated with the aromas but the fact that i was eating alone bundled me back to square one.
And then i realised that a table seating your loved ones, enjoying the bites and chattering in between mouth fulls is what makes a meal the most satisfying one. Even when the meal may not be very exotic or a fancy one.
i guess then that it's just not sheer laziness but the presence of your loved ones that prompts the woman to hover round the kitchen even when it gets mundane and very routine.
Probably that's what he meant when he said this.
" There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves." Thomas Wolfe

So far as it being like a therapy...i guess my friend is absolutely right.
For when i was bored with everything else...this got me moving in the right direction.
It changed my gloomy mood and got me thinking how to make the best out of the resources which inches me closer to satisfying my craving for litti.
And was i successful in that? I SURE WAS.
For what is sattu ka paratha but a griddle fried and round version of the baked balls called litti.
And if litti is eaten with chokha my opinion of sattu ka paratha is that it goes best with an aromatic and spicy mutton curry.
More of my recipe for sattu ka paratha in my next blog. Surely about litti chokha too...

Monday, October 18, 2010

A stitch In Time Saves Nine

There has been a sudden spurt of Dengue across many parts in India and i thought it better to share some useful information because i benefitted greatly from this timely help imparted to me by my friends and relatives.
Since there are no antiviral drugs to combat dengue and the body is allowed to recover on it's own, it is not always that everyone is blessed with a strong immune system. Thus when the blood platelets level drop continuously and fall below the 10.000 count,  the doctors at best can help by giving transfusion.

Thanks to my friend who called up at the hospital and apprised me with a timely antidote. She informed me about the Papaya leaf doing wonders for recovery. i just followed her advice as i did not have the time nor the inclination to do research on the healing properties of Papaya leaf. i knew it to be an important fruit having great properties whether eaten raw or as a ripe fruit. That sufficed.
So when i was at ease i searched the net and thanked my friend even more sincerely for sharing something that was spot on time, easy to procure and just too helpful when i was suffering with anxiety as i was told by the doctors that there are no antiviral drugs for dengue and that we just watch and wait for the body to recover on it's own.

My research on the various sites on the net confirmed that Papaya leaf juice does wonders not only on the speedy recovery when one is afflicted with Dengue but also other fevers like Chikanguniya. What proved to be an eye opener was a site that talked about scientists in the United States confirming the report that a compound found in Papaya tree was more powerful than the latest anti cancer drug.
There were many sites that talked about the curative powers of the Papaya leaf juice.
All except one which had doubts about the medicinal value of Papaya leaf juice in being an effective medication for dengue patients. Because according to the author by the time the patient starts taking the papaya leaf juice his/her body is already recovering as per the symptoms of the disease which has it's own cycle.
Nevertheless this is what i think.
i know of all parts of Papaya being beneficial and having healing properties. Right from the seeds to the leaves to the fruit, all parts have medicinal value. The enzyme in Papaya called Papain is found to be very effective in curing chronic indigestion and constipation.
i would like to share  which explains and makes my job easier in trying to convey.

Another helpful and timely advice that i recieved from my brother-in-law was about this herb called Giloy or Guduchi. We might have seen it around us only thing that we are ignorant about it as we are ignorant about the so many herbs that exist and about their miraculous curative properties.
It is a creeper which looks more like a vine,  grows commonly and also has cluster of tiny berries which turn red when ripe. To see how it looks like i have images from the net which helped me identify this herb.

Now the extract from from this herb Giloy (Tinospora cardifolia) has been found to help by increasing the blood platelet count which drops to less than 10,000 in some cases for patients of Dengue. The fundamental here being that Giloy helps in boosting the body immune system. However many who have a strong immune system the situation of platelet counts dropping to a very critical level may not occur as the platelets start multiplying due to the body's own disease fighting mechanism. For the less fortunate the herb should help. That is if the person is free from allergies of any kind be it from Papaya or even others.  
It may be difficult to go looking for this herb when someone in the family is down with this fever and needs constant attention. For the patient may become too weak to do normal things by himself/herself. Due to a temporary drop in the blood pressure level the person suffering from dengue finds normal tasks difficult. For example even for going to the toilet which is quite often because of all the hydrating fluids that are given constantly. Therefore it becomes imperative to be around to help and support the patient as and when it is required.
In such situations Ayurveda comes to the rescue by providing us with herbal drugs that help.
i suppose these drugs could be obtained from any ayurvedic store as now i am aware of drugs being manufactured by most ayurvedic medicine makers to combat not only dengue but even swine flu . Since i was informed about Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Chikitsalaya it was not that difficult for me to obtain these herbal drugs.  In Chennai itself i know of two such Chikitsalayas and one being very much familiar to me,  i contacted them.
It was heartening to know that  Patanjali Ckitisalaya of Baba Ramdev has come out with tablets made out of this herb and on consultation can be obtained from there along with the information about the correct amount of dosage to be registered. The tablet is called GILOY GHANVATI.

 Not only this there is yet another concoction made out of this herb and many other herbs that help the patient recover well from dengue and even swine flu. This herbal concoction known as Divya Giloy Kwath or Divya Giloy Sat is also the product of intensive research and can be obtained from Patanjali Ckitisalaya.

The wonder herb Giloy/Guduchi/Amrita which helps boost the body immune system can be grown in pots at home and i found a blog post by another blogger very enlightening as it educated me with why the herb is also known as AMRITA .
" it is useful in curing many many diseases....ranging from diabetes, arthritis, gout, high blood pressure, urinary infections , asthma, infection caused fevers and is also beneficial for detoxification, for skin infections and to promote general immunity..."

True it is,  what is said about happenings. Good or bad, one can choose either to be despondent or be receptive enough to grasp sound advice. Every situation whether favourable or unfavourable has in it's scope not only the experience of battling with the unfavourable situations but also gives us the opportunity to educate ourselves and shatter myths. A tryst with Dengue drew me towards close encounters of a newer kind. THE HERBAL KIND
Firstly about the Herbs that we don't even notice and worst may dismiss as weeds. They are there and yet there is so much that we are not familiar with apart from the fact that they provide the green cover and help us with oxygen. For lack of both interest and knowledge they remain as somethings to be yanked out and removed what to talk of preserving and nurturing them.
 Then about the fruit trees having an antidote for our diseases if only we knew that sometimes even the leaves have more powers than the fruit itself in certain dire conditions.

 Even now i feel that deep sense of gratitude for the information shared by my friend and my brother in law. But for them i would have just waited for my husband's immune system to fight back watching him helplessly as he grew weaker and weaker to even sit by himself. i would have had anxious moments like the relatives of another patient who was being registered blood transfusion for the second time as his platelet count had fallen below the 8,000 mark.
Instead i became busy first in procuring the leaf of papaya and then crushing and squeezing it to obtain that one tablespoon of the green elixir. i became busy coaxing him to have liquids like fruit juice, tender coconut water, buttermilk and milk at timely intervals to hydrate him. He had lost his appetite for food almost completely. i could have worried myself to sickness watching him eat just a couple of spoons of khichadi or unwillingly bite into half of an idly instead i got hopeful
Registering Giloy Ghanvati  twice a day as advised by Patanjali Chikitsalaya and further boiling the herbal Kwath in 4 cups of water till the water got reduced to just one cup. Straining the decoction then which resembled a darker version of green tea and coaxing my husband to gulp down the bitter medicine in one go. Of course keeping slices of orange in my hand to push it into his mouth to get rid of the aftertaste. i was fortunate enough as the markets in Chennai were flooded not with the local Nagpur oranges that are seasonal but with juicy Australian oranges. Just two needed for a glassful of pure orange juice. And just a slice to combat the sorry aftertaste of a bitter drink.
No i am not trying to give kudos to myself or trying to project my role as a dutiful wife, rather trying to convey that i was able to do what i did because i knew what to do thanks to my friend and family.
 Also thanks to Dengue that i have become more respectful of all the greens on the ground that i come across. For some that we may feel to be a weed may just be another herb. A herb that can provide relief and succor when there is nothing available to do so. In fact now i understand better what someone had said about weeds. i remember the Forest Officer now,  my sister's husband who has this intense dislike for calling anything that we know not as a WEED.
For he knew all this and more only that i understand his feelings more and respect his annoyance too. He knew enough to get irritated at such dismissals without knowledge. i understand his irritation now... for to a certain extent i know it too...that what we label as unwanted and worthless may not be so...
But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else.  In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit.  Weeds are people's idea, not nature's.  ~Author Unknown
What is a weed?  I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions.  For me, a weed is a plant out of place.  ~Donald Culross Peattie
What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878

Image courtesy:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mera Wala Red

This post was edited in Sept 13, 2014 after being pointed out of an error in the identification of a beautiful shrub which has been rectified and given it's correct name on this date today. The error was seen by Mr Rajiv Pathania who has rightly identified the beautiful tree/ shrub and hence Red Poinsettia it is and not red Mussaenda as was given by me earlier. i regret my folly and am deeply indebted to Mr Pathania for bringing it to my notice.

Any visit to a Tibetian Monastry is an altogether a different experience. My first one was at Hubli when my friend who was posted there had taken me to a monastry which was a few kilometres away from the town and it was called the Mundgod Monastry.
Both of us were eager to see the grand Thangkas, exquisite murals and frescoes, impressive statues and many more Buddhist relics and last but not the least the sight of kid monks who look so cute in their maroon robes.
And we did have our fill of all that as we roamed around with admiration and a very rare sense of calm that prevailed in us. Monastries do that to you...make you peaceful from within. i can equate it to the same sense of tranquility that i feel when i sit at the banks of a river or a lake.
Yes i was amazed at all the artwork right from the structure of the pagoda style temple with tiered towers and multiple eaves to the paintings and the well manicured lawns but it was very enriching to feel the peace. This does not happen everywhere and so i said that it is rare.
Since the pictures i took would not justify what i am trying to convey i once again fall back on a valuable resource to show a glimpse of what i mean. i feel Mr Siddeshwar has done a wonderful job on his blog so here it is

So naturally when i was doing my homework for Coorg the first spot on my must see list was the Namdroling Monastry. Also known as The Golden Temple. All that you would want to know about this really Golden temple can be indulged into at Ms Nirupama's blog at

"The Namdroling Monastery in Byalukuppe echoed with soulful acoustics, visual brilliance and a simple way of life... all of which instilled in me a sense of heart warming peace. I definitely am going back for another visit ", so says Mr Kishore Murthy at
His words actually echoed mine but there was something here that just made me see the brilliance of colours in the true sense. i actually spent a lot of time here along with my husband to indulge into even the landscapes. Soaking in the peace and very much at ease i just chanced upon something that simply took my breath away. It was a rare sight once again and just so beautiful that it still lingers in my mind's eye. It was hard for me to pull myself away and i just lingered there and thought about the creator once again.
 RED Mussaenda i had thought of them at first. Oh my God !! hardly get to see much of them. What we generally find in gardens everywhere is the white or the pink/peach but this was  glorious. i had thought of them to be so and forgotten about this post of mine even when i had identified the same plant correctly and later did a long post dedicating a whole post to this Red Poinsettia...this Flor de nochebuena  known as Euphorbia pulcherrima Had it not been for the kind perusal of the gentleman who took time out to stop by at my post and point out the error in my page asking me in his kind and gracious way to correct the error. Thank You Mr Rajiv Pathania. 


Red is a sunset
Blazy and bright.
Read is a feeling brave
With all your might
Red is a sunburn
Spot on your nose, sometimes red
Is a red, red, rose.
Red squiggles out
When you cut your hand.
Red is a brick and a rubber band.
Read is a hotness
You get inside
When you’re embarrassed
And want to hide.
Firecracker, fire engine
Fire-flicker red---
And when you/re angry
Red runs through your head.
Read is an Indian,
A Valentine heart,
The trimming on
A circus cart.
Red is a lipstick,
Red is a shout,
Red is a signal
That says: ”Watch out!”
Red is a great big
Rubber ball.
Red is the giant-est
Color of all.
Red is a show-off
No doubt about it----
i just wanted to add more to this poem i knew from this book by Mary O'Neill 

Hailstones and Halibut Bones

i did not know what i wanted to do more. Whether i wanted to keep muttering OMG! OMG! or wanted to be a composer of some sort who could add yet another verse to it something like...

Red is the colour of this Mussaenda Tree 

That took my breath away 

And made my heart dance with glee.

SO while my husband took digs on me for the design on my travelling bag matching the tree i just remained unaffected to all his pranks while he took a picture of me (stealthily) as i was lost in my thoughts about the marvellous creation. Also thinking about the diligence of the monks who apart from their strict disciplined routine found time and the inclination to nurture the shrub to such perfection that it resembled a mini tree with the gorgeous RED. 

As if this was not enough there was yet another place where i got stuck and this when i glanced upon the campus walls of the Monastry. Covered with brilliance yet again with what i thought was Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) .  Initially i got annoyed at looking at this picture because i feel i have spoilt the beauty of that picture by my barrel like presence there and it would have been more appropriate if just the wall flowers with their contrasting colours of orange and green leaves were only captured by the camera but once again can't afford the annoyance anymore. For when i see myself against that the entire wall covered with this cheerful orange i forget that nagging thoughts of losing some weight and just feel so jolly. Oh ! and i remember the blossoms were agog with tiny black insects and thank God i was fascinated and dazed but not too carried away in my curiosity to try to smell them lest those tiny insects were inhaled . i thought of the Hummingbirds and tried to picturise the tiny beauties suspended next to this brilliance adding more colours to this amazing sight.

Once again it was OMG OMG  and rhymes like...

Orange is a carrot
And the orange i eat
Orange are the bright new socks
That i wear upon my feet
Orange is an orange.
Orange is a carrot.
Orange is the colour
of the beak of a parrot.
The pumpkins in my garden are orange, orange, orange,
The oranges on my tree are orange, orange, orange,

It was racing inside me all these i knew and now i was wanting to add 
Orange is the colour of the Flaming vine
Makes me hungry and wanting to dine

 and after looking at my picture next to it something like

Orange is the colour of this Flaming Trumpet
Next to it i look like a fat muppet

Now what i thought to be the Honeysuckle was identified correctly by my blogdost, a naturalist and now whom i consider as a dear friend Karthik of as Flaming vine or the Flaming trumpet (Pyrostegia venusta). Another way of getting acquainted with people who are passionate about nature and it's marvels is through blogs i say. Or else i would still be searching for a dost, a friend who could help me identify a plant or a tree by it's correct name. So the wall creeper in the picture is the Flaming vine/ Flaming trumpet and not honeysuckle.
Red can be frightful
even delightful
but always surprisingly red.
There's glows
wine and
red sky mornings
red sky nights
Chinese red
and port side lights
red hot mama
little red hen
ruby red slippers to get home in
kidney beans
two red queens.
Add some to yellow, heart o' mine,
orange is what you'll get every time.

Orange at least is a veritable feast
ever so edibly orange.
There's orange marmalade
and mangoes
pumpkin pies
mandarins and
carrots and
those little kumquats
and apricots
cheddar cheese
all of this
and pekoe tea.
But the beauty of orange is only skin deep
when you bite into a yellow peach.
© 1999 Karen Schirmer all rights reserved

Awed at nature at it's best and still wondering about all things bright and beautiful the ride to the home-stay kept me glued in my thoughts on the colours. How i chanced upon Mera Wala Red and that STIMULATING Orange.
Colours are associated with feelings, tastes, sounds and smells to which i feel like adding that that they are also associated with thoughts. Thoughts of experience.
It is said that Red is a healing colour and burns out disease whereas Orange is an emotional stimulant. And i remembered how both are so closely related because red says, "...add a little yellow to this heart of mine and orange is what you'll get everytime."
Both these colours are supposed to be aggressive colours getting you hyper and noisy but strangely when i saw them in this form i was feeling not only energised but also calm enough to remain silent with a warm smile lingering on me. Perhaps it was the smile of satisfaction and thoughtfulness. Can't say whether it was the beauty of the colours or the flowers themselves that made me think about God or was it the precincts of the monastry which in a way trickles the enormous sense of marvel and you wonder at the Master Craftsman.
i wished then i knew this song fully because i wanted to sing all the way, ''yeh kaun chitrakaar hai yeh kaun chitrakarr..." (who is this painter?... who is this painter??).

Of course my husband clicked many pictures from his cyber shot which i would love to share of this Golden Temple.

As humans we may say that Red stands for: Passion, excitement, vitality, action, confidence, satisfaction, courage, desire and also for danger and the fire within. Whereas Orange symbolises good cheer, excitement, energy, creativity, fascination and warmth. ALSO it is said that when one is lonely, sad , depressed or even just simply bored Orange is an emotional stimulant. And now science has taught us how colours are formed.
But i guess still i am wondering about the Magician who got the first primary colours and then interspersed it around the subjects in such a way so as to create harmony. Harmony of the sort that does not make our eyes jump and start but to follow a very synchronised smooth movement.

Just one more tip to help get sorted out because i tried this on myself and it really works. Actually it saves a lot of time when you are still in a fix deciding what to wear.
Not until late i discovered it myself that i would be happy to share it.

Monday is for Yellow
Tuesday for pink
Wednesday is for Green
Thursday for Orange or Yellow
Friday for blue
Saturday for Purple or Black
Sunday for Red 
i guess then,  that's it for the time being and so until my next blog let us all enjoy the healing and stimulating power of colours...and just one confession though that after the stimulating orange i also felt very hungry so my thoughts were later divided between the creator and the created and so went munching Lays as i tried to recall the words of that song...yeh kaun Chitrakaar hai...yeh kaun Chitrakaar...

Sincere Thanks to Karthik who quietly and modestly helped me correct my error in identifying the spectacular flowering vine yet once again.
For not long ago i learnt the names of the the Copper pod tree Haldi Gulmohur (Peltophorum pterocarpum) thanks to his blog on flowering trees
This and many many more that i get to know every now and then. My gratitude to this naturalist who fuels in me the desire to know more (of what i wouldn't bother to otherwise)  not only through his blogs but by his timely assistance every time i have a query relating to nature.

and for more images on Flaming vine click on 
and about it on