A Summer morning in Kuwait, one of THE HOTTEST countries!! – Part 1

July 19th 2015….. When I told my husband I want to take some pictures one morning & write about a summer morning… he just gave his usual calm soothing smile with a warning don’t get arrested… you will not be able to tolerate the heat!!

I did not realize how lucky I was as I could not have chosen a better morning for the weather God was little gentle. When I left the house at 5.35 am, my mobile showed the temperature as sunny 34 degree Celsius. Only thing I missed was the scores of Doves flying around pecking on the grains/rice scattered by some bird lovers & bathing/drinking on the pockets of water collected from the car wash before it evaporated. Also did not realize how the material for the article would just roll in front of me…

Kuwait is one of THE hottest countries in the world & this year it is been bad, really bad. And it’s one of those years I did not miss the warmth of summer… last week it was worst & on Wednesday at 15:09 one of the temperature display towers showed 52 degrees & yet another tower showed 50 degrees at 15:14. No way in 5 minutes within 2 kilo meters radius the temperature would fluctuate so much unless it starts snowing….It’s hard to know the exact temperature recorded as mobile, car, towers, media, meteorology department, your body, everything tells different readings… however you would really know it’s bad when the pavement/road practically throws heat back at you or the tap water is almost boiling… make you jump out of commode!! Last week my body told me it touched 55 degree Celsius…

Most people have Eid holidays & the roads were practically deserted. I live in an area called Salmiya, a favorite place for Indians where about half a dozen schools are located dotted with n-number of restaurants & stores selling Indian vegetables, fruits & other stuff catering to everyone’s need. In case you did not know when Indians are out of India they are very patriotic & prefer Indian stuff!! The desi term NRI (Non Required Indian) makes them crave for their Motherland!! It’s a joke but has some truth in it too…

When I passed Amman Circle, scores of daily wagers were either standing/sitting on the pavement under the shadow from the buildings, some with their tools & most with a packet (may be water & sandwiches). I had no heart & also have no right to click their pictures & peek into their privacy. What was amazing is that one-side was occupied by Iranians (known for their physical strength – I have seen average built old men carrying large air-conditioner units on the back & climbing the stairs. I wonder what their secret is) near “la baguette” & the other side near the temporary mosque was lined with East Asians. Birds of same feather…. I was not sure if everyone was hired every day & the logic of why an Indian would come here to work as labourer braving the heat when he could almost make the same amount working as a labourer back home had no answer!!

As I crossed the street I saw this car parked arrogantly on the bend… & that brought the thought of arrogant drivers (attributed to practically all nationalities). With the ever increasing number of cars it is getting from bad to worst. As I passed on I came across the 2-watchmen washing the cars with hoses… an act which boils my blood. Wasting the resources as if there is no tomorrow, using-misusing-abusing the generosity of the country which supplies the desalinated water (Kuwait has no natural resources & also rain fall is negligible) at reasonable price. One consolation is that compared to yesteryears it’s reduced drastically as Municipalities has issued strict instructions against the wastage of water.

Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot

The other thing which makes me angry is the sight of garbage bins & its surrounding. Probably Kuwait has the highest per capita cleaners & domestic helps. Still I feel it’s very dirty thanks to the wasteful nature & ignorance of the general public. The amount of food of all kind wasted is unbelievable. In summer it crosses the limit because it tends to get spoil faster. The untied garbage bags are thrown outside the bin, anything & everything from cardboard boxes to wooden boxes to furniture to mattresses to construction material is discarded. When the fruit-vegetable shops throw the half spoiled stuff, someone who needs tries to pick out the usable ones & mess up too. How much a government can do… Cleanliness should come from within… a human should behave like human… one can exhibit only their true nature that’s what I can say.

As I walked further saw this gentleman walking his 3-dogs. Unlike the majority of Kodavas, I am not a dog person as I had bitter experience with them when I was young. {It’s a very funny & nasty experience; I will write about is some other time}. I am told that most countries in the Middle East do not encourage having dogs (pets) at home. I asked him can I take a picture & he agreed, I told him my daughter loves dogs… which is also true but I wanted it for my article!!

Aroma of deep fried falafel, hot fresh chapattis/paratas were teasing my nostrils. On the sandy ground men were playing football, construction workers were busy (they cannot work later as it gets too hot). It’s noteworthy that: Never ending construction… Ever increasing rents… an unusual phenomenon unique to Kuwait does not match the theory demand & supply. Every rule has an exception!!

As I entered the Rumaithiya Park about a kilometer plus I realized that I had seen so many things, then came the sight of the small group of Indians doing yoga… & laughing practice. As I walked further there were men playing football in the covered court, the cricket players (luckily with tennis balls) had not arrived yet guess mostly because their ground was wet. Then I saw my all-time favourite sight, the sprinklers & the birds & green grass. The sight of birds particularly sparrows brings me immense joy as it is almost extinct in Kodagu. The long stem of palm flowers swayed in the mild wind… spreading the mild smell of its flower (I don’t know if I imagined it) some still had its dry leaves & old dry black berry intact. The dry leaves provide shelter to birds & keep them away from dust storm. The cats were stretching on the grass & one cat had managed to catch a black dove & I was surprised the cats still hunt their prey. There are so many people bring & keep food for cats… so most of the time it seems like the cats does not have to work at all… like some spoiled kids!! Loads of black-yellow insects were around even after watching for a while I could not make out if it was honeybee or wasp…

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FACE to FACE with the largest bunch of flower I have ever seen….

It was few years ago that I first I heard about the Jade Vine, from the legume/bean family & its multinational cousins. I learnt this from my plant guru, the late Dr Achaiah, a walking encyclopedia. I was tagging along with him once so that I could fetch some wild mushrooms. Looking at the bunches of maroon outer & little red flowers hanging around the mango tree, I said these are lovely & looks like the ornamental pieces of a chandeliers. I came up with a suggestion… may be you should make a structure in different sized circles to support the vines to create a natural chandelier & we all can sit under it & drink coffee… he said your wish is not my command you don’t eat my head run along now!!

We both always agreed to disagree on everything yet I followed him ignorant, enthusiastic & eager to learn & he was glad someone was willing to learn… so he explained to me about the four different vines among the many around their mansion.

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The second one he told me about also with maroon outer & yellow flowers but with a different look altogether. It had no flower but I knew what he was talking as many of my relatives had it in their homes. Both had their own beauty & the first one is pretty simple like a homeless person goes unnoticed most of the time (figure 1). The second one little more attractive & makes its presence felt once a while (will post the picture when available). I was trying to impress with him with my knowledge of flowers quoting the silver oaks & the orange bunch flower we see at Mysore university campus & then told about the burgundy sausage tree flower. He said that’s all on trees & I am talking about the vine.

Finally when I saw the other two little vines supposed to be floriferous from pea family. They were growing on a pillar, and were actually imported costing a small fortune….   A flower which is going to look like the flower of pea.. & wondered if it is really worth it? They were the Jade vine & Red Jade vine (aka scarlet jade vine & New Guinea creeper) scientifically known as Strongylodon macrobotrys & Mucuna bennettii respectively. Then I mentioned the purple Wisteria flower hanging like grape bunches, also from pea family, which I saw in Niagara Falls the sight of which is enchanting in some Hollywood movies & serials. All the vines are evergreen.

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After that first time I saw these flowes, on every subsequent visit to Ashok’s place, I searched for the flowers in vain & finally when I came across the pitcher flower in the nearby pot, wondered what the jade vine would really show case? Finally August… 2014 I got lucky, after a long wait met the fully bloomed Red Jade flowers & the buds of Jade vine.

The RED JADE, she was a beauty in her own rights….. she mesmerized & practically forced me to stand motionless & admire her. Even the pouring rain & cloudy weather could not dampen her spirit & beauty. She was already a month old & in full bloom, a cascading cluster of brilliant red-orange pendulous flowers which looked as if someone had meticulously chained them together to form a raceme…. I have never seen such perfect wholesale orange colour in my life other than the saris… Individual translucent flowers are clawed & the formation looks somewhere between flame of the forest & its cousins coral tree & panivala flower. Her perfect texture with absolutely no blemish on her celluloid boat shaped body which almost gives the feeling it’s not natural & plastic(ky). My husband said it reminded him of the cock’s head & its beak & for me it reminded the beak of a parrot.

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It is said to be from New Guinea, I nick named her the middle class beautify, who is here to showcase her beauty & strength… the influence she can have on society!! The striking bright red-orange flower in full bloom could stay around two months (or more). So when the bunch starts blooming from one end to the other, it blooms till the entire bunch is bloomed then is still fresh.. so I guess it’s there for quite a while.

And then I saw the Miss Universe…THE JADE VINE, one of her kind challenging everyone one nearby… the colour of the bud blue/green or turquois or jade or copper oxide or somewhere near aqua… something so uncommon… sorry I am lost & have absolutely no idea! I have seen NATURAL green roses & orchids but absolutely no memory of jade coloured flower. One has to see it to believe its magnanimous size, unusual colour & smooth surface like a baby’s butt… I had to catch hold of my best friend’s handy man Kutty who is 5.1 feet to pose with the bunch so that I can remember the size. It’s almost 5 feet along with the top of the stem as the buds starts from few inches in a bunch. It is still growing like Lord Hanumanji’s tail in Sundarkand of Ramayana, as if to challenge me for questioning her worthyness!! Sadly it seems like the life span of jade flower is shorter than that of the orange & it started falling early… may be the mother is tired of over demanding child!!

Also known as emerald vine & turquoise jade vice, said to be native to forest of Mount Makiling on Luzon, the largest & most northern island in the Philippines (Tayabak), is also found in Hawaii, Jamaica, some warm humid strips of South Africa, etc. It’s hard to say where ANY PLANT species originated as no one has ever explored the entire Universe. Just because someone comes across a particular plant at a particular location at a particular time, they say it’s originated there. It’s like Christopher Columbus calling new world as India & calling the natives Indians!! Moreover they end up putting such difficult scientific name or sadly change the name after the person supposed to have dis-covered… oh boy!

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Guess she is not that hard to grown but one has to be patient enough to wait for at least 2 years. Even though the growth seems to be little slow in the beginning, as the vine gets strong foot hold, under healthy conditions the large woody climber creeps generously & if not trained it would climb at its own whims & fancy. Sky is the limit seems to be the mantra for the growth of all the vines. Tender leaves are fragile & it looks glassy & dark somewhere between purplelish (reddish-brown/black) & then it turns to green. The stem is dark brown with finely peeling bark.

Fortunately I got the chance to see both of them this year. This is the second bloom of the vine & absolutely no idea if it is going to have any pods or the seeds this year too. Last years the vine bore few small bunches & no seeds. Ironically even though the tiny little black-ants were milling in & out, I could not see any sign of sweet attraction of the bees or other insects including wasps & not sure if it attracts any birds with long beak like humming bird or nocturnal pollinators like the bats. Since it is not native to South India & with ever dwindling bugs & little birds, whether it calls for hand pollination like the vanilla (see my earlier article) or will it be able to produce pods & seeds has to be seen in time. It is advised to plant male & female vines side by side… well I really can’t identify them!! Sorry folks we cannot give you a plant as this cannot be propagated by cuttings it seems.

Even though I wanted to spend more time with the flowers, I had to bid good bye soon but I am definitely planning to monitor the flower in 2015 from beginning to end, record it & also will write about it along with the pictures in different stages to those who are interested. But if Mother Nature will favor me with a bloom that size in 2015 is a big question mark!! It is said that coffee grounds (used coffee powder) increase the number of bunches… How proud my plant Guru would have been to see the flower if it had bloomed an year earlier…

Note: Unfortunately rather sadly the jade bunch was cut by a naughty child who was visiting just before it bloomed. Hope the vine will be kind enough to grace one more large bunch in the near future.

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Blue Colored Bees, am I kidding?

Thanks to all…

When I started off with my blog, even though I am very passionate about the things around me, I was apprehensive about my writing skill & how it will be received. But most of my friends, colleague & family encouraged me & continues to encourage me. When they find something interesting straightaway it ends up on my lap. My readers also have been very supportive & it reached four & a half thousand mark, its really motivational.

My best friend sent me this picture yesterday of two different kol-thenu (stick honey) so called because they build their hives on low lying straight branches of the shrubs/trees. It’s so very beautiful, truly a work of art… I always admire the engineering skills of Mr. & Mrs. Bees.

One is like a … oh it remind me of so many things… sawed teak log to monkey face to pizza to what not.. use your own imagination.

The second one is like the bottom half of India map.. what is eye catching is that in the first one you can see the gray coloured worker bee & the black dots are the head of the bees in the comb. You can see the pairs of eyes very clearly.

The third picture (close-up of second) you can see the blue colour of the bee baby just out in open… blue bee babies… I never saw anything like it before. You can also see the blue shade in the capped brood comb. Queen bee is supposed to be blue & by any chance if I get to photograph I will definitely share with you all!! I have heard of the mysterious blue & green coloured honey from Ribeauville in Alsace, North West of France gathered by the candy loving bees from the sugary waste of M&Ms. But I did not see blue honey bee babies before!! That too fully blue.. how coooolll.

This was found on my late friend Dr. Achaiah’s backyard, who was very passionate about the nature & its beings, so I have nick named it as “Achaiah’s blue baby bee”!!

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The cream coloured waxy substance in the h  ive is the Royal jelly (aka bee’s milk) secreted from the glands in the heads of worker bees, is the honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens. However, it is fed to queen bee though out her live & to all larvae in the colony for the first three days, regardless whether they are destined to become drones (males), workers (sterile females), or queens (fertile females). It is also is the secret of queen bee’s longevity (4 – 5 years compared to one season for the workers). It is supposed to possess magical properties & used as a general health tonic, for fighting the effects of aging, & for boosting the immune system.

Tri-colour tropical beauty in the desert of Kuwait…

The other day when I saw the creeper for the first time I could not believe my eyes… Wow…growing in Kuwait in all its tropical glory? There she was swaying happily, head held high, beaming with flowers and bees buzzing around. Nostalgic memories of childhood flooded back, elevating my mood for the day.  Back home we called it Beli-poo (hedge or fence flower) because that’s what we used it for. This pretty mildly fragrant (woody smell) with pretty long soft flexible tubular stem helped us to make garland or braid without thread. So we braided it together as crown, & played king & queen games. It’s hard to pinpoint the colour of the flower. Even though the bud often looks reddish, when the flower blooms in the evening it is white (almost) with very light subtle tinges of pink that gradually turns pink in the morning. It then graduates to a reddish pink by evening & stays the same till it dries. So we could be white or red or pink or colourful royalities!! It blooms from February to May & again from August to November. The creeper bears flowers every day during the season & the mature flowers stays for few days. So in the bargain it creates an unusually spectacular sight of three generations swaying together. The drooping bunch with rare tri-colour flowers at the same time is a sight to cherish. Bees & butterflies are attracted to these flowers.

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Native to tropical Asia, this ligneous creeper called Quisqualis Indica/Combretum indicum, Madhu Malati in Sanskrit,Akash Mallige in Kannada (akash meanins sky), Radha Manoharam in Telugu (sounds so very romantic), Chinese honeysuckle, Rangoon creeper, is a sturdy, vigorously growing, profusely flowering, perennial climber that practically does not need any maintenance. (Quisqualis in Latin means who or what!!). The leaves are elliptical with an acuminate tip & a rounded base. It supposed to bear ellipsoidal fruit with five prominent wings which tastes like almonds when mature. However, I don’t really remember seeing fruits though!! In a mature creeper, the stem becomes woody & thorns appear. Once established, it is the boss, sky seems to be the limit for Akash Mallige’s growth & with proper sunlight & enough water, it flowers profusely in big bunches of 15-30 flowers. (Can there be a better proof than its growth in Kuwait??). In between the season, the creeper sheds most of its leaves as if sad for not having flowers. Then starts to spring back with reddish leaves as if it is beaming in preparation for the motherhood!! Fast catching up as an ornamental creeper, you can train the creeper as you like & it can be grown in the pot too…

This Royal beauty has medicinal value too. I have heard that: decoctions of the root, seed or fruit can be used as antihelmintic to expel parasitic worms such as roundworm & pinworm or for alleviating diarrhea. It is said to be toxic to the parasite & kills it in the digestive tract. Fruit decoction can also be used for gargling & are also used to combat nephritis (inflammation of kidneys). Leaves are used to relieve pain caused by fever. The roots are used to treat rheumatism.

It is said that ”A thing of beauty is a joy forever!” No picture can do justice to a thing of beauty, as we see it in all its glory… nor does a picture satisfy the longing for seeing it for real. In my enchanted state, I have made humble attempts to capture the lovely sight as best as I can….. hope they please your eyes as they did mine!

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Magic of Rain, Wind & Sunshine : Beauty explosion!

After living in Kuwait for more than a quarter century, spring of 2014 is the first time I have seen a huge explosion of colours in February/March. The natural beauty par excellence created by Mother Nature around the city was just awesome, a refreshing sight to sore eyes. Al-Arfaj (Rhanterium epapposum) Kuwaiti national flower with other beauties sprang out everywhere between the tiles, gap in the wall, wherever there was little life support… Even though from far it just looked yellow, it had different types like single petal, multi-petal, light yellow, dark yellow, etc. There were native plum red flower looking as if made out of paper, mauve & yellow flowers.. mauve …. large leaved wild mustard plants … There were thorny plant with little mauve flowers spreading out.. little white flowers.. grass.. loads of wild plants.. Perhaps medicinal.. edible… There were supposed to be desert lavenders which I never had the privilege to witness…

Day after day going to work & on the way back it lifted my spirit, skipped a heartbeat & I never had enough of it. They had their own rooting selection too… if the plum red dominated the middle partition of the highway; yellow flowers dominated the sides of the road looking sexy specked all over the grass. Particularly eye catching was opposite to MEW Tower, little flowers beaming with pride, looking beautiful, natural & happy without any direct human intervention!!

It looked as if they are smiling at you & in front of the magnetism/charm of the little wild flowers, rows & rows of the planted large colourful flowers dwarfed/dulled. With that came the battalion of butterflies, bees & moths. Most of the butterflies are the same colour as the sand.. some had little flashes of bright colours. The flowers looked unusually beautiful because of its sandy background. Wonder if next year the flowers will multiply with ample supply of seeds or simply vanishes?

Suddenly bird population & their happy chirping seem to be increased. With ample supply of Al-Arfaj, I saw a sparrow nest built of fresh plants… wish I could see them at work.. bugs scurried along.. Mr. Camel smiled at me too.. Its happy time… I wonder what made the flowers bloom in such large number. Whatever it is, it was an amazing experience, felt like as if it was created especially for me!!

Visiting the valley of flowers is my long desired passion & looking at the flowers around I thought this might be the preview/trailer of Mother Nature’s magic. It’s hard to comprehend how a multimillion times explosion of different coloured flowers would look like? Perhaps it would be like sighting the God… a pilgrimage I have to postpone to summer of 2015 as I have a strong feeling that drinking ocean of beauty, I am going to have heart attack & die!!

Also first time I saw the cousin of date & coconut, a lovely bunch of palm flower in ivory shade. And I got lucky when I tried to get a picture there was this proper dark gray bee with a black dot sucking the nectar. Gray bee!!!

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Bees in the Desert – Dubai

Dubai is one of the emirates or states in UAE(United Arab Emirates), in the Middle East which is portrayed larger than life… ever increasing in popularity as tourist destination, shopper’s paradise and foodies dream. A master piece in its own right, practically showcasing every cultures and nations of the world in a nutshell. It’s a place which does not have any natural resource, but has everything thanks to the futuristic ruler. The cleanliness is eye catching and the Burg Khalif stands tall as if policing the whole emirate. Never ending tide of tourists & visitors and, the weeked trip to Dubai mall, the largest mall in the world would remind one of factory workers milling out after the evening siren. I first passed through Dubai way back in 1991 on my way to Abu Dhabi. From then to now Dubai has come a long way…But not until this millennium my visits are becoming more frequent and stay are longer. What fascinated me more about Dubai than all the concrete structure is the ever increasing bird population and some insects like butterflies and bugs. Early morning Birds chirping in Middle East is music to my ears, against witnessing the ever dwindling bird population in South India.

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Raised in Western Ghats of India my fascination of Mother Nature is insatiable. I had three different experiences in 50 days and I want to share one of my most incredible experiences…

Paddy (rice) pollination is generally considered done by wind or self pollination. It always bothered me because my parents told me it’s done by bees. I always wanted to see the source of paddy pollination & I was not even sure if such small paddy flowers contained/hosted any nectar too. During the paddy flowering season there used to be a special kind of honey which is little darker and thick which was normally preserved for the home consumption. Unfortunately then unlike now I was more interested in eating than worrying about the source. Thanks to my granddaughter, during October – November 2013, I had the privilege of spending 50 straight days in Dubai. Every morning I spent more than an hour in the lawn with the new born acquiring free supply of vitamin D and getting rid of her jaundice. Now I will let my pictures tell you their own stories… taking these pictures were very, very tricky and I wish I was a better photographer and used professional camera… better luck next time…

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The bees often used to make me laugh… the grass stalk is so small and the flower are so tiny-tiny it’s like comparing elephant with a mouse. The bees coiled/wound around the stalk and sucked the nectar from flower. What an ingenious feat!! Then while unwinding most of then lost the balance and fell on the ground… its so funny like albatross running before taking off… my dear old Mother Nature never ceases to surprise me.

Mirror mirror on the wall…..Coffee (2/9)

Who grows the best coffee of them all??…………….. Always there is a question which country produces the best coffee in the world… it’s hard to say… it’s like who grows the best tea or basmati rice? Basically all the three can be grown anywhere provided you have the basic requirement such as enough land/paddy field, water & sun light to grow!! It’s like a baby who can grow up in an orphanage, on the street, normal home or in a palace. The baby surely would grow into an adult with the same anatomical built & features. But definitely the quality of the baby particularly mental stability depends upon how much love & care the baby really got & what kind of role model the baby had. That love & care is the climatic condition & altitude, & the role model is the farmer/planter along with the fertility of the land for all the three products. Mental stability is the taste of the product. Then again who gets to taste all the coffees or teas in the world? Even if you get to taste, can you really pin point the taste? After all we are human & have our own limitations. It’s strange yeh? We are so used to aping everything; we have lost the essence of everything. For example same TV channel will show so many adds of a particular product (eg: shampoo) one will end up wondering which one is really good? Like some times when we watch the fashion show we wonder who is really going to wear all these strange clothes…. But still everyone will be ha-hooving the malnourished models with skimpy cloths!!

There are many things which decide the taste factor of any particular produce. Taste of the coffee also depends on the quality of the manure we use too. But the main factor is the climatic conditions. Like the hapoos i.e. alphonso the king of mangos, no one can beat the taste from Rathnagiri in terms of sweetness, richness & flavour right? Let us use our common sense & think. Why Kodagu with a geographical area of 4,102 km2 (1,584 sq miles) is the second largest coffee producer in the country? Hum… Kodagu almost has the perfect climate & topography to grow coffee so there you have the answer. Coffee is supposed to be less acidic than beer, fruit juices or carbonated water. … have a coffee on me.

Sadly artificial manure & pesticides have not only killed the taste & insects but also effecting our health. More & more unknown diseases are increasing.

{All you might need to know about Decaf….coffee without the caffeine? (3/9)}