Tyrants, looters, politicians, angry Varuna, and now Snails too – Kodagu under constant attack! 2/2

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Land Snails are hermaphrodites meaning their body contains the sex organs of both female and male. Interestingly they do mate, the very reason for this article is the mating, guess this is one of the rare moments when a mating snail is caught on camera. They mate leisurely like turtles and seem gentle. I sat there watching the beauty and glory of creation in its rudimentary form for a while, oblivious of passer-by’s. Luckily after an hour, my husband was kind enough to let me to go back there to watch them.

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Perhaps these are one of its kinds who can taste sex from both perspectives… wondering if they are more advanced than most beings on earth. Before mating they have a courtship ritual which could last for hours. They caress each other with their tentacles, nibble at lips and rock their bodies back and forth. Oddly I was awestruck to learn that there are many species which pierce the body of the other with a long, sharp spear, called a “love dart”, something like stimulating or to indicate their readiness!

It is said that more than 99 percent of the millions of sperms they’ll exchange are digested by the snail before finding their way to the safety of the storage pouch. In other words it reduces the number of fertilized eggs in a major way. So Nature provided an extreme solution, transfer the (specially ordered)  mucus to prevent a snail’s from digesting so much semen.

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It is said that during the mating action the body is aligned in such a way that male organ of each is inserted into the female organ of the other. During the process they exchange sperm, then each stores the sperm in a special storage pouch and uses it to fertilize their own eggs, some times over the course of several months. In the right environment they can lay hundreds of eggs and seems like these extra ordinary beings are here to stay even after humans manage to kill each other.

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Snails produce mucus, lots and lots of it for lubrication, though it looks repulsive to human eye, the usage is beyond anyone’s perception. Mucus can be thin for easy gliding across a smooth surface or thick to protect them from rough surfaces. To begin with it provides a protective layer between a surface and the snail’s fragile body aiding them effectively when they climb over sharp surface without harm. It helps them move, insulates their body, keep away dirt and germs, and it holds moisture so they don’t desiccate. Amazingly when snails go into a sleep-state (depending upon the conditions either they hibernate or estivate), even it plugs the shell opening to keep them moist and safe. Last but not the least it prevents them from over digesting the semen and like the Indian TV commercial would go, perhaps it might help them find their mating partners! Hahahahah..

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Their glossy shells, usually forming a logarithmic spiral can be sinistral or dextral is made of calcium carbonate which they constantly lug around, protects them from weather, certain predators and most importantly to hold the moisture. Moisture is very essential for their survival. A molluscs (phylum Millusca) with 43,000 species to boast are found just about anywhere from deserts to tropics, from sea level to mountain tops, practically in all parts of the earth were evolved even before the man did. They come in different shapes, patterning, texture – some smooth while some bumpy colours, mostly hairless and sizes including the giant African snails and the shell less slugs which gardeners hate them their love for the plants. If required they can withdraw into the shell to escape inclement weather (too hot, too cold or too dry), protection from predator or simply to take rest and are capable of staying for a lengthy periods if necessary.

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Even though their shell has no life, its start during embryonic development itself and come out from the pearly eggs with it. At birth they are delicate, transparent and colourless, and eventually over a period of time it hardens and becomes colourful. Shell’s shape and form is unique and specific to each species. In layman’s understanding it is something like the human hair or nail! In fact like the human nail, their inimitable rasp-like tongue called radula which grows from the base throughout the life is used to scrape food. They flourish in right conditions particularly with the availability of calcium. It is so important for them that if they don’t get enough calcium, they are known to devour each other’s shells!! If the shells are attacked then you can see the visible dry or dull shells. Otherwise the healthy shell gleams with freshness.

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Life span of snails vary depending upon the species from anywhere between one year to ten plus years. Calcium rich Snails are food for wildlife – birds, reptiles, insects and mammals including man (particular species only – a delicacy sold at fancy restaurants). Even it is farmed, what is known as helici-culture but eating it won’t make someone hermaphrodites. Olden day’s Roman soldiers carried snails with them for food. If some likes to devour them, some consider them pests and yet some others like to keep them as pets too.

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Tyrants, looters, politicians, angry Varuna, and now Snails too – Kodagu under constant attack! 1/2

Part one of two:

The other day in one of the local paper something unique caught my eye… the giant African snail (Achatina fulica, Shanka pulu or Gonne pulu – shanka means cone and gonne is snot) is wreaking havoc on farms and plantations across the region. Kodagu is used to little peaceful ones like indrella ampulla, an endemic tropical terrestrial air-breathing gastropod mollusk. Even with about 100 rows of teeth, the colourful indrella ampulla lived in harmony feeding mainly on large fungi, blending well with the nature. But these nasty hitch-hikers or imported new comers were solid ones which unlike the earthly indrella ampulla are invasive, ruthless, jaunt and rapidly proliferating. In fact these African giants with its veracious apatite are considered as one among the 100 worst invasive species in the world.

It all started as a small innocent hitchhiking… according to Mr. Vijay Hangal in the kodagu daily paper “Shakthi”: in 2015, along with the Gobbara (manure) brought in a lorry from Mandya district to Kodilipet hobli of Somwarpet Taluk arrived a single snail. Looking at it, one of the workers just discarded it besides the plantation… now in 2017 it has multiplied into millions so far effecting 250 acres of cultivation. These great strategists, whose mantra is sex, production and more production, so far have managed to conquer Handli, Bellaralli, Keralli, Shirangala in clusters distressing the farmers and planters who are already distraught with shortage of rains.

These species, mostly nocturnal, non-social interacting only when mating, solitary without any bond or responsibility of raising the young ones spend their time moving, eating, resting and of course coupling. So they just eat and eat and grow, lay their egg and more eggs and more long leisurely Sex with anyone on the way! Thankfully they don’t normally use their ability to self-fertilize and resolve to mate in traditional way. An adult can weigh upto 32 grams and the conical and narrow attractive shell can reach upto 7.8 inches in length and 4 inches in height. It has a life span of 5-7 years or more, depending upon the weather and food availability particularly rich in calcium in any form. If uncontrolled this could be the greatest threat to the peaceful people of Kodagu in whole, who have faced threats time and time again from outsiders in different forms-shapes-colours. Seems like the only thing which can surpass its ability to multiplicity is the black money supply in India!

Though native to Africa these giants easy adoptable and can breed in an unimaginable speed because of their unique sex life. More to come on that in my next part!

Without a defined breeding period, they can lay upto 1,200 eggs annually and with a hatch success probability of 90% under right condition.  Though some keep it as pets, this also said to carry parasites and can transmit various diseases to both animals and humans. If unchecked, these silent menacing pesky little creatures could create problems in totality equal to all the Rajas, Nayakas, Tippu, British and the modern politicians who have, in the 3,500 history of Kodagu, used it as their personal battle ground.

India vastly depends upon the rain for its agriculture and drinking. The Indian economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and the livelihood of the Indian farmer largely depends on the monsoon rains directly or indirectly. The water situation is so dire, PM Modi even sought advice and help from Israel and according to PM Netanyahu, Modi told him I have to take care of India’s interest, I need more water, clean water. Where will I get it… for once if all the politicians of India keep their baggage of personal greed and gain aside and think like PM Modi, India would be a better place.

Kodagu located in Western Ghats is one of the hot beds of biological diversity in the world recognized even by the UN. Once a beautiful and tranquil district, home to the life giving River Kaveri and her three tributaries is already under severe stress and in the brink of disaster. Kodagu is the principal catchment area for lifeline river Kaveri providing almost 50% of the total inflow, providing 70% water to KRS which supplies water to 80 million people and industries as far away as Bangalore, and then on to Tamil Nadu. Sadly neither the biodiversity nor the benefits reaped is respected or made any effort to save because of greed, profiteering, etc., along with unwise absurd ideas of politicians who uses it as a ground to score their personal grudge spreading malice.

Particularly since the last 10 years or so the district has seen drastic changes such as commercializing -including resorts and large hotels-, without even a second thought and without adhering to proper rules and procedures passing the projects to fill the pockets with Gandhi. Unwarranted tree felling for example last year alone 55,000 trees were cut for the sake of constructing a 400KV High tension power line from Mysore to Kozihkode in Kerala. Man cannot dictate terms with Mother Nature and everything including the cloud seeding come with a price, massive reduction in rain fall and it is going to get worst. Moreover, reduction in rain and high cost of labour has seen extinction of paddy cultivation which indirectly reduced the ground water table as there isn’t enough time for land to absorb water. Sadly the heavy loss of greenery in every form is going to be a disaster to the entire ecosystem. On top of it the bamboo on the river banks is either cut and sold, or after the bloom is dead and of course the sand mafia..  they are sucking it like leeches and have changed the shape of the river and creek beds too. It’s a real sorry state of affair.

Sadly to fill the bottomless pit of man’s greed there is no room left for humanity. Corruption is rampant in the state from a chaprasi to the top… Kodagu is just over 4000 sq kms and can it take all that the government is shoving through her throat? I hear that a railway line project is underway… wonder the assortment of Gandhis changing hands! Such a project would call for massive felling of trees and disturbing the landscape as well as further pollution.  We have been witnessing the result of such actions all around the world and Kodagu is not going to be an exception. Eventually over milking will not leave a drop for the milkman itself. The way things are going pretty soon, say in less than five years not just Kodagu but Bangalore (and major parts of Tamil Nadu) is going to face acute shortage of water bringing the states into its knees. However, the imprudent, ignorant, insensitive politicians with ferocious appetite for magenta Gandhis are not going to heed as long as it is flowing into their coffers. Sadly general public aid them directly or indirectly out of ignorance.

These hoarders can import food/water or wipe their asses with the black money but what a poor common man should do… These two legged menace and their rampage and ravage was not enough now unfortunately a new trouble is brewing. Sad indeed.

Hope PM Modi will intervene and do something worthwhile for the district too.

The Drunkard’s dozen, and one for the road;)

When I visit Kodagu, I not only make a choice to blissfully cut off myself from the gadget civilization, but the erratic Electricity Board practically forces it on me too. So I try to read the local news papers  in Kannada to brush up my language skills. Last visit, I was reading the paper and burst out laughing with tears rolling from the eyes. My husband was curious to learn the reason and I warned him, you are not going to like what I say… but he insisted!

I said have you heard of Drunkard’s dozen? You can use it in your next Bingo session… (actually I made up the word) and started laughing again because my mind went elsewhere, to Pakistan to be precise! He was looking at me with a sort of grin and irritation… then I narrated out the news item from the newspaper dabbed with little spice:

{May 28th 2017, – Virajpet} The way it seems, the Keralites are exceptionally Law abiding(***) citizens of India. The Cops seems to be either busy controlling the striking employees or chasing the drunken brawlers… If you take the Nagarahole road to Mysuru, after the check point of Thithimathi, you can often see many Kerala  registered cars from Mercedes to little Nano parked here and there even braving the elephant crossing. I joke with my husband, guess Mallu’s are scared of their abkari and cops more than the biggest mammal!

Lure of alcohol is more powerful than most, as long as the effect is on, one can be what they want to be… a Maharaja or a Celebrity or a Super being. Moreover alcohol is unbiased, has no religion, no gender or language discrimination, sings lullaby even to the beggar/pauper/criminal alike, teaches punctuality to the believer, and embraces everyone in the same manner including animals. Jokes aside, heard of fermented Marula fruit party of animals in Africa? The animals relentlessly keep coming back for more and more inspite of losing balance while walking. Fortunately (unfortunately for some) there is a limit to Man’s ability to drink and eat… and unlike Mr.FAT there is no storage facility for the alcohol either. The chemical cocktail that runs through every creature called addiction are often difficult to control and in Kerala there are one too many devoted to Ms Madire (alcohol). So what is the easiest path to romance or mate with her?

Simply get into a bus or car and depending where you live travel to Mahe or Karnataka. For example the boarder Taluk of Virajpet in Kodagu district of Karnataka and have a fill. Sadly one State’s restriction is another States boon. Ironically Mahe (aka Mayyazhi locally) surrounded by Kerala on three sides but governed by the union territory Puducherry (Pondicherry) with low taxes!

So during the last week of May 2017, one young genius in Lungi, the traditional attire, came up with a brilliant plan. He brought eleven quarter bottle (usually its flat bottles) and tied them to his sexy legs with white cotton rope, one with six and the other with five. Though seemed a dubious plan, it was the best he could do to avoid being caught by the custom officials at the check posts of Makutta and Perambadi. Perhaps he even would have gotten away fairly easily as the Lungi would cover the bottles and rope without any bulges. But like the famous phrase.. “One for the road”, made the plan famous and colourful.

That day KSRTC, – both the Kerala State government and Karnataka State government transport buses are called KSRTC – was running late.  Poor man in Lungi could not resist the call for the last drink like a snake to the charmer’s Pungi, got another quarter and chugged the shot fearing the arrival of the bus. Already high, as the Ms Madire subjugated, he could not even stand or walk. So under duress just sat on the ground, as the Lungi opened revealing his beautiful sexy legs along with the bottles. Rest is history… someone with the smart phone got smarter and clicked the picture and sent to the media.

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As I finished my narration, my husband burst out laughing but in between he said then what is the Drunkard’s dozen and Pakistani connection?

Well, sorry guys I have to admit its little nasty but that was the thought that came to me… I am not challenging the manhood but it’s just a funny episode in the mundane day to day life. I told him, it’s all about the importance or perception of manhood for certain category of people. I was wondering why only the odd eleven bottles and why not twelve? Then realized that in a drunken state, the man in Lungi must have mistaken or counted his organ as the twelfth bottle! It’s not different from a drunkard thinking he/she can drive in supersonic speed or consider themselves as superman/woman.

And as far the Pakistani connection goes, remember 4 – 5 years ago a suicide bombers’ devise would not detonate because he was wearing a metal shield around his genital area to carry it whole to heaven? Wow, amazingly he thought leaving it whole on Earth would reach Heaven without blemish too. Then there is the failed Christmas day unwashed-underwear bomb too…

My husband did not say anything so I thought it was OK to post it… But I am still wondering who is the smartest of the three? And which addiction is more powerful? Is wearing pant better than Lungi while smuggling?

*** Even though India is one sovereign entity, each State has its own independent rules and regulations within the state. Often it is stretched too thin and hard to comprehend. For decades I lived in a tax free country Kuwait, where there was restriction for very few items like drugs, alcohol, pork. Yet people try to smuggle it not only for quick bucks but also for personal indulgence. Always the modus operandi is exclusive; often mind blowing which could turns funny, nasty or stupid too. Like the drugs carrier mules sorry humans, swallowing plastic bags with drugs or kept in private parts, etc.. I often wondered how it is in a large country with limited restrictions or free movement between the states.

In Karnataka, alcohol sale is a big business… both as money spinner to state government as well as politicians/abkari/police department’s coffer filling golden goose, who are like the mosquitoes sucking out on decomposed mushrooms! Sadly as long as the last alcoholic is standing, demand and supply will continue and the trend will continue. Pathetically, as if the half crack-nasty, ego bound drivers are not bad enough, it is even sold on highways… However, the next door neighbour state Kerala has a different covenant even though they enjoy “Kallapam”, a alcohol based breakfast. Say no to “Kallu” and encourage drinking “Chaya”, the famed Kerala milk-tea,. According to Mr. Google uncle, the state owned Bevco (Kerala State Beverage Corp) has 338 shops, and Bevco will shut down 10% of them every year. Consumer fed, which has 46 shops, will also be closed. However, sale of alcohol will continue to be permitted in 5-star hotels, and there were fourteen 5-star hotels in the state as of August 2014. That means big wigs can still drink, in other words liquor is not really banned; only the location is restricted!!

Life of Mushroom- From dust to dust, a Micro vision to the Human story?

Come rainy season I wait for a chance to devour wild mushrooms.. my favourite dish which I can never resist that too with a generous dab of butter and otti (rice bread -like peta bread-, staple breakfast of Kodavas). Mushroom foraging, harvesting and eating is a risky job; a tiny error could cost your life or you might end up in mental asylum! But quite instinctively we knew which ones (8-10) were edible by sight, a knowledge just slipped into our system somehow. The taste and flavour can only be experienced and cannot be described:while growing up mushroom hunting was a delight to us as we got to wade barefoot on the rainwater, collected on the clean grass splashing all around, carried an umbrella yet fully wet, an time which can never be relived. Yet just a ray of hope in the distant horizon, teeny-tiny chances, if, Kasturirangan Report is implemented.

Mushrooms are fungus that grow almost everywhere, on every natural material imaginable (tree, logs, soil, decomposing leaves, dung, mulch, compost, etc.) in different shapes, sizes and colours. Even ants and termites grow them as food. It’s hard to delineate the shapes, mostly with a domed cap on a stalk with gills on the underside of the cap. It’s something like the fruit of a plant with millions of invisible seed called spores but it’s hard to say if it is Vegetarian or Non-vegetarian food!! Who cares… I am a gourmand when it comes to wild mushroom!

Without leaves and requirement of sunlight, it pops up magically without any clue within a week or more after a good rain (rains) right in front of your eyes if you happened to be around. It also returns to its point of origin within no time if left in nature.

Recently, I had the unexpected privilege of recording it in the span of 3 – 5 days and that’s when I realized how close it is to our own life cycle! If one can compare this process to 5 days of human life then cycle of our life process say 100 years could be few days of the life of Mother Nature. Creation from dust to dust, the disposal technique of Mother Nature is unbelievable. No wonder the Rishis of yore opted for cremation over burial…

Mushroom decay process depends upon the condition around. I remember Oprah Wimfrey telling, with the makeup, fan and light anyone could be made to look gorgeous not just models or film stars.. Similarly with the sun, rain and air in control, the entire creation could be altered!! I have seen mushroom drying naturally in warm climates like Mysuru in the absence of rain.

The first reaction from my Son when he saw the pictures, whose opinion is very important to me, was yukkk… yukkk Mamma… can’t imagine…did you really photograph it? How could you?!? I joked, yeh I did, everything happens for a reason, I was supposed to that’s why the process cycle was very small. The decay was accelerated as the results of hot day temperature and rains in the evenings. I left the place on the 5th day… letting nature’s recyclers enjoy the remains.

The mushroom had bloomed on 27/05/2017 on the mud parapet at my sister-in-law Shanthi Somanna’s house in Mythadi, but unnoticed till 28/05/2017 evening so by the time it was plucked, it was unfit to eat. My SiL is a sweetheart and was very sad that I did not get to eat it, and to make me happy, kept it in a plastic tray in the coffee drying yard for me to photograph it. I spent quite some time with the mushroom (almost till the end) until by mistake my husband drove over the tray breaking it in the process.

The pictures are self-explanatory… inspite of all the activities the stem standing firm almost till the end is in par with the bones staying for a long time to tell the tales.

Day one was missed out in the wild.

Day Two

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Day three

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Day four

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Day Four evening..

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Final chapter of Mr & Mrs. Mushrooms

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Changing face of South Karnataka… are we headed for a severe drought?

I hope i’m wrong about the title’s question, but the signs are everywhere. Kodguku poopo (going to Coorg) always brings me a feel-good feeling. It’s like melting chocolate to the mind.  As soon as we enter the Anechowkoor border gate, my husband will say do you feel the change? Then I would add I was about to ask you!! The sight, the smell & the sounds stirring suddenly awakens something coiled up somewhere perhaps in a Pandora’s box. Nostalgic memories are unique to each individual, once a Lebanese colleague of mine told me, you will not believe me if I say I love the smell of burning garbage… it’s the smell of childhood freedom from before the Civil War. Now if I see anywhere the burning garbage, her face pops in front of me reminding the word freedom!

Even though I keep visiting India, I have been away from home for too long & so much has happened in between & unfortunately the total scenario is different today. What Kodagu once was seems like from a different dimension altogether. Kodagu, once the green paradise is painting a different scenario today. I had to make trips to Mangalore, Kodagu & Chennai within a short span lately & the change in topography made me wonder if there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

While driving from Mysuru to Kodagu almost all the keres (lakes) have dried up. Belikere, once filled with original pink lotus dried up more than a decade ago but many others have joined the wagon in recent years. The big kere near Periapatna which always stood the test of time has lost its battle. So does many small ones. Some of them practically bone dry without a trace of its past. So what is going to be the future? There is practically no flow in the pole (rivers) & todu (creeks), the wells are showing the signs of drying unless they are close to the rivers. The Lakshmana Tirtha River flowing through Hunsur looks like a river from Mars with big boulders popping out & the almost stagnant water exploding with unlimited green weeds. I have no idea if it is good as it prevents the evaporation or if it is bad which might contaminates the drinking water. On the other hand the South Canara seemed greener & the lakes still wet, if not in a larger scale.

The scenario from Bangalore to Chennai is worlds apart & paints a different story. Most of the water clogged paddy fields are green & smiling with freshly transplanted paddy. More over almost all the Lakes are alive & pleasure to tired eyes. Some of the lakes might be fed from the Kaveri River but I am sure all of it is not. Even though Chennai is warmer than Kodagu, the evaporation seems to be less… that means it’s not Mr. Sun to be blamed but the depleting ground water level. So why is it losing the ground water so rapidly?

On the 11th of February 2017, we traveled from Madikeri to Mythadi around 11:30 pm after attending a wedding. The visibility on the way was almost near zero making it very, very difficult to drive. However I was happy to see the fog (or mist?) but when realized that the fog was sans moisture I could not believe my eyes. It was the first time I saw something like that as fog & mist known to me always left droplets on the plants & grass which gleamed like diamond in the rising sun, windows & wind screen. The weather pattern is surely changing.

River Kaveri originating from Kodagu joined by several tributaries becomes the life line of Karnataka & the Tamil Nadu. If the source is dried up or supply is curtailed then both drinking water as well as the crops will be disastrous. So I had to make a trip to KRS to check for myself the status of water level. In front of the nearby petrol station, the Nale (canal) seems to be barren & someone (a trader) was using the bridge to dry their consignment of blankets or carpets while hung as a colourful display as the herd of goats walked past with their herder. There were few transplanted wet lands dotting here and there. The dam level has retreated drastically & a gang of young men in trunks who had gone to take a dip were seen as little dots. On the way to new Kannambadi, a little drama was amalgamated on a pool of water with water tankers (supplying drinking water) moved on the rugged surface shaking its butt, men & women washed their cloths, someone was having bath, while someone else washed the buffalo, yet another washed the vehicles, as what seemed like few army personnel looked on. God protect the ones who drink that tanker water!! Meanwhile as usual my husband & I argued over taking a picture!

On the rugged tar road, 3 men were drying the hurali kalu (pulse) in the old fashioned way depending on the occasional vehicles going to the new Gopala swamy temple. We had a chat with them & as well as a group of men & women from the nearby village who came to spend time at the new temple (idols are not consecrated yet). They were telling there is no water in the bore well & new ones even upto 500 feet no water!

Even though certain level can be seen in the reservoir how much of the water can really be used? How much of it is silt deposit? No one can tell precisely.. sadly I don’t see any where anyone is controlling the consumption of water… seems like business as usual & everyone virtually behaves like there is no tomorrow.

Interestingly the Kukkahalli keri within the premises of Mysore University Campus, home to many migratory aquatic birds, which used to be full for as long as I can remember is been shrinking drastically. Inspite of that there are plans to turn it into money making machine by introducing boating, kayaking, etc. Bangalore is gone to dogs with the greed of blind politicians & builders, & ever increasing human waste & plastic. Sadly Mysore seems to be the next victim…

While I was growing up, my dear Kodagu had a good environmental balance. This balance was achieved by practicing harmony with the nature & flora & fauna in the form of a good relationship between human settlements, forests & water resources. The traditional cultivation of cardamom & coffee had kept the trees standing tall. The floor of the cardamom plantation never even saw sun light in the mid afternoon… kept the moisture safe {of course along with umbulu (leech)}. Deva-kadu (sacred groves) along with the reserved forest by the government made the district green & kept the fresh air intact. Punda pada (Bamboo bush) along the River & Creek banks kept the water from heavy evaporation & the banks being eroded. The expanse of paddy cultivation helped the ground to absorb the water leisurely along with the grass from the plains acting like sponge to retain the rain water. Cattle grazing maintained the bane (plains) like mowed landscape along with producing milk & organic fertilizer.

Birds sang & bees buzzed… The beautiful sound of everything happened around at dawn & dusk were a synchronized/rhythmic act of people & the nature in harmony. Evening watching the flock of birds flying home was a feast to eyes & their murmuration echoing around still echoes in my ears. The sunset had its own rhythm with the walking home of the herds of the cattle, mothers sometimes calling for their calves & the gante-mani (bell in the neck) ringing along their movements & the cicadas announcing their presence with tymbals. Early morning along with the fresh cool breeze came in the dawn chorus of birds creating an unusual melodious symphony with so many different specifies, as if they competed with each other in announcing to the universe I am the happiest & I am the happiest… the drops of water collected on the leaf of grass from the night long mist gleamed on the early morning sun like diamond with myriad of colours…

However sadly the entire scenario has almost vanished or vanishing into thin air like the moistureless mist I experienced on 11th February 2017 night. Now the excessive use of artificial fertilizers & pesticides seems to have not only sucked the insects & birds but also the land out of its natural immunity along with increased usage of land with ever increasing population. Cattles are a thing of the past & even the crows do not come for the rice offering for the soul.

So where does the fault line lies? Whom to blame for this environmental disaster? The human lives have become like the plastic flowers without smell or texture or soul. Should we blame the people who have changed everything around them in the name of modernization? Should we blame the pesticides & artificial manure & the countless hybrids popping around? Should we blame the increasing tourism & the ever increasing garbage & plastic? Should we blame the politicians for the greed of money-power-votes changed the scenario or the sand mafia or the paper making & matchbox making or uncontrolled population growth? I remember my parents grumbling every time a loaded timber or bamboo lorry passed by making a heavy engine sound while climbing uphill… there goes another load & mercilessly cutting the mother’s womb, chopped as if their father had planted them.

Either the strategic importance of Kodagu is underestimated or it is utter ignorance & short sighted, the use-misuse-abuse on Kodagu haven’t seems to be ending any time soon. Sadly in 2015 the state government played havoc with Tippu Jayanthi, hurting the psyche of the Kodavas & death of an innocent person in the name of vote banking drama. Now they want railways then high tension wire to pass through which will result in tree felling & link the streams & rivers, perhaps flooding part of the Kodagu in the bargain… The unreasonable state government (blinder than Kaurava parents) plans does not seems to ending any time sooner. There is a say that one life is not enough to make all the mistakes & learn from it… I think it’s time to use the God given common sense & work wisely than filling their coffers.

Last but not the least, to add further from old fashioned thinking, there is a belief in Kodava culture that Goddess Kaveri had promised them to keep Kodagu blessed with all her grace as long the Kodavas lived there. Now that many Kodavas moved out of Kodagu & also the traditional culture seems to be taking a big U turn. Did the rush to modernization & beautification of Talacauvery back fire?

Or perhaps a major earth quake is brewing underneath? Or perhaps even heather to unknown underground volcano sucking the moisture? Whatever may be the reason if the rain God does not smile on us, & no proper planning for the future (whatever left of it) is done, Karnataka’s future is seems bleak… no drinking water.. no food.. no electricity.. while the population fought with each other, the jobless politicians can either sleep or instigate naked rain dance.

Changing FACE of India… a visit to Mangaluru & back

January 28th 2017, I was traveling to Mangalore after almost two decades. The last time we wanted to go on that road for a monsoon drive some years ago, but the road was so bad & on top of it a lorry filled with haystack had toppled blocking the road for almost a day! My chauffeur cum bodyguard husband refused to go an inch further & with great difficulty managed to turn the car back. But this time it was a pleasure. The roads are good with the completion of the highway No.88 (Mysore-Bantwala). Had nice cup of coffee at Coffee Day which was almost empty near Sulya along with 5-youngsters in their Mitsubish Pajro sports & we stopped for lunch in Managalore at Giri Manja’s. My nephew-in-law highly recommended the place & insisted I taste the Mangalorean fish dishes there. But he was doubtful if my husband would be comfortable in that small little cramped place.

Finally we parked the vehicles besides the flower market & walked a distance to the restaurant near Kalikamba temple… well not exactly a restaurant… located beside a road of about 12 feet including the pavement… as both sides of the road used as a parking place for two wheelers. Small cars, rickshaws, cycles, people, etc., etc… were plying as a little queue formed to get into the restaurant inside a little house of yester years with tiny windows which had seen better days. It seems BBC travel rated the place as the one of the top five best places to eat in India! Interestingly 20 meters away across the road stood yet another Giri Manja’s in a new building & the food was also carried from this old restaurant itself. However, no one went there & waited here as hungry dogs waiting for their bone. As one young teenager refused to eat there saying it was too dark and ugly & was grumbling with his parents, yet another one came out saying it was heavenly food I ever ate…. Almost everyone was walking out wiping the sweat!

After about 20 minutes, finally we went inside & it reminded me of my childhood days when during the small function at the ancestral homes particularly during the monsoon, small benches were used for seating & tall benches were used as tables. Even before the soiled plates were removed & the place was cleaned, we both sat there lest we lose our turn as the other five waited for the other occupants to vacate their seats. One of the young men from our group knew the cook at the restaurant. Then came Anantha, our waiter for the day. When I asked him what was the specialty of the house, he assured us don’t worry, just tell which fish you want & what rice (boiled or normal) you want & I will do the rest. And he did & suggested dishes to share between the seven of us. It was so yummy, reasonably priced & even after eating so much none of us felt heavy too. Luckily one last plate of prawn biryani was available which we shared between us. Fish cooked in coconut oil complimenting & suppressing the fishy flavour was a delight to the pallets. If you ever go to Managlore don’t miss a meal there. It’s worth every paise you pay!

Mangalore (Anglicization of Mangaluru, which is named after Goddess Mangaladevi) for some reason reminded me of a modern version of Colombo, Sri Lanka. People are kind & friendly too. When I asked about the water supply, the Uber driver said: Amma people of Mangaluru has become smart by drinking sweet water which is so very abundant!! Perhaps Goddess Managaladevi did bless the land with abundance & happiness.

On our way back we wanted to visit Kukke Subramanya temple. The drive is beautiful surrounded by plenty of greenery & hills at a distance. Finally we made it to the thousand year old temple, now managed by Muzarai department of Government of Karnataka. Well organized & plenty of police personnel to guide people, the devotees had one small problem: You don’t get enough time to see the deity! Even before I could see how the flower decked amazing idol really looked, I had to move! I know that according to Indian culture the God lives within us but I wanted to see the beautiful idol too… Unfortunately education once given free, hospitals & now even the God is become commercial… Sadly many temples have become golden goose for the government. Surrounding of the temple could have maintained better too.

On our way another interesting thing was the mushrooming of minarets. Throughout the highway, perhaps every couple of kilometers – I simply lost count of those looking towards the sky painted mostly in green & half white. Seems like the do-gooder petrodollar indeed spreading magic carpet effect. Black gold from across the ocean has brought property for some parts of India too… I was joking with my husband what if US President Donald Trump happened to go on that road, perhaps the heat generated from both inside the car as well as the buildings outside would surpass the summer of Kuwait!!

Somewhere between my working life & retirement… the time known to me seems to have elapsed… giving birth to a new order. People even debate over the religion & attire of Statue of Liberty! It’s odd that every where man is futilely looking & holding & crying & sacrificing self (& others) – for & in the name of God, while they themselves have pushed God into the dark corners of their own heart. For some unknown reason it reminded me of my visit to Amsterdam where the Churches are being turned into discos & restaurants for lack of devotees…

When I came home my dear old friend & ex-colleague from Cochin had sent an interesting video on Funeral Event Management…Wow. Its common in India that some communities hire professional wailers & dancers to perform in front of dead bodies depending upon their beliefs… if death & departing is sad for some … for some others it’s the beginning of a new life… continuation of the cycle of birth & death rolling endlessly which calls for a celebration. With the event management (said to cost anywhere between 5 to 10 lakhs) the ugly truth reflects similarities to how the youngsters are given all the expensive toys such the mobiles & games etc., etc., to play with by their busy parents to compensate for not spending the quality time. Now the departed souls are given a grand funeral for not being there when they were needed… I could not understand if it was love or the vulgar display of wealth. It is said that the human brain has stopped growing… I think it’s the heart/feeling that is shrinking while the fauna is getting wiser, smarter, kind & understanding… after all man is a mysterious being, an enigma to himself.

Wondering what next? Facetime or whatsapp funeral…. It will be cost effective too hahahahha

Ghee & the Modern Man

 

Known as Ghrit or ghrta in Sanskrit, ghee is considered is a staple in Indian cooking and has been a host of good health for thousands of years. I love both butter & ghee, & growing up have eaten loads of it. After she was done churning, my mother kept the butter floating in a dish of water on the dining table & every time we passed by a portion of it went into mouth!! Both Butter & Ghee are usually solid in cooler conditions & melts as it warms. The smooth texture, melting in the mouth gives that classy feeling like the melting chocolate. Butter, Sri Krishna’s favourite dish, has a limited shelf life but a simple process turns the same butter into ghee (Clarified butter, we call it “Nei” & Kannada “tuppa”). Ghee’s own shelf life is almost one hundred years if stored properly!!! That’s makes it survive longer than us.

Boiling the butter on low fire yields the ghee. My mother added few betel leaves for flavor towards the end. The butterfat is bottled after cooling, leaving the proteins (casein, way & other milk solids such as lactose, etc.) collected at the bottom. We kids waited for the chance to collect the bottom solids & ate with banana or simply dhal which is prepared in the same vessel and smelt so good.. became so tasty… my mouth is watering. We fought for the lion share of the betel leaves cooked crisp.

Food for the Mind & Spirit

Unfortunately, modern science came up with the idea that ghee is bad, corrupting every mind & until recently not realizing the value of it. So ghee became a No… No in the modern meals…. In a way they might be right too because their study came from the cows eating all sorts of manmade concoction including plastic & ground bones (powder) of other dead animals. On the other hand, in Aryurveda, our Rishis spoke of the cows which ate grass straight from Mother Nature’s lap. I think that when the cows eat the fresh grass roaming freely in the meadows, the grass smells so good – like how the mowing brings out the unusual smell, enhancing good feeling in ourselves – making the cow happy & calm. That pleasantness (of the mind – which makes us believe either we are happy or sad) is then radiated into the entire body of the cow like the sweet fragrance, including the udder (perhaps mainly udder because cow produces milk for its baby, the calf not for us the thieves).

Everyone knows that Body & Mind of the beings works in unison when the conditions are pleasant, communicating through chemical signals creating harmony with each other. Even though we cannot see, we can experience it! Also it is noteworthy that when we are happy, small little problems just does not get any attention from us which shows that positive thinking & healthy mind condition could also reduce negativity in us. The milk in the udder comes to man, then it is converted into many different forms such as curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, etc., etc.

Now the scientists are turning around & says its goooodddd…. Mr. Ghee is trust worthy… after Mr. Ghee, Mr. Coconut also got a praise… Lol… wonder whether Indians & Ayurveda really need certificate from the Modern Science & their chameleonic theories.

Mrs. Cows graze mainly on grass & other greens, fruits & vegetables or rice, etc. So all the vitamins & medicinal properties of the food consumed is absorbed & transported to milk. So we get the nourishment like taking a supplement in modern terms!! It’s an antioxidant & has antiviral properties too. It contains Omega 3 (so called good cholesterol) & 6, which are boosters for brain & nervous system for smooth functioning. Let’s see some of the qualifications of Mr. GHEE.

In Ayurveda it is considered as a Satvic food & like all the Satvic foods, it promotes positivity, growth & expansion of the consciousness. Even though it is a diary product, coming from another body, like mother’s milk it is accepted by everyone including pure vegetarian Brahmins. That’s one of the main reason Cow is respected & regarded highly in India. Sadly, people think it is related to religion & kill them… losing long term benefits for less than an hour’s craving…

Ghee has a high smoking point (about 250 Degree C) so it will not break down into so called free radicals like other oils. It is rich in oil soluble Vitamin A & E, K2 & CLA as well as medium chain fatty acids, which are absorbed directly by the liver like carbs & burned as energy, which does not result in fat storage. It is rich in butyric acid (so named because it was first discovered in butter & it increases its concentration in ghee), which is considered beneficial to the digestive & immune systems in many ways.

It protects the body, aids digestion & strengthens immune system. In Ayurveda, ghee is used as a carrier for the nutrients in herbs & to lubricate the intestinal tract & all the tissues inside the body. Bowl movement & Digestion related problem, is a big problem for many people in the modern world. Our body is designed to digest. However, many suffer from digestive stress & it is said that an estimated one in four Americans suffers from gastrointestinal (GI) track & digestive maladies! (no study is done in India…)

Ghee preventing onset of body ache, joint pain, alzimers, cancer, etc., etc. So don’t feel bad if you want to consume gheeeeee….. However, people suffering from heart ailments & diabetics should be little careful & if doctor says no then please don’t eat it!!

Finally, the ghee enhances the taste & flavor of the food. Cook dhal, chicken or biryani with ghee & see how great it tastes & smells!! My mother used to narrate this fable: Kai guna Mavayya or nei guna Mavayya (is it merit of the cook’s hand or the ghee). A wife had been cooking for her husband all her married life. He never really appreciated or perhaps did not show openly. Time passed, her son grew up to be nice young man & got married, & the daughter-in-law, let’s call her Asha came home. Once wife was away for few days & the Asha cooked the food. The food was so tasty… Mava (father-in-law) could not believe his tongue. When his wife returned, all that she heard was that how good was Asha’s food… all her dishes. Suddenly/sadly the old man felt wife’s cooking was not good, nothing in front of Asha!! Poor Mavi (mother-in-law), a good cook herself could not understand how come her food is not tasty to her husband any more. So one day she hid herself & watched Asha cooking everything with ghee. So next day the smart lady hid the ghee container. Asha could not find the ghee & unable to ask anyone, finished cooking with oil. After tasting Mava said why Asha did not cook today.. the food is not tasty…. Wife was waiting for this & told her husband to ask Asha “Kai guna or nei guna”? Asha shyly answered “Nei guna Mavayya”, ending Mava’s nagging of his wife for good!