Even though the coorgstories’s lady calls me “SAKUI” I have absolutely no idea what my name is.. But I am definitely not from Japan. Let me tell you little about me…

I am a desert termite … after coming to Kuwait from the Red Sea area of Saudi Arabia I managed to propagate.. a quantum leap in the game of evolution the secret of which I cannot tell you.  You have to figure out yourself… but first learn to live in harmony which is the substratum of creation. I hitch hiked from Saudi aboard a Conocarpus tree because it’s my favourite food. This tree is as tough as I am & it’s fast-growing as well as tolerant to heat, draught & salt.

If you are wondering how am I helping evolution? Well I am a super bug… I am functioning under harsher climate & managed to survive & expanded my family from scratch.

How do I help Mother Nature? Well I am creating fertile top soil. If I get a place with trees & water I can convert the place into fertile land within a decade or so. That’s my story in a nutshell….

One fine day I stumbled upon this beautiful fascinating artwork with array of vivid shades of brown under Conocarpus tree but could not make out what it was. I never saw something so unique before. A well-planned nest, as if someone had painted a canvas with array of different shades of brown, starting from fresh wood colour to light brown to chocolate brown. And the water was dripping constantly from the drip irrigation pipe without disturbing the pieces. There was small vent for the excess water to drain too. The fresh wood turns brown eventually, guess because of the chemicals in the glue turning the wood there by creating different shades of brown.

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Took a picture & asked around sent to my family members, colleagues & friends, no one could guess what it is. Everyone said it’s something they never saw in their life. That’s when my curiosity increased & the nest became a passion… whenever possible I went to see the nest & spent few minutes there yet I could never see the owner of the nest.

I could see the ants running around in & out of their nest nearby in couple of places where somebody usually puts some gains or sugar. But none near these beautiful nests… it looks more like the owners are the termites than the ants. When I sat down beside it, I could see the wood pieces were gleaming as if each tiny piece is polished individually. Out of curiosity I tried to touch it to pick one to show my family only to realize that it was glued permanently.

How did the termite ended up in Kuwait? Perhaps hitch hiked while importing the tree from Saudi… but I can’t understand how did they get a queen? Did they manage to breed one? So how many of them came here?

Initially there were only three nests & gradually they started expanding. One fine day, the workers who were repairing the compound wall had disconnected the water supply & that’s when I realized no water no nest. It’s a great miracle that they manage to survive in this heat but water is the most important source of survival. Since there is no underground water in a desert like in the forest, they solely depending upon the artificial water supply. Perhaps to grow mushrooms, their food. Once the water supply is cut, the nest became bone dry & within days they started their nest elsewhere but still under their favourite tree, the Conocarpus ….

Then in a sudden move they also found comforts under the date tree but only two trees so for. There are Cuba palm, bear fruit & other different trees but they are untouched. The latest one is an ideal location & they are planning to build a larger nest as the foundation seems pretty large. The one under the date tree however is growing in height faster compared to others. Perhaps the roots of the date tree decays faster than the other trees degrading into soil quicker. what  is note worthy is that none of the plant or tree is dying or died… so it seems like they have a symbiotic relationship like ants & aphids or cattle & egrets.

Conocarpus lancifolius, derives its name from its cone shaped berries but does not have a proper English name. However it is known as Damas in Arabic & Qalab in Somali languages. A mangrove shrub it is found in the costal & riverine areas of Somalia, Dijbouti & Yemen, etc., etc. Also found in the mangroves of Saudi Arabia & now a days becoming a popular ornamental as well as hedge plant all around Middle East.

The interesting character of the tree seems to be its adaptation. Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world & in summer it grows as if possessed … it is hardy tree that grows well in sandy or rocky, alkaline soils as well as wet, saline conditions. Fast & symmetrical growth habit makes it the perfect hedgerows as well as landscape trees & maintenance seems to be practically zero except trimming when over grown as well as water supply…. However if let it grow straight it breaks easily whenever there is heavy winds.  (I have seen it happening couple of times). Flowers are inconspicuous, with clusters of greenish white flowers mostly 1 to 3 inches long. They appear at the end of twigs & at leaf axils. There are no petals, & the sepals are fused. The tree seems to be having either the flower or fruits all the time!! Even though there are thousands of seeds it’s odd that I never saw one sprouting anywhere near!! The brownish red fruit look like old leather buttons & earned the nickname button wood.

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However one of my Kuwaiti boss, who is very fond of plants & gardening, just hates this plant because he says his asthmatic allergy increases because of this tree!!

I nick named the termite as “Sakui” because born in Saudi Arabia, raised & propagated in Kuwait & found by an Indian… These nests are located in the northern side of the garden & I have no idea if it is by chance or choice may be to avoid direct sun.

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To point out how these are different from ants nests, here’s pics of what ants nests look like:

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I AM SAKUI!

A Summer morning in Kuwait, one of THE HOTTEST countries!! Part 2

There was a lady plucking the henna (mehandi) leaves… its leaves are supposed to cool the head in summer besides being strengthening the hair roots.. there are many bushes in the park & when it blooms spreading the pleasant fragrance nice to be near it. As I was thinking what she is going to do I caught hold the sight of this young boy perhaps around 8 years of age sitting & crying. He looked like from a decent family sitting on the low parapet wall facing the 5th ring road in bright sun shine. It was only 6:10 am but it was bright.. I thought he must be lost & as a mother I could not resist myself & walked upto him & asked him if he is lost? He was a handsome little Arab kid neatly dressed in a white short & white & blue striped T-shirt. Shaking his head still tears rolling he pointed his finger to tell me he knows his house. I asked him if he needed anything.. he just shook his head.. when I finished the round about 10 minutes, I did not see the boy in its original place & I felt happy thinking he must have gone home… then I saw him moved to another part of the wall where there was shade from trees.. so he was clever enough to understand things… I did not want to ask him again but tried to take a picture from far without getting into his privacy. Even though I was not close when I clicked the mobile he turned immediately… so he was alert too… on the way home was wondering what must have made that young boy from a decent family to be in that spot so early in the morning… I was thinking of my own son in that age… somewhere somehow this stranger boy had touched my heart. My neighbor a doctor by profession forever punishes his eldest son (he has 3 kids – 2 boys & a girl) sometimes I hear him screaming late in the night & even 5 am…. the boy crying… there were occasion I felt like going & punishing the doctor myself. I myself was (is) a strict mother but when I punish my elder two children always smile at me or run around the coffee table me chasing them!! Is it because I am their mother & not father? do children punishment from parents differently? I still can’t understand..

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The Park looked peaceful & safe. Last few years the Park has been the favourite joint for bunch of malicious youngsters from 3-4 different nationalities who snatched chains, mobiles & anything valuable. Thanks to the effort of the cops, eventually they were all arrested… not sure deported or rotting in the jail. How stupid of those young men who lost the privilege of living in Kuwait for temporary sensual gratification. They not only rocked their life but also their family… everything happens around us has a lesson to teach.. Once this park also hosted the one & only homeless Kuwaiti (but luckily it was self imposed – why I have no idea most likely he had mental issues as I had seen him passing vulgar/livid remarks on women passerby!) He used to wear clean clothes, had carpet with pillows to sit, cartons of mineral water, fan & visitors too… hum so much for homelessness!! Heard police had evacuated him & wonder where he is now?

There were couple of dog walkers around the park wall but unlike in USA they simply don’t clean up after the mess created by their dogs. May be they think they can create the top soil or manure for the trees from the biodegradable byproduct… just kidding.

It was time for me walk back home before the sun starts smiling at me… when I passed in front of an old Arabic school, scores of very large gunny bags were on the pavement for a second I thought wow such a large polypropylene (PP) cement bags… but when I neared the bags, it was cane sugar packed in Dubai… what a place to store… perhaps it was there for repacking… wondered if the heat will react with the gunny-bags & turn the  to cause some disease but one thing was certain that the sugar was insect free!

I saw one of the watchman was wiping the cars with cloth… giving the final touch. I wondered how long the hose was spilling water wasting the resources of the Mother Nature & contributing to pollution. I wish I could tie up those people who waste & not give them water for a day so that they will realize the value of fresh water. One interesting factor I like to mention which I am not sure practiced elsewhere is that when we rent a house, the watchman has a condition (UWL – Unwritten Watchman Law) that at least one car (usually everyone has more than one – secondhand cars as well as fuel are cheap compared to rest of the world) should be washed by the watchman, usually they do a lousy job. The standard rate is KD5/= (roughly the rate is 1 dinar = 3.3 dollars) per car. So 10 kd per flat along with the rent, 5 car wash & 5 for garbage clearance. The best joke is that the watchmen does not really clean the car… in 90% of the cases they will hire a free lance cleaner generally a Bangladesh to do the job & share the total cost.

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Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot trash workers kids playing football soccer

Finally I was home sweet home a place which makes me feel like a queen… when I walked in with sweat dripping all over, the cool air of central air conditioners & the sight of my indoor plants were more than welcoming but when I went to have bath I realized that my feeling of nice morning was almost a mirage… as the tap water was pretty warm… while having bath another surprising factor brought a smile to my lips… Sun.. Sun everywhere Sun but people still take Sunshine Vitamin “D” tablets!!

For those years I stay behind in summer, I am always compensated in a different way… also it brings the nostalgic memories of my childhood.. I love fruits, growing up in the wilderness of Kodagu I enjoyed my summer plucking & indulging in wild fruits which is of course a luxury now with growing population, plantation, felling of trees & extinction of species. In general Kuwait is paradise for fruit lovers & come summer the varieties of fruits available even in the small fruit shop is mind blowing. To top it the prices are so very reasonable compared to most of the countries I have visited & even to India!! Guess it’s because there is no tax & the low fuel price. God bless my beloved Kuwait & its people, a country with which I have developed a deep attachment with beautiful memories. Kuwait is a well balanced country with the blend of old & new… with myriad of nationalities working.

Its 10 am & decided to pick up some water melon from the fruit shop across the street.. I was wrong about the temperature… oh boy its already 40 degrees seemed like its hot enough to cook an egg on the bonnet of the car!! Walking back I thought of the Iraqi occupation days… Thursday August 2nd 1990, then we lived in another location called Shaab opposite to Arabian Sea. There were rumours that the Iraqi soldiers cooked their food just by burying the vessel on the sands… I couldn’t see from my balcony & not sure if it was true but surely it looked like my brain would get cooked if I stand for a while in the sun.

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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Bloomington diary – Part 1 – Small town blues

Firstly, sorry for the long delays since my last few posts, been travelling all over in the last month or so, including a long eventful drive cross country through America. This next set of posts has been a long time coming, and is a summary of collections and stories from my previous trip to the USA in 2014. Hope you enjoy!

When I landed in Bloomington, Indiana on 4th of July, I was wondering what I was going to do for 3 weeks & planned to make walking & losing weight as my number one priority…

Bloomington is a small Midwestern University town & it’s practically empty during the summer months of June to August when most students will either be away on internships or on holidays. That is almost 65% percent of the population.

Like all the university towns of North America, it’s a peaceful wooded town & the forest beside the state highway reminds me of a drive on Coorg roads. The air is fresh, water is clean & people are friendly. Like every nation in the world where people closer to nature are friendlier than the city dwellers, bloomy goes one step extra- at least compared to Providence, RI.

People passing by, even though very few at this time of the year, always have a smile or a wish or at least a nod, irrespective of the colour & creed. Even the youngsters walking the dog also were in the same league. People drive with caution & in an intersection where there is no signal always the one who comes even if a fraction of a second earlier gets the preference. And here the pedestrian rules the road & everyone waits religiously.

Whole surrounding is extremely clean, & the lawn everywhere well-manicured. The birds singing early in the morning with various sounds surprise you as if you are in a rainforest. Plenty of hares running around showing off their white spot on the butts!! Occasionally you can spot the grazing deer while driving around in the evenings.

Surprising there aren’t many gardens around but many wild flowers peep here & there, popping their head out on the grass. Unfortunately, I could not get a single picture of the wild flowers beside the forest as stopping anywhere even for a short time is prohibited & Uncle Sam could pop up anytime from anywhere it seems.

Many a times I see the Asian cousins of various plants with little variation in colour or texture or flowers or the leaves. For example I met the cousins of the orange trumpet, ekka flower, & strangely a wild edible mushroom (umbrella mushroom) which of course my husband would not even let me pick. There was also a mushroom similar to the tree-mushroom but on the ground- later I realized that perhaps it is because they use wood-shaves in the garden & the mushroom must have evolved!! That’s reminded me that in spite of everything, there are lot of things common at least in the nature and over which man does not really have control. No visa or green card or residence is required!!

The remaining summer students at the bus stop reminds you of the era which you are in as everyone sports a mobile phones and are unaware of the world around them. As usual either talking or texting in their own shortcut words, murdering the English language itself! The words they use sound like they are writing some Vedic mool-mantra or something… At times I wonder if the future generation will even know how to write by hand or calculate using their brain. It’s every inventors dream to create a future robot with emotions & motion like humans. But I think it’s going to be the other way around & we are going create children, rather future generations, who are like robots… The bus stops stands beside a beautiful pond with a weeping willow tree. I don’t think most of the students are even aware there is a pond behind them…ha ha ha!

While walking in the morning we came across the rushing fire brigade & everyone promptly made way for them. The siren could be heard from far & even before the fire engine had hit the signal, other drivers had already made way. Then in a while the police car followed & then the medical vehicle. Everyone knew exactly where they are supposed to go unlike the usual scene I witness where the fire brigade goes round & round, perhaps because it’s a small town & later after walking a kilometer plus we saw the medical vehicle going back. No wonder fireman & fire chief are well respected in the community.

Even though you can get stuff in plastic bags in the super market (Marsh – the only one nearest at 1 km away) & in pharmacies, etc., you don’t find any plastic bags lying everywhere. It was odd one day, when we found a bag lying on the pathway between the meadows near the apartment. My daughter wanted to pick it up & carry home to put in the dustbin as for about quarter kilometer there was no dustbin. But I would not let her do that because I was afraid that something must have been inside as a normal Bloomington citizen would not do that. Next day it was still there on the grass & flowers of the meadow, carried by wind.  At the end of the day it was cleared by the young man who was mowing the lawn. So in 25 days, that was the only time I saw plastic lying around. Even the two young men running though the garbage bin just got in, collected what they want, & left without messing up outside.

The main post office is very close, practically across the place I stay but quarter kilometer away still functions in full swing; mostly I see the elderly people working. May be I should take a chance & go & meet or talk to someone there.

On 16th July while walking home in the morning, around 10 am, we saw a mobile kept under the tree. Perhaps someone must have found it & kept it there in case the owner comes looking for it.  We were wondering if we should pick it & give it somewhere, a lost & found place perhaps, but we were afraid to touch it.  Then I thought of the news I watched a while ago on the theft of mobile phones in New York city last year (about a million!) & the high light was on a girl who lost her life. She was shot by two men in a car who stole her iphone when she was talking to her mother telling she is on her way home, while get into her car.

Another time early morning we saw a pair of sunglasses kept neatly on the grass besides a parking lot. Someone must have found it and kept there.

 

 

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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The day I ran away from my Mother

It happened a long time ago, I was in 4th standard, barely 9 years old. Today my dear mother is no more & I am myself a mother & grandmother! Now when I look back it sounds ridiculous to me but this is my story of how I ran away!

My father was a school Head Master & was always getting transferred to many towns, & up until I was in 5th standard we always went along with him. However, after that, we ended up staying in one place to take care of our education as well as our coffee estates & my father only came home during weekends & holidays. One of the places we moved to was Kodlipet, a small town in Somwarpet taluk of Kodagu district in Karnataka. We lived in a nice comfortable rented house with very large compound, almost half an acre with lots of fruit tress like jackfruit, guava, etc., a large garden & farm animals like cows & chickens. Next to our compound was the local Civil Hospital which had a larger compound with lots of fruit trees.

Behind our house& hospital compound there was a vacant bit of land, another half an acre or so with thicket, then there was a pliable mud road with jelly stones leading to another place called Kyathe. Beyond that road there was a large Lake partially covered by forest with numerous fruit & flower trees including Seethe poo (wild fragrant orchid). We were well aware of the surroundings as weekends & holidays we roamed freely everywhere searching for fruits, berries, tamarind, mushrooms & butterflies, etc. There were a small variety of edible orange colored palm fruit which I have not seen anywhere else. Among everything there was a tree, my favourite tree, with tiny flowers called Suragi, one of the most amazing white & yellow flowers with round reddish buds which bloomed almost all over the stem, which was a rare sight. Add to it even when dry it had that amazing heavenly fragrance.

I was a very healthy child but one day I became very, very ill & my temperature started going up, practical burning with fever my whole body had turned red. Usually when we were sick, mother always tried some home remedy first & if we don’t get better then a trip to hospital next door. Since I was very bad with sudden rise in temperature & home remedy had no effect, my mother forcibly took me to the hospital. I was sobbing & throwing tantrum & blabbering without making any sense it seems. When doctor saw us, we got priority & he made me sleep on the medical table & checked. After the initial checking & looking at me he said don’t worry child, you will be fine by tomorrow I will write medicines for you. I was still on the table as he walked out gesturing mum to follow him & was telling her in hushed tone she is in very bad shape. “Why didn’t you bring her earlier… guess you have to admit her immediately & before that I will give an injection.” He called out the nurse saying I have done with the patient here prepare the injection for the next patient outside.

I had terrible phobia of injections & I summarized the whole thing in my mind & concluded that the injection was meant for me. Even though I could not sit or stand, just managed to get up from the bed & managed to slip out. Perhaps no one was expecting me to do that in that condition either. With the fear & fit of rage, managed to walk home, then realizing they would be looking for me, I decided to hide.

Where would I hide? I choose to walk towards the vacant land behind our house, then aimlessly walked further as if possessed crossing the road towards the little forest on the lake bank. By then my fear & rage subsided & the high fever putting pressure on me I started crying for my mother. When I left the hospital I had only one problem: fear of needle. But now the whole scenario had changed & I had one too many problems in hand.. I wanted to sleep on my mother’s lap, was thirsty, was scared, was exhausted, feeling giddy & could not see properly & on top of it wondering if my mother would punish me for bad behavior, etc., etc. Somehow, staggering I landed near my favourite tree perhaps that was the closest to my mother in my mind & collapsed rather passed out under the tree. The whole saga from home to hospital to home & to the forest was a haze… all jumbled up.

In the meantime big commotion at the hospital as to how such a sick patient disappeared mysteriously? My mother frantically searching & crying for me, word was sent to my father at school about me missing. No one knew what really happened to me… no those days they did not fear about the kidnapping… hahahaha. A voluntary search team was formed & my mother was nonstop crying bitterly… guess she must have thought I fell & died somewhere. For many hours they searched without any trace of me. Finally someone returning from his farm happened to see the commotion & when he learnt of Head Master’s missing daughter, he told them that: on my way to farm I saw her near the lake & I was wondering what she is doing alone on a school day. Guess she was headed towards the forest. I did not talk to her because I was in a hurry. So now that the search area is narrowed, they managed to find me under the tree passed out (or sleeping) I have no idea.

When I woke up my mother was holding me & crying, & my father sitting holding his head in despair. Don’t know if I was dead or only slumber or unconscious, I was not aware of how I landed back in the hospital. Doctors could not believe that I managed to survive the ordeal. I spent 6 days in the hospital & another one month at home resting. It’s a miracle I survived… seems like there was some kind of divine intervention or perhaps a fairy was sitting among those pretty Suragi flowers watching out for me or if the tree/flower had healing powers. I lived through it to tell the tales… if I was not found so soon, if not from my sickness perhaps I would have died of my other three phobias!! All for a mere injection… so phobia’s can have unimaginable effect on us… only good thing came of it was that I am not afraid of needles anymore!!

Note: I did go to Kodlipet few years back to get my school certificate as proof to say I am from Karnataka for my son’s engineering admission but could not go anywhere as we had to get back immediately. After we left Kodlipet I never saw those wild flowers but I can still feel the fragrance & see the prettiest flowers in front of my eyes. No wonder this ancient tree is called Punnaga (best among the trees). My mother loved them too. We made garlands & wore around our neck, on our braided hair, offered to God, kept under the pillow, between our books, as potpourri, made tea, etc. During the rainy season when the fresh water flowed to the lake on grass, the fish moved upwards from lake towards the fresh warm water & we used to go & pick them up even with bare hands too. Those were the times of plenty. The fun/beautiful moments, we had was once in life time experience & believe me way cooooolll than sitting in front of the note book-ipad-mobile!! If any of you readers have seen a wild tree (not hybrid) of Suragi please let me know!

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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