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..

Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot trash workers

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.

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Why do we blink… a fascinating & beautiful story from Hindu Mythology

Have you ever wondered why we blink our eyes… like the beating of the heart.. it goes from birth to death.. unabated… something we take for granted as our birth right & yet we would never wish to lose it?

What would the world be like if we cannot see… the colours around us – the flowers, plants, birds, butterflies, fruits, etc., etc. Eyes are one of the most important organs gifted to us by our Creator. That’s why when the danger approaches the first thing we do is try to protect our eyes. Along with that, we are also blessed with a natural protection mechanism. Everyone blinks their eyes, unless they are paralyzed or suffer from some kind of disorder, till they bid final good bye to this worldly life. This process repeats itself without our knowledge unless we are sleeping. Blinking is the mechanism that protects the eye from external debris & spreads tears over the cornea. With every blink the eyelid spreads moisture over the cornea. There is a beautiful story about the blinking of the eyes (in every 0.2112 seconds) mentioned in Vishnupurana. A story of Love, Duty, Devotion & Commitment which seems to have almost slipped from the modern humanly diet!!

Ancient King Nimi was the son of Mithila King Ikshwaku & the grandson of Manu*, born in Janakpur (now part of Nepal). Nimi was a pronounced king with all the noble virtues & faultless ruling. Living in a utopia like kingdom, the subjects of his Videha Kingdom (aka Mithila) adored him. Keeping the welfare of his subjects and the peace & prosperity of the kingdom, Nimi wanted to perform a particularly powerful Yagna to evoke the blessings of the Gods. Preparation began & in the meantime he needed an exceptional powerful sage as the Presiding Priest for it. So after discussing with the Raja Guru & his Council, he came to the conclusion that Sage Vasishta would be the Presiding Priest.

So King Nimi himself went to Sage Vasishtha & bowed before him & with all the humility said: “Great Sage, I am performing a Yagna for the welfare of the Nation & the subjects. Kindly preside over it.”

Sage Vasishtha frowned & asked, “When are you going to start the Yagna?”

Surprised Nimi said, “as soon as possible Sir. We have already started gathering the essentials.”

Sage Vasishtha fell silent & perplexed & said “I am afraid I cannot come now. I have already committed to Devendra (Indra), the king of Devas, to preside on his yagna. In fact I am on my way & I cannot go back on my word.”

Now it was Nimi who went silent & kept looking at the Sage’s face with so many thoughts going through. He was wondering if he should wait for the great Sage to come back or not. Indra’s Yagna might take long time & it is a well known fact that it is always disturbed by the Danavas (demons – who also happened to be the step brothers of Devas). He thought, ‘the Yagna is not for me but for the welfare of the people…in this constantly changing world no one knows when things will change so I should not wait that long..’.

Sage Vasishta was also thinking… ‘the King has come all the way with humility, love & respect, & of course with a good cause, how sad would it be to send him back empty handed? The moment I am done with Indra’s Yagna, I will perform Nimi’s Yagna’.

Since both of them were highly evolved souls, they could not gauge what was going through other’s mind. Neither of them said anything & both went their ways….

Indra’s Yagna went on for quite some time & the minute it was over, Sage Vasishtha was happy because of the successful completion of the Yagna. Then immediately he remembered Nimi & bidding farewell to Indra he rushed back to Earth.

On reaching Nimi’s kingdom, Vasishta was in for a shock to see that the Yagna had already started with Sage Gautham as the Presiding Priest. Being Presiding Priest was a worthy & very revered job & sight of Gautham occupying what would have been his upset Vasishtha immensely. More over when he reached, King Nimi was sleeping & did not come to greet him too. It heightened his anger further. When in anger, one cannot think straight & Vasishta came to the conclusion that the King had deliberately insulted him by starting the Yagna without him. In the same fit of rage, Vasishtha cursed King Nimi: “You do not even have the courtesy to wait for the sage that you came to first. Such a man is not worthy of having a body. I curse** you, King Nimi that you will be without a body!!” As soon as the curse was uttered, Vasishtha realized his mistake but it was too late to undo it.

King Nimi woke up with a startle & when he heard the commotion around him realized that the things had changed from the time he went to bed. When he looked around he saw his own lifeless body & his family, the entire kingdom along with those present at the Yagna were crying. Wondering what was happening, he closed his eyes & meditated. With his divinity he was able to understand the situation & he was angry that Vasishtha was being so unreasonable. The thought of not completing the Yagna for his subjects & the opportunity robbed for no apparent reason accentuated the anger. Blinded by anger he cursed Vasishtha back saying: “I curse you that you would also be without a body!”

The king had not been a just ruler but also was very spirutal & had considerable spiritual prowess too. Hence his words also came true & Sage Vasishta’s spirit/soul**** left his body…..

Nimi roamed around in the form of a spirit & immersed himself in the Brahman. Now that he was not bound by his body or his responsibilities, he found the true joy of being one with the Brahman. The king became spiritually stronger as he meditated continuously.

In the mean time the citizens of King Nimis were very unhappy & they could not believe that the king who had looked after them like a father was no more. They could not phanthom the idea of continuing the yagna without their beloved King. So with help from the great priest present at the yagna, the family & the subjects manged to preserve the King’s body with oils & scents & continued the yagna with even more vigour.

Once the yagna was completed the Gods came in for their offering. At that time the people presented their plea before the Gods. They said,  “Our King was the greatest king in the world! He performed this yagna for our benefit! It was because of the yagna that his lifeless body lies there…. Please help us!*** “

“What do you want?” the Gods asked them.

“Let the King’s spirit be reunited with the body! We want our beloved King back! Without him we could never feel safe!”

Their intention & request was so genuine that pleased by the love of the people, the Gods agreed to their request.

Using their powers they summoned the King’s spirit & were about to put it back in the preserved body when the King yelled “Please… please… don’t do that!”

The Gods were surprised when the plea came from the King’s spirit.

“I am now free! I do not wish to have any more bondage! Please do not put me back in the body! I wish to continue to be free & become part of the Supreme Brahman!”

“Your people wish that you have to be with them! That is the reason we….”

Nimi looked at his people & memories of his subjects came to him, as if from another life. But he realized that these people genuinely loved & trusted him with their lives. He turned to the Gods & smiled at them. “If my subjects want me to be with them, I will! But not in the way they wish!”

The Gods looked surprised.

“I have lived like a spirit for too long & I cannot be attached to a body! However I wish to be a part of my people & their future generations to perpetuity! I wish to be in a spirit form with them always!”

The Gods granted this boon & even now Nimi is said to stay on in the eyelids of people. It is said that people open & close their eyelids because Nimi stays there. In fact the time it takes to open & close the eyelids is called “Nimisha” in Sanskrit.

However it was not good enough for the family & the citizens of Nimi. So they took the plea to the Sages to find a solution.

The Sages looked at the Kings body & decided that the body itself could be used for creating another King. Using the powers of the mind, they churned the body of the dead King & from it a glowing person emerged with complete spiritual awareness, well-versed in shastras & Vedas. The glowing man was named Kushadhwaja & was crowned as the King. Kushadhwaja was just as Nimi & he kept his people very happy & prosperous. However Kushadhwaja was not known by this name. Because he was born from a dead body, Kushadhwaja was known as Vaideha (son of the man without a body in Sanskrit) & because Kushadhwaja was born without an actual father or mother he was called Janaka (the man without a progenitor). Kushadhwaja was also born from the churning of the mind & hence was called Miti.

The King was/is better known by the name Vaideha Janaka from Mithila the father of Sita…. or Ramayana.

 

*It is said that Manu was the Manasa-putra (son created from mind) of Lord Brahma {the creator – one of the Trimurthi & not to be mistaken with Brahman, aka Paramatman, the Supreme Reality} & he started the new Yuga. The Sanskrit word Manav (for man) comes from Manu as he the progenitor of mankind.

** We often read about Curse in mythology. Everything in the creation is predetermined by Brahman, as Brahman is both the cause & effect. For example when we are born our death is already registered! Only thing a channel such as heart attack, accident, drowning, etc… is required. Hence even the curse of evolved souls has a purpose to surve. Even Sri Krishna was cursed by Gandhari to be killed & his clan Yadukula wiped out like hers did. Otherwise they could not just walk out of earth without reason.

***This was the face of ultimate Sacrifice/Love – Subjects wanted the boon for their King & King did everything for his subjects.

**** Some call it Spirit & some call it Soul… you can choose what you want… after all India is a democratic country!!

Krishna Kamala or Passion of Christ… did I fall from heaven??  

While walking around Kukkanalli pond in Mysore, I saw these wild fruits hanging from the vine on a fence which looked like a small wild passion fruit but was hairy like ramubtan. I was very sure it’s the cousin of passion fruit as the flower & the leaves looked same but I was not sure if the fruit is edible & as usual my husband would not let me pluck it to avoid me eating it. Known as Kukkiballi in Kannada is also called clock flower, love-in-a-mist and stinking*.

I have seen & tasted passion fruit all my life & simply love the amazing taste &, flavour of the juice which is hard to find on shelves even though its presence is felt strongly in most the cocktail juices. It’s a popular fruit in Kodagu & every one, young & old alike loves it. The pulp is used in juices, wines, ice creams, cakes (my mouth is watering, honestly), etc. Some of my relatives make amazing concentrates. There are more than 400 species in passion flower family passifloraceae & the flower is usually white & purple or mauve. Depending upon the variety & climatic conditions, there are many types of passion fruits & comes in different sizes, shapes & colours like purple/maroon, green, yellow etc & the taste could be sweet to sour to somewhere in in-between. Usually the purple/maroon ones are sweeter!!

When we were young we also used to eat a wild variety just like the passion fruit but with slightly elongated fruit with supple outer cover & white flower (I think), which is hardly seen these days. It said to have possessed many medicinal properties.

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Those who have not seen or eaten a passion fruit, the globose fruit have a white sack (which resembles dressed goat tripe – the Turkish towel like stomach cover) inside the smooth, hard outer shell/cover. The sack is filled with numerous black seeds with a very thin coating of orangish-yellow, pulpy-juicy flesh. Even when the fruit is wrinkled outside with aging, the sack inside remains fresh for some time.

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Coming back to the flower, it also comes in exotic colours such as dark purple, red, fuchsia, etc. But they are mostly ornamental & do not seems to be bearing fruits. The flower stays for a day only but blooms practically every day & butterflies are attracted to these flowers. The wild, cultivated & the hybrid flower formation looks the same at the first glance. But if you look closely it differs from one another. It looks as if so many different parts from different flowers are put together to form an unusual master piece. Human globalization is happening now but this species seems to be far ahead of us. The flowers usually have pleasant smell (at least the ones which are known to me).

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The amazing thing is that the uniquely beautiful flower & the vine is linked to scriptures & believes in different religion. The name passion flower was given by the 15th century Spanish Christian missionaries who thought that the flower depicted the crucifixion (passion) of Christ (Crown of Thorns (corona), & other parts as the instrument – 3-nails, 5-wounds, sponge of Gall & vinegar, Pillar of scourging, sacrificing blood, Centurion’s spear (leaf), lashing (tendrils) & the fruit (as globe). Some people also link it to sexual passion, after all a man sees in the world what he/her carries in his/her heart….

In India it is called both as Krishna Kamala (particularly the large purple one) & Paanch Paandav (Mahabharata). The unique formation of the perennial flower is supposed to symbolize or represent: The waxy-white Petals (5) alternating with sepals (5) with their green hook (awn) at the tip for ten Avtars of Vishnu, five 5 filaments with anther in the center for five well-armed Pandavas, the single ovary (bulb in the center) for Pandava queen Draupadi & the three styles with stigma for the holy trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. And the corona filaments are the Sudarshana-chakra of Lord Krishna. I was told that the filaments are hundred in number representing the Kauravas. I had to hire a pro-bono investigator to count the number… & luckily my husband’s niece who also has a degree in criminology fitted the bill & she reported back with a picture: I counted the filaments with a tweezers and there are exactly one hundred!!

To top it, the 3-lobed leaves which are alternately arranged along the stems & borne on stalks, shaped in trident (Lord Shiva’s weapon) form. Whatever one may perceive it as, one thing is certain that it is amazingly beautiful. Don’t believe me take a break & look in the neighborhood you might find one or go to a botanical garden!!

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I am sure besides being beautiful, there is something special about this flower as thousands of miles apart two different believers associated their belief in it!! After all the life spark/energy in me is the life spark/energy everywhere & everything comes from God almighty. If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – Faith lies in the very being itself. When you are in love with God you can see God everywhere & in everything. This unusually beautiful flower looks out of this world… as if someone stole her from the heavenly garden & brought her to earth or perhaps she was so proud of herself & her significance, the weight of the pride brought her down to earth!!

The vine can be reproduced by seeds easily but it’s a very slow process. So commonly it is propagated by mature cuttings. This hardy long lasting vine loves sun but not scorching though & water, & unless groomed can grow uncontrollable yielding plenty of fruits under healthy conditions. So you have to provide a strong support. I vaguely remember seeing large bees & humming bird buzzing around. All the unopened buds from different species are light green in colour. The flower looks strong but it is delicate. The petals & sepals have the same finish & can be passed as petals. But if you look closely the sepals have green hook (awn) at the tip. It is said that each & every part of the flower has specific role which they play religiously!!

Among the flowers I have seen only the wild one on the bank of the pond had bracts, which are supposed to trap insects but if as merely as defensive mechanism to protect its flowers (think it was white) & fruits or is it carnivorous (digest & gain nourishment from its catch) is not known. Leaves & stems of this particular variety is said to be poisonous. Wondering if I should eat & test it??

The whole vine has medicinal properties & is used in treating digestive problems including dyspepsia & diarrhea, an astringent & expectorant for nervous conditions & spasms. Tea from the flower is an antioxidant & used to calm the mind (depressant) as well as sleeping aid, used to contain diarrhea/dysentery, neuralgia, etc.

Colostrum: Is it the ultimate gift to new born from the God Almighty?? New Mothers PLEASE make sure to feed it to your babies.

When I wrote about ‘Ginnu’ (colostrum) in my previous blog, a colleague of mine from Kerala showed distaste for the ginnu & also said that they don’t eat it because of hygienic reason…they considered it unhygienic!! It touched a chord in me, because when I was growing up, we were encouraged to eat it as much as possible. In those days almost all the households in Kodagu had their own herd of cattle. Since I have a sweet tooth, I would eat till there is no space left in my tummy & would joke that if I put my finger through my throat, I could touch it!! My mother said it was very good for health & every drop of it was worth more than its weight in gold!! Also, I firmly believe that God almighty is both the cause & effect of everything, & that everything created by God has a purpose. Just because we don’t know does not mean that things don’t have a purpose!! So to substantiate myself, I asked around, and surprisingly none of my other Keralite friends knew about it either.

In the bargain I managed to ask people from different states & religions and hear their responses. Generally the quick response from those who are used to eating Ginnu: “oh I love ginnu” or “it’s my favourite”. Almost all (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra & Pakistan) seem to prepare*** it the same way. When I spoke to a sweet old lady from the Lingaygat community (from North Karnataka) about ginnu, she smiled and said: oh I love it & mentioned an age old proverb: “Honna kottaru ginna sigodilla”… which means even if you give gold you can’t get ginnu. She also added that the orthodox from her community especially from the Karvar (Mangalore) side & the Brahmins will not eat ginnu & instead, they pour the colostrum under trees (due to madi.. something like suddam in Malayalam.. sorry I have no idea what is the English word). My elder daughter, born & raised outside India, finds the colostrum not up to her taste (feels the same way about country eggs too). So if she finds me eating (happens once in a blue moon), she ends up arguing with me because I over eat & sugar is bad! So overall it’s a mixed perception, either according to an individual’s palate or passed on in the culture.

So what is colostrum? Colostrum is the slightly yellowish coloured pre-milk fluid produced from the mammary glands of female mammals during the first 2 to 3 days after birth before true milk appears. Most often, this fluid is taken in the first twelve hours of a newborn’s life. It is a rich mixture of natural source of antibodies (immunoglobulins* designed to fight disease-causing agents like bacteria & viruses) & essential nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, & minerals for a young one to grow & develop. It confers immune protection to the newborn from infections. In simple words, it is produced naturally in the new mothers’ breasts to help the helpless young ones to kick-start their lives & surely a perfect testimony for the sophistication of the Creator himself.

Colostrum seems to be the natural weapon that equips & prepares the young ones in the wild to stand up & face the world against all the odds in every terrain. It is mind blowing to imagine how potent it must be in order to offer such multitude of benefits & sustain a new born. Next time you see a new born Wildebeest (gnus) calf following the mother (herd) in the long arduous journey, or a Polar Bear cub following the mother on the ice or a Camel calf on the desert, close your eyes for a minute & learn to appreciate the glorious creations of God almighty.

Neonatal care varies from communities to communities for both the new baby & the mother; the baby will breast-feed only on the 2nd or 3rd day. Although breast-feeding in India is traditional, colostrum rejection is also equally traditional. Colostrum is produced by every female mammal since the dawn of creation yet not much is known about it. If some communities were particular in giving the colostrum to babies, most shun it. Many give boiled & cooled water to babies or give a raisin tied in a mull cloth to suck till the milk appears. Some say that the babies are very alert at this stage & eye contact with the mother is needed for lactation, while others believe that the babies do not understand anything!! New mothers are often encouraged to feed the babies & insist that the child to be brought to the mother & be placed on her bosom.. others say that the mother needs to rest…

Colostrum is relatively new as a nutritional supplement and gained grounds only after the resurgence of breastfeeding in the Seventies. The powdered supplement known as Pedimune is administered to boost the immunity & is mostly produced from the cows. This is known as the Bovine (related to animals) colostrum..guess there are no human donors!!

Lately colostrum has caught up with the mass as highly nutritious (for both infants & adults) & a must for the immunity of a child. With the modern ideology kicking over, many mothers are willing to give colostrum to their offspring. After all, anything pricey should be good right? This also makes me wonder how many really know what colostrum is? Do they really know the true value of colostrum or are blindly administering it because their pediatrician or friends told them it’s good for their child? Or simply the old medicines look good in a new package?

Since the bovine colostrum is tailored to the needs of calves in particular, it is hard to say how much it (the antibodies) can help humans**. However, colostrum also contains substances that might offer general benefits, such as growth factors (which stimulates the growth & development of cells in the digestive tract & perhaps elsewhere) & transfer factor (which may have general immune-activating properties). Then again, humans have been drinking milk through the millennium & our systems are adapted to it. Similarly the cow’s colostrum might vibe well with human system.

Colostrum is even becoming popular with athletes. It has been used as a dietary supplement to treat diarrhea, infections, colitis, & to improve athletic performance. Studies say that it possesses anti-inflammatory & chemo-preventive properties. Regular consumption is said to play a protective role for infantile gastrointestinal immunity due to its direct effect of promoting & developing infantile gut-associated lymphoid tissues which are responsible mainly for pronouncing infantile gut immunity. It is also being considered for prophylactic treatment of recurrent upper respiratory tract infection (URTIs).

I am glad that my colleague squirmed… so that I could write this & encourage the young mothers to feed colostrum to their new born… including my future grand children!! Until now I was under the impression that in India, Keralites are the pioneers of using the natural resources & slowly I realized that there are no masters of anything in this world!! I wish & hope one day maybe scientists will decode the amazing full value of colostrum & in the mean time all the New Mothers will make sure to feed their newborns. There is so much to learn from the experiences & knowledge from our fore-parents

*Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells (white blood cells). They act as a critical part of the immune response by specifically recognizing & binding to particular antigens, such as bacteria or viruses & aiding in their destruction.

 **I read that efforts have been made to create a special form of infection-fighting colostrum (agent) called hyper-immune colostrum by inoculating cows with bacteria & viruses that affect humans. The cow in turn makes antibodies to these bacteria and virus, & secretes those antibodies into its colostrum. How effective it is, well we have to wait & see… I am always apprehensive of hybrid products!! Also, commercializing this makes one wonder how much will the new born calves get to drink what is rightfully theirs…

 ***Ginnu (Colostrum pudding) is the easiest pudding to prepare. Mix 1 cup colostrum, 3/4 cup (or as per taste) powdered jaggery or sugar in the vessel. Stir until the powder dissolves completely. Strain through the strainer to remove if there are any impurities. In the steaming vessel pour (preferably in a plate) the colostrum & steam for 20 minutes. Once it is steamed it sets like pudding. Let it cool completely. After steaming it oozes out very little water which is absolutely normal. You can collect & drink the water. When it is completely cooled, cut it to neat squares. Refrigerate & enjoy. Sprinkling a pinch of cardamom powder or nutmeg powder or saffron is absolutely optional but personally recommended. Mostly every one prefers it plain. Water-buffalo colostrum is very thick so the pudding turns very hard. In that case you can add 1/8th of a cup normal milk to make is soft.

 

Why Kodavas eat pork and not beef – Part 2/2

Why Kodavas don’t eat beef? It’s simple….. Pure common sense, sense of gratitude & in harmony with the nature. Realization that a living cow is more valuable than a dead one. What would be referred in Corporate & Banking Sector as Profits & Return on Investment (ROI)!! So the far-sighted Kodava fore-parents developed the culture of respecting the cows & prohibiting the slaughter & consumption.

No other animal is as important & panacea* than the cow to mankind. It provides milk twice a day – morning & evening religiously. Milk is a complex substance, & a variety of constituents can be extract from it for use as ingredients in other foods. Who never tasted the cow’s milk & its byproducts known as dairy products like curd/yogurt, buttermilk, butter, ghee, cheese, ice cream, condensed & dried milk, etc., etc? If a child unfortunately loses his/her mother or mother does not have sufficient milk, the child can be raised only on cow’s milk & in majority of the counties there is no other alternate too. Even if the mother is alive, once we reach a certain age we grow up (cradle to grave perhaps) drinking milk obtaining all the nourishment.

Bullock is used to plough the field to grow different kinds of crops; the cow-dung is the best natural manure which makes the soil fertile & produces the purest organic food!! Flattened & dried cow-dung is also used as renewable fuel in many developing countries. The hide (leather) of the cow is used, the bone & fat extracts are used in various products &, even the dead cow becomes manure after it disintegrates in the nature. Those who can’t afford cement use diluted cow-dung to cover the mud floor to prevent dust. So I guess most of the readers agree with me that the cow definitely deserves to be respected & not killed & consumed.

It reminds me of a simple lesson my mother taught: because you cannot extract all the milk from the udder, you don’t cut the udder. You have enough common-sense to know it’s of no use…

Cows grown naturally eat only greens or fruits in other words only vegetables & eating different types of grass & leaves, the milk produced is very nutritious. There is one complaint from the scientists that it produces loads of methane… well even that can be harvested & used as gobar-gas for cooking & heating. Sometimes I wonder what would be the human production of methane particularly the ones who eat beef!! Just kidding….

The cute faced, humble eyed calves running around happily with their bell in the neck is a site to behold & slaughtering it as veal… the thought makes my heart heavy.

So how could anyone who does more good than harm could be mistreated or harmed? Just like a mother does for the child, cow is practically sacrifices its entire life for the good of humans. Someone once told me that God made the cows to slave, serve & be human food. That makes me wonder, why did God really made the humans? Is it just to propagate? Aggrandize? Destroy everything on the path just to fulfil the greed?

If you have grown up around the farm land you will realize how gentle & social the Cows are. They maintain the meadows by grazing evenly & maintenance of the grass is very important. Grass acts like sponge in absorbing & holding the rain water which seeps slowly into the ground. Cows are as diverse as cats, dogs & people. Some are bright, bold, adventurous, some are friendly, they cry (tears in the eyes) when in pain or sad & mourn the loss. They are intelligent, interact in socially complex ways & have cognitive abilities. They always come home in the evening & stand in their place at the pen.

According to Ayurveda cow’s ghee is the best compared to all the other fat products & is used intensively in the medicine. I remember while growing up, my mother left the freshly churned butter on the dining table inside a pool of butter milk. Every time I passed in front of the table, a small glob of butter went to my stomach. There were many occasions nothing left for the next day breakfast. Yet she left it on the table, perhaps indirectly encouraging us to eat. And I was always very slim. Then that butter was made out of the milk from the free roaming cows fed on green grass/hay & other greens/fruits, unlike the present day cows which are fed anything from animal protein to God know what??

Among all domesticated animals, cows hold a special place in the human evolution. Relationship between humans & Cows perhaps stretch as far back as the existence of humans or cows itself! The divine wish granting cow Kamadhenu (Kama = desire, wish & dhenu=give or grant), believed to be the ancestor of the present day cows came out during Sagar-manthan (churning the ocean) for Amrita (Ambrosia – the drink of immortality) & the story of Punyakoti is practically known to all the Indians. Kamadhenu (aka cow of plenty, Surabhi, Shaval, Aditi & Kamduh) is considered holiest jive (soul) on earth since creation & it is said that if a child is born under unlucky star is passed under the body of a cow to offset the effects.

For those who city dweller who never heard of, a sweet dish is prepared similar to thick custard by steaming the new milk (colostrum – after the calf is born) along with jaggery/sugar to taste & little cardamom powder. This delicacy is rare as it is made out of new-milk only. We call it Ginnu (AKA Ginnu in Kannada, Foosa in Kokni – Maharashtra & Barhi in Karachi, Pakistan). You cannot drink or use colostrum in beverages. When I asked my mother why we are depriving the calf of its mother’s milk, I was told that the calf cannot have more as it causes lose motion & we have to extract it whether we use it or not!! More over if we don’t extract, like humans they also have pain which might result in fever or shock.

Note: It’s ironic that inspite of not eating beef, all most all of us taste/tasted the traces of cow’s bone in our diet every day!! Don’t trust me read my next article…..

Informational:

*Animal byproducts.. Interesting… most of the goods mentioned are the byproducts of cattle.

I am not discouraging anyone from using but just telling how much the animals are part of our system. Many people are allergic to animal products & you can find non-animal related products too. I use many of the products mentioned but like they say ignorance is bliss… as long as we don’t see… the raw material we will keep using the things. After all man is a creature of habits & we are already seasoned users of most of the things.

Gelatin (unless specifically mentioned vegetarian), what is Jello is made from the connective tissues of the cow. Gelatin also found in some gums, fruit snacks like gummy bears & marshmallows!

Animals like cows, sheep & swine have remarkable similarities to human bodies, & many anti-rejection drugs used in organ transplant (heart, liver, etc) & the natural insulin (used by diabetics) contain animal byproducts.

Some ointments for burns & first aid creams may contain animal byproducts.

The little white tablets called enzymatic cleaners used to clean contact lenses contain enzymes, an animal protein. Enzymes are also used in laundry pre-treatments.

Expensive wool & woolen material including the beautiful shawls comes from animals. The smooth beautiful silk is the cocoon of silk worm!! Leather jackets, wallets, shoes, belts, gloves, watch bands, car seats, chairs, etc., etc., are made from leather. The saddle soap used to help the leather to maintain its softness contains…

Fatty acids from cow CAN BE USED to make adhesives (remember the sticky part of the bandages), in toilet papers to make it soft, dish soap that helps make your hand soft, nail polish remover (gelatin) that gives strength to nails, soaps-lotions-makeup-lipsticks-shaving cream-deodorants (may contain stearic acid, a fatty acid or lanolin from sheep), etc.

Coating of the film (contains gelatin), crayons (can also be soybeans), paint brush (mostly horse hair), some printing inks like high gloss printing, industrial cleaners contains animal byproducts. Candles may contain the fat to give them more strength, longevity (last longer) & make them more opulent.

Cow’s hooves & horns are used to make glue in the labels. The world famous, exclusive bone china, (a fine material is the brain child of English potter Josiah Spode created in 1748) is made using the bone ash, feldspathic material & kaolin…

Sports equipment is made from the cow’s hide like basketballs, baseballs, footballs, volleyballs, soccer balls & gloves. Football is also made from pigskin.

The binding agent in asphalt on highways, stearic acid in the tires which helps to maintain their elasticity contains animal byproduct. Chances are that even the hydraulic brake fluid, car wax & glycerol in antifreeze contains animal byproducts.

There are many more to list… the question is how much more we want from the animals particularly the cattle & how do we repay them?

Why Kodavas eat pork and not beef – Part 1/2

Coming back, all said & done I am sure the land was infested with Kadu-pandi (wild boars), the ancestors of present day domesticated pigs. Boars also known as suid, sus scrofa, wild swine & Eurasian wild pig, etc., are originated in Asia but where I have no idea!! Till the arrival & settling of Chandravama & Co., the land perhaps was filled with scores of free roaming wild animals. With no one to fear except the tigers and maybe leopards, & with plenty of water bodies/swamp, greens, roots & games, the highly adaptable hogs must have ruled the land with polle-pandi (female – sow). With the arrival of the humans & their farm lands & their domesticated animals it must have been a feast for the hogs.

The boars are opportunistic omnivores with voracious appetite (hence the term eat like a hog) & will eat anything that they can lay their hand sorry mouth on. I wonder how strong their long nose & lip must be as they plough anywhere & everywhere including under the bamboo bush which is hard surface to access. They are habitual rooters along with their strong nose in a constant search for food. With snouts to the ground, they eagerly push away the soil in search of tasty morsels including mushrooms. With their acute sense of smell acting as a guide, the dig-up gaily any rooted crops like colacasia, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, etc. In the quite of the night months of work destroyed overnight. They affect agronomic crops as well as pasturelands, staying in an area long enough to devour its resources before moving on & crops like cardamom bushes are destroyed overnight. Vegetable patches, paddy fields, sugar cane plantation, you name it they attack it. They not only eat but also destroy everything beyond repair. I have seen their power of destruction with my own eyes when I was young. As a little girl I remember my father going wild-boar Bote (hunting) & it was/is considered a delicacy. Once killed it is usually shared among the hunters, neighbors & relatives, & at times dried for later use.

The boars are widest ranging mammals in the world as well as the most widely spread & their adaptability is the secret of their survival. They attack when they fancy, mostly moving in packs. Boars will mate with any sow in season, often battling for the opportunity but just does not perform any familial duties. The species lives in matriarchal societies, a sow herd consisting of young males, inter related females & their kutty (piglets – young ones). The groups known as drifts or sounder travel together as well as back each other against danger. Piglets likes to play, running around in circles & chaseing each other, barking & grunting in delight. Like most mothers sow is a superb protectoress & fearless when it comes to the protection of her young & they can form cooperative groups, & in danger they sound shrieking squeal & are smart enough to place their piglets in the center of their vicious circle of snapping, foaming jaws. However fully grown strong robust males are usually solitary outside of the breeding season. The matured ones with their powerful fangs are very ferocious & are capable of attacking humans & other mammals.

The law of jungle, the survival of the fittest & a hunger game of the yore.. Showcases the naked truth: Either you eat them or they will let you starve to death!! Or even you might become the victim… So the wise men/women seem to have come up with the indigenous idea. Instead of killing them outright why not make them the food? Against the back drop of mass killing of scores of foxes in New World by the newly arrived immigrant just because they linked the fox to witch craft back home or killing of tigers & elephants for fun.. or for that matter the recent killing spree of the over populated wild camels in Australia. But controlling the menace & making use of it is really ingenious!! Seems one of the most practical & smart idea from every angle. Everyone has to pay a price during the process of the cycle of evolution, why not make it advantageous? That’s what I would call the Art of Resource Management!!

Thus began the pork culture of Kodagu & became part & parcel of their culture. To go further they invented the perfect masala & vinegar which is laudable. I bet with you that no one can prepare pandi-curry like the Kodavas do!! The ruby red meat cooked with kartha (black) masala & kachumpuli is exceptional!! Kachumpuli also acts against the tape worms* & also reduces fat from the body. They also have chillie pork another specialty & of course the famous pandi chudukuva & the dry pork preparation. (I will post the recipe some time later). They also found a perfect combination kadambutt (round steamed rice balls) with the locally grown rice to go with it. So now it is the most famous combination not only with the Kodavas but also with the visitors, which strangely could be enjoyed any part of the day. Pandi-curry also goes well with otti (rice roti), taliyaput (cousin of idli), etc.

Kodavas made the boar hunting part of their sport activity too by organizing the group hunting trips. Annual Kailpodu (equivalent to Aayuda pooja) is the first festival of the year for Kodavas, just after they finish their transplantation work as an antidote for both the tired body as well as the pallet. Moreover they have to guard their future paddy crop & ensure the family is well fed throughout the year. So all the weapons, like guns, swords etc., resting in the Kanni Kombare (the prayer room) comes out, well cleaned & polished. Kodavas could keep the guns at home without license until a decade ago. Now we Kodavas can still keep the gun but with a license. The bravery & the necessity & of course the wise usage of gun had prompted the Britishers not to withdraw the guns from Kodavas also. Guess Kodavas were the only privileged ones in that respect in whole of India, like kukri for Ghurkas & kripan for Sikhs.

It is noteworthy that Kodavas don’t kill or eat piglings/piglet or the mothers in consideration to Mother Nature (obey the law of nature) & also to ensure both the supply as well as not to push them towards extinction. I remember my father telling me that no one on earth has the right to take the life of a (any) baby or deprive the baby of its mother. What a lesson passed on & included in our culture by our forefathers. Hats off to their forethoughts & it shows how advanced thinker they were. No wonder Kodava culture treats their children as poo-kunjis (child delicate as a flower) irrespective of the sex without gender bias.

In olden days, a day before the wedding the family used to organize boar hunting to throw banquet to their guests along with other mouthwatering delicacies. With the increasing population of people pouring into Kodagu, the boars have dwindled & hunting boar is prohibited which makes it a tradition of the past. However, the pork still stayed on as delicacy in their pallets along with scores of their dishes.

Basically boars (pigs) are clean & does not urinate of defecate in their sleeping quarters. With their thick skin, Boars are extremely heat sensitive & to cool themselves they roll in mud or wade in water. Pigs like to scratch & rub against trees, fencing & anything they deem fit. This also help them rid of parasites. It’s widely accepted fact that any animal that are allowed to roam & forage freely will be healthier & richer tasting than the farm fed as the muscle-enhancing movement generates a deeper, more flavorful meat. Logically the feral hog meat should be healthier than we give credit for as they are free roaming souls & eats loads of different roots & vegetables. It is said that hogs also eat small insects, birds & mammals if & when they can lay their mouth on.

I remember reading in many Southern parts of USA they are facing the problems with hogs especially the Texan… may be they can take lessons from our forefather’s Art of using Resources to their advantage than wiping out like the fox population… It can be used as a closed-loop system for sustainable meat: landowners can recover costs by selling their trapped pigs, & consumer can have the opportunity to eat some truly exceptional meat at a cheaper rate.

* Because of their constant contact with the soil, the boars are susceptible to tape worm infestation which could be passed on to humans unless the meat is cooked well. This is also applies to leafy vegetables grown in the infested soil so its wiser to wash the leaves especially the ones consumed raw such as coriander, lettuce, etc., in salt water. interesting winery incident on it later.

How the Kroda Desa got thier name! (Kodagu)

The confusion about the origin of name “Kodagu” itself is as colourful as the origin of the Kodavas & draws lot of curiosity… The name Kodagu is anglicized as Coorg… and I am sure the Britishers must have found it difficult to pronounce Kodagu… Between the confusion people refer to us as Coorgis… to make it clear we are not Coorgis or murgis, we are “Kodavas from Kodagu & speak Kodava takk” blessed children of our dear Mother Kaveramme.

Origin of the name Kodagu is brushed with different strokes & hues by different individuals. As the Indian culture is based on Guru-Shishya Parampara & the legends are passed orally, somewhere it must have got twisted. Many quote the reference in Kaveri Purana as the source & unfortunately my knowledge of Sanskrit is very limited. Hence I really don’t know which version is right which make me support the Kodava Culture & Legends which I am a part of. The only common thread is that Prince Chandravarma & his celestial wife were Kodava ancestors.. To quote few:

The Saga begins with the arrival of Chandravarma, the pious & brave Prince of Mastya Desha, in ancient Kodagu (supposed to be known as Brahma-Kshetra), seeking adventure & solace. After the marriage he settled down in South permanently with his queen of celestial origin. As the family grew larger the need for food grains increased & with that the requirement of cultivable land. So the brave grandchildren of Chandravarma leveled the hills for cultivation with their bare hands, like the wild boars dig up mounds for their sustenance. Hence the land came to be known as Kroda Desa (Sanskrit word Kroda means hog) & eventually Kodagu.

Some go one step further… all the grandchildren were mighty men of valour, strong of arm & foot. Their nails resembled the fangs of boars. WOW Celestial Mother & a Royal Father & children had fangs… how cool is that!! Running short of basic food supply & sleeping quarters, with the nails of their strong hands & feet, they tore up the ground & levelled the slopes of the hills with the valleys in a circumference of five-yojanas (60 miles). So much accuracy!! Then they settled themselves anew in the country, the face of which they had changed by the strength of their own arms. What a sight it must have made…

Another version … When Lord Vishnu returned to Vaikuntha (abode of Lord Vishnu) after killing Hiranyaksha in Varaha (boar) form, on the way Lord Vishnu tore out the fangs & threw it which fell in Kodagu thus getting the name Kroda-Desa.

It is also said that the word Kodagu is derived from the word Kudu, which means Hilly place but not sure in which language though!!

The most interesting aspect of my years of personal observation is that one too many people who comes to Kodagu or hears about the culture wants a piece of the pie & want to be part of the distinctive Kodava culture. And on the way they want to leave a mark & start to come up with their own version of certain things… for example Kachumpuli is the vinegar prepared from the fruit extract of Panapuli (a species of garcinia), indigenous to Western Ghats. But someone with half knowledge of Kodava culture writes Kachumpuli as the fruit. Similarly karik-muripa* (cutting the vegetables) is a part of oorukuduva ceremony but someone writes it as a first day of the wedding ceremony!

But what surprised me most was my experience in Kuwait. More than two decades ago I happened to see a booklet in Indian embassy regarding Coorg, when I went for some official work. In that there was a couple’s picture with their back towards the viewer where the bride was wearing the usual style saree & the groom was wearing white dhoti, white shirt & a Mysore style Peta (turban). I am sure a copy is available in their achieve!!

But Mrs. Amabssador (I don’t remember which year though) took the cake. One day Mrs.Rangaswamy (her husband Mr. H.V. Rangaswamy was the MD of Kuwait India Exchange in mid 90s), an acquaintance of ours called me & said if you don’t mind can I ask you something? I said go ahead.. hesitantly she asked me don’t you all wear blouses back home when you wear Kodava saree? I laughed & said what made you ask such a strange question? In fact my grandmother’s generation even wore jacket (long sleeved relatively longer bodied blouses) & even wore close collared to go with it too. These days only brides wear jacket as part of culture. For that she said she went for a fashion show at the embassy & Kodava saree was part of it. They wore the saree so awkwardly & also the so called model did not wear a blouse. It was rather poor tasted & really looked bad. Since I have seen you wearing the saree at the functions & I know how elegant it is, I asked why they wore like that? For that I was told that Mrs. Ambassador had done research & that’s what she found… Oh boy… God knows where she did her research in Timbuktu or Sahara Desert!! It was the worst case scenario.. I was angry & sorry for that half-knowledge lady at the same time. But what could I do? After all she was Mrs. Ambassador & represents our beloved country… hope she did not do any more fashion shows in other parts of the world!! In a decade or so with the help from Google-mama, future generation sadly will start believing in such quotes including the Kodava kids raised outside Kodagu.

* It is the gathering of women folks – close relatives & from the village – around round tables to assist the cooks by cutting vegetable & rolling kadumbuttu. It guarantees the quality of chopped vegetable as well as the kadambuttu. A gathering looked forward by women as it gave the chance to meet the cousins, exchange recipe & news, talk about latest fashion, & catch up on gossips, etc. sadly now everyone uses the catering services. Thanks to Kodava men, at Kodava weddings, women usually dress up well, meet everyone, be happy, look good & do not cook or chop meat. You can read more about it when I write about the Kodava wedding.