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Pranab: Purveyor of Juice Stories

Ah, Assam again. We had a colleague there whose name is Pranab. He is a true blue Ahom as far his looks are concerned because he does not look one bit like Indians. He resembles Mongolians. In fact, we can cite him as a proof that Ahoms indeed came to India from outside.

He always chews the raw betel nuts called “tamul” in local language. His teeth look dyed brown-black due to this masticating activity. He generally supports very small hair on his head. He is very avaricious about food and money. In fact, he never parts with a penny.

But, no one can deny that he is a rather anomaly as far as the attitude towards work and punctuality is concerned. In fact, he is always hovering near the office even on the holidays. He reels off very juicy stories, scandals about almost every person. Stories seem to be so authentic. Who has love affairs, extramarital affairs, affairs with colleagues, who smuggled women into his room, he will tell you all. That so and so driver tried to take liberties with the female officer he was taking to other office. Who and who stayed back late in the night on the excuse of doing extra work but did the extra activities. He will fire your imagination and you will begin to ponder about what he has told. Sometimes, you will begin to feel frustrated why was not I a character in this binges.

No only those who worked in office were the actors in his stories, even he will tell stories about tea shop owners, their womenfolk. Really, he is purveyor of juicy stories.

Sundarbans: Bhatir Desh

Sunderbans, the very name sends the imagination reeling about a amphibian land in the south of Kolkata spread over the maze work of islands created by Ganga, Brahmputra and Meghna rivers. These rivers which seem to abandon their discipline and break up like a fan in this land. It is labyrinth of channels encircling the islands which contain the most fertile soil in their upper crust.

The name seems to be associated with the conspicuous sundari trees which are called Heritiera macrophylla by the botanists. But Mughals, as narrated by Amitav Ghosh in his beautiful novel “The Hungry Tide”, called it Bhati  Desh which means Ebb tide country. This became Bhatir Desh over time.

It is the land which is so surreal that there is no line of demarcation between reality and imagination. There are eighteen islands which is why it is also called “Atharo Bhatir Desh”, the land of eighteen lands. There are tigers which can swim miles and miles after their quarries. Crocodiles and dolphins abound here.

There is one chapter in the famous book “Midnights Children” by Salman Rushdie in which three young soldiers of West Pakistan who were the part of army sent to East Pakistan and committed heinous crimes like their army, after getting lost, land up in a boat in this Jungle. Rushdie then go on to weave a superb web about the description of the place. He tells that in rainy season, the Jungle seems to grow literally before the eyes. The fruits from the Nipa Palms fall and crack on the ground. In no time the ants swoop on the fruit juice. Since the light never reaches inside many parts, there live snakes which are transparent. Jungle begins to take a complete control of your mind and you forget about the time dimension. Clearly it is the work of great creative imagination of the writer but the author builds these things making base as some real stories.

The Jungle is so dense that if one goes inside, he will forget about the concept of time. The jungle has the power to suspend the time. The land is famous for the mangroves which grow copiously and sometimes discard so much dead leaves and wood that they seem to be doing harakiri or suicide, if it were not for the crabs who live there and work as scavengers. They are the janitors who see to it that everything is spic and span or tickety-boo.

The people who live there have adapted themselves to the treacheries of the jungle. They invoke the Goddess “Bonbibi” before going to jungle to gather the honey and wax. The jungle is lorded by Dekkan Rai, who stalks in the form of tiger. The legend is that Dekkan rai ruled over the entire Bhatir Desh but he became obsessed with human flesh. According to story, he accosted a convoy of boats which had come there for gathering valuables from jungle, he promised them to give the untold gifts of honey and wax in liu of one human flesh. As planned by the convoy, they left one person behind and when Dekkan rai came to eat him in the garb of tiger, but he prayed to Banbibi, who then with the help of her brother fought and defeated Dekkan Rai. In the end it was decided that Dekkan Rai will rule only the dense jungle.

That is why, whenever inhabitants cross over to jungle, they worship not only Bonbibi but also the Dekkan rai, the tiger. It is the place where the womenfolk wear the white saris like widows when there menfolks go to jungle for hunting and gathering honey and wax.

The rivers which have spawned these islands bring with them so much fertile soil from Himalayas that they seem to be playing a game of erecting and erasing the islands at will. Many islands are said to have been buried and no longer exist now. New ones can be born anytime.

There exist so many biomes which harbour myriad kinds of flora and fauna. Storms break where minutes before it was so still that everything looked like a still picture.

It is not far away from Kolkata and yet it is entirely a different world, breathtaking and beautiful and at the same time extremely harsh and unforgiving to the inhabitants.

Mango : The King of Fruits

Hiuen Tsang, Chinese scholar after being in India is going back. Time AD 627-643, on the fabled Silk Route. Apart from his knowledge of Buddhism, his rucksack contains an extraordinary fruit called Mango.

The name in hindi AaM is derived from Sanskrit word AMRA which seems to be the loan word from Dravidian and is related to Tamil words for Mango like “mamaram”. Portuguese were responsible for transferring the name to the West. It is growing in India since 4000 years at least.

Moguls were great connoisseurs of the fruit. Akbar got 100000 mango trees planted in Lakhi Bagh (Lakhi: 100,000, Bagh means Garden) near Darbhanga Bihar India. Others who relished the fruit were Shahjahan and Noor Jehan, Aurangzeb, Sher Shah Suri. Raghunath Peshwa got large numbers planted all over Maharashtra.

Main Constituents:

Citric acid and related compounds are responsible for sour taste. Several terpenes have been found in unripe fruit..

Ripe mango contains volatile compounds like alpha terpineol, ocimene, limonene, 3-carene etc. Yellow colour is due to beta Carotene.

Nutrients

Mangoes are rich in potassium, about 8% carbohydrate with 1.6 % dietary fibre. Very rich in vitamin A , C, B-6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Some famous Indian Varieties:

1: Alphonso or Hapoos
King among the mangoes. Named after Portugal admiral D Afonso de Albuquerque. Deogad in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra has got the GI tag of genuineness.

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2: Dasehri
It is birth place is Malihabad in Lucknow. Soft, succulent and mild.

3: Banarasi Langda
It was born in an orchard belonging to a Langda (lame) fellow and thus got this name.

4: Himsagar
Fibre less, creamy and full of pulp. Pride of Murshidabad in West Bengal.

5: Fazli
Quite big in size, famous in Malda of West Bengal. Late maturing.

6: Chaunsa:
From Bihar. Full of Flavour. It is pressed into mouth and juice is sucked.

7: Gulab Khaas
Native of Jharkhand. It is graceful mango

8: Kesar

Aromatic fruit of Junagadh Gujarat. Giving a tough fight to Hapoos. Plantations are on foothills of mount Girnar.

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9: Bedmi:

Taste depends upon the plucking time.

10. Totapuri: it is abundant in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.

11: Sindoori: it gets its name from the vermillion colour of the skin.

12: Banganapalli/ Bagan Phali/ Safeda
From Andhra’s small town Banganapalli. Sweet, yellow and fibre less.

13: Himam Pasand/ Humayun Pasand
A cross made from Banganapalli and Malgoa. It is very popular in Deccan.

14: Chandrakaran: it is delicacy from Kerala. Sweet and sour. Quite costly.

Some Winter Pictures of North India

North India, especially north west part of it experiences extreme weather swings. There are very hot summers with temperatures going as high as 45c degrees.

Similarly there is freezing winter. This season begins in November and continues till March. There are rains. Being bordered by Shiwalik and Himalayas, which experience snowfall during winter, the cold breezesblow in the plains of north. Wheat, onions, sugarcane and vegetable like carrots, spinach, cauliflowers are grown and available in plenty.

Here are some pictures

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My 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Price of being a whistleblower

Jagjeet Singh is a photographer. He has a shop of videography and photography in Tarn Taran. He shot video of Punjab police officials thrashing a woman in 2013. With the video becoming public he became a whistleblower and his woes began.

He got threats and harassment. He stopped getting photography assignments. After approaching the authorities he was provided with security cover. Now he is in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, to obtain permission to sit on indefinite hunger strike to withdraw his security cover because he is unable to bear the expenditure of the security. It means that security instead of guarding him has been made to burden him and break him financially.

He says his shop has been shut due to the assignments being absent under the fear of powers that be. So he is paying the price for being a whistleblower.

Jag jet Singh

Jag jet Singh

Darkness below the Lamp

Chandigarh is the planned city with beautiful vertical roads lined with flowering trees. The roads which cut across perpendicularly the road called madhya marg ( middle path) seem to be entering into the lap of Shivalik hills. There are numerous sight seeing places like Rock Garden, Rose Garden, Lake, University campus etc lend to the beauty of the city. When you enter the city from Punjab Side the hoarding above the border proclaims “Welcome to the city beautiful”. Plan of the city forbids the additional housing construction. As such, the city does not have any industries of significance. Only recently, one information technology park has come up.
Chandigarh is also uniques in the sense it serves as the capital of Punjab and Haryana besides being the union territory. It has the satellite villages under its administration. Since the cost of living has risen very high due to influx of outside people, most of the tenants live in the adjacent towns and villages which have become very congested.
Mohali city which is one of the cities along with Chandigarh and Panchkula that is called tricity. In fact Mohali and Panchkula are the extensions of Chandigarh as far the design is concerned. Mohali houses the main administrative offices of Punjab and Panchkula houses the offices of Haryana. Ministers and MLAs prefer to live in the Chandigarh proper.
Falling in Mohali district is a village called Masaul which is the very antithesis of the progress and Chandigarh and Moahli city. It is totally neglected in the matter do civic amenities. In fact there are no schools, no drinking water supply. People still use camels for ferrying the water and other merchandise from the city. There is no pressure on the children of education since there is no school. In fact some children who are determined go on foot very long way to a school very far off.

People who have camels often go to city during the fun fairs for earning a few rupees by providing camel rides. The life is very tough. These people are having small land holdings. Since the city cannot expand, there are expansions all around. These innocent people have been deprived of their land by the land sharks for very small sums. The conditions are such that those who were once the land holders are now working as labours in the construction work. Roads that have been made connect only the areas where these constructions are going on.

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