Eyelashes: Protector of Eyes

Every organ or part of our bodies is designed to perform some biological function for the survival and fitness of our bodies. Some of the organs keep working without our ever noticing it until that organ stops working due to some injury or illness. Only then we realize the importance of that organ. One such part of body is eyelashes.

For centuries the eyes have been recognized as an important part of physical beauty, especially for women. Eyes can communicate without the need of words. The human beings have developed great capabilities of eyes. Attractive women’s eyes are often also associated with favorable social status. And in many cultures long full eye lashes are symbols of beauty. On the other hand, loss of eye lashes is seen as a sign of deficiency in women. And so for centuries women have tried a myriad of methods for making their lashes, longer and fuller.

These beauty part aside, from an anatomy and physiology point of view, however, eye lashes serve several functions. They are intended to keep foreign particles or small insects from entering the eyes and causing damage or irritation. Lashes are attached to eyelids in a curved arc designed to channel water away from the eyes, forming another layer of protection from the environment. Lashes are actually sensitive structures, similar to cats’ whiskers. They trigger the blink reflex response when an object comes too close to the eyes

Lashes are simply hairs that grow from the edge of the eyelid. They are arranged in two or three rows. Each eye has between 100 and 150 individual hairs with upper lids having the greater number. Eyelashes are the widest type of human hair and the most richly pigmented. Each hair is, on average, 8-9 mm long, 7 mm of which extend beyond the eyelid. Lashes grow at a rate of about 0.15 mm per day, which means that if lashes are pulled out they take about eight weeks to fully grow back. Like other human hair, eyelashes are produced from follicles under the skin. Follicles have three stages of growth—an actual growing phase, a declination phase and a shedding phase. Each hair is very strong—capable of supporting 100 grams.

Hair growth in humans is different from hair growth in many mammals that shed their hair all at once. Human hair growth is asynchronous—that is, some follicles are experiencing growth while others are in decline or being shed. The eyelash growth cycle is variable, lasting between five and twelve months. The first phase is called anagen. This is the growing phase and lasts about 45 days on average. The normal length of a person’s lashes is determined by this phase. In the second stage of growth, called catagen, follicle cells undergo programmed cell death, a process that takes about fifteen days. About 3% of all lashes are in this phase at any given time. The lashes then enter a period of rest, telogen, which can last as long as nine months. Up to 15% of hair is in this phase. At the end of this phase lashes are shed in a process labeled exogen. As this phase ends, anagen begins again.

Like all human hair, eyelashes are made of 85% proteins, primarily keratin and melanin. Water makes up 7 % of human hair and 3 percent is composed of lipids. The keratin is made up of eighteen amino acids, 7 percent water, and low concentrations of trace minerals (e.g., iron, zinc, copper).

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Winter is becoming Intense

Except for a few sporadic appearance of clouds, the days begin with very bright mornings. The day breaks late. The sun comes out only at about seven o’clock although the darkness begins to melt into grey and then visible by half past six . The sky which looks black before sunlight begins to take on bluish hue.

There are groups of birds flying over against a clear sky. Cranes fly in groups to a river nearby to remain there all day and forage for food in the icy cool waters of the river. They can be seen returning in the opposite direction at the dusk. God knows what is the logic behind their daily sojourns. Can’t they make their abodes nearby? Crows make vacuous noises and sit on the branches of a skeleton tree. Occasionally big kites circle scanning the ground beneath. Crows which suppose themselves to be the rulers of the area relentlessly chase the kite. The sunlight plays with crests of mountains. There are speakers blaring bhajans from temples. The soldiers run with gusto. Morning stirs the activity. Occasionally, group of parrots dart between the trees.

Then there are monkeys descending in hordes over the colony. They lay hands on anything in the garbage bins which are of very old style silos with open trap doors. They hang on in the balconies and make a mess of everything. They pluck the flowers and uproot the plants.

You can see many people walking their morning walks. Some do exercises and running also. After the observations of many days, you can easily see the diehard morning walkers. Those who walk in the groups are given to chatting and discussing the politics.

The sun rises and everything is bathed in the golden sunlight. The sunlight first touches the crests of the lofty trees and then descends and spreads to the ground. The darkness has vanished completely. Soon it is the time for school buses and other vehicles to pick up the school children who are waiting on the road with their parents. The school is about to begin and the front area which was empty a few minutes earlier is thronged by the children and their parents who come to drop their wards to school. All of them seem to in great hurry and there is almost a frenzy on the road. Sometimes it seems that there shall be collisions.

There are milkmen and milkmaids coming to deliver the milk on the bikes. One women comes on bicycle for selling the breads, eggs and other breakfast items. She continuously rings the cycle bell to announce her presence to the customers. The house maids also arrive on the scene and can be seen entering the houses.

 

Wasabi: The Real Stuff is in short supply

There is a Wasabi restaurant in Taj Hotel in Bombay. We can never afford to go to such hotels but heard the name in context of the terrorist attack on the hotel. Actually Wasabi is root stem like ginger and its name is Wasabia Japonica. All this indicates that the whole thing is about Japanese food especially Sushi. Wasabi is used as one of the ingredients in the form of paste of pistachio-green color. It adds the zing to the food.

The real thing is in the short supply even in Japan its home itself.  So at most places what is served as wasabi paste is most likely just a mix of European horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.

As a member of the Cruciferae family, it is related to such plants as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard. Its distant cousin European horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) often substitutes for it.

Wasabi grows naturally in mountain streambeds, and the Japanese have cultivated it for more than a millennium. Wasabi grown in semiaquatic conditions is known as sawa, whereas wasabi grown in fields is called oka. The stream-grown wasabi produces larger rhizomes and is generally considered to be of higher quality.

The heat of real Wasabi lasts at the most for 15 minutes after grating. But its imitations like horseradish stays for long periods. The components of both wasabi and horseradish can be stabilized by acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

The key chemicals that give wasabi its characteristic heat and flavor aren’t present until the wasabi is macerated. When the cell wall is disrupted, it releases the enzyme myrosinase, which hydrolyzes glucosinolates, a group of sulfur-containing glucose derivatives, to produce isothiocyanates that provide wasabi’s spicy zing. The most abundant of these is allyl isothiocyanate. Horseradish has a different profile of isothiocyanates. One of the by-products of the myrosinase reaction is glucose.

The flavor is affected by how finely the wasabi is grated. The traditional way to grate wasabi is with a sharkskin grater, called an oroshi, which resembles fine sandpaper. Because the flavor and heat dissipate so rapidly, it’s best to grate it as you need it.

Scientific studies carried out by Savage and his coworkers show comparison of seven isothiocyanates in wasabi and horseradish. The horseradish contained 1.9 g total isothiocyanate/kg, whereas wasabi contained nearly 10% more (2.1 g/kg). Allyl isothiocyanate was the major component in both. The second most abundant isothiocyanate was 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanate, but it was found only in the horseradish. It, therefore, probably plays a major role in the flavor differences between the two plants. Every other isothiocyanate was present at higher concentrations in wasabi than in horseradish.

Aloe

Aloe has a very long history of use. The sap was used medicinally by the Greeks and Romans, who obtained it from the island of Socotra. The Greek physician Dioscorides recorded the use of the leaves to treat wounds in the first century AD. Aloe had reached England by the 10th century, where it appears to have been one of the drugs recommended to Alfred the Great by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In the early part of the 17th century, the records of the East India Company show payments for aloe being made to the King of Socotra, who held a monopoly on the production of drugs from the Socotrine aloe.

Spotted forms of Aloe vera are sometimes known...
Spotted forms of Aloe vera are sometimes known as Aloe vera var. chinensis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is not known whether the Socotrine aloe obtained in Greek and Roman times was from wild or cultivated populations. Today, however, African aloe (both Socotrine and Cape) is collected from wild plants, while in the West Indies, the plants are laid out in plantations like cabbages.

To prepare Aloe vera for market, the leaves are cut near the base of 24-36 year old plants. The resulting latex is collected and concentrated to the consistency of thick honey. A true concentrate produces a clear, translucent gel, which can be applied fresh, or it can be commercially converted into a more expensive ointment.

The gel can also be fermented to produce a tonic wine, to which honey and spices are added. In India, this is used to make a drink called kurmara or asava to treat anaemia and digestive and liver disorders.

The gel can also be inhaled in steam, and the powdered leaves can be used as a laxative. There is a danger that the huge tonnages of gel now sold in the developed world will mean that aloe is regarded as a cure-all for any ailment.

A New Food Chain

To survive in this harsh world, one has to struggle and beat others. While in the world of animals the competition is really physical, the human beings take it to mental level. Humans have the ability to hide their emotions, they store their grudges against others and thus compete on a very different level. Most of their actions are covert in nature.

Animals have very hard life that way. Most of them settle their scores on the spot. They don’t keep it for the future. They even do not seem to repent the loss of their near and dear ones in the struggle as the humans do. They seem to be resigned to their fate and take the events as they come.

Since they have to face a fierce competition for their food, they are masters at conserving their energies, they don’t waste it unnecessarily. Since they don’t get much for over eating, they don’t need to exercise for their fitness.

Since many days, I am observing a strange thing. In the early morning, scores of crows dive into the garbage in the ditch outside the boundary of our colony. They dive and come out with bits of parts of the dead birds mostly chickens. This garbage i

Then & Now

These days, I am taking a look at the posts which I had posted since the beginning of this blog. After going through the older posts in my blog, I am surprised how original I was since 3 to 4 years back. But I did not got much responses. My statistics were very dismal. In fact they were sustained by the posts which were copied from the internet. These were like sprinkling of the salt on the salad. Even a nutritious food cannot be savored if it does not contain the spices.

I find that the newer ones are not as original as the older ones. They are mixture of my own thoughts, pictures and literature referred from newspapers, scientific books and internet. In fact, I have realized that I cannot write better stuff because our experience of the world around us is very limited. We are content with our work and after the working hours come straight to our home. We watch television which takes away any effort we could have put in for imagining the scenarios. Our eyes and ears are fully occupied by the trivial stuff being screened on the television.

The real life experience only comes when we come in contact with people of all sorts. For example, a barber shop can be good place to listen to gossips and watch the customers. In India, in these shops in addition to the real customers, a continuous stream of young dandies come and go into the barber shop. Most of them, take the combs without any formality of asking and comb their hair in front the big mirrors. During this exercise, they hum the songs or whistle. Anyway, what I mean is that literature is born out of first hand experiences and for these either penury will push you into the throngs of the people of all hues or you are of the type who cannot sit in the comfort of the home and prefer to loiter outside.

I am realizing that how original I was writing when I was living at a remote place thousands of miles apart from my family. It is mostly copy and paste nowadays.

Cool and Fragrant Shade of Unknown Tree

Heat is building up rapidly and temperature is shooting up. Many trees like Amaltas, Gulmohur and cannonball are bearing beautiful flowers which seem to challenge the Sun‘s assault on the mother earth. Earth is parching up. The delicate flowers of spring season have begun to wither. Soon the grasses will be gone. The hills have become devoid of greenery. Every tree, plant and animal shall be looking up hands raised towards heavens.

In the morning, during walks, body begins to perspire profusely and within minutes you feel exhausted.The runnels of perspiration run though the back. The body desires for cool shades and water to rejuvenate.

I have found this tree during my walks. Its branches are covered with corpulent newly born leaves which are light green and shiny. The shade is very thick and cool. The boughs are laden with bunches of cream colored small flowers. These flowers fall like rain from the branches and ground is carpeted with them. There are birds which dart in and out of the boughs. I think they come here attracted by the cool shade fragrance of these flowers.

You will like to sit beneath the cool shade of these tree. Or you lie down and stare into its beautiful resplendent leaves and listened to the singing of the birds. The same air which is heating up due to the heartless sun becomes cool breeze under the shade and refresh your senses. Here are some of photographs.