About the Power of Breathing

Breathing is our life. It goes on unnoticed until we are having some problem with our body. It is our constant companion from the time we are born and till the time we leave this world. Following our body breathing can calm our mind.

One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh has led an extraordinary life. Born in central Vietnam in 1926 he joined the monkshood at the age of sixteen.

Thich Nhat Hanh

He tells us about breathing like this. The breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.

We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.

We may like to recite:

Breathing in I know that I am breathing in Breathing out I know I am breathing out 

We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.

Is Collective Wisdom always Correct?

At the starting point of human evolution timeline, the progress was very slow and full of dangers. Learning was at the cost of many human lives. In the beginning, man was a hunter and did not have a stable life. He was always on the move because animals which he hunted were also capable of running. Life of hunting was not easy.
They were on lookout for more stable life. To be able to stay put at one place. For this, humans had to enable themselves replace their diet with grains and cereals which could be grown near their abodes. As we know there must had been plenty of vegetation all around. But today we know that all of it is not suitable for animal consumption. Plants have been here from the beginning and since they could not move from one place to another to defend themselves, their defense mechanism was already in place for survival. As a result only a few of the plants are useful.
Humans did not know what was good for eating and what was not good. It was all a hit and trial process with some of them scarifying their lives. But with the passage of time, information begun to build up and thus the present generation was better equipped than the previous one. Now we have reached a stage where a huge treasure of knowledge is at our disposal.
So have we become so wise and knowledgeable that we cannot commit mistakes? The answer is sadly no. we are committing mistakes. One reason is that we work in groups with members having all shades of knowledge. Thus the resultant knowledge is averaging out.
Take for example the green revolution in the North India particularly Punjab. It saved the masses of the country from starvation. There was a great scarcity of the food grains. India was dependent on the mercy of the countries like USA and USSR. Green Revolution introduced the modified varieties of wheat and rice which have high yields. The state increased the production so much that it was able to feed all the country with food grains.
But the real results of that exercise are now becoming evident. The land was drained of all the nutrients. It was not kept any time fallow to regain the natural strength. The result was the increased use of fertilizers and insecticides. The water footprint was very high for the production of these crops. Since the river water was not sufficient, the underground was exploited up indiscriminately. Since the quality control during manufacturing was poor, many heavy metals which are very toxic slowly made their way to underground drinking water. The water table went deeper. The disastrous effects are now visible in the form of many fatal diseases affecting the children in the Punjab.
On the other hand, there were negative effects elsewhere which disturbed the equilibrium. The states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal which were naturally suited for rice production stopped or tried to change the crop patterns with negative results. So it seems that for short term Green Revolution was a blessing but in the long run it was a collective failure.

Some Milestones in Food Technology

Here are some milestones in food technology

18000 B.C.

Pottery Vessels

Invention of pottery vessels. The earliest vessels were probably used just for cooking before the development of impermeable ceramics made them suitable for long-term storage. (“Dishwasher safe” is, however, still a work in progress.)

7500 B.C.

Agricultural Revolution

The beginning of the agricultural revolution. Raising crops allowed people to shift away from a migratory existence. Due to this there was time available for all sorts of other ideas to occur to us, setting the stage for civilizations to develop.

6000 B.C.


The regular flooding of the Nile river started the process of artificial irrigation. Basin irrigation, in which water channels were allowed to flood but prevented from draining began.

2500 B.C.


The Sumerians create the first pesticide, in the form of sulfur, which was dusted on crops. (No historical evidence is available on whether this was followed by a demand for appropriate cuneiform-tablet labeling.)

1500 B.C.


The development of aquaculture in China focused on carp, leading to the accidental creation of the goldfish and the later emergence of the concomitant toilet-side funeral service.

475 A.D

The horse collar

After its invention in China, the introduction of the horse collar to Europe about 400 years later led to the horse becoming the go-to source of animal labor, replacing oxen as plow animals and leading to higher food production levels.

900 -1300 A.D.

Crop rotation

Sustainable agriculture took a huge leap forward with the introduction of three-field crop rotation, resulting in the one fact about medieval farming that modern school children are likely to retain into adulthood.

1799 A.D.

Steam-powered farm machines

The slow industrialization of agriculture started with the introduction of fixed steam-powered machinery for threshing wheat. Making this machinery more and more portable would lead to the first farm tractors.

1810 A.D.


Glass bottles were initially used for canning, but it was the Philippe de Girard’s invention of the tin can that really put this food technology on the map. The invention is often attributed to de Girard’s French friend Peter Durand, who secured the English patent on de Girard’s behalf, as France and England were inconveniently at war at the time.)

1836 A.D.

Gas stoves

The first gas stove factory opens. The stoves gave chefs a much greater degree of temperature control in cooking but would ultimately lead to the deep charcoal-versus-propane barbeque schism.

1849 A.D.

Artificial flavors

The advent of organic chemistry opened the door to artificial flavors, although not without some misfires, such as the promotion of nitrobenzene, once considered usable as a replacement for bitter almonds in confectionary with “perfect safety.” Alas, it’s now known to be a toxin capable of causing kidney, liver, and brain damage.

1851 A.D.


Artificial refrigeration made it possible to warehouse food for long periods of time and transport it over previously impossible distances, such as with the SS Dunedin, the first refrigerated cargo ship to be commercially successful. In 1882 it carried meat from New Zealand to London.

1855 A.D.

Can opener

Forty-five years after the invention of the tin can, the other shoe drops with the invention of the can opener.

1864 A.D.


The introduction of pasteurization was a huge leap forward for food safety, if something of a sad moment for cheese gourmets.

1879 A.D.

Artificial sweeteners

Saccharin, the world’s first artificial sweetener, is discovered by accident when chemist Constantin Fahlberg forgets his parents’ advice and doesn’t wash his hands properly before eating.

1889 A.D.

Instant coffee

Recent research shows that instant coffee, the bane and blessing of modern office life, was first created by David Strang in New Zealand—not, as previously believed, in 1901 by Satori Kato in Chicago.

And it goes on

Gurdev Khush!!Rice Magician

Importance of Rice

Rice is the staple food for the majority of population living in many Asian countries particularly those living along the coastal areas because fish and rice go along best. Rice is held in high esteem and is used in many religious ceremonies. For example in India Annapurna is the Hindu Goddess of rice. Her name comes from the Sanskrit word for rice, anna. She is often depicted with a rice spoon in her hand.


Rice requires plenty of water for its growth and many flood prone areas in Bangladesh, rice is grown extensively. In contrast, wheat is grown in North India and population eats bread made from the wheat. Wheat does not require much water as compared to Rice. Wheat contains more micro-nutrients than rice.

As the population is increasing, the number of mouths to feed are increasing. So every Government is striving to increase the production. Research is being done continually to develop strains which give more yield, less prone to attack by bugs and do not grow much stalk because longer the stock more are chances of its falling and getting damaged.

Rice Magician

Surprisingly, the man behind this research hails from Punjab where the wheat is the dominant crop. Dr Gurdev Singh Khush may not be a household name. But his rice varieties are. By the time he was 25, Dr. Khush had already received a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture at the Punjab Agricultural University Ludhiana in India, as well as a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Davis in the US.

After several years at UC Davis researching genetics of tomatoes, Dr. Khush moved on to the International Rice Research Institute plant breeding department in 1967, where he worked with Dr. Beachell. In less than five years, he became head of IRRI’s plant breeding department and was well on his way to developing his own new varieties of “miracle rice” based on Dr. Beachell’s IR8.

In the last 32 years, he and his team at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Manila, have introduced over 300 new grain varieties, including IR8, IR36, IR64 and IR72, which triggered the Green Revolution in Asia in the 1960s. Today, IRRI rice varieties and their progenies are planted in over 70 per cent of the world’s rice-fields.

“Farmers were initially skeptical about our new grain varieties, which took less time to mature than traditional varieties. But our perseverance paid dividends,” recalls Dr Khush. During the first 25 years of Dr Khush’s program, world rice production doubled from 256 million tonnes in 1966 to 518 million tonnes in 1990, enabling an additional 700 million people to obtain adequate nutrition.

In 1976, Dr Khush introduced IR36, called “the miracle rice” that has since become one of the world’s most widely grown food crop varieties. According to IRRI estimates, IR36 has added about five million tonnes of rice annually to Asia’s food supply and accounts for an additional $1 billion yearly income to Asian farmers.


What prompted Khush to take up a career in agricultural research? “I come from Punjab, in northern India. There was a lot of poverty and not enough food. My father was a farmer, and he strongly encouraged me to do something for the agricultural community,” says the 64-year-old scientist. His pioneering research has won him many awards, the most notable being the World Food Prize in 1996, which he won for his contribution to “advancing human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of the world’s food supply.” The prize, widely regarded as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for agriculture, is awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation based at Des Moines (USA).

Khush is now working on new grain varieties designed to increase yields by another 25 per cent. “The mission of my life is to continue to work towards the improvement of rice, and to be able to feed more and more people,” says Dr Khush.

Plants used for Medicinal Purposes

The different parts of many plants have been used since ancient times for medicinal purposes. History records many such observations.

The first plant is

Caesalpinia pulcherrima  plant. It is commonly seen in India. The studies note, contains compounds that have powerful antiviral benefits, especially effective against human herpes viruses and adenoviruses,
which cause the common cold. Caesalpinia pulcherrima prevents these viruses from replicating. Other recent studies demonstrate that extracts from the flower, stem, leaf, fruit, root, and seed of Caesalpinia pulcherrima are also effective against wheezing, bronchitis, malarial infection, tuberculosis, other bacteria, fungi, and some parasites.’ (Counter, 2006)

It is still used widely in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine and is being studied for its antiviral and antibacterial medicinal qualities.

Second plant is Flos pavonis. Some of its parts were used by the slave women to induce abortion. The Indian slave women are very badly treated by their white enslavers and do not wish to bear children who must live under equally horrible conditions. The black slave women, imported mainly from Guinea and Angola, also try to avoid pregnancy with their white enslavers and actually seldom beget children. They often use the root of this plant to commit suicide in the hope of returning to their native land through reincarnation, so that they may live in freedom with their relatives and loved ones in Africa while their bodies die here in slavery, as they have told me themselves.’ (Merian, quoted in Counter, 2006)

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

At Last

After so many days, I am surprised that I am able to open my blog. It has been fully restored. Statistics also indicate the sudden rise in the viewer although I have not been able to open it for a long time. I am surprised as well as feeling a peculiar kind of relief because so much my entries were there. It seemed that someone has looted me at gun point.

Censorship, if all, the authorities think unavoidable should be applied judiciously not en masse. At least they must check what are the contents of the blog and whether they are harmful. So many artists have suffered untold punishments for their works. Sometimes it is from the authorities in the power and at others religious, regional feeling seem to be violated by the writings.

Many a times I thought in the past, first compose the draft of the post in the word processor and keep a copy of that for safety but never doubted that such harsh things like blocking of the innocuous material blog can happen in India. India has been exemplary in terms of liberty except a few aberrations. The censorship also made us realize the plight of artists in the intolerant countries. It was like snatching of the liberty which we have become habitual with and started taking it granted.

Anyway, today I am very happy that things seemed to have become normal again.

Hummingbirds: The extraordinary birds

Hummingbirds are most beautiful birds endowed with dazzling colors and hues. But these birds seem to be consigned to the extreme life because at the end of the day, they are so exhausted that it is not sure whether or not they will live to see the another day. Their humming near the flowers in which they insert their specialized beaks to suck the nectar while steadying themselves by constantly flapping their wings, seems like a fluid motion poetry. It is sight to behold. They can fly forward and backward, up and down manoeuvrings come as easily to them.

So they are not the ordinary birds but take the definition of extraordinary to a whole new level. They are the smallest warm-blooded creatures on the planet, but they are also among the fastest. They measure on the average 4-5 centimeters. They can  With wings that beat up to 200 times every second, they are among nature’s most accomplished athletes, the only birds able to hover, fly backwards, and even upside down.

Hummingbird metabolisms are set in permanent overdrive, requiring them to consume more than half their body weight in nectar every day. Some researchers say that nectar consumption for providing energy to fuel the furious activity during the day time, may be equal to their own weights. Since nectar provides them only sugars for energy, they have to supplement it with insects for getting proteins and other nutrients.

To survive the night, they fluff up their feathers and adjust their body thermostats, and reduce their body temperatures by half and reduce their heart rate from 600 beats per minute to a mere 36 to save the energy for survival  and begin their struggle for life next morning.

Due to their small size and dizzying speeds, human beings know only the crude facets of their sizes. PBS has sponsored a study to peer closely into their lives. By using state of the art technology and high definiton cameras, they have been able to delve deep into the private lives of hummingbirds. With  cameras able to capture over 500 images a second, the hummingbirds’ magical world can finally be seen and appreciated. Amazing footage shows these little powerhouses are far more than delicate nectar gatherers — they are also deadly predators. And watch as the birds display their elaborate mating rituals, showing off with nose dives that subject them to over ten G’s of force — enough to cause an experienced fighter pilot to black out!

These tiny marvels dazzle and delight bird watchers all over the world, and NATURE reveals their stunning abilities as they have never been seen before. The whole story is available at the PBS website page. Please go through and if you can watch the video you are lucky because video is blocked in our region, God knows for whatever reasons.

Not only Men

“The Bird Detective” is a book written by Bridget Stutchbury, a biologist in Canada. The book, it is claimed, has been written after extensive research and reveals many startling facts about the habits of birds especially songbirds. Evidence exists already that females of some birds cheat on their partners. This was confirmed by DNA fingerprinting of birds and their chicks to ascertain the fatherhood. There is a reference to this in the chapter “DNA fingerprinting” in the book “The Magic Universe” by Nigel Calder.

This books dispels many myths about the birds behavior. The belief that birds pair up for life and are faithful to each other seems to be a big myth. The fact is that in the olden times, serious research was not done on such issues. Everyone by nature is lazy and wants the life of comfort and pleasure. Since as a species of humans, we understand more about the promiscuous nature of males, we tend to paint other species in good light than ourselves.

Birds also want to lead a life of pleasure and comfort. They switch partners, commit adultery, divorce and can abandon their young ones to die. Females look out for the robust and colorful partners so that they live in safety protected by the strong males and also produce healthy progenies.

Since summers are shorter in cold Canada and to produce more chicks, females leave their nests even before the chicks are fully fledged, so that they can find new partners and lay more eggs. The helpless chicks are left to the male mates who have to rear them by their own efforts.

Similarly males to propagate their lineage mate with neighboring females and can indulge in relations with triple or quadruple females.

Divorce is surprisingly common among birds, and most live with one partner for only a few months or years. Divorce rates range from 99 percent in the greater flamingo to zero in the wandering albatross.

The book has been published by Harper Collins.

So, the old adage “Men will be Men” should be replaced by “Every living being is Every one”. Females are no less than males. Men can find some solace in these revelations.

Houston, we have a problem

This phrase became familiar to us from the days of “Star Trek” series which were once broadcast on the Doordarshan, the official channel of India. I remembered this phrase but never knew the origin of this. All was clear was that whenever there was a problem with the spacecraft, this phrase was heard.

This phrase is a misrepresentation of the message astronaut Swigert of Apollo 13 mission conveyed to Houston. Original, the dialogues are as follows:

Swigert: ‘Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.’
Duke: ‘This is Houston. Say again please.’
Lovell: ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.’

So he said that there was a serious problem but it had been solved already when it was conveyed to Houston. Nowadays, the phrase is used humorously to report any kind of problem.

The mission launched on April 11, 1970, met with a electrical fault causing an explosion in oxygen tanks. With great difficulties, using the command module as lifeboat, the crew returned to earth on April 17, 1970. It was termed as successful failure.

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