Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Help in the garden

One of my favourite pastimes is to lazily sit on my verandah and watch the mynahs busy at what I should be doing .... getting rid of the pests in my garden. And very conscientious they are too. When I wake up early in the morning and come out, they're already at work. Pacing up and down the lawn or any grassy patch, they suddenly cock their head and I know that's the death warrant for one more bug.

Here's one checking over the cricket pitch which went out of control during the monsoon. (Just in case you're wondering, the cricket referred to here is not the insect but the sport which has cult status here in India)

The Common Mynah, also known as Indian Mynah, mates for life and I usually see the happy couple hunting together. Pa takes over one part of the lawn while Ma scrutinises the other, and sometimes the youngsters join in too if they're not partying elsewhere. The family that eats together, stays together?

They seem to enjoy caterpillars and bugs but apparently their favourite food is grasshoppers. Which gave them their name - Acridotheres tristis. Acridotheres meaning "grasshopper hunter", according to Wiki. Now that's more than enough to endear them to me!

The bright yellow skin patch around their eyes always makes me laugh. They look as if their off to a masked ball any minute now and chose that bright colour to make up for their rather drab brown apparel. Oh yes, and they got boots to match too!

My father was once gifted a pet Jungle Mynah and it was one of the best mimics I've ever heard. They're considered one of the best 'talking' birds and they're really amazing! Now these shy black birds are a protected species and so they're not seen much except in the jungles which are their natural habitat. I can just imagine them driving the other birds in the jungle nuts, though :D

One of the advantages of having a garden where the use of chemicals is severely restricted is that Nature takes over. For every pest there are predators around the corner or under the next leaf. This has such a wonderful sense of rightness that I almost don't mind the odd cut petals if it'll attract a Fantail or a Bulbul. Almost.
And, yes, most of them even sing for their supper too. Others, however, will just stare as if considering this strange creature that's got nothing better to do while everyone worth knowing is slogging away, catching their daily bugs .
(The resident Oriental Garden Lizard)

Garden lizards, skinks, mynahs, .... I have so many natural garden assistants that I dont really need any other, do I?
Okay, maybe someone to do the digging would be nice, though.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Peace in the times of uncomprehending terror

Peace in the times of undiluted madness

Peace in the times of malicious strife

Peace in the times of undeserving, untimely death

Peace to all the family and friends left behind

Peace in the minds of mothers, seeing off their loved ones

Peace in the minds of all stepping out of their homes

Peace , especially, in the minds of the misguided


In memory of all those who lost their lives in the serial bomb blasts in Bangalore (25.07.'08) and in Ahmedabad (26.07.'08) .

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Return of the Prodigal Monsoon

After days of playing hide and seek, the monsoons have finally returned in full strength again. After the initial drama of finally having reached Mumbai, the monsoons had inexplicably disappeared! Not completely, for I would often go out into the garden to find the ground wet but no one would ever have guessed otherwise that it had rained. So totally unlike the normal monsoon days! This was more like a "Spit and Run"
Today I woke to gray skies and cooler weather and clouds full of rain.
Glory be ! and Halleluiah! and everything else that follows...

What could be more natural than rain on an Umbrella Tree (Thespesia populnea var. acoutifoua) ?

And after the storm comes the lull when flowers shake the raindrops off their face. The flowers of the Umbrella tree are a bright yellow when open, but salmon-pink when in bud and when closed.

Meanwhile, taking advantage of the few days of sunshine, I had a surprise guest. A new watermelon (?) plant had sprouted and rambled over in a pot of curry leaves. I had dumped the seeds in the nearest pot after eating the fruit. This is becoming a habit with me.
If it is the one I think it is, then it should bear small but very sweet fruit. The projection over my apartment's kitchen window should protect it from excess rain.

That looks like the start of a new baby watermelon. Go baby, Go!

Also sharing space in the same pot is a radish, a couple of curry leaf plants and a Malabar Spinach. This looks like the start of the War of the Species. May the fittest survive! Actually, I've got quite attached to the watermelon so I think I'll save it. And I need that curry leaf plant... my curries depend on it. So that will be replanted. But that radish can go. I'm not too fond of radish.

I think I had also popped a few pine seeds but that hasnt made a peep till now. It obviously has better sense than me. Trying to get pine (or maybe it is spruce, I havent a clue) to grow in tropical weather!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tagged, Caught and Wrangled

Okay, its happened. The moment I feared has jumped down my throat .... coming up against something that I havent a clue how to handle and having to admit it to all of Cyberland.
I've been tagged by Kate at and I realise that:

a) I have to find out what "tagged" means. I've only heard the term on Discovery channel on all those wildlife shows where the over-enthu guys go around shooting a bucket-load of sedatives into a lion or rhino or something equally dangerous, and then proceed to give them a ear-ring or necklace stuffed with something that'll keep tracking them through bush and high mountain.
Okay, if its a necklace, please make it silver. Hmmm, even antique gold will do.

b) If I have to link to 6 other people I'm in deep trouble ! I dont know 6 people who also blog, so well that they'll take kindly to being tagged in turn.
So Kate, I'll have to bend a rule here... it'll have to be less than 6, I'm afraid.

c) What on earth would I reveal about myself? I'm one of the most boring people I know.

d) There are rules! Okay, maybe thats not so bad... I just have to follow them. Not something I'm wonderful at, but still, here goes...

First step : Link to the person who tagged you. Hmmm, that was Kate at The Manic Gardener and I think I've already done that in the first paragraph.
Second : Post the rules on the blog. Pay attention here... these are the rules.
Third : Write six random things about yourself. Here goes:
1) I'm a voracious reader. I go through a book every other day and it could be anything from children's books to historicals to romances to biographies to the literature on the back of detergent packets. If I see printed matter, I just have to put everything else aside till I read it. No wonder my housework takes ages to complete!
Oh, and I also zig-zag between a couple of books at a time, reading a bit of one book now and part of the other, later in the day.

2) I collect recipes. There's something about all those plain, ordinary words and ingredients, melding and merging to make awesome, sensory magic that is, well, pure magic.
I dont enjoy cooking though. Not the ordinary everyday variety cooking. Now if its something fancy, yes. But morning breakfast, afternoon lunch, evening tea, night dinner, and then repeat the next day, and the next.... NO! Too boring. Plus its too hot to stay in the kitchen. And a whole gaggle of wise men (and women) have said "if you cant stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen"! I'm trying, I'm trying.

3) I've always had long hair. Except for one time when I cut it short and hated it. The longest was hip-length. Now its just above my waist.
I was born with curly hair, it grew out to become wavy, and now I've straightened it because I like straight hair.

4) My verandah is my most lived-in 'room' in my house. I love sitting there at all times of the day, especially when it is raining.

5) If someone advises me a bit too much, I go out of the way to make sure I don't follow that advice. I just dig my heels in and dont budge. Yeah, that could also go under the heading "foolishly stubborn".

6) I speak 2 languages fluently (English and Malayalam), 1 language well-enough to be understood but not grammar-perfect (Hindi), understand another 2 languages but am a bit rusty with them (French and Tamil), and struggle with 1 more language but need a lot of help with it (Marathi).

Okay, thats all I'm revealing. On to the next set of rules:
Fourth : Tag six people at the end of your post. I'm tagging
Barbee' at Barbee's Blog,
Trudi at Yesterday Today and Tomorrow In My Garden
Kanak at Terra Farmer
The Intercontinental Gardener
Come on, Kate. Four out of six isnt so bad. To make up for the shortfall, I'll make another two revelations instead.

1)I'm mad about crafting. Embroidery, cross-stitch, gourd crafts, nature crafts, soap making... I do them all and love learning new crafts all the time.

2)I find it difficult to throw things away. Things like rocks with interesting shapes or shells with lovely colours, interesting seed-pods, beautiful poems .... everything is stored away in my home.

Fifth : Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Sixth : Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

There! Thats it. Kate, I hope you know what you've let Cyberland in for.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Maidenhair, there, and everywhere

I had almost forgotten about the ferns! One of the most beautiful plants to make an appearance in my rain-happy garden, these maidenhair ferns are native and need no prompting to show up.

Within a few days, the whole garden seems to become a sprouting ground for these delicate beauties, waving their lacy fronds from every stone and mud wall. They do grow on the ground too, but interestingly, they seem to prefer vertical planes like walls and the sides of pots.

What starts off like this, very soon burgeons into this

If I could attribute human intelligence to them, I could swear they chose these vantage points to show off the graceful arch of their black-ribbed stems. Somehow, it just doesnt look half so dramatic when they grow on level ground.

Very often, the place where these ferns grow is blanketed with new growths of moss and lichens. Which makes it look like these maidens have sunk their feet in very luxuriously thick, green carpets.
But, I guess, the millipedes seem to like them too.

Now, if I were that lady, I'd be shrieking!

Friday, July 4, 2008

See what the rain brought up !

The monsoons have settled in now and the land is in a mellow, fertile state . Wild flowers and seasonal plants are popping up all over the place. Lying dormant most of the year seems to agree with them if their bright colours are anything to go by.

Almost overnight, my garden*(please see my note below) is filled with Curcumas (Gingers.... though some people like to call them Ornamental Turmeric) .

I dont know how these Curcumas got there because I didnt plant them and neither did anyone else that I know of. In this picture, they're growing near some wild, native Ixoras under a sprawling Cashew tree .

Another rainy season plant I love is this little one with white flowers. I have no idea what it is called. If anyone knows, please let me know? It springs up all over the place.... between rocks, on paths, just about everywhere.

This is a close-up of this flower which we have very whimsically named 'Peace Bells'. Well, until we know the official name, thats as good a name as any.

* It was too much of a job trying to keep my two gardens separate in this blog, so I decided I would just go ahead and talk about both. Both are urban gardens, its just that one of them, being in an apartment, is more urban than the other (if that makes sense to you) . I had tried to only talk about my apartment garden, but then, why should I deprive myself of half the fun, right?