Sunday, 15 July 2018

Nature Gives More

Have you walked in a jungle alone?
Or, swum in the sea alone?
Or, traversed a hiking trail alone?
Have you heard the crickets sing?
Have you observed the placid waters of a lake?

Nature unfolds its magic at many of these places. Where Nature gives you more than what you seek. While at Kodaikanal last month, Ghumakkad took a picture of the lake. John Muir's famous words came alive. Here is the resulting PQ- picturesque quote.

Nature is a teacher. How much we learn from Nature, depends on us. Am sharing some of the PQs motivated by Nature:

"Life is like a wild flower" 

"Nature and Patience" Even Neem flowers have a lesson!

"Colours are the smiles of Nature"

Talking of the rivers, rocks and the sea, here are some more PQs motivated by Nature's creations:

"Voice of the Sea speaks to the Soul"

"Life is like a Sea"

"In matters of principle stand like a rock"

"Rivers flow not past but through us"

"Solitude is the place of purification"

Nature continues to inspire Ghumakkad. Do you also feel the same way? Your views are welcome.

Thanks for browsing.

    - Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 15th July 2018

#Nature #River #Rocks #Sea #lake #PicturesqueQuotes #PQs #GhumakkadHarsh #GhumakkadHB #JohnMuir

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Winning the Hearts of People

Do Military units help the local community? Do they give back to the society? In what way?
The answer is a 100% yes. Whether in forward area or peace location, military personnel voluntarily come forward to help the local community. Be it healthcare, education, water or communication, military units have always contributed towards the welfare of the local community.
Here is a classic example from the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, the eastern most state of India.

This is a guest story by Abhishek Singh who commanded the Battalion which was stationed there. Pictures and text by Abhishek. Used with permission. The story in Abhishek's own words:

Some pics don't really need a description. The smiles on my kids faces do the story telling on their own 
An age ago, when we arrived in the remote border village of Arunachal which was to become our outpost for these last three years, we were met by a suspicious local Tribal population which viewed everything we did with suspicion and distrust. As army men - we were foreigners who apparently were likely to force occupy their land and impose a cramp on their lifestyle.
Three years - we have developed a water supply scheme for the complete village, provisioned electricity through solar lights and generators for all hutments, we've evacuated pregnant women out in our choppers, opened up our ration stores to the complete village when heavy rains cut off the region isolating it for months, brought modern medicine and doctors to their doorstep, built and provisioned a polyclinic in the middle of the forest, trained young boys of the village for recruitment into the army and transported their bamboo craft to Delhi to be sold for unimagined profits. We are family today.
I love walking into the village during sunny days and plonking down on the lush green grass. I love the way the village kids cheer up on seeing me and the way they all rush me - particularly when they find me seated in striking range.

They know my pockets will be full of chocolates and all for them.

The grownups always come trotting over to chat up the 'CO Sahib'. After a year or so, even the ladies had shed their reservations and would come over to talk and complain of their drunkard husbands and non - compliant children (women no different - no matter what tribe 😉) .
One such day as I sat on the grass with my friend Tai Mara - the grand old man of the village, the mother of one of my favourite kids - Bhoomi, came over to talk to us. Since I'd missed Bhoomi the last few days I enquired of her and her mother told me that she had to be sent away to the distant town to start her education. Our village did not even have a primary school which forced all kids away from their parents the moment they turned 3. Then she made a beautiful request - 'please build us a primary school so that we don't have to part with our kids so early...'
O K .
I've realised there's magic in these two alphabets. Just utter them.... Make the commitment.... Rest of the things tend to fall into line after that. We initially constructed a thatched hut classroom with the help of the villagers and I put my education instructor to teaching the kids. We bought them bags and books and stationary and words can not describe the kids happiness the day we distributed these goodies to them. We got a proper school building sanctioned and made and my men innovated a playing field for the kids. The District Commissioner recently promised me a permanent teacher. The kids are back... all of them... Our village is beautiful again 
We've named the school - the 'Sawaiman Primary School' after my unit and to commemorate our time and love affair with Arunachal and its people...

We leave in a months time.... When we do - the heartache will be mutual..

Abhishek is a great photographer and writer. Sample the picture below. The write up is also his. Used with permission.

Little Big Mummas....
Another glimpse of Arunachal. It's common practice here for the young girls to take care of their kid siblings while their mothers go out to work in the Border Roads as labour or work the fields. This is the most common sight one sees as one drives (or attempts to drive - the roads of Arunachal defy our official claims of fast paced road development) from one place to another. The young ones start bearing loads very early (refer the youngest mum standing on the left) and by the time they are 13-14 they carry 20+ kg loads of firewood or stones with a relative ease which will put grown men from plains to shame. Happy faces and infectious smiles... They will remain some of the most favourite memories of my time in Arunachal...

Thanks Abhishek for such a wonderful story and brilliant pictures. It was a privilege sharing it with Ghumakkad's readers. Am sure many of the armed forces readers of this blog will have similar stories to narrate. We would be happy to share, but do send a picture or two. Be it the Army, Navy or Air Force, we have always helped the local community in their welfare and upliftment. That's what we call the power of volunteering!

We close with John F Kennedy's famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for your country." Indian armed forces have lived with this credo all along.

Thanks for browsing.

     - Harsh-the-Ghumakkad with Abhishek Singh/ 10th July 2018

#CommunityWelfare #Education #healthcare #water #ContributionbyMilitray #AbhishekSingh #GhumakkadHarsh #GhumakkadHB #Volunteering #IndianArmedForces 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Pumpkin- The King

Story on Pumpkin?
You must be going mad! Who will read it? Who likes pumpkin?
Well Ghumakkad loves pumpkin. Doesn't just love it but also grows it in his yard. It grows as a creeper and it's bright yellow flowers are in bloom currently. That's why this story.

What do we use pumpkin for? Many many ways including as a noun in Hindi! Read on:
  • Pumpkin for Cooking: Vegetable, Soup, Sambhar, Raita, Puree, Desserts, Pies, Drinks etc. Postscript: Agra Petha, Kaddu halwa- courtesy Umesh Dhyani and Lalit Khanna respectively.
  • Salad Decoration using its shell
  • Halloween masks
  • Water can with a handle called kamadal कमण्डल used by Sadhus and hermits in India
  • Pumpkin seeds- extra nutrition and medicare
  • To ward off the evil eye- when hung on the front wall of a newly constructed house
  • A noun in Hindi- in derogatory sense. He is a kaddu कद्दू  - meaning dimwit person
  • Pumpkin Festival- held in many countries
It was interesting to observe how pumpkin fruit grows on a vine. There are male and female flowers. Male flowers bloom early morning for 4 to 6 hours. Pollinators such as the ants and the bees have to visit the male flower and then pollinate the female flower. Otherwise, the female flowers just fall off. The male flowers shrivel after few hours. See the pictures below narrating this fact which Ghumakkad learnt after observation.

Pumpkin is a healthy fruit. According to Nutritiondata, "It is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese." Did you know that?

As a result, pumpkin has many health benefits as summarised below by WebMD, Healthline and Reader's Digest:

Weight Loss- Pumpkin is rich in fiber
Sharp Vision- Supplies beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for eye health
Better Immunity- vitamin A helps your body fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases
Younger-Looking Skin- helps you look younger
Lower Cancer Risk- lowers the risk of some types of cancer including prostate and lung cancer
It (May) Help Treat Diabetes- research continues to prove this postulate
Boost your sex life- provides a good dose of zinc
Improve Prostate Health- eat pumpkin seeds
Treat Intestinal Worms- eat pumpkin seeds

So, those of you who love pumpkin, are on the right track. Keep eating it. And those who don't, better start liking it. You can grow pumpkin on terraces too. The creeper keeps the house cool during summer months.

As we said earlier, sometimes in India we call a dimwit as kaddu (pumpkin in English). But for kaddu lovers like Ghumakkad, there is a corollary. If anyone belittles you for liking kaddu, please tell them that "The liking for kaddu is inversely proportional to the amount of kaddu in one's head"! QED.

Hope you enjoyed the story on Pumpkin- The King.
Thanks for browsing.

        -Harsh-the Ghumakkad with Neeta Bhargava/ 7th July 2018

#pumpkin #kaddu #pumpkinseeds #prostratehealth #health #nutrition #Healthyfoods #ghumakkadHB #ghumakkadharsh

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Brahma Kamal- A Smart Plant

How does a plant know the lunar calendar a year in advance?
Sometimes three years in advance?
How does it work out the full moon in a monsoon month?
How does it know it is midnight?

These mysteries and many more are Nature's preserve. The more you observe the more you are baffled. Brahma Kamal ब्रह्म कमल is one such plant which has the answers to all the above questions. It bloomed last night in our garden after three years. On dot- on a full moon night in June, the monsoon month! Amazing isn't it?

You may browse our earlier story on Brahma Kamal- Queen of the Night posted three years ago. It has all the details about the plant, its shape, growth, climate for cultivation etc. In appearance, it resembles a rose when in bloom (for layered petals) as well as a lotus as a bud (for its conical shape). Its botanical name is Epiphyllum oxypetallum. In this story we bring you snapshots of the flower taken through the night till it folds itself again next morning. Enjoy the spectacle as it unfolds. 

As it blooms, the fragrance attracts bats and moths who help the plant in pollination.

We sign off with a hope that Brahma Kamal will keep its date with us next year. Or will it be after three years? Who knows!

Wouldn't you call Brahma Kamal a 'Smart' plant for possessing the intelligence? Like smart phones, smart TVs and even smart cities- Brahma Kamal beats them all! Its intelligence is natural and not man-made.

Thanks for browsing.

     -  Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 28th June 2018, Full Moon

30th June 2018: Dinesh Sharma a buddy and Nature lover, has sent a picture of another Brahma Kamal which bloomed the same full moon night in Pune on 28th June. The plant is reared by a BITSian Prabha Iyer Shankar in a shaded area. See the picture below. Thanks Dinesh.

It validates our observation of Brahma Kamal blooming at night around a full moon!

Another postscript: 2nd July 2018 from Miraj in Maharashtra. A reader and nature lover K Aishwarya sent us pictures of multiple blooms on 2nd July, few days after the full moon. Thanks Aishwarya.

Yet another Postscript: On 7th July, another nature lover and Naval buddy Lalit Khanna shared his experience of growing the Brahmakamal in his garden. Detailed observations by him are given in the comments section. He has also sent the following picture of pink flower of same cactus family. Thanks much Lalit.

#BrahmaKamal #Flowers #MarvelsOfNature #MidnightBloom #PlantWithIntelligence #GhumakkadHarsh #GhumakkadHB

Monday, 25 June 2018

Why Kodaikanal?

Do you want to climb a pine tree?
Do boating in a circular boat which spins?
See how sheep and rabbits are reared?
Walk in the mist?
Do paddle boating?
Ride a tandem bicycle?
If your answer to all the questions is yes, then come to Kodaikanal.

Kodaikanal- The Princess of all Hill Stations. 
Why is it called the Princess?
Because it is still green in most parts. Not overcrowded. Concrete structures are minimal. At 7200 feet above MSL, it has a salubrious climate. It has controlled littering. It is a walker's paradise-- at least in the morning. It has an old-world charm. In short it is beautiful and charming, like a princess!

Ghumakkad visited Kodaikanal Kodi for short, in June 2018 with our family. The centre of attraction of Kodi is the lake. We will bring you an exclusive story on the lake later. In this story we take you around other spots in Kodi.

This story has been put together by my two grandsons Ansh from Chennai (14) and Nikhil from California (11). We were all together in Kodaikanal. They helped me in selection of pictures, captioning and editing the pictures. Full marks to their creativity! Thanks buddies, you both rock.
How to reach Kodaikanal?
Madurai is the nearest airport. A 7-seater cab will cost about Rs 3600/- for 135 km drive. See the map below:

Those coming by train have to alight at Kodai Road Railway Station which is 80 kms away. A sedan cab will cost Rs 1800 for two and a half hour drive uphill.

Let our pictures do the rest of the talking.

 Moyar Point gives a grand view of the valley. However, mist enveloped the valley when we reached there.

 The Pine Forest is included in half-day's sightseeing. It is unspoilt and has its own charm. Tall Pine trees teach us many things.

 A fallen tree provided enough challenge for everyone young and old alike.
A fallen tree offered enough climbing skills and adventure to all. Here are few short video clips starting with Anuva the youngest in our group.

Nikhil is next. Does he make it?

Ansh our tallest member, tries next!

How can a mom be left behind? Akanksha goes next!

Ankur with his shoes on, makes a brave attempt!
Akanksha managed to 'fly' up near a Pine tree. How does she manage to remain 'floating'?

 Next halt was Guna Caves. Once again, the mist added to the charm of the caves and surrounding forest. 

Here is a short video around the entrance to Guna cave. Don't miss the sound of crickets in the jungle.

How does the hill slope covered with roots of the trees, look like? Feel it through a short 30 seconds video.

Golfer's attraction- Kodi Golf Course. Well maintained. It's a pity that I couldn't play due to tight schedule. There is always the next time.
 Pambar Falls

Ghumakkad had trekked in the hills leading to Pambar Falls in his earlier visit in Sep 2015. You can browse the picture story of the hike here.

The next day we did a day long picnic to Mannavanur. We also did a detour to Cascade waterfalls as we couldn't take pictures there earlier.

The drone camera brought by Ankur was put to good use. Pictures.

Get a feel of the Falls and the crowd in this short video.

Poomparai Village and View Point. This was enroute Mannavanur.
Postscript: On seeing the above picture, Prabudha Saurabh a poet, remarked:
पूरी दुनिया ऐसी ही ख़ुशरंग हो सकती थी तब
सबकी आँखों में ठहरता इस तरह पानी अगर

To which Prashant Jadnevar, an accomplished dramatist replied thus:
अच्छा है नहीं ठहरती आँखों में,
वरना वहां भी चाहत की कश्तियाँ लेकर निकल पड़ते लोग !

How a picture can drive creativity! Thanks Prabudha and Prashant.
The video below gives you a panoramic view of the valley.

 Kurinji plant which flowers once in 12 years!
 Mannavanur Lake and Sheep Farm: Located 40 kms from Kodaikanal, it is worth a day's outing. Start early and carry an umbrella as it can rain anytime!

 Mannavanur Lake- very serene and quiet. If you like crowds and noise, then this is not the spot for you. But if you love to sit on a hill slope without being disturbed, go there!

 Coracle boating in Mannavanur lake. Similar to what we did in Sanapur lake near Hampi. You may read our earlier story 'Coracle not for the weak-hearted'

Picnic Lunch

We had carried veg pulao in two containers for our picnic lunch. One of the containers accidentally toppled and we were left with only half the quantity. Outdoor is always unpredictable! Pleasantly so.

There are other spots like Berijam Lake and a hike up the Pambar falls. You may browse our previous story when Ghumakkad's College buddies conquered Kodi two years ago.

Hope you liked the Princess of Hill Stations in India- Kodaikanal.
More stories on Kodi will follow. Stay connected.

Once again, special thanks to Ansh and Nikhil my co-authors of this story!
Thanks for browsing
   -  Harsh-the-Ghumakkad with Ansh and Nikhil Bhargava/ 25th June 2018

#Kodaikanal #Mannavanur #KodiLake #Nature #HillStation #GhumakkadHB #GhumakkadHarsh #PineForest #SheepFarm #TerraceFarming #CoracleBoating #MoyarPoint #Rabbits