Monday, December 26, 2011

Foliage plants that are easy to grow!

I remember when the boys were babies and both David and Andy were really small it was tough to keep them both entertained here in Castle Street. So, I would bundle them up when it got too tiring for me and drive down to Mum and Dads place on Hayes Road. The huge garden kept them happy for hours till the sun went down. I remember especially when they had the chicken pox and the lesions must have driven them crazy with the itching. I would shake the leaves of the Alocasia -- the heart shaped leaf would move rapidly from side to side and for some reason made David especially laugh at it a lot! So for a long time I would carry him on my hip and shake the leaf and keep him entertained. They are easy to grow and make great balcony beautifiers!

Then recently we went for a wedding in a large hotel off the old Airport road and while we waited for our car to be brought by the valet Bonny and I oggled the long line of the most beautiful Anthurium Flamingos.They were so perfect that Bonny argued for a bit saying they were not real! They are beautiful, lovely to keep in the shade and make the most delightful display of flowers if happy!

And then we went for a few days a couple of months ago to the Kairali Spa resort in Gokarna. The garden there was a delight and I asked for a piece of the most beautiful Epipremnum Marble Queen -- I thought it was just a variegated Money plant! Anyway the pieces I brought have grown marvelously and I am not looking for a moss stick to grow it on where it will make a marvelous display. In the resort they grew it up a tree and so each leaf turned massive and looked amazing. Just a little piece from the plant, stick it in the soil and there mine is growing well in a pot filled with compost made from my kitchen waste.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The romance of the Steam Engine!

As kids we always travelled by train across the length and breadth of India.Dad was in the services and every holiday we travelled to see my grandparents who were in Bangalore and in Baroda.

What I loved was the gunpowder smell of the smoke of the engines and I always stuck my head close to the bars on the windows to look at the steam puffing out of the engine as it took its twists and turns in the journey. The huge clouds of black smoke coming out of the engine never failed to make us children gape.

Life has changed today. We have those ugly Deisel engines which have no style and class of the steam engine. Lucky you can still experience the steam engine especially in the hill-stations across India.Last year we jumped onto the little toy train from Lovedale to Ooty and back. It was an experience to remember!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The gift that was Mario Miranda

Caption: The sorpatel arrives

These brilliant intricate cartoons drawn by the legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda was sent to me by another Mario Miranda! Imagine having identical names which is really a rare occurrence among us Goans. Both Marios were my Dads school chums in St Joseph's High School in Bangalore. One was the cartoonist Miranda who lived in Mumbai and then retired in his village Lutolim, in Goa and the second Mario lived in a fairy tale house on St Mark's Road in Bangalore. Today the ugly House of Lords stands in place of a house I always adored as a little girl with its lilly pond and terraced garden around this stately home which had a very unusually coloured mauve Bouganvillea.
I do not have a picture of the house, but it still is there in my minds eye with the two tall rain trees on the road which thankfully still stand.
Mario the cartoonist was loved across the world for his art and his amazing gift can be seen in the images uploaded for all to enjoy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adopt a doggie off the road!

CUPA had the launch of their calendar recently at Sunny's with a lot of the glitterati of Bangalore in attendance. The concept they are promoting is simple and makes a lot of sense.
Adopt a dog off the road rather than buy the classic breeds which are on sale in the city.
Good concept and a lot of families were present telling the gathering how adoption has changed their lives and made such a difference to both the animal and them.

They had the gorgeous model Apoorva and musician Raghu Dixit the founder-frontman of the band Antaragni to release the calendar.

Thats my picture! I guiess if you have good looking subjects you do get good pics!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Raat ki raani blooms!

I bought my young Raat ki raani from a road side nursery on the way to Hoskote on Old Madras Road. Sixty bucks for the plant was expensive, but it was large and in a biggish pot so I indulged him!

The plant did not do well in a pot, so I removed a fern from the corner of the lawn and put this down. Like Jack and the Beanstalk, The plant just took off like it had hit pay dirt and it turned into a huge green monster. I just pretended not to see it every day thinking if its happy whom am I to stop it?! But not a flower appeared. Just these lush long branches and tons of lusher leaves.

I just took deep breaths as I passed a small little plant growing in Shoolay around a a tiny house, which was covered in flowers.Those people were just palin lucky I thought to myself.The flowers are not nice to look at -- take a look at my pictures. They are green and cylinderical and ugly. But come the night and poof, like Alice in Wonderland the flowers turn into a mass of fragrant smelling blooms.

Then came Narsimappa from Hoskote and while I was away in Madurai for my PhD exam, hacked the tree down to almost its base. When I returned I was horrified and stood in shock yelling at Steve and Bonny for allowing this carnage! I felt so sad for it and even put some wet mud on the ends of branches which had been lopped off.

Then suddenly like magic, all the stems have sprouted flowers! Yes, the whole hacked shrub as you can see in the pic has masses and masses of flowers and I could die with the wonderful smell wafting from the garden every night!

Funny how I can 'hear' Dad telling us things to do in the garden so many years ago. He always said, tons of leaves means the plant is just feeding the branches. Cut them back and it will flower. Well, his words ring true every single time!

Narsimappa will have his little I told you so grin, just watch when we go this weekend to Hoskote!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Singata hotel in Kenya

This is apparently rated the best hotel in the world for eco tourism.It was sent to me by a friend who knows how I love Africa. Frankly I hate these kind of hotels which have a facade of eco tourism and really are all luxury personified including air-conditioned tents.

However I cant help but agree that it is beautiful and would be marvelous to experience the animals so up and personal. But I still have reservations. There are a lot of unanswered questions like where is their sewage sent? Where is the fresh water got from? Do they serve any 'game' as delicacies? what are the security measures for tourists living in the tents which are definitely not safe from say a lion, or an elephant.

And at 50k a day it is steep anyway, too steep for me to experience ever!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Garganey's are here!

The first image that I had of wild ducks was a whole pile of dead birds, blood splattered all over their gorgeous irridescent plumage in my friends Nadine and Raymond Lovett's kitchen. The next I saw those birds was a day later, cooked up into a sort of roast by the ace cook Nadine. I could not eat any of them, and felt fairly pukey looking at the roasted carcasses.

I am so glad that laws have come in banning the shooting of these wonderful birds and most of these hunters today are saviours of their feathered friends.

So when the news came down the bird wire that the Garganeys are in town, flown all the way from Europe to grace the rejuvenated Puttenahalli lake it was an exciting feeling. Ofcourse talking to birders who go out at the crack of dawn to photograph these birds was interesting and most of them are happy to share their images with us immediately for free.

These pics are by JM Garg.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Towers of trees in Milan!

Was sent this email by a student which talks about a fascinating new pair of residential towers called Bosco Verticale being constructed at Milan, Italy. Designed by architect Stefano Boeri, Bosco Verticale is being constructed as a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory.

Towering over the city's skyline the world's first forest in the sky will be a sight to behold. The 27 storied building will accommodate nearly one hectare of forest trees as tall as oak and amelanchiers in its cleverly designed balconies.

The 365 and 260 foot emerald twin towers will house an astonishing 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 ground cover plants. This is a concept illustration of how Bosco Verticale will look like when completed.

Ah ha, man again thinks he knows best. Frankly I am not impressed and have so many questions of the builder! But anyway lets laud him for his efforts at least at greening our urban jungles where there is no biodiversity save ants, rats and us humans!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Toshiba NB100 bought in Dubai

Since I travel so much and have to lug my large laptop around to conferences, I decided to take the Indonesian journalists advice and buy a NB100from Toshiba. I spent 450 Euros in Dubai while I was in transit to Nairobi and was very pleased with my purchase.
However from the start, the keyboard gave trouble, one could not see the letters and also they did not work too well. The whole machine was very slow and considering I had NOTHING on it I did wonder but just ignored the issue.

Suddenly at the Delhi conference the keyboard stopped working properly with only some keys functioning. The IT help said it was def a prob with the machine. I shut it down and used the media room comps instead.

Forgetting the problem I took it all the way to the ICIMOD conf in Kathmandu to be greeted with the same problem. I could not even log into my gmail but could from others comps. That is when the IT trouble shooter there said, Maam, its your computer which you need checked.

So I came back to Bangalore and never mind the mad run around from Manipal Centre to Koramangala, I get this nice fat bill for a problem that is due to Toshiba's inherent poor quality of machine. I am mad angry and fighting about it because I am so tired of their service which is all but not there.Plus to be slammed with a bill on top of a faulty machine and down time galls me.

DO NOT buy Toshiba. Their service sucks in India and dont throw good money down the drain, think before you buy. They say DELL's after sales is the best.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kathmandu and ICIMOD

Say Kathmandu and everyone's eyes light up. Well for me say Kathmandu and ICIMOD and ONLY THEN my eyes light up! ICIMOD is a green Shangrila while the rest of Kathmandu is a dirty dusty little city which you could find anywhere in India. There are ofcourse little islands like the Boudha Stupa which I love, but on the whole the place is polluted, garbage strewn and crawling with firangs. The only saving feature are the people. They are smiling and very humble and inspite of their obvious poverty are hard working and happy.

The pictures are of ICIMOD and the Kiwi fruit grown in Godavari, the project site of ICIMOD. That is a wonderful place with dense forest which has been regenerated to teach the locals to replicate it- and with the forest has come water and biodiversity of plant, bird and insect life.

When will we as man realise and accept that we need to preserve nature in order to preserve our planet? Never I think!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Bangalore Metro!

I hope desperately in my heart of hearts that the Bangalore Metro begins to unclog the roads. If people can park around the stations, then like in the west I have seen a lot of people will park and ride and then drive home. Everywhere from the UK to Europe and the US this is one mode of transport that helps keep the roads stress free. And I hope those dratted bikes and autos will thin out now cause levels had reached where the bikes ride the pavements and honk at pedestrians.

The pics of the metro are great and were sent by my friend Hema. I thought I should share them as they do look good.

Looking forward to a ride soon once the novelty of it wears out:-0 For now its a family outing like our malls were when they first began!

Paul Beaudry and troupe!

The US consulate brought in a quartet of Jazz greats from the US and they performed at a free show on Saturday 29th. Wow! it really was a super show and I learnt a lot about Jazz which I have been fond of but not really knowledgeable about.

The drummer got up and did a song which accor to Aubrey Millet is known as scat singing. Thats one new thing I got to learn! Tim on the Sax taught me that the thick brass Sax he played was called the tenor Sax and the slim silver one was called the Soprano sax! Well I thought just that big brass thing was a Sax. The slim ones were clarinets and flutes. I was wrong!

I also learnt that its tough to do 'fusion jazz' cause to please us they played Yeh Dosti from Sholay and it was hopeless! I hated it and they got a very luke warm round of applause, poor guys!

However many were tickled with their Charlie Porter number and clapped along appreciatively.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There is hope for our lakes!

On Sunday the 23rd October I was fortunate to be invited for a Whispering Wilderness Programme conducted by the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) Bannerghatta, on the Urban Lakes and Birdlife of Bangalore. What a great feeling to be among fellow enthusiasts cause being an environmental journalist one tends to feel isolated as 'normal' people do not feel as keenly as we do for the environment.

Over the years I have collaborated with Dr Subbu an ornithologist and scientist from IISC, Bangalore and was delighted to finally put a face to the man. Stories on everything from the dwindling Vulture population to Birding from Balconies and Bird baths in our mini gardens, I have collaborated on a plethora of stories with Dr Subbu.

He just opened his arms and hugged me when we met! It felt so good, cause he is one of the many environment voices that I use for my stories!

The whole day was spent visiting different lakes in the city. The first was Kasavanahalli lake which is fairly pristine accor to Subbu. Then we nearly died seeing Bellandur and Hebbal which are just cess pools of sewage and a so called joggers path-- see pic along Hebbal lake was under construction. Amazing how bold our municipality is to shamelessly go on with their filthy practices with no one to call their bluff.

Bellandur and its polluted froth. It was a shocker. As kids we played in the Raja Kalve and now its just pure sewage.I was depressed after that, totally depressed and there was a tired silence in the bus as all of us were horrified with what we had seen.

The Puttenahalli lake on Doddaballapur road is heading the same way as at night the huge buildings around let out their sewage which we saw pouring into the lake -- untreated please.

Do they not realise that they are polluting the ground water table? All that filth is seeping inexorably down and that is why we are all dying of all sorts of diseases.

There were many youngsters in our group. IT professionals both men and women who had given up a very sacred Sunday to come and listen to Subbu tell us whats happening to our lakes. I try by writing, but finally it is us who buy those expensive apartments who must lay down the law with the builder. Insist that he is careful with fixing proper sewage connections. Otherwise let me tell you dear reader -- it is YOU who live around and who tap the ground water who will die painfully and slowly with all sorts of diseases which our uneducated forefathers were smart enough to understand and who protected the lakes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dendrobium orchid --It's bloomed!

That was quick -- Mum's orchid has bloomed this morning! Steve was a bit disappointed as only one bloom had opened but I am guessing that's the way they bloom and the flowers remain till the whole spray opens.

Let's see! Meanwhile look at the bloom, the shades of magenta are lovely! By the way these are Magenta Dendrobium and since they are easy to grow are used extensively in our weddings in Bangalore!

Waiting for the orchid to bloom!

I know, I know, you must think I'm nuts, but I AM waiting for the orchid to bloom. Ever since we brought Mums orchid plant that we gave her last year for her birthday, I never, ever expected it to bloom and just hoped it would live!

Suddenly one day putting the clothes out to dry in the balcony and my eyes nearly fell out of my head! Pow! The orchid had thrown a spray and I was dazzled.

For a long while I refused to photograph it, worrying if the flash might 'disturb' it or be too bright for it and hurt the tender buds. Then finally I gathered up courage and have taken this set of three pics of the spray of buds as they grow.

Once the buds bloom I will take a really nice pic to show off! But untill then, this is all I have got to show for my excitement!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A tribute to Wangari Mathaai the GREEN lady!

To me interviewing her in Bali last hyear, she seemed a font of energy and drive. The founder of the Green Belt Movement way back in 1977 when the word green did not even exist in our minds, Wangari planted over 30 million trees in Africa to help women in rural Kenya to plant trees as a means of improving their livelihoods through better access to clean water, firewood for cooking and other resources. Since then, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 30 million trees in Africa and assisted nearly 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and plant trees to reverse the effects of deforestation.

Just imagine those full grown trees today, waving their branches in tribute to the woman who planted them and left them as her legacy of green gold to Africa.

Professor Maathai was the inspiration behind UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign, which was launched in 2006. She became a patron of the campaign, inspiring thousands of people across the world to plant trees for the benefit of their communities. To date, over 11 billion trees have been planted as part of the campaign.

In 2004, the Nobel Prize Committee recognized Professor Maathai’s lifelong commitment to environmental sustainability and the empowerment of women by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first environmentalist and the first African woman to receive the honour.

I salute you along with all of us environment journalists. Your life has been taken away, yes, but the trees you have planted stand as living testimony to your foresight and clear ideals to clean up our planet.