Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tree Mania

I wasn't always obsessed with trees. I have always loved trees, but didn't care much about identifying them. Due to various reasons, some of which I am not even aware, I got interested in identifying trees. And I am pretty sure that my beloved MN Krishna Rao park provided the right atmosphere. Walking there every morning and taking my daughter to play there every evening, it did things to me. It is difficult not to be immune to the charms of trees, especially lovely, old, might trees. I think I started considering them my friends, and was ashamed that I couldn't name my friends, and so....

This spring, I have reached the peak of my obsession. That is why the article, the photographs....

My mania has rubbed off on Puttachi too...

S: Which one is honge, point it out to me....
Me: Wait, let me show you... it's a very beautiful tree...
Puttachi:  (horrified) Amma, what are you saying?  All trees are beautiful!

S: Which one is that?
Me: Tabebuia
S: But I thought Tabebuia is yellow....
Puttachi:  (In an all-knowing tone) Papa, Tabebuia can be yellow and pink.


For those of you who have been asking for more information, here are a few books and links:

Hasiru Honnu by BGL Swamy
- A book in Kannada, it is an account of a field trip by a Biology class in a college. A very entertaining story, but with liberal doses of information on trees, their uses, their origins. An utter delight. This was one of the first books I read in Kannada.

Namma Maragalu by HR Krishnamurthy (Published by Karnataka Rajya Vijnana Parishat.) - Again in Kannada.  This is just a straight, sincere account of common Indian trees. Very informative.

The problem with both the above books is that there are no photographs, only sketches. And it is not very easy for a newbie to relate the sketch to the actual tree/leaf.

This book - Indian Institute of Science - A Botanist's Delight - K.Sankara Rao solves that problem. Full of great photographs, with short writeups on all flowering trees, and even bushes and plants.

Updated: The Book of Indian Trees by K C Sahni, published by the Bombay Natural History Society - another good book about trees, with plenty of details, a lot of sketches and a few photographs (Thanks, Anu.)

Then, there are a couple of excellent online links that have pictures and information all in one.

Flowers of India

Flowering Trees-1 and Flowering Trees-2

Trees of India

Here I leave you with some more pictures from MN Krishna Rao park. By the way, all the photographs I have taken of flowering trees are from this one park!

Eucalyptus Tree

A bustling bee-hive

Beautiful, tender new peepul leaves

 The utterly fascinating gulmohar tree - gnarled branches, straight out of a fairy tale.

This is a silk cotton tree, I think.  A similar-looking tree next to it has mature pods falling down to the ground, and is bursting open, with soft silk-cotton spilling out.  I don't know why this tree is still leafless, and the pods are still green.

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Sausage Tree (courtesy Anu)

Monday, March 26, 2012


Deva kanagile or Plumeria - beautiful flowers with a lovely fragrance.

Is the flower in the second photo also devakanagile? A slightly different version maybe? The trees look very similar, and so do the flowers, though the second one is smaller. Do let me know if you know.

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Jacaranda, Pongamia, Copperpod and Gulmohar

Jacaranda is quite distinctive - it is difficult to miss these flowers. They stay on the tree for a very long time. And they totally transform even the surroundings of the tree. The carpet of mauve flowers is particularly pretty.

Pongamia (Honge) is one of the prettiest of trees. Thick foliage, with all the leaves pointing downwards, there are some lovely specimens I can see on the roads. This is a relatively small tree, and not the best-looking one. In the breeze, these leaves ripple so gently. Mesmerizing.

Small flowers of the honge tree. They have a beautiful fragrance, and right now, the ground underneath these trees are covered with these little blossoms.

The copper pod tree with little yellow flowers and the distinctive copper-coloured pods. Very tall trees. And there are so many of them around. These trees are also planted to line roads, as I have observed. They are all in bloom now, and again, the ground underneath these trees is practically covered with these yellow blossoms.

 The gulmohar has just started blooming. In just a few weeks, all the gulmohar trees will be ablaze with scarlet. These are the early ones.
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Friday, March 23, 2012


 Tubular flowers that grow in clusters. The yellow tabebuia bloomed first, and then the pink and white.  They stay for a very short time, just a week or so, before they start drying up and falling off.

Yellow tabebuia with flowering rain tree in the background.

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These trees are what I would call "tall and stately." 

The tiny yellow-green flowers are falling now, and you can see carpets of it below the mahogany trees.  They have a lovely, subtle fragrance.  The pod you see contains the seeds like those in the photo below.

When tossed in the air, these seeds whirl and then fall down very beautifully.
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Rain Tree

Rain Tree - with a large, symmetrical umbrella-like canopy.  You can see them all over South Bangalore lining avenues.

These are the flowers of the rain tree

Once the flowers dry up, they fall, and make a kind of carpet on the floor, like this.  You can see them in bunches on the road everywhere right about now.
Those pods you see are the ones from which we used to make cork balls in our childhood.  You can also frequently see them on tarred roads, absolutely flattened, with only the seeds protruding from the road.
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Myths and Stereotypes about Stuttering

There was an article How to curb a stammer  in Deccan Herald Living Supplement.   The author is supposedly a professional, but the article is filled with myths and stereotypes about stuttering and people who stutter.

I was very angry, doubly so because it is professionals such as these who should spread awareness about stuttering, and instead, he is propagating nonsense.  I wrote this letter to DH:

I read with dismay the misleading article on stuttering "How to curb a stammer" in today's DH Living.  The author suggests that low self-esteem and low confidence leads to stuttering.  This is one of the several myths and false perceptions that exist about stuttering and people who stutter.  Stuttering could possibly lead to low self-esteem and low confidence because of the insensitivity of people, but the converse is not necessarily true. 

The article also refers to stuttering as a "handicap."   It also perpetuates the same stereotypes about stuttering that ought to be dispelled by professionals like the author himself.  Misinformed articles like this perform a disservice to people who stutter by desensitizing people further.

Shruthi Rao.

It was not published.

So I thought I would take this up on my blog - because as a person who stutters myself, I have had it up to here with insensitivity towards people who stutter (PWS). 

In the article, the author says:

1) "Stuttering is a handicap."  It need not be a handicap.  Simple and plain.  I feel that labelling stuttering a handicap automatically creates negativity in the minds of PWS.  While it might be true that there are certain professions and situations where having a stutter is a disadvantage, there are many PWS who have gone beyond this disadvantage to achieve what they want to.  And PWS who are already wallowing in the depths of the misery of not being able to speak fluently, need to know this.  That life is not the end if you have a stutter.

2) "Stuttering is caused by low confidence and low self-esteem."  Like I said in my letter above, this is not true.  While it is still not certain what causes stuttering, making a generalized statement like this only serves to reinforce stereotypes, as well as give parents and teachers of young children especially, the wrong idea. 

Guess what, I started out thinking I'll tackle this man's article line by line.  But turns out that when I look at it that way, I will have to reproduce his whole article and tell you what is wrong with it. 

But suffice to say for now:

1) Nobody knows what causes stuttering, exactly.  We only know what possibly aggravates a stutter. (And it differs from person to person)

2) Just because people who don't usually stutter, tend to stutter when they are nervous and anxious or scared, it is assumed that people who stutter are by nature nervous and anxious and shy and not confident.  That is not true.

3) Stuttering might cause a person to become less and less confident.  But low-confidence doesn't necessarily cause stuttering.

4) PWS are not less intelligent or less capable in any way than people who don't stutter

5) A person who stutters severely can be happy, healthy individuals with fulfilling careers or happy childhoods, leading a contented life, with lots of friends, and with great relationships.   They can even be miserable and unhappy.  But this holds good even for a person who doesn't stutter. 

I'll probably do more posts on this topic soon, but I've got over my anger and dismay over that misleading article, and so I will stop now. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to identify common Indian trees

My article on how to identify common Indian trees in today's Open Sesame. 

If you get a chance, do look at the print version. It has one of the pictures I sent them along with the article, and some links.

It is lovely when you start recognizing trees - it is like meeting old friends.  Spring is the best time to start learning to identify trees because the blossoms make it much easier for you. 

I was showing Puttachi all the trees I know on our daily walk in the lovely old  park near our home.  She was really fascinated, trying to identify them on her own based on what I had told her, and that made me think other children might be interested too, and thought of writing this article.  Puttachi was with me when we took pictures of the flowering trees, and she is really thrilled about the picture she helped take, appearing in her favourite newspaper.

My knowledge on trees is still woefully meager, and I am still working on it myself.  And it is good fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Celebrating Myself

The folks at Women's Web want to know what about me is worthy of a celebration.  

There are a number of things I like about myself. And there are a number of things I don't.

But I won't let the nice things about me become a reason for my liking me. I won't let the unpleasant things about me become a reason for my disliking me.

I like me, as I am.

That does not mean I don't value the good things about me. That does not mean I will not strive to change the bad things in me.

But I will accept the fact that with both the good and bad, I am me.

And since I am me, and I am all that I will have for certain all my life, I will not dislike me. I will not judge me, I will not demean me.

I will not let other people's ideas about how I should be, affect me or the way I live.

I will not expend needless energy in unproductive thoughts and worries.

I know I will have moments of gloom and doom. But I will overcome them.

And I will love myself. Respect myself. Look after myself. Celebrate myself.

Today and every day.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thank you, food bloggers!

I love variety in food.  And since I am the cook at home, it falls upon me to provide my taste buds the varied tastes it craves. 

I am always looking for different ways to cook every vegetable.  And there are only so many recipe books one can buy.  So I turn to that saviour of all info-seekers - the internet.

It is unbelievable how many food bloggers are out there.  How many of them take the time and effort to chronicle their efforts in the kitchen and put them out there for everybody to see! 

Whenever I find myself tired of eating a vegetable in all the ways I can cook it, I just run a google search with " recipes"  and then I sit back and survey the endless recipes that turn up.  Sometimes I enter searches with the name of the vegetable in all languages I know.

It takes me an average of five minutes to zero in on a recipe that is:
- quite different from anything I've made.
- simple
- quick

Sometimes, I make drastic changes in the recipe - for example, I add lentils to a curry recipe to make it suit nutritional requirements, sometimes I add some other vegetable that I feel might go well with that one.

So far, the result has been at worst, palatable, and at best, delicious.  For every five dishes I make this way, one turns out to be a hit, and enters our regular menu.

Sometimes, if I have a hunch that a vegetable can be cooked in a certain way, I give a specific google search. For example, something made me think that dosas made from raw bananas might taste good, so I gave a "Baalekayi dose" search, found many recipes, chose one, and that turned out to be yum.

I really admire the patience food bloggers have.  I am a person whose sole aim is to dash into the kitchen, drum up a healthy, tasty meal in the least possible time, and then dash out, and get on with life.  So I cannot understand how someone can have the patience to make a dish, and instead of running out of the kitchen after that, transfer the dish into attractive bowls, take photos, upload the photos, write down those recipes with the correct measurements...phew!

I know the effort it takes because I have seen my mom work on her food blog with so much interest. 

Every time I like a recipe, I think of going back to the blog and leaving a comment on the site, thanking the blogger.  But I never do get around to doing that.  So here's thanking all you food bloggers out there for sharing your recipes with the rest of the world.  Thanks for making eating more interesting for me.
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