Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tiny Visitors

I would like to share the pictures of these tiny and unusual looking creatures who have been visiting our garden this monsoon  .Look at the  picture above- this bushy and colorful fellow loves to stick to the leaves and moves in an extremely slow manner.It looks very beautiful in real,at least i don't find it as creepy as my daughter thinks that it is.As a precaution we keep a safe distance from it  so as to avoid any possible  allergic skin reaction.Have you seen something like this before ,if yes,please share your story and the name as well.

Look at this one...this creature keeps on hovering mid air and makes a remarkably audible humming sound.At first my husband was quite sure that it was a Humming bird but we all know that  humming birds don't have antennas like this little fellow has.It visits us only at  early morning hours and hovers around this particular tree only.

Have a closer look ,the antennas are clearly visible.We really wanted to know what it was so i shared these pictures in one of the social network group too -- only one of my friend suggested that it might be some kind of moth.Many felt that  it looked a lot like Humming bird  in fact its a perfect Humming bird look alike.Following the response from my friends i typed two key words Hummingbird +moth and googled it and found out that it might be a Hummingbird Moth.Have you seen a moth like this before,if yes,please share your views here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rabindranath Tagore's Abode In Shillong

(The above picture is of the house in Shillong where Rabindranath Tagore lived in the year 1923 )
At the time when country is celebrating Nobel Laureate Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary ,the news of demolition of Sidhli house(click here) shocked many.It was his abode during his last visit to Shillong in 1927 where he penned two of his most important work(novel Yogayug and the poems Susamay and Debrdau). It was surprising and very upsetting that our Govt had failed to identify and preserve the site of this historical importance.This was the only house which i had not seen in my past visits to Shillong.This time i made it a point to revisit the other two houses where he stayed and penned many dramas,songs and poems.I would like to share few pictures and few facts about Kabiguru's stay in Shillong.Shillong was a place very close to Guruji's hear-it showed in his master peace novel Shesher Kobita.He visited this beautiful hill station thrice in his life time.

Kabiguru visited Shillong first in the year 1919.He stayed in Brookside Complex a house near Rilbong area. He began writing his famous novel Shesher Kobita here. The poet had written a few short write-ups — Ekti Chauni and Ekti Din — and made a few English translations. during this period.The poet came here with eldest son Rathindranath Tagore, daughter-in-law Pratima Devi, singer Debendranath Tagore, his wife Kamala Devi, the poet’s biographer Provat Kumar Mukhopadhya and the poet’s personal assistant Sadhu Charan..This house has been declared as Rabinranath Art Gallery .The landscape surrounding the structure will be protected with technical assistance from Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata. .Jeet Bhoomi was his next abode during his second visit to Shillong in 1923.This house is a private property and is very well maintained.We had a brief chat with the landlady and with her kind permission i clicked the first two pictures you see in this post.He stayed here for a month and penned his famous drama Raktakorobi(Red Oleander) and the poem Shillonger-Chithi (The Letter From Shillong). The natural beauty of this pristine hill station finds an expression in this poem.(The placard below is about Kabiguru's stay in Brookside Complex in 1919 ).
The Sidhil House was Kabiguruji's third abode in Shillong during his last visit in 1927.It was demolished by the owner recently.A delegate visited and interacted with the owner of the house .The stone plaque at the demolished will be preserved by the owner. 'Here lived Rabindranath Tagore in May and June 1927.His novel Yogayug and the poems Susamay and Debdaru were written here'....the plaque read.I will try to visit this site hopefully in my next visit to Shillong.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Black Rice

Just last week one of my morning-walk friend  gifted me this rare variety of rice called Manipuri Black Rice."Make payas(rice n milk pudding) for kids" ,was her advice. I have been living in North East India for more than 25 yrs ...this part of India is blessed to have varied kind of rice. This rice grain when dry looks black in color.In closer look "black"  rice isn't really black at all. After soaking for a few hours, the water  turns into a deep burgundy, showing the rice's true colors. Here in this picture you can see that.Let me share few more interesting facts about this rice.

It is considered to be both food and medicine in Manipur. The Rice gets its dark purple color because it is rich in anthocyanines, which act as powerful antioxidants. The rice contains more vitamin B, niacin, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc than white rice. This grain is high in fibre and has got a sweet and slightly nutty  taste.It as an unmilled rice, meaning the the fiber-rich black husks of the rice are not removed. It is also known as 'Forbidden rice' in some parts of the world. “Forbidden Rice” probably originated in the royal court of China, when the unique grain was consumed by the emperor and his chosen favorites.

 The unusual color makes black rice very popular for exotic desserts, and the high nutritional value is an added benefit.Like other unmilled rice, black rice takes longer to cook than traditional husked rice. Rinsing and soaking the rice before cooking  helps to bring the cooking time down.I soaked it for nearly three hours before preparing kheer/payas .The idea to blog about it popped only after i soaked the rice,i wish i had a picture of the dry grains too.First i cooked  soaked rice with little water for about ten minutes,later i added milk and sugar.The milk turned purplish the moment it touched the pan.Another fifteen to twenty minute of constant stirring and this yummy pudding was ready to be served..Kids found it yummy and loved it more because of it's unusual color.Have you ever tasted this Black Rice ?.
 ( This post was previously published in N-zine  .)

  After reading this post my close friend Romita who is a Manipuri added few more facts .She says...let me share another interesting aspect to the tale; in manipur when served for feast they don't make the porridge out of this rice.
 Instead this "chahao- Chak+ahaoba"(i.e. tasty rice) is prepared plainly and on top of the mound of this rice a dollop of porridge of the white rice would be placed which kinda enhances the flavour of this violet rice and you can feel the texture as well as taste.
Personally, i have tried all different dark color rices around the world and i believe the patent for this rice grain is claimed by some Canadian firm but none can beat this tiny violetish rice harvested from the Manipuri valleys.

 Blog Updated on 14.12,12 : My blog friend Suranga Date whom I admire and respect a lot wrote a brilliant poetry which is inspired by Black Rice. With her kind permission I am adding this beautiful poem here. Thank you Suranga.

So many
presumed prosperous,
Bossy Basmatis and
Keen Kolums,
fighting it out
across the country,
smeared in pulaos,
flavoured in biryanis,
and being fussed over
and decorated
as they shamelessly laze
in stubborn payasams.

some boiled transparent types
even join in
for griddle activities,
in the company of Udad,

All these folks,
completely oblivious
to Chak-hao,
the Mary Kom of Rice.

Like her,
from Manipur;
like her,
hardy, strong, and full of health;
like her,
always needed for her kids,
like her ,
fearing none,
and like her,
 loved by all !

The tough, dark rice,
soaked in water
bashfully turning a dark burgundy;
then tentatively
warming and cooking
to meet the advancing
milk and sugar folks,
coming to meet her.

A meeting of minds,
a great mixing,
and she turns a blushing pink,
as milk and sugar
shower her with compliments
amidst a spray of
slivers of nuts.

Like Mary Kom,
the star of Manipur,
a lovely, sturdy, healthy,
role model,
for the young Kheers of india.....

Blog updated -13.9.12 Yaikhom Vivekananda said in his comment

 Hi, I am from Manipur (Local Name of Brown Rice is Chak-hao meaning tasty rice) and fortunately I am also an agriculture student (plant breeding and genetics, MSc final yr). From my experience it is mostly cultivated in rainfed small scattered area. I think more research is needed for this particular rice, I have collected few local varieties and planning to do RAPD analysis on it. I can send you small quantity if anyone of you who like to try it by airway(I don't have any idea regarding formalities for transportation). Lastly for preparing first prepare the rice normally, best prepared by first washing the rice with clean water (no need for soaking)and after that put some water for boiling , level of water should be 2mm above the rice then boil it by giving little heat with a lid, after few minutes remove a little amount of rice and see if there is any hardness by pressing between two fingers, when there is no hardness then you can remove the water and warm it for few minutes. Now, it is ready to serve with kheer(rice pudding). By preparing in this way you can have the aroma of this rice. If any further information regarding it you like to know please contact me at boneybi@gmail.com

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lipstick Tree : Bixa Orellana

Recently i visited ICAR Research complex Barapani (Mehghalaya) . Indian Council Of Research Centre or ICAR provides an adequate base for supporting agricultural development in the North East Hilly Region of India. It covers all the fields of agriculture ,horticulture, agricultural engineering,agro forestry,animal sciences and fishery to cater to the research needs of NE region. I spent two good days in the complex guest house and had the oppurtunity to see the area in detail. I came across this interesting tree Bixa Orellana also nick named Lipstick tree. Let me share few things that i learnt about this tree.
(the first picture shows a split seed pod showing the seeds of the tree )
It is a shrub or a bushy tree ranging from 4 -10 mts in height.The plant bears pink flowers and bright red spiny fruits(inedible) which contain red seeds. The fruits dry and harden to brown capsules.Originally it comes from the tropical regions of America. It is called Achiote and is best known as the source of the natural pigment' Annatto ' produced from its fruits.It is used to color food products, such as cheeses, fish, and salad oil. Sold as a paste or powder for culinary use, mainly as a color.It is a very good natural alternative to synthetic food colorings. The workers working around the area told me that it is also used in Sindoor (vermilion) --- i am not very sure if this information is right . This tree is called Sindoori in Hindi.(the second picture shows a cluster of seed pods ).

The achiote has long been used by American Indians to make body paint, especially for the lips, which is the origin of the plant's nickname, lipstick tree .The inedible fruit is harvested for its seeds, which contains Annatto (also called bixin). It can be extracted by stirring the seeds in water .( the picture above shows the tree ).Various indigenous groups paint their hair and bodies with the pulp to repel insects and protect from sunburn.The seeds are given to bulls to make them aggressive for bullfighters .
Some of its other common names around the world are as follows: “changuarica,” “k’u-zub,” and “pumacua” (Mexico), “annato” and “urucu” (Brazil), “urucum” (Germany), “roucou” (Dominica and the French West Indies), “achiot” (Colombia), and “arnotto” (Amerindian).

For more info click here .