F is for strawberry!

Its my fourth attempt at the April AtoZ Blogging challenge and I am writing about herbs.

How can F be for strawberry? Simple, because botanically strawberry belongs to a genus called Fragaria. The most popular recall for this yummy fruit is strawberries and cream… Supposedly a summer favourite. Strawberries are freely available in most Indian cities and they must be handled and stored with care. 

Punekars (folks living in Pune are fondly referred to by this name) are lucky as Mahabaleshwar is only a couple of hours away by road and it is a major strawberry grower. Come summer and we have strawberry festivals held in the city and almost everyone who visits Mahabaleshwar comes back kilograms of fresh strawberries. The Mapro Food Park is a major attraction especially for its Strawberry and Cream. Some farms encourage visitors to go strawberry picking. Besides jams, preserves, Mahabaleshwar farmers have made strawberry wine as well!

Getting back to our herb, strawberry is an introduced crop in India but some varieties are native e.g. Duschesnia indica, Fragaria niligerrensis . Strawberries belong to the Rosaceae family (Rose family). To see this plant one has to visit a farm or grow it in the garden. its not very tall and sends out runners that can give rise to new plants. The white flowers have a yellow centre. We did try to nurture a plant in a pot but it did not survive for long, obviously the habitat was unsuitable 🙁

Strawberry plant with flowers

Freshly harvested strawberries

Some other familiar foods from this family are apple, cherries and almonds! 

Its understandable if these images inspire you to head off to your refrigerator or the super market and get yourself some strawberries. 

I am heading to my kitchen for some strawberry crush to make myself a strawberry milkshake.
Cya around!

The Hills Are Alive

My city is blessed to have many hills right within the city limits. Many have flat land at the top and one can walk for a long distance even upto 10 kms (depending on your route). This is especially amazing because this walk gives a feeling of being ‘above’ the city yet a part of it. In the city yet a feeling of being outside.

Hills, aforrestation, trees, plantation
The hill overlooks Baner and Pashan and one can see the city skyline stretching as far as the eye can see

Any one who has been to these tekdis (hills) will totally agree with me. I had not visited the Baner Tukai tekdi and eagerly took up an opportunity to visit it.

Like most tekdis in Pune, this one too suffered from deforestation and must have been really bare. It has been the ceaseless and untiring efforts of Dr Garudkar and the Clean Earth Movement that is showing its fruits now. Here is a link to their website.The group has been active since 2006.

Trees, plantation, pune, Poona
The almost flat top is perfect for long walks

The Baneshwar caves are located at the foot of the hill. As one ascends the steps one is immediately struck by the extent of the city’s growth, the spread of concrete jungle almost into the hills. Yet, look up and one can see the green flat top of the tekdi as it meanders away into the distance. Get off the steps and follow the foot trails to enjoy the greenery. The tekdi spans a vast area hence has been ‘divided’ into different sectors named after forests of Maharashtra. The naming is purely for the sake of convenience of the activists working there.

Shivlinga, Pune, caves
These caves are located at the foot of the hill and have a Shiva temple

aforrestation, hills, Pune, poona
The ‘map’ of the hill area


water tank, Poona, Pune
The activists have built such tanks to store water for the trees.

are some highlights of the Baner Tukai tekdi. If you happen to live in
the area, do join the group and help nurture the trees, and keep the
‘lungs’ of the city healthy and green!

Dhobi nut tree, Bibba, Pune, Anacardiaceae
This Bibba tree was flowering (Semecarpus anacardium)

Caesalpinia bonduc, Caesalpineaceae, Pune
Sagargota (Caesalpinia bonduc) inflorescence- the tree is armed with thorns on all parts

Pune, trees, Gmelina arborea, Verbenaceae
Shivan (Gmelina arborea) was seen growing at many sites.

Besides these, many other tree species had been planted and seemed to be pretty healthy. Some which I identified were several Ficus species, Neem, Arjun, Laxmi Taru (Simarouba glauca), varieties of Bauhinia, Prajakta, Awala, Waval.

The flowers that grabbed all our attention despite their small size (and by small I mean half a finger nail) were the seasonal herbs. They were in full bloom and created yellow and purple carpets on the hill side, almost reminiscent of the Kas Pathar. We saw Hyptis suaveolens (with Tulsi-like-fragrant leaves), Sida species, Trichodesma sp, Sopubia sp, Alysicarpus sp, Stryka sp, Sonchus sp and many many more that we could not identify. There were some lichens too!

Zygophyllaceae family, Kas
Yellow Tribulus terrestris


Commelinaceae family, cyanotis, purple
A purple-pink carpet of Cyanotis species

 The hills in Pune are at their full glory right now. Go enjoy!

Mismatched shoes – by design

Currently its the FIFA World Cup 2014 that rules TV time at home. Being hosted by Brazil, the live telecasts can be seen at some unearthly hours in India but football fans are not complaining. Ofcourse repeat telecasts are shown to suit those not willing to sacrifice their sleep but it means others at home having to give up their favourite serials. 

Since I could not fight the football fever, I decided to join in. As I was trying to learn the intricacies of a spectacular pass or a heroic save, I found myself admiring the fluorescent brilliant colours of players’ footwear. 

Note: All images below are from the TV transmission on Six HD via Hathway cable provider.

Brazooka, FIFA 2014, Football
Football world cup, brazil

Mentally I congratulated the company and its designers that had come up with these great uniforms for the players. Coordinating colours for the different teams and the accessories must have been a real challenge…. And that’s where I spotted in some players had differently coloured shoes on the Right and Left feet.

Football shoes, FIFA 2014
Pink shoe on the right foot and blue on the left

Was something wrong with the transmission or was this a case of making do with some shoe because the proper one was damaged? The latter was a wild idea discarded immediately because the teams would be fully kitted out and such a problem was unimaginable.

So that left me with the option that the shoes mismatch was deliberate.
 But why would someone do that?

As far as I know, among whatever fashion or function footwear statements anywhere so far, no one had come up with mismatched shoes. 

As you can see, my mind had strayed way beyond the games that were being telecast. I now avidly watched a few more games just to see if this was repeated in other teams and  to my utter surprise it was. That confirmed my suspicion that the mismatch was not by chance but by design.

As is usual, I turned to Google-Baba and here is what I learnt. The first search threw up several colourful shoes… oops boots/cleats.

Screen shot of random Google image search for football shoes 2014

Further search gave me the following gyaan:

As I learnt from this abc article, Puma athletes will wear one pink (on the right foot) and one blue (on the left foot) shoe. See the image above. Read the article here

Yay! So my observations were right… there was some method in this apparent colour madness!

Footwear football world cup, marketing competition

  • According to this article, there are many more ‘special’ cleats that players will be wearing. I must now look out for Eucador goalkeeper Maximo Banguera’s boots that are supposed to to reflect light (Lotto Solista boots). Keisuke Honda’s  (Japan) Special gold and black Wave Ignitus 3s.
  • Nike’s new Magista and Mercurial boots use its ultra-lightweight fly knit technology wherein it seems as the player is wearing socks with cleats attached. According to this article on the New Zealand Herald, Ronaldo is going to wear the Mercurial Superfly.
  • Adidas has the special Battlepack boot collection for the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Read about that range here

 Obviously the World Cup has something at stake for the participating teams and the sponsors as well. The teams will battle it out on the fields and a silent (or colourful) marketing battle will be going on simultaneously. 

For those viewing matches on TV, there will be a different take-away from every event  for different people. For some it will just be spectacular football. For some it would be well… shoes!
Neymar, Ronaldo, Bartolli, Banguera, Honda. They are the guys to watch out for!

So whether you are a football fan or not, do watch the matches. You never know what you will learn!!


PS: While we are discussing things other than football, here is an article from abc News that talks about Why Soccer Players Walk Out With Kids.  

Screen shot of the article

April 2014 Rewind

April 2014. Its has been a very hectic month quite contrary to my expectations. I had signed up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and picked a theme as well which meant I had to stay focused. If exercising can be tedious or boring then writing 26 different and interesting posts was even more difficult. I am happy to have completed the challenge but what a month. Besides the blogosphere there was so much happening all around me.

In India, the FX channel was broadcasting the popular US serial The West Wing. I began watching as I am a big Martin Sheen fan but soon was totally enthralled by the workings of the west wing and characters therein. It was the seventh season that depicted the whirlwind election campaign in the US.

The West Wing (1999) Poster
Image from IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0200276/?ref_=ttep_ep_tt

Coincidently we in India to have ongoing general elections and I kept contrasting and comparing the styles, rhetoric of the politicians. I realised there were many similarities in election politics – effects of conservative voters, immigration issues, religious beliefs, minorities and so on. Of course The West Wing is a TV serial but it must be based on some facts. Ours is a very real campaign with real issues. We will not know our exit poll results till May 12, 2014 but for all of April we were  glued to the TV news channels, or on the Internet for updates and speeches and interviews. That encroached on thinking time for my blogathon…

April is also repotting time for my succulents. This meant having to take extra care of them post-repotting. The rising temperatures meant all house plants needed more attention.

This and more stuff had to be cleared off. And, no photos of my Jade and Adenium. They are camera shy!

Jade, repotting, bonsai
Mess to be cleared after after repotting

Then there was the Pune Heritage Week happening here organised by Virasat Pune. Eight days of a brilliant reconnect with the natural, architectural, cultural, artistic heritage of this great city (Pune). I could not miss this opportunity to see and learn about places, things so close to me. I met people who had lived here for years but had never visited heritage institutes right in their backyard. There’s a saying in Hindi “चिराग तले अंधेरा ” (Chirag tale andhera). Loosely translated it means there is darkness next to the flame of the lamp.

Heritage, Pune
Heritage building in Western Circle of Botanical Survey of India

Through April I read many wonderful blogs across the world. While I think I am getting along in terms of age, I realised people who are much older are ‘penning’ their thoughts …is that the right word? should it be typing or sharing 😉 That has motivated me to be more regular and creative in my posts.

Here is a list of some blogs that impressed me. Many blogs had interesting features which made the page more attractive and informative to read. Aaaaannd… most of them are women writers!

Here are a few, I will add these blogs to  my link list on the right panel in due course.

Linda Maye Adams: Soldier, Storyteller
Debbie blog: Debbie the “Doglady” online 
Vinitha: Pooh’s Den
Corinne  Rodrigues: Everyday Gyaan
Shilpa Garg: A Rose is A Rose is A Rose
MAJK: Saffire Blade
Jetgirlcos: Forty and  Fantastique
Usha Menon: Kuch Khatta Kuch Meetha
Rajlakshmi: Destiny’s Child
Sonia Lal: Story Treasury

These are just a few. The link list closed at 2015 this year which means there are many awesome blogs that I have yet to read. According to this article in DNA there are about 100 bloggers from India participating in the 2014 Blogathon.

Lets stay connected and share thoughts!
Thanks AtoZ and the team who kept us motivated.

Ticket Trauma

Sawai  Gandharva
 Bhimsen  Mahotsava is a much awaited, annual musical
festival in Pune. It’s prestigious for the artists performing there but from my
experience getting tickets for the ‘chair’ can be something of a prestige as
well. Not for the money, no… The ‘sofa’ seats are priced much higher.

The reason is the efforts that go into
procuring the tickets. For some reason, tickets are only sold at a few select
outlets in Pune, and as of 2013 there is no online option for ticket sales.
Seating is in three categories, ‘Bharatiya
’ (sitting cross legged on the ground- usually covered with sheets)
‘Chairs’ and ‘Sofas’. These are in increasing order of prices. 
Each sofa seats three people and those with well-lined
pockets may find it economical but the ‘source’ of these sofa tickets is a closely
guarded secret. Probably a single phone call suffices if you know whom to
contact. A decade in Pune yet I am totally in the dark about ‘getting’ sofa
tickets. Probably I need to change the social circles that I move around in… 

Tickets for Bharatiya baithak are freely
available and there is no space reserved for you by the organisers. It’s up to
you to reach the venue sufficiently early to spread your own ‘sheet’ thus
‘reserving’ that space for yourself and your group. The others can come in
later armed with bolsters, pillows, snacks, warm clothing, reading material, iPod, iPad,
knitting or whatever they need to enjoyably spend the following five hours of
that day. 
Now for the chairs.. Priced at Rs 2000 this
year, the season ticket entitles you to sit on a specific Chair for all four
days/five sessions. If you think you can stroll in post-breakfast at one of the
outlets to purchase a ticket then Good Luck to you! Let me narrate what
happened at one of the ticket outlets this year.
This store opens only at 9.30 AM and it’s a poor
idea to go there comfortably post-breakfast to buy your tickets. Since there
are a limited number of tickets to be sold, one can return empty handed after 11ish in the morning (we have faced this earlier).  Enthusiasts gather there from the
wee hours itself to get the coveted tickets. We reached at 4 AM (it seemed an early enough
hour) but found ourselves to have been beaten by 9 others! Now remember what
seems like nine may be more because one person may stand in for two others who
come by later at a more human hour! 

As Sunrise approached the line slowly
became longer. Unluckily the tapris located nearby that would have provided
much needed chai were demolished just the previous day by the Anti-encroachment

The lucky ones had someone to ‘replace’ them so they could go home for tea and breakfast. Some had their domestic help reach the store 3 or 4AM and came themselves just as the TV reporters arrived! That was some timing! 
By 7AM there were about 25-30 people and
healthy conversations ensued about merits of the performing artists. This is Pune and everyone has an opinion. The queue took the form of an amoeba that kept
changing its shape to accommodate the sweepers or the delivery vans to the
stores. All were hopeful and time passed quickly. We were quite sure this ‘shape’
would align itself into a proper single file come 9.30AM.
As the golden hour approached, every incoming
vehicle or person was suspiciously viewed to be the one bringing the goods. Four hours had flown by but the last few minutes seemed to drag on… A
mini truck came by, it was surely too big to be carrying tickets?? Another
gentlemen came at about 9.15AM on a scooter with a huge bag – that seemed more likely
and he had a very official bearing as well. Minutes went by but he kept standing by his
vehicle. Our eyes followed his every move and then suddenly he took out packets
of Chivda and began counting them…. 
The clock hands crept past 9.30 but the
shutters of the shop stayed firmly closed. Did the notice mean 9.30 AM on 05
Dec 2013 specifically?  Someone noticed
that the shop had a rear entrance and some sounds could be heard from the
inside. Yeah! Word rapidly spread down the line (yes we were in a queue now) that
the store is about to open. After all this while, every second seemed like
hours now. Many minutes later the steel frame still stared at us. 
By now there were about 60 odd people and
Murphy too had arrived!! The store owner came before us, apologised to say that he
had lost the store key and ‘could we please wait some more?’
Even before these words were conveyed to the
last waiting person one of the early birds produced a key from his pocket “Is
it this one?”
The rattled owner gratefully took it and the
gentleman explained that he had found the key at the doorstep of the shop when
he reached there at night. Assuming it to belong to one of the owners he kept
it aiming to return it in the morning. The entire group heaved a palpable sigh
of relief!
If it were not for this very honest gentleman our wait would have prolonged
The officials soon set up their stuff and
ticket sale proceeded rapidly. Just as it was our turn, two very old and frail ladies turned
up requesting to be given tickets out of turn citing senior citizen privileges.
When asked one of them said she wanted two tickets. No one had the heart to
turn down her request. Gratefully she went in and asked for four tickets!
Now would the second lady go in too?
No, she did not, and the duo left thanking
every one… We got our tickets and returned home triumphant. There was only a
small stack of tickets to be sold and I hope everyone in the queue got what
they wanted. 
I guess this too is a part of fully enjoying
the Sangeet Mahotsav! 

Here is the link to the Mahotsav website: http://sawaigandharvabhimsenmahotsav.com/

But in this day and age, why can there not be a more user friendly method to sell tickets? If it already exists, then music lovers should be informed about it. 


I had heard about the quill but Quilling…. That was
something strange. I learnt from my niece that it’s a kind of paper art wherein
one curls thin strips of paper into little rolls that are then reshaped and
arranged to make lovely shapes. Its fascinating to see almost lifelike roses
and butterflies etc. Though quilling was new to me, apparently its been around
for several hundred years, the 18th century according to this article. That just proves I have a lot of catching up to do on the arts and
crafts front!!

Jokes apart, one can create wonderful items that can be used to decorate gifts,
create curios for our own home or sell them for some profit. Here are a couple
of lovely products made using quilling techniques. 
Quilling, arts and crafts
Pencil cap made with quilling techniques

Earrings, arts, crafts, quilling
Earrings and Ganesh pendant made out of paper
 If you’re looking for something new to try out, try this. There are plenty of books and websites to guide you. Who knows there may be a hidden world class quilling artist!

Green Living

Climate change, global warming, carbon emissions, melting
ice caps are terms that suggest a looming apocalypse. Some time back, they just
sounded like gloomy predictions of some scholarly people but now such changes have
affected almost all of us. We all want to do something but many of us really do
not know what is to be practically done so we can make a difference. The
general advice is to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle with a low carbon foot
print. So how does one go about it?

Using public transport or carpooling, using bicycles, opting
for renewable energy sources (wind/solar), reducing electricity consumption,
recycling waste (dry and wet) are some options that most of us have taken up. This article recommends reducing our online activities to save electricity.
What about our food? It’s often packed in reams of
plastic which obviously does nothing to help our environment. It is transported
from the farms to markets afar in distant towns or even abroad. So that carries
a carbon footprint as well right?
Some experts suggest choosing local produce to reduce
this effect. It not only encourages local farmers but local foods are said to
afford health benefits for that particular climate. Buying fruits grown from
distant Australia in Mumbai probably doesn’t sound a good idea in this respect.
Several farmers do grow the ‘exotic’ varieties which can give us a taste of
those fruits and vegetables without a major ‘carbon footprint.’ I found this website that lists fruits and vegetables that are most and least likely to have
pesticide residues.

I guess it takes huge sacrifices and major changes to
lead a lifestyle with a minimal carbon footprint. However within the
constraints, it is possible to reduce it significantly. Any more ideas are
Take care!

Khatta Meetha

Khatta Meetha or Sour Sweet is an unlikely flavour combination for some but one that many in India relish. Many of our foods (dals- lentil preparations, vegetables) all have both Khatta (Sour) and Meetha (Sweet) ingredients in just the right proportion that one is left wondering if the dish he/she just ate was sweet or sour!!

Lemon juice, Tamarind, Kokum, Amchur powder are usually added for the sour flavour and sweetness is afforded by sugar, jaggery etc. The sweetness kills the sharp tangy edge of the sour ingredient even as the same lemon makes a sweet dish wonderfully memorable.

Obviously our food habits mirror Life in general as if brings both sweet and sour moments. Moments that we cannot avoid moments that make life the beautiful journey that it is. This is aptly captured in an old Hindi movie called Khatta Meetha directed by Basu Chatterjee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khatta_Meetha_%281978_film%29). Do watch it if you get an opportunity to do so.

This is the essence of my blog, to capture both sweet and sour moments that happening around us! Then ofcourse there is Teekha (Spicy), moments that test our very patience and bring out the true nature of our character, that force us to sit up and think.. How can we ignore those?

Enjoy reading!