Surprise (ThursdayTreeLove)

For some inexplicable reason, I was under the impression that only trees in the Ficus genus and Sheflera bore aerial roots. When I saw this tree with profuse roots growing from its branches, I was completely taken aback. 
It is obviously a fully grown tree and I saw it in San Francisco. 

This is a tree called Metrosideros excelsa belonging to the Myrtaceae family. Commonly called the New Zealand Christmas Tree. The species is endemic to New Zealand.

The tree is said to have brilliant flowers however it was not in bloom when during my visit. Instead, I have an image of its leaves.

Surprises never cease and this plant reminded me that there is something new to be learnt all the time.

Ever since my course in Field Botany, my travels are all the more interesting as I spend time trying to identify trees around me. Many a times, I end up just enjoying the tree as no ID seems to match. 

This quote sums it up
“Time spent in Nature is time realising you don’t know it all, that you never will.  The earth is meant to be enjoyed by its inhabitants” – AbdulRauf Hashmi

I am joining Parul in her ThursdayTreeLove bloghop. Do head over to see some fantastic trees from around the world. Better still, join in.

Tree Frame (ThursdayTreeLove)

This was the view that greeted me as I paused to catch my breath when climbing this hill. The trees seemed a perfect frame for the river Moshi which is one of the tributaries of Pune’s Mutha River. It has a dam at Varasgaon and this is the backwater area. 

We walked up at the start of June, when the city was facing a severe water crisis. The south westerlies seemed to be bringing in hoards of clouds which filled the entire sky. 

For a change, the view kept me away from trying to identify the trees… Also they were on the slope and I was not keen on going too close to them. They are likely to be Jamun or Ain, two species which were common in that area.

I am joining Parul in her bimonthly ThursdayTreeLove blog hop. Do head over to see lovely trees from around the world. Better still, join in!

Shortcut Sauce

This is my first attempt at a food post… As I have openly stated, I am a reluctant cook and I have jumped into the bloghop mainly for the food memories! And there are so many, and surprisingly the ones that stand out are the disasters


However, today I would like to share one of our projects.. one that was we had no choice but to execute and do it well.. The ladies of our unit had to put up a food stall with two items- Bhel and Pizza. For two whole days. A huge crowd was expected. Pizza delicacy was in those days.. way back in 1993… especially in the remote base in the NE where we were posted. 

The local bakery would make the base but during the trials, we faced the most unexpected difficulties. Rings of capsicum dried out and the sulfurous odour of the onions was  quite unbearable. Spending two days in its company was quite unthinkable. Plus with limited space, we could not accommodate many containers. None of us were keen to freshly chop the veggies on a need-based basis. 

Our plan was the do the entire preparation at home and just grill the pizza when ordered. 

Necessity is the mother of invention – it is said and that is what happened to us.

We came up with the idea of putting all veggies together into the tomato sauce. What we finally had was a vegetable puree that we just had to pour on the base, top with grated cheese, grill and serve.  All flavouring spices too went into this sauce. The pizza was a big hit!  We ran out of sauce by mid afternoon and had to make fresh batches many more times on those two days till we ran out of pizza bases!

To this day, I make my pizza sauce in the same manner. Any leftover is stored in the fridge is reused as pasta sauce. In fact, I add it to vegetable gravy to get an interesting taste. My daughter has continued with this method so I guess, it has its merits one of the main ones being saving the effort of finely slicing the veggies. 


There is no fixed recipie – but here goes.. You can improvise according to your taste – increase or reduce the tomatoes or onions or garlic or capsicum or Ajwain

For the sauce:

  • 4 large red tomatoes
  • 1 Capsicum
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp Tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp Ajwain
  • Little Oregano
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup water
Chop the veggies, mix with other ingredients and cook on a slow flame till done. Reduce till seiredd thickness. Cool. Grind in a blender to get a smooth puree.

Pour this on a pizza base, spread grated cheese, dot with butter. Grill in a hot oven and Viola.. the tastiest pizza is ready for you! 

We had not added mushrooms but I guess those can go in too.. 

How do you make your pizza sauce at home? Do you prefer separate toppings?

I am joining Sunita and Shilpa in #flavoursometuesdays which is on the first Tuesday of every month. 


W is for War Memorial

Surprisingly I had choices of two ‘W’ gardens in Pune in this April AtoZ blogging challenge but its no surprise that I have opted for the War Memorial. Located in the Pune Cantonment, The National War Memorial is a citizen-led initiative to honour and remember the contributions of men in uniform in times of war and national calamity. Their names are inscribed on marble panels installed on one side of the park. 

This is not a touristy place but a sombre one that recognsies that someone is paying the price for our safety. In the park are installed a Mig 23 aircraft, a tank and a replica of an Indian Navy warship which signifies the tri-services contributions to the nation. 

Here is a link that has more info about the displayed aircraft. And the location Map is here

Jai Hind!

T is for Tathavade Udyan

My first visit to this part was as part of a tree walk and the striking feature here was its plethora of Brownea coccinea trees. Trees were the sole focus of that visit and, I came away knowing a lot about the species growing there there but totally ignored the story of Late Major Tathavade Kirti Chakra who made the highest sacrifice in Poonch area in the year 2000. I regretted my ignorance and made another visit just to read about this brave soldier in whose memory the park has been named. There is a statue of the Late Major Tathavade at the entrance and I paused for a while there to pay my respects to his valour. 

Spread over 3 acres, the park has one more nationalistic attraction which is a Pakistani tank from the 1971 India-Pakistan war. 

Obviously this park should be a huge silent inspiration for youngsters and should remind that peace comes at a cost and we should not take contributions of our soldiers for granted. 

The garden is rich in terms of trees as well with a magnificent Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Kadamba (Neolamarckia kadamba), the Fern Leaf tree (Filicium decipiens), pretty Tamhan (Lagerstromia sp) and ofcourse several varieties of Ficus. Most trees have been labelled. The landscaped lawns and gazebos added to the beauty and serene atmosphere. There was a small kids play area too.

Brownea buds

Brownea in full bloom

New Brownea leaf looks is brown like a horse tail
The leaf grows to look like this

A garden that is popular due to its tiled walking track and location in the heart of a residential area. A garden that would be a delight for tree lovers, health enthusiasts and an inspiration for all.

Placards bearing plant names and plant info



Entry: INR 1
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: On the road adjoining the garden
Drinking Water: Available 
Rest rooms: Available
Location Map here

R is for MahaRana Pratap Udyan

This garden is officially called the MahaRana Pratap Udyan and is tucked away on an important arterial North-South Road of the city. The neighbourhood is mostly residential and borders a very busy commercial area. I realised it was extremely popular with families when I visited as many relaxed on the lawns, played games and enjoyed  the greenery in the very heart of Pune. 

A bust of MahaRana Pratap is located almost immediately after the gate. He was a King of Mewar in what is now India’s Rajasthan state. He was among the few rulers who stood up to the Mughals. An inspiring and fearless King whose deeds are still recounted with fervour. 

Gardens, Pune

This garden also has a memorial to Shaheed Captain Sushant Godbole who laid down his life fighting terrorists in Jammu. We are safe in our cities only because of him and all our armed forces personnel who are unquestioningly  guarding our borders for the safety of their fellow countrymen. 

Installations in this garden should be an inspiration to young minds. Besides these, there are the by now ubiquitous manicured lawns, tiled walkways around the perimeter, trees and a few flower beds.

Pune, garden, udyan
Kids enjoying!

Entry: Free
Timing: 6AM to 11AM and 4PM to 8.30PM
Drinking Water: Available (Quality not checked)
Rest Rooms: Available (Hygiene not checked)

Another “R” park that finds a mention in this post is the Raja Mantri Udyan not because it is something spectacular but because it was the park where I began my research for this series! I spotted a white powder puff in bloom here, a somewhat uncommon tree.

Info: Raja Mantri Udyan
Entry: INR 1
Timing: 6AM To10.30AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: On the road 
Drinking Water and Rest Rooms: Available

Location Map here

Air Force Day

08 October is celebrated as Air Force Day each year. Now as civilians we look upon with pride our tenure in service, never for a moment regretting our life therein or complaining about hardships we had to face   (alright, we did crib occasionally) but remembering only the wonderful people who we were fortunate and privileged to have been with.

We lived without many so-called “city comforts”, learnt to innovate with what we had, found ‘new’ uses for the same old things (fashionably called ‘thinking out of the box’ but a ‘box’ a.k.a trunk, was our treasured possession vital to transport our wordly belongings in our normadic existance), adopted a “live-and-let -live policy” with flying frogs, snakes, scorpions, monkeys and so on (our homes had a common habitat with theirs) and hopefully instilled the same never-say-die spirit in our children as well.

What we did have around us were strong, eternally optimistic, fearless soldiers who put their country and mission before their lives, who saw the lighter side of life in every situation and made a sure fire impression on every person they interacted with! We met wonderful people and developed friendships that survived several postings and learnt to stoically accept when Fate took away anyone from what was our extended family.
Life must go on, Impermanence is the very essence of Life…

Here is a recap from a couple of my older posts… 

…. We had lived in dilapidated ‘bashas’, read freshly delivered 2-day old newspapers, stayed connected via trunk calls then STD PCOs, accepted snakes, leeches and scorpions….

We lived in clean fresh air, our kids had plenty of space to play… The friends we made are for life. The lessons we learnt still stand by us. The skills we gained come in handy even today in the urban jungle that is now our home….

All the very best to the Indian Air Force.
Happy Landings to all the men in blue.


After a long time, I read this article that really disturbed me. The Dec 26, 2011- Jan 09, 2012 issue of the Outlook magazine has several articles that describe ‘food trails’ in different regions. I have read several such ‘food’ travel articles online and in magazines but none was as stark as this one.

The article is entitled ‘Sweat of Shiva’s Back’ by Amita Bhaviskar and describes the food and life of Bhilala adivasis. Perish any thought of a romantic account of life in the jungles. Far from it. Having said that, at no point does the article deteriorate into a ‘sob story’ of their difficulties. In a simple stark manner, the author describes their food habits that are totally dictated by the lives they lead.

Initially the botanist in me was struck by their use of the Mahua flowers and its oil and liquor made from it. Then as the words sank in, the magnitude of their situation hit me.

A friend of mine spent some time at Melghat and her account of the conditions there was of abject malnutrition, illiteracy…

Despite tall claims of our esteemed economists, industrialists and the government of being an economic superpower in-waiting, our politicians continue to focus on the caste system for their own gains, female infanticide is still rampant, girls are ‘married’ off to banana trees or earthen pots prior to marriage for some obscure ‘dosha‘ in their horoscope as their mothers and relatives look on approvingly…. (I have never heard of the same proceedure for a prospective groom, are their horoscopes universally excellent and free of doshas?). Does this mean its the darkest before dawn or is it all just a mirage? I don’t know…

Its true that ours is a vast country of diverse geographies and people. One size will not apply to all. The cities see a 24X7 rat race for more money, a bigger job designation, a bigger loan (to keep up with the Jonas’ in terms of creature comforts) and a slowly bigger list of diseases… Some migrate abroad in search of a ‘better’ life.

All this while folk from our villages fed up of lack of income and wanting a ‘better’ lifestyle come to the cities in search of the proverbial pot of gold…

We have lived in some pretty remote and disturbed areas, experienced the ups and downs of soldierly life. Combined with my work with disadvantaged kids I thought I had developed a thick skin… I was wrong…

Take care..