Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Happy Hobby!

I had my first vegetable garden when we lived in Hosur.  That was an independent house and we had space at the front and the back.  I grew from peas to potato and onions there.  The red soil over there was very fertile and everything grew up fast and healthy.  This was in the late 80's.

Then in my previous house in Chennai, I went for just flowers (link here).
Now, we live in a flat.  I have kept some pots with desert roses in our balconies, which are easy to maintain.

One of my friends here, took the initiative to start Roof Top gardening.  She consulted many specialists in Roof top gardening in Chennai and we started implementing it nearly 4 weeks back.

We went for 'soil-less cultivation' method.  They provide thick plastic containers as shown in the picture, with coco peat, vermin compost, organic manure mixture and seeds.  They place perforated rubber sheets beneath the basket so that if at any time, during rainy season or something, the excess water will drain out easily.  Since soil is not used the basket is very light weight.  The coco peat is made of coconut fibre.  It acts as a sponge and retains water for longer time.  We have got a small 4 ltr. water can/water sprayer.  One can of water per day per box, is enough for the current weather now.  We may have to water the plants twice a day once severe summer starts.  Coco peat acts like a sponge and so, is wet/retains moisture for a long time. To start with, we bought 5 containers/baskets.  3 of us are maintaining them. 

Our Roof Top Garden!
Starting stage.  Some sprouts of greens (paalak/spinach) can be seen.

This basket is just for paalak/spinach! We should cut the big leaves with our nails one by one (!) when they grow and use.  In this way, the leaves will keep on growing for nearly 3 months.  We can remove when the growth dwindles and sow more seeds. 

Beans plants and Paalak leaves! We can grow 2-3 types of plants in one basket!

This basket has got greens (Arai keerai), cucumber plus bitter gourd plants and creepers.

Close-up picture of the beans plant.  Flowers have started blooming!

This is ladies finger/bhindi/vendai kaai flower.  You can see 3 tiny bhindies also! Click on the pictures pl.
This is cucumber creeper.  Flowers and buds can be seen here!

I did paalak paneer (link) yesterday.  Before cooking, I ate some raw leaves which were very tasty:) It was a happy feeling, growing our own vegetables and using them at home!

Paalak/spinach leaves.  I plucked them yesterday and did Paalak paneer!

Added this picture now (4.3.15) to show the rubber mat with holes, beneath the plastic box/trough, which will protect the flooring when it rains.  The box will not stick to the bottom flooring.

Mr. Radhakrishnan (Besant nagar, Chennai) was the consultant for us and we are very happy with the results.  He can be contacted in this number: 9444620185.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lonar Crater Lake, Salt Water/Soda Lake! But Ducks Swim Here!

I had mentioned in my earlier posts about our road trip to Ajanta, Ellora caves (posts are yet to be written!) and other places here and here.  I should have written about the places we visited one by one just as we saw them.  I didn't do it... I seem to write randomly; wrong decision!

We started from Chennai.  It was December end and so we had booked hotel rooms in Hyderabad, Aurangabad etc. for the New Year holidays, before we started.  On other days we looked for hotels in the net, went in and stayed for the night. This way, we saw many places on the way, as we wished! Just the three of us, I, my husband and son.  Our driver was driving.  This was the first trip we travelled like this, without pukka planning! But we enjoyed.

On our way from Nizamabad to Aurangabad, we came across this lake (thanks to the net!).  It was nearly 4 pm when we reached this place.  The small towns we crossed, Hingoli, Nanded, etc. had very narrow, crowded, dusty streets.  I have never seen places like these in the "northern" part of India earlier.  But everything is interesting for me! I like watching people and so never get bored!

We had an interesting lunch at a restaurant, Vatika, at Hingoli on the way. It was looking beautiful with a nicely decorated garden with designer trees etc.! A quirky bearer there said that they would specially cook vegetarian food in separate vessels for us! We had our food (which was decent) in the open garden with a cat (who resembled our Goalie) for company. However, while the restaurant looked beautiful from the outside it didn't have a proper toilet! Four stone slabs for the floor and four tin sheets on the sides with no roof! This was their toilet for LADIES and gents had a designated corner in a lawn in the rear, it seems.  We never expected this...but no other good restaurant was nearby and we already had our food! The owner promised my husband that a new toilet would be there in another two months and asked us to come there again!

The beautiful restaurant we visited, which had no toilet! Typical India!
I have never heard of this place, Lonar, before. My son had planned to visit here.  This lake is in the border town, Buldana, in Maharashtra, near Aurangabad. We had started seeing Marathi boards after Hindi and Telugu when we came near the border to Maharashtra!

Let me tell you about my impression about this lake. Then, to our friend, Wiki's details.  The narrow muddy road to this lake is deserted, nearly.  We could see some dry fields on our way.  Then we saw this lake.  It looked like a big pond.  One watch tower with rickety steps was there.  I was wondering why we came to this dry, dusty place.  Son asked me to go up the ladder, in which some rods/steps were missing!  Husband never experiments but I do! Then, son told me the importance/the story of this lake from the landing of the watch tower!

Wiki says:

Lonar is the world's third largest crater. It has its genesis nearly 50,000 years ago, when a 2 million-ton meteorite impacted the earth to create a depression 1.83 kilometers in diameter and 150 meters deep. Lonar Lake is a saltwater lake, which was created by a meteor hitting the Earth during the Pleistocene Epoch. The impact crater thereby formed, is the only hyper velocity meteoritic impact crater on basalt rock. A lake that evolved in the resulting basaltic rock formation, is both saline and alkaline in nature.

Another wiki link says: 

A series of low hills surround the basin which has an oval shape (almost round) with circumference at top of about 8 km (five miles). The sides of the basin rises abruptly at an angle of about 75°. At the base, the lake has a circumference of about 4.8 km (three miles).

Now, to the pictures, we had taken there:

Lonar Lake, Buldana, Maharashtra
Located in Buldana district of Maharashtra, this fascinating lake is believed to have been created over 5o,000 years ago due to a meteor impact which formed a depression 1.83 kilometers in diameter and 150 meters deep. Apart from the splendid beauty of the lake and a few treks, the place is famous for several temples like Daitya Sudan temple and Kamalija temple located around the lake. The lake is both saline and alkaline in nature and the historical documents say that the lake produces all the elements to make glass and soap. - See more at:

Lonar Lake, Aurangabad. The above two pictures were taken on 29.12.14 when we were there.  The banks do not look like a jungle here. 

This picture is taken from Wiki.  The date is mentioned as September '12. Full of greenery! Different types of trees are there in separate rings, it seems! The place is home to many animals and rare birds!
Wiki says: The slopes are covered with jungle interspersed with teak trees. A belt of large trees about a mile broad runs all round the basin; this belt is formed of concentric rings of different species of trees. A ring of date-palms followed by a ring of tamarind trees (nearly 1.6 km or a mile broad) leads to a ring of babul trees, bounded on the inside by a belt of bare muddy space.
I am climbing the rickety old steps of the watch tower! A couple of rods were missing!

Not many trees are seen here now.

The Kamalaja devi temple seems to be very close to the lake! Looks very ancient!

A closer look at the temple. I read that people from the surrounding villages come here to attend the temple festival.  They leave all the plastic bags etc. on the bank,  which is not good for the lake.  
One more view of the lake. 
The other side of the lake.

Another panoramic view of the lake. on all the pictures to view them clearly....

We saw a lone duck here, in this salty, alkaline/soda water.  People used to make soap in ancient days, it seems.
Wiki says: The historical document called the Ain-i-Akbari (written about C.E. 1600) states:

These mountains produce all the requisites for making glass and soap. And here are saltpetre works which yield a considerable revenue to the State, from the duties collected. On these mountains is a spring of salt water, but the water from the centre and the edges is perfectly fresh.

The lake was first mentioned in ancient scriptures such as the Skanda purana, the Padma purana and the Ain-i-Akbari.

Buldana district in Maharashtra, where the lake is located, was once part of Ashoka's empire and then of Satavahana's.  The Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas also ruled this area. During the period of the Mughals, Yadavas, Nizam and the   British, trade prospered in this area. Several temples found on the periphery of the Lake are known as Yadava temples and also as Hemadpanti temples (named after Hemadri Ramgaya).

Though this is a salt water lake, it is surrounded by trees and so, looks like a forest. It is a residence to many types of rare birds and animals!

Wiki also says: 

The modes of formation are also entirely different and it is practically certain that the Lonar salts are derived from an unknown source in the bed of the lake. It is true that water is continually flowing into the lake and that except by evaporation there is no loss. The main feeder stream could not however supply this amount of alkali nor could the other smaller supplies coming in during the rains, for on all sides of the lake vegetation is abundant, particularly where the main stream flows in continuously. Were any quantity of alkali present in this water, vegetation would suffer considerably and, with exception of a few varieties of plants, eventually die out entirely.
Sun had started setting down and we left the place at last! This was on the left side of the lake.  We noticed some 6-8 peacocks on the opposite side of the lake, which looked like a barren land.

EDITED TO ADD, THE NEXT DAY: My son said that there is a Maharashtra Government's MTDC hotel nearby where tourists can stay and visit this place.

I read this article about this crate today with more beautiful photographs.

Updated on 12/6/2, read...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Shadows Of His Hands Are Singing 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhaara'!


I have been watching my friends and relatives making animal images in shadows, since my childhood.  Even I showed my children, shadows with fingers on our wall at home...dogs, fish and birds. Not more than that! But the video which I saw this morning made me dumbfounded. It will make you too!

If you know the song 'Mile sur mera tumhaara' and had seen the video since our Door Darshan time, you will enjoy this, better! Every picture in the video is shown in the shadows! The shadows are lip sinking with the song's lyrics! Amazing! If you are not familiar with the song, watch the video of the song first and then, this video.  It is the second one below this video. Now, let us see the singing shadows first!

The last image of the Four lions, the Emblem of India,  and the flying flag, brought tears in my eyes! Beautiful, aren't they?   The beautiful rabbit, the Goan with a hat, Balamurali Krishna singing with his hands moving, the mridangam artist playing, the Taj Mahal, the peacock, camel, elephants,  people on a boat, North East Indians dancing,  I can go on... The video shows the artist playing with his fingers. Needs 100% concentration for doing this, I am sure.

Now, watch the real song:

You know what I did while writing this post now? I opened two windows in my computer, one with the shadow video and another with the song video and watched both frame by frame! I love this song and am never bored of hearing this.  I had done a post on this earlier too (here).

I looked out for the name of the artist and got it! His name is Prahlad Acharya. (link). He hails from Udupi (Karnataka), MY home town!

He was interested in magic from his childhood and  learnt magic from Uday Jadugar,.  He learnt shadow play and other magics while travelling with him during his shows. The link says:

'Today, the 40-year-old has traveled across the globe, telling stories using shadows. He can perform the Panchatantra tales, Kannada folktales such as the story of Punyakoti, the holy cow who kept her word to a tiger by offering herself to it after she fed her calf.'

I came across another video of this artist,  which is also interesting (link)

Now, I came across the Wiki link of Prahlad Acharya! We can know more about him here.

He comes in my 'People whom I admire' list now!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday!


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