Wednesday, March 30, 2016

...all creatures great and small.....

It was a routine morning walk at the Siri fort Sports complex this morning, when we saw the sky darkened over by dozens of crows, swooping around a white object on the path----approaching closer, we found a small and very frightened and white owl...its round eyes even larger with apprehension. People simply walked past...fortunately, a member of the staff happened to come down the road, and the hapless bird was picked up and given shelter, while I called up Wildlife SOS, known for their rescue efforts of animals, big and small.
The purpose of this post is to highlight :
a) the apathy and attitude of many city dwellers.....when the staff member was trying to help the bird, walkers stopped to click photos, and then ask him why he was bothering
b) common people are more rooted to the earth and nature, as seen by the gardeners who watched over the owl and gave it sips of water, while I went home to get a cardboard box for it
c) the professionalism of the SOS rescue member who responded to the call promptly and with great care. I had read about their efforts and made some contributions, so it was good to see their action in reality.
 Read about the organisation here

Perhaps human beings need to remember the last line of the verse---The Lord God made them all....and learn to give the voiceless creatures their due.

PS: I checked with them later and heard that the owl is not injured (as we had thought), just scared and lost, since it couldn't see in the daylight. It is being looked after in the SOS office, and will soon be released in the wild.

.......a poem as lovely as a tree!

Joyce Kilmer summed it up best in "Trees"--beginning with Ï think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree"and ending with "poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree"! The beauty and variety of trees never fail to amaze and soothe, as we re-discovered on yet another "tree walk" (will write about the earlier ones in the course of time!) at the Jahapannah  city forest (part of the ancient Ridge) led by a passionate and very knowledgeable tree expert, Ms.Kavita Prakash. In her easy, interactive manner, she led us, as always, along a route (which she always takes the trouble to check out and plan beforehand) with common (and not so common!) trees that we pass by, sometimes notice, but don't know anything about! She stops to point out special features, encourages us to touch and bond with the tree, gives a gist of its origin and uses...etc etc. At the beginning of the walk, each one is given a list of the trees that will be covered, along with a page reference to a classic work "Trees of  Delhi"by Pradeep Kishen (more of that later!) so that one can look up details. She also carries along "goodies"in the shape of a leaf/fruit/etc (which may not be visible in the season) to touch and feel.

Some of the trees we saw are natives of  the region, while others have come from far away lands, though non native trees tend to cause an imbalance in nature.
 We learnt about: the Lasora (the Bird Lime tree), Dhak (Parrot tree, self explanatory!), Katsagon, Ronjh, Cabbage palm, Saptaparni (named after its 7 leaves together), Buddha's coconut (popularly known as the Mad tree!), Subabool, Vilaiti Keekar, Maharukh (also known as the Maha neem), Khair, Siris (rattle pod!) Earpod wattle and of course, the Banyan. Kavita also pointed out trees not on the list....Mulberry, Footstool palm, Ritha and Kachnar, among others.

And here's some trivia gleaned from the walk!
The Dhak is the state tree of Jharkhand, where it grows in plenty. It is worshipped in Telengana, while there is a tree outside every Brahmin's house in Kerala!

The Katsagon has ringed rods, and protruding flower stalks to attract bats. Its wood is termite resistant.

The solitary Cabbage palm had been rescued from a barbed wire, thanks to Kavita who had noticed it earlier! It has a very fragrant smell, and so a great attraction for bees.

The Saptaparni is known as the blackboard tree, as its wood is used to make slates. It is also wrongly termed the Devil's tree (Shaitan ka jhar in Hindi) due to the frantic activity at night among its branches! Reason: the flowers bloom at night and attract insects, which in turn attract bats! It has an overbearing smell and large amounts of pollen, so very allergenic and unsuitable for those with respiratory problems.

The Banyan tree is the national tree of India, and signifies immortality and survival. Since it symbolises life and fertility, it is not cut, but worshipped by childless couples. It is also known as Akshay Vat, and was described by the ancient Chinese traveller to India, Huen Tsang.

It was a pleasant morning, and a couple of hours well spent in learning about and admiring the colors, texture (and sometimes, smells) of Nature.

If you are in Delhi, do join in a tree walk with Kavita (see details of her regular walks on

or with Pradeep Kishen (rare, and generally through India Habitat Center).

Cabbage palm
............only God can make a tree!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Gardening for Health and Happiness!

The title of the post was the theme of the Kitchen Garden festival, aglow with the colors of flowers in full bloom, fresh fruits used in ornamental patterns! aromatic herbs, bonsai, cacti.......and of course, some stalls for snacks and drinks!

Traditional medicine

An Indian-US workshop on traditional medicine was enlightening and enriching.....with speakers from different traditional forms of medicine discussing (with some case studies) the impact and efficacy of traditional medicine, particularly in treatment and cure of cancer. The branches represented were ayurveda, siddha, unani, homeopathy, yoga and naturopathy.
We were there at the invite of Vaidya Balendu Prakash, who has successfully cured cancer with his herbo-mineral formulations.

There were stalls put up by different organisations; the most informative one was by The National Medicinal Plant Board, with posters listing the plants used for treating specific disorders, as well as live plants commonly used in ayurvedic medicine.

Even for us who live in the land of traditional medicine, the workshop was a revelation!

One of the many charts showing the use of plants and yoga for common ailments

Birds of many feathers!

It's time to take a look at the winged visitors to the Delhi zoo, as it's almost time for them to fly back home, after the winter migration! Rosy billed pelicans, black ibis, pond herons, little egret, and my very favorite painted storks......the photos say it all. I skip the animals in cages, as personally I do not subscribe to the policy of caging animals, for whatever reason, and head straight to the lake with water birds on and around it. So if you're in Dehi, do make a trip to the zoo, adjacent to the historical Old Fort (which merits a trip on its own) and marvel at the wonders of nature.

 Painted storks share space with the cattle egret....

 while pelicans socialise in the water!

or soar majestically over head.....

more painted storks on another island, with black ibis and egrets