Friday, November 30, 2007

How I write Blog posts

Sometimes people ask me how I am able post daily on my Blog. Many writers do a minimum of 500 words a day. I suppose for most of them it is easy. But not for me. After breakfast and a glance at the newspaper headlines (detailed reading comes later) I sit before the computer. My mind is as blank as the monitor screen.

The position is something like this:

"Night's heaviness is unlessened still, the hour
of Mind and Spirit's ransom has not struck
Let's go on, our goal is not reached yet"

That is a quote from Faiz Ahmed Faiz which my good friend NAT (also known as CRN, short for CR Natarajan) sent me. He is one of the legends of the Indian tire industry. Originally from Mysore, he now lives in San Diego, USA.

I look at the list subjects for the Blog in my notebook. They are in different stages of research. I select one, or, occasionally, something from the newspapers that caught my attention, or a topic off the cuff (like this one).

I key in the title and then get stuck often. I don’t have the gift of flowing words. The position at that juncture is: "The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." (Vladimir Nabakov) And the words do come, along with another problem. I type with two fingers. The thoughts run ahead of the keying in process.

A more sensible method would be to build a ‘posts’ bank whenever one gets the time, and select the day’s post from it. But that does not give the thrill of struggling to meet the self-imposed deadline. In the bargain, sometimes the quality suffers though, particularly in editing. It is not my forte. And even with ‘spellcheck’ typos remain. The moral here is, do not overly depend on automatic grammar and spelling check.

According to the writing pundits one should let an article cool overnight; when you look at it the next day, the mistakes stick out. That is true. Perhaps I should shift to the ‘posts’ bank practice.

They say hope springs eternally in the human heart. I expect to become a better writer someday. So I keep typing away.


Also see: Blogday thoughts

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lifestyle: The greatest sari on earth

On Monday, 26 November, the famous actor-director Suhasini Maniratnam unveiled a sari created by Chennai Silks. You might wonder what’s so great about a sari to be on the front pages of newspapers, and on TV. Well, this one is different from anything seen so far.

To start with, there is only one piece like it in the world. Made from the finest silk. Twelve precious stones including pearl, diamond, sapphire, topaz and emerald were set into the sari with platinum, gold and silver, using a double-warp. The work took 4680 man-hours involving 7440 jacquard hooks and 66794 cards. That should be world record.

Woven into this masterpiece are eleven (some reports say thirteen) other gems – great paintings of the master, Raja Ravi Varma. Ten of these are depicted on the sari border. And the other, ‘Musicians’ (see the image below) is on the pallu.

This unique sari will be displayed in the Chennai Silks showroom in Chennai. But it is not just an exhibition piece. It can be worn just like other saris. Provided one can meet the price tag of USD100, 100 (about 4 million Indian rupees.)


Also see: Raja Ravi Varma: A movie on the Royal Painter

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kerala Photos: Sun shines on Olavipe

Photos by: Karthiki, KO Isaac, TP. Copyright reserved.
Click on images for enlarge view.

Also see:

Kerala photos: Village paths

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nostalgia: The romance of India/Indian Coffee House

What’s the difference between India Coffee House and Indian Coffee House? I shall come to that shortly. What is important is that both together have been serving Indian coffee with the same aroma and taste for seven decades. And three generations have enjoyed it.

In the post Some memories of WW II, Cochin and the 1940s., I mentioned India Coffee House on Broadway, Cochin. My maternal grandfather (KC Abraham, Kallivayalil-Konduparambil) took four of us siblings there when we were children. It was a great experience which we enjoyed thoroughly. We had coffee and glucose biscuits. I don’t think they served stuff like masala dosa those days.

Again I mentioned India Coffee House in the post Bangalore memories. That was a place I loved during college days in the early 1950s. The laid back atmosphere, spending hours over a cup of real coffee, small talk which one forgets even before leaving the place, diverse people – students, journalists, elders. Something that belonged to another era.

Or so I thought, till I came across an article ‘Coffee, tea and memories’ by Priyanka Haldipur in the Deccan Herald. She says: ‘Walk into the place for a feel of what Bangalore would have seemed like almost five decades ago. Nothing has changed in this humble coffee place... not the style, and certainly not the coffee.’

Another Coffee House I remember from my school days is the one at Trivandrum, opposite to the present AG’s Office. They used to serve excellent masala dosa as well. But we mostly patronized Connemara CafĂ©, next to Sridharan’s General Store (started by his father Kesavan) and owned by the same people. The favorite there was cutlets with a salad of curry cucumber and a cold, non-aerated orange drink.

These places (other than Connemara) were ‘India Coffee Houses’ to start with. The first was opened in Bombay in 1935 by the Indian Coffee Cess Committee. The objective was to promote the consumption of coffee. Subsequently, Indian Coffee Board took over and built up a chain of 72 coffee houses. But in the 1950s the Board closed down most of these cafes and sacked the workers.

Enter AK Gopalan, the famous Communist leader from Kerala. He organized a worker’s cooperative by the former employees of the Coffee Board and started the first Indian Coffee House at Trichur, Kerala in 1958. It has now grown into a chain of nearly 400 outlets all over India. I believe that Coffee Board still runs about a dozen India Coffee Houses.

This is written over a big cup (a birthday present from my grandson Adithya) of strong black coffee. Good. The coffee, I mean. Whether the article too deserves that comment is for you to judge!


Photo credits: Coffee beans - BackgroundBoy, Cup of coffee –

Note: The cup shown in the photo is not the one I use

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mushrooms, fungi: Useful information

Fungi, the more visible being mushrooms, are interesting living organisms. Here are some details about them:

Strictly speaking, mushrooms are not plants; they have more resemblance to the animal kingdom.

There are over 100,000 different types of mushrooms and fungi. They are crucial to sustaining life on earth. Fungi provide micro-nutrients to the ecosystem by breaking down sand and dead organic materials and making them reusable.

Mushrooms and fungi have, depending on the species, great curative properties (penicillin and other antibiotic for instance) and at the same time can cause health problems that are difficult to treat. They can attack plants, animals and humans.

For centuries fungi has been used in traditional medicine.

Some mushrooms have psychedelic effect. Many countries have banned the sale of such species. Research is going on to use them in the treatment of mental illness.

Some mushrooms glow in the dark. They are known as ‘bioluminescen.

Fungi are used for leavening bread (yeast) and also for providing bubbles in champagne and beer.

Mushrooms are commercially grown in controlled conditions for culinary purpose.

For studies in genetics and molecular biology fungi are used as model organisms.

Several species of fungi are poisonous. Therefore, never eat a mushroom from unknown sources, like those that grow wild.

Now a question: is mushroom vegetarian food or non-vegetarian? Well, they do not belong to the animal kingdom but have a realm of their own – fungi. The five kingdoms of organisms are Monera (bacteria), Protista (unicellular organisms), Plantae, Animalia and Fungi.

Some photos of fungi are given below:

Photos by KO Isaac. Copyright Reserved. Click on the images for enlarged view.


Also see: Photos: Leaves by Isaac

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Syrian Christians (Nazranis) of Kerala: Some interesting customs

Imagine judging whether a girl is married or not, by looking at her hairdo! Well, among the Nazranis of Kerala this was possible till a few decades back. An unmarried girl had to wear her hair down plaited or tied. Only married women would normally have their hair tied above the shoulders. But all women had to cover their head at a place of worship.

I think that this practice prevailed among the Latin Christians as well. In both communities, inside a church the men used to occupy the front portion and the women had to be at the back. Now the women stay on the left side and the men on the right. Why this pattern? I don’t know. An afterthought – the good thief was crucified on the right side of Jesus Christ. No offence meant to women. It is men who make the rules in the church.

Reverting to the hairdo – initially I thought that the custom might have been connected with Jewish traditions. On checking I find that among Orthodox Jews unmarried women do not have to cover their hair. But the Sephardic (Spanish & Portuguese Jews) custom requires that even unmarried girls should put up their hair.

However, Semitic influence can be seen in some aspects of Syrian Christian life. I have described one instance, about names, in the post Jewish names among Syrian Christians. That, however, has a Biblical angle. Till recently, in some old Syrian Christian families pork and fish that has no scale were taboo to eat. This obviously is a Jewish custom.

Talking about food, in the post Sadhya - a sumptuous Kerala meal I explained why the Nazranis are supposed to fold in the left end of the banana leaf from which they eat a meal. This is a royal privilege that many modern Syrian Christians don’t even know.

Would you believe that there was a time when Syrian Catholics were not allowed to read the Bible? The reason given for this was that laymen who were not trained may end up attributing wrong interpretations to the statements in the Holy Book. Now, al Catholic families are supposed to have a Bible and read it everyday. Here one must acknowledge the contribution of Joseph Pulikunnel (Hosana) in providing Bibles at low cost to the households.

In well-to-do Syrian Catholic families children were tutored at home in the 19c. The curriculum included Malayalam, Tamil, Sanskrit, other subjects and Carnatic music. English was frowned upon because it was the language of the Protestants! Learning of Carnatic music was also discouraged or banned by the Church because the songs invoked Hindu gods!

I have written this from the little knowledge that I have. It would be a great service if those who have more information on this subject come forward with their comments.


Also see:

History of conversions to Christianity in Kerala – an overview

Vedas, Syrian Christians

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kerala architecture: Verandas, corridors of a nalukettu house

Images from Thekkanattu Parayil Tharakans' heritage home at Olavipe.

Gatehouse corridor. Photo: KO Isaac

Eastern veranda downstairs. Photo: AT.

Western veranda downstairs. Photo: AT
Eastern veranda upstairs: Photo: TP

Corridor to the nalukettu. Photo: AT

Also see:

Kerala architecture: Mansion of the Marquises

Kerala Architecture: Interiors

Kerala Architecture: Exterior of a heritage home

Kerala Architecture - Olavipe Heritage Home

Friday, November 23, 2007

Quo Vadis, Kerala?

My post Onward, Kerala on June 3 was about the book Kerala’s Economy: Crouching Tiger, Sacred Cows, which was a compilation of the papers presented by eminent friends of the State at conference at Trivandrum in 2005. Since that meeting, not much water has flowed down the Nila (Kerala’s historic river Bharathapuzha) because it is a dying river now. But many changes have taken place in Kerala during that period.

On the heels of the State Chief Minister’s attack on the judiciary (In the news today) came the media coverage of a woman leader of the CPI slapping a lady police constable in public at the Capital, Trivandrum, during a demonstration. This happened on the 20th. She was arrested and taken to the Police Station. Policemen are very clannish when it comes to assaulting a member of the Force.

But this script is different. The State Secretary of the CPI arrived at the Station. Two ministers and a member of the legislature followed him. They pressurized the Sub Inspector and made him release the culprit. Two days later the Chief Minister says he does not know the details! But he tries to justify the action of the politicians! One can imagine what effect this has on the morale of the Police Force.

It appears that no case has been registered against the offender. The Indian Lawyers Congress has appealed to the Governor to remove the two ministers involved. A private petition has been filed in the court. The Nationalist Lawyers Congress has sent a notice to the Director General of Police.

Another interesting news today is that the former Communist leader KR Gowri has sold her paddy fields. She was one of the moving forces behind the land limitation legislation that fragmented large holdings. You know, ‘land to the tillers’ economics. In reality it resulted in drastic drop in rice production in the State. Now a new bill on land is on the anvil and may cause further damage to the economy. It is something like trying to correct one mistake with another mistake.

Gowri’s reported reason for the sale: non-availability and prohibitive cost of labor. Un-ploughed lies my land !


Also see: Savage Kerala

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Britain strikes back at the Empire

Recently there was an interesting news item. The British retail chain Marks & Spencer is planning to sell curry in India through franchise shops. Soon Indians can taste 'British' curry without visiting the Curry Houses of that country.

The word curry is said to have evolved from kari in Tamil. In Malayalam also the same name is used. It means different types of culinary products in different parts of the world. But basically curry is a side dish or secondary dish eaten with rice. It could be made with meat, sea food, eggs or vegetables, the common factor being spices.

During the Raj, the British became enamored with curry and rice and took it to their country where it gained great popularity. Whether the sahibs got on to the curry habit from the Anglo Indians (AI) or vice versa is not clear. Without doubt, the AI cuisine is excellent.

The best AI chicken curry I tasted was in Delhi in January 1954. To remember it after half a century is sufficient testimony for its excellence. I was traveling to Ludhiana as a member of the Mysore University hockey team to play the All India Inter University finals against Punjab. We had a two day break in Delhi.

My hostel friend Eric Perriera had insisted that I should visit his parents. His father was a civilian officer in the Defense Department at the capital. Eric’s mother gave me a lunch of chicken curry and rice. It was superb. I lost touch with this good friend of mine. Some one told me later that he had migrated to UK and joined the RAF. I would be grateful for any lead about him.

Talking about Delhi and food reminds of an ‘Indian’ dinner we gave a General Tires (Akron, Ohio) delegation at Ashoka Hotel. This was in 1972, after signing an MOU with them for technical collaboration for Apollo Tyres. The Americans were keen to try Indian food. Many foreigners do not know that India has so many different cuisines. The meal served that night consisted of mulligatawny soup, tandoori scampi, butter chicken masala with roties, and kulfi.

Mulligatawny soup, as far as I know, is an AI adaptation of the South Indian rasam (sometimes wrongly called ‘pepper water’). It is normally served hot. But when The Taj (Bombay) opened Tanjore Reastaurant in the 1970s they used to serve chilled rasam as appetizer. It used to be excellent.

To conclude, here is a Raj story I read somewhere. A sahib traveling by train was having lunch at a railway station restaurant. As he was relishing the chicken curry and rice, the train left. On realizing that the passenger was still at lunch, the upset station master rushed to him and said, ‘Not to worry sahib, take your time. I’ll call the train back.” He did.

Ah, the Raj days!


Also see: Bangalore memories

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kerala architecture – ‘Ara’ in heritage homes

Ara means an enclosed storage area, often used for threshed grain – paddy in the Kerala context. Landlords who owned and cultivated large areas would have such storehouses near the fields and also an in-house granary to stock un-husked rice for home consumption.

In many old houses the ara faces the entrance as you can see form the photo from our ancestral home shown below. (The decorations are because the picture was taken during the engagement ceremony of my niece Tanya)

This shot by KO Isaac is from the eastern gatehouse. The door of the gatehouse, the entrance to the main building and the door to the ara (in the background) are all in one line. It has something to do with thachusastram (vasthu which means the traditional science of architecture.)

The door opens to what we call aravathukkal pura, but more commonly known as arappura in Kerala. It is a corridor which has doors to the left and the right leading to the other parts of the house and the entrance to the ara (see photo by me below). It is again in line with the front door.

Our ara has two compartments. The smaller one is for nurukkari or table rice and the other for nediyari or coarse rice for the house staff. Now both are empty and we buy rice! Ten years back I stopped paddy cultivation which we were doing regularly, because the Communists imported some outsiders to plant red flags in our fields. They did this alleging that we were leaving our fields fallow!

There is a true anecdote to this. The party men who came in a truck and started a procession called our workers who were transplanting rice saplings in another field to join them. One woman stood up and answered, "Comrades, flags don’t produce rice.” Remarkable, I must say.

Coming back to ara, the entire structure including the floor is in wood. The reason for this is that paddy might spoil if it gets into contact with lime or cement. The ara is about three feet above the floor level of the rest of the house. I suppose this is to prevent permeation of moisture.

Traditionally, ara was taboo to women. They could stand in the arappura and carry away the grain measured out by men, but never step inside the ara!


Also see: Un-ploughed lies my land

Kerala architecture: More on nalukettu

Kerala Architecture - Olavipe Heritage Home


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In the news today

Karnataka Kabadi

There is so much to write about what is going on in Karnataka but due to a personal reason I am keeping quiet. The circus, however, goes on.

Cricket: ‘Colonel’ takes on the ‘army’?

‘Colonel’ Dilip Vengsarkar, Chairman of the BCCI selection committee has defied the Board’s ban on the selectors writing columns. He has also reportedly protested against the guidelines issued by the Board to the selectors and is trying to gather support for his stand from the other selectors.

In a way, this is understandable. The directive from the BCCI also proscribes the selectors talking to the media, traveling abroad to watch matches, appearing as experts on TV and spending time with the players in the dressing room. Which selector would like such restrictions?

A report by Sunit Kaul and Shamik Chakrabarty in tday’s Deccan Chronicle quotes a selector saying, “It is the prerogative of the BCCI to issue guidelines. But we are opposed to the manner in which things have been done.” Like the dumping of Rahul Dravid from the ODI team?

Inconvenient Judiciary

‘People’s Democracies’ do not need the kind of judiciary that the ordinary democracies like India have. It is an inconvenience and stand in the way of peace and progress because the judges do not understand the needs of the poor and the downtrodden. This is the gist of what the leaders of the Communist Marxist Party (CPM) in West Bengal and Kerala are saying.

Yesterday the Kerala High Court made scathing comments against the Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan. The background is a case relating to the import of palm oil which could adversely affect the prospects of the coconut farmers. What drew the ire of the High court was the Chief Minister’s public statement against the judge hearing the case. This could lead to contempt of court charge.

But who cares? In the great march towards the worker’s (meaning organized labor) paradise, these are minor irritants. And, for company the CPM has Gen. Musharraf who declared emergency to save Pakistan from the judges.

Nandigram in Parliament

The BJP had a point when it raised the shameful Nandigram issue in the Parliament. But the party overlooked one small matter. When there was a move to discuss the Gujarat riots in the House, it had vehemently argued that law and order was a State subject.

The Congress kept quite about Nandigram in Parliament. Well, 123 Agreement is still alive, so don’t rub the Left. The silence of the lambs!


Also see:

Cricket: Rahul Dravid’s ‘colonel’ bogey

123 Nuclear Agreement – should the PM resign?

Kerala: Of monkeys and nuts

Contempt of Court - express your views

Monday, November 19, 2007

Waste disposal

This list of guidelines for three-way source segregation of waste was circulated by our residents’ association. I am posting it here because it could be useful to others as well.

Green Bin (Degradable)

  • fruit and vegetable peelings
  • spoiled/leftover food (strain liquid before disposal)
  • eggs and nuts shells
  • dried flowers and in-house plants
  • house cleaning dust, hair
  • tea bags and coffee filters
  • meat, bones, fish, and fish parts
  • coconut husk and shells
  • tissue paper used in kitchen

Blue Bin (Recyclable)

  • plastic wraps, chocolate wraps, plastic bags
  • disposable food containers, aluminum foils
  • artificial flowers/plants, leather, textiles
  • cardboard cartons, packaging materials, PET bottles
  • electronic gadgets, cables, wires, spare parts
  • cigarette butts, tobacco, corks
  • ear cleaners, cotton balls, make-up removal pads
  • scraps of paper, wax paper
  • wood, plastic brooms, mops
  • rubber materials, tubes, brushes
  • balloons, rubber gloves, shoes
  • dishwashing pads, clothes
  • newspaper, magazines, books

Red Bin (Non-degradable/ Hazardous)

  • soiled and infected cotton, dressings
  • drips, injection syringes and needles
  • razors, blades, nails, screws
  • diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms
  • glass items, broken glass, tube lights, bulbs, batteries
  • dental floss, baby wipes, tissue paper
  • Aerosol cans, paint tins, glue
  • Pesticides, chemicals
  • Medicines, cosmetics
  • Hair dyes.

Please note that I am only passing on what I consider to be useful information without taking any responsibility for the suggestions it contains.


Also see:

Quick ways to make a difference

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blogday thoughts

Yesterday was Founding Day for Parayil A. Tharakan Blog. It was on November 17, 2006 that I registered the blog and made an initial entry. Active blogging was to start only in January this year. Later I added the prefix, Song of the waves to the title.

The inspiration for my entry into the blogosphere was my good friend from Bangalore college days, Jacob Matthan (Sushil). He now lives in Finland and successfully handles about half a dozen blogs, the flagship being Jacob's Blog. I don’t know how he manages to do that. One of the mistakes I made was to start three more blogs - Articles By Abraham Tharakan, EARTH SAVE – Abraham Tharakan's Blog, and Short Stories By Abraham Tharakan - only to find that I could not do full justice to each.

Even after a few months into the venture I knew nothing about blogging. Then I happened to contact Nancy Gandhi for permission to use, for my post Armenian Catholicos in India., a photograph by her. I was so impressed by Nancy’s blog, under the fire star, that I asked her for some advice. Though we have never met, she was kind enough to give me valuable tips by email. Subsequently, it was because of a subtle hint by her that I made the change in the title. (See Change in blog name - 'Song of the waves...') Thank you Nancy.

If the saying that a good picture is equal to a thousand words is true, the credit for 75% of the content in my blog should go to my son-in-law, KO Isaac (See picture on the left.). Most of the photos I have posted were taken by him. He is the Chairman & Managing Director of the fast developing Chennai based ABL Biotechnologies Ltd., and President of Madras Photographic Society. He has created a large number of excellent photos. One of them, a picture of his wife (my daughter Rosemary), is given below:

I thank the readers of my blog; their visits to the site have given me great encouragement. Acknowledgement is also due to my family, and siblings, particularly Mathew and Hormis, for all their support.

A reader, Ronni Bennetty, said in a comment on my post Senior Citizens, blogging is a passport to good health: “Real friendships form among bloggers, as strong over time as in-person friendships. And with blogging, one's new friends might be anywhere in the world.” I have found this to be true, much to my happiness.

The Search Engines too have been kind to me except when I consciously try to create Search Engine Optimized (SEO) posts.

In conclusion, I am quite satisfied with what I have achieved during the first year of blogging. This is said with the full realization that I am still a beginner and have much more to learn.

I hope that more people would take up blogging. It is so rewarding in many ways.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Health, Gardening: Periwinkle, a wonder plant

Most of you would have seen the flowers shown on the left. It is periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus/ Vinca rosea), which belongs to the myrtle family. In Hindi the plant is called sadabahar, meaning ‘always in bloom’. The periwinkle flowers come in different colors. The plants grow wild in tropical areas. Now they are cultivated commercially because of their medicinal properties.

Interestingly, during the Middle Ages periwinkle was an essential ingredient in many magic potions. It was believed to have the power to dispel evil spirits. Consequently, the periwinkle plant with purple flowers was called by Europeans ‘sorcerer’s violet!

The pharmaceutical industry started discovering the value of periwinkle for treating several ailments only from the 1950s though it had been used in folk medicine in several countries for centuries. The reported medicinal qualities of periwinkle run into a long list. Here are some of them:

chemotherapy treatments for leukemia and Hodgkin's disease, managing blood pressure, diabetes, wasp stings, excessive bleeding, depression of central nervous system, circulatory disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, cold, cough, lung congestion and inflammation and sore throat, eye irritation and infections, digestive problems, muscle pain, wasp stings, eczema, and as tranquilizer and astringent. A warning: do not try any self medication with periwinkle.

Periwinkle is a good, easy to manage garden plant as well. It can be germinated from seeds, or cuttings can be planted. Sunlight or partial shade is required for proper growth. From our experience at Olavipe, the best planting distance is about two feet. It is drought resistant. The plant can grow up to three feet in height. Proper mixing of different colors, or clusters of single color, can have a stunning effect. Here are some photos of periwinkle from Olavipe :

Photos by me. Click on them for enlarged view.


Also see:
Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae) - flowers that gods and men love

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Emu farming in India

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is here. Not the wine, but the real thing, the birds. It is the national bird of Australia. (Kookaburra is the National Bird of New South Wales.) Emu, a flightless bird, is also the largest bird in Australia and the second largest in the world after its distant cousin, the ostrich. It can reach up to 6 ft (2m) in height and 66-100 pounds (30-45 kilograms) in weight.

The United States, China and Peru established emu farms sometime back but India started only in 1998. To day emu farms can be found in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Recently, Kerala too has got into the act. In May this year my brother Jacob at Olavipe bought three pairs each of emu chicks and fairly grown up ones, twelve altogether, on a trial basis. Photo of a little one which KO Isaac took at that time is given on the left. The chicks have grown pretty well. Pictures that I took last month are shown below:

Emus may look a bit shaggy but are really cute. And very active. They seem to play to the gallery. Whenever someone goes near the pen, the birds run around, do a bit of dance, and then come and stand near the visitor as if to ask ‘how do you like it?’ There was worry as to how they would withstand the monsoon at Olavipe, which was particularly heavy this year, but the birds came through well.

These birds can adapt to different climatic conditions, from low temperatures to hot locations and can thrive on even lands that are not suited for cultivation. Emu farming is not labor intensive and is compatible with other livestock rearing. The birds are also said to be highly disease resistant. Being heavy eaters, emus consume a lot of plants, and insects like crickets, caterpillars and grasshoppers. The food is supplemented with grain. The life span of the birds is 10-20 years.

Emus are grown commercially mainly for meat, which is low fat and low cholesterol. Almost 95 % of the birds are used for different products. Even the egg shells from which carvings and jewelry are made. And the eggs are beautiful, dark green and about the size of 15 chicken eggs. See the photo by my nephew Antony (PJA Tharakan) reproduced here:

For information on emu farming, you can contact:

Central Poultry Development Organisation

Government of India

Ministry Of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying

Aarey Milk Colony, Mumbai - 400 065

Telefax : 91-22-26858515 Telephone:91-22-26858572.
E-Mail :

Click on photos for enlarged view.


Also see:

Medicinal Plants: Noni (Morinda citrifolia) planting for profit?

Un-ploughed lies my land

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photos: Deepam (Light)

Traditional lamp at the heritage home of Thekkanattu Parayil Tharakans at Olavipe

Click on photos for enlarged view.
Copyright: TP, KO Isaac.
Also see:

Niraparayum Nilavilakkum

OLAVIPE: Heritage Home of Thekkanattu Parayil Tharakans.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Divine Strokes

What amazes me about the art of Lakshmi Krishnamurthy (Lakki) is her versatility, the range not only in subjects, but also in technique, medium and style. The array includes Lepakshi, illustrated manuscript, miniatures, glass painting, Tanjore, Mysore, Bengal, murals (both fresco and tempera), Warli, Pata Chitra, and Pithora.

The creations of this Chennai based artist conform to the traditional iconographic codes with their mythological and historic implications. At the same time, she introduces new expressions and interpretations with great finesse. She uses natural colors from rocks, earth and vegetable sources, and brushes from kora grass to squirrel hair. She learned the skills of making brushes and gold and natural colors from the legendary master, Sri Deoki Nandan Sharma.

Lakshmi Krishnamurthy’s training in art started with a course at the College of Fine Arts at the Kalashektra, Chennai. She was fortunate to work under Sri Sreenivasalu in the restoration of old Tanjore paintings during her student days. Even today she finds the time to do restoration work. That is a great service because, without such dedicated effort, many of the beautiful old paintings would be lost.

After Kalashektra, it was a sojourn to Kerala to study the Cochin Murals, ad then to Rajasthan, Banasthali Vidyapeeth, for Jaipur frescoes and temperas. Her unabated yearning for knowledge continues. In that sense she is still a student. She is also a research scholar, a guru who teaches art to many talented disciples, a visiting professor at Kalashektra, an expert in restoration of paintings, and a very good artist. Perhaps the best of her is yet to come.

Lakshmi Krishnamurthy has conducted several workshops and seminars. She has been associated with some major art related projects. She has held a number of exhibitions of her paintings in India and abroad.

Some of her paintings are reproduced below with her permission.

'The God of Love' (Glass)

'Intelligence' (watercolor on silk) 'Abundance' (oil on silk)

'Cognizance' (Tanjore)

'Vakrathunta' (glass)

'Aditya Hridayam' (Tanjore, glass, sheet metal embossing)

'The Kandamdana Parvatham' (Tanjore narrative)

'Tranquil' (Tempera)

Click on the images for enlarged view.

All the paintings are works of Lakshmi Krishnamurthy. Copyright reserved.


Also see:

Raja Ravi Varma: A movie on the Royal Painter