When Jack came home

Jack comes home, and no one is happy about it.

Last Sunday when I brought Jack home, it was my daughter (no more a teenager I could just brush off, for she is now an Engineering Graduate) exclaimed: ‘Don’t bring it inside. Either I stay or it.’

I pacified her saying: ‘When it ripens I will take it out’ so that the entire household is saved from the strong sweet smell a ripe jackfruit emanates.

For nearly a week it stayed wrapped in swathes of newspapers under the wooden cot. Every night it was taken out and moved to the front room. As the day began it was shifted back to its original resting place. It’s not an easiest fruit for  it gives off a strong odour, and oozes a thick white sap.

This morning wifey decided that the jackfruit, weighing around 10kgs, be cut and the fruit distributed to friends. Our three-room flat with all the windows and doors open smelt like a ‘phanas wadi’! There was no escaping its powerful smell of decay.

We all toyed with the question was: who will cut the fruit?

‘Let me call GN,’ said wifey.

GN is our family friend, originally from Kannur (Kerala) and now a Dombivali resident is an expert on cutting a jackfruit, at least better than any of us.

‘By the time she reaches us you all will be driven outdoors by the fruit’s strong odour,’ I said.

‘Just check youtube, may be there is a video,’ suggested by newly minted Engineer-daughter.

I thought at last the Moto G was being put to good use beside reddit.com and other websites she is always hooked to. Youtube did have the videos, the wikis its tutorials but all were about ‘how to cut an unripe jackfruit’ but none one ‘how to cut a ripened one’.

I got down to business smearing my palms with ground nut oil and ready with a serrated knife.

‘Slice it horizontally not vertically,’ advised my all-knowing wifey who has never handled a jackfruit. Her familiarity with the fruit is limited to seeing the fruit pods sold on carts.


I did her bidding thinking there was no harm doing it horizontally. As I sliced the fruit  open I realised it was a Koozha Chakka variety, as the Mallus call it. The fruits of which have small, fibrous, soft, mushy, but very sweet carpels unlike the Varika variety which are sold commercially, with crisp carpels of high quality.

The central core is just like a pineapple. I cut the bulbs from its base, pulled them out and removed chunk of the white fibres.  Then peeled back the white fibres (actually they are immature fruits) surrounding the fruit.

Looking at it wifey remarked, ‘See how the fruits too take so much care of their progeny…putting a wall of fibre around the fruit.’

I can say from my experience that it’s true that if you just eat 10 or 12 bulbs of this fruit, you don’t need food for another half a day. The fruit is rich in potassium, calcium, and iron, making it more nutritious than current starchy staples. In addition to its high nutritional value, the fruit is very versatile for the seeds, young fruit, and mature varieties are all edible.

Meanwhile James Joseph, founder of JackFruit365™, an initiative to create an organised market for jackfruits in India, writes in The Hindu that unripe jackfruit is a remedy for diabetes referring to a report published by U.P.K. Hettiaratchi, S. Ekanayake and J. Welihinda in Ceylon Medical Journal.

Sri Lanka is the only other place on earth where unripe jackfruit meal is also used as a carbohydrate replacement. “The study clearly showed a sharp decline in sugar level 30 minutes after meal consumption. The reasons cited are low sugar level in raw jackfruit combined with high dietary fibre. I got the nutritional values of unripe jackfruit tested and verified; it only has 1/5th the sugar of the ripe version and 60 per cent of its dietary fibre is insoluble,” he writes.

As cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Dr. Sriram Nene told Joseph, “Diabetes is on the order of an epidemic in India and the cure may lie in the humble jackfruit, which grows abundantly. While the Ceylon Medical Journal study has small numbers, its results are fairly provocative and should definitely stimulate added investigation in the use of unripe jackfruit as part of diabetic diet.”

My Young Beauties

It was a July noon some years back. The sky the colour of soiled aluminum and the air cool, thanks to the last night drizzle. They arrived at my iron gate travelling in a tempo dressed just in their socks. They were like the other 70 of them. As the day progressed the farm hands dug up wide holes in the wet ground, filled them with manure and planted each of them. For six long years, the summers with the sun beating unsparingly, the cool mornings of the winter months, the lazy and gentle days of spring and shedding leaf days of the autumn they grew steadily and today stand tall, have plenty of branches, look like an umbrella and with the new leaves resemble a bird in flight.


I call them my young beauties. My farm is their home and will continue to be for years to come, as long as I’m around.

The mango varieties I have are Mallika, Amrapali, Alphonso and Kesar. The first two are hybrid and the latter ones heirloom variety (or cultivars) of mangoes, around since ages.


What’s good about hybrids is that they are regulars unlike the cultivars which fruit once in two years. This year, my family and my close friends were all praise for the Mallikas and Amrapalis. In fact, I have been telling my farm friends that they should go for them. When I began six years back I didn’t know anything about plants, flowers and fruits but it was the nursery I sourced the saplings which insisted that I have the hybrids. I’m happy l listened to his sane advice.

Mallika, bred at the New Delhi’s Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and released in 1972, it holds the distinction of being the first two mango varieties along with Amrapali developed by breeding.  A cross between Neelum (female parent), which is a heavy yielding, regular bearing, late season variety of South India, and Dasheri (male parent), it bears fruits every year. The hybrid tends toward regular bearing, the fruits weighing around 300g are showier and are thicker of flesh than either parent, the flavour superior and keeping quality better. The fruits also have a moderate keeping quality. With a total soluble solids TSS content, a high percentage of pulp, fibrous flesh and fruit size of 300g.

A cross between Dasheri (female parent) and Neelum (male parent), the unique feature of Amrapali mango is that its trees are relatively dwarf and therefore easier to manage.  A regular bearer, the fruits are relatively smaller sized and are borne in clusters.  The keeping quality is good. The fruit is only medium in size; flesh is rich orange, fibreless, rich in vitamin A, sweet and 2 to 3 times as high in carotene as either parent.

There are various hybrid varieties of mango prepared by different institutes and universities in India. Some of the famous hybrid mango varieties are:

Mangeera, a cross between Rumani and Neelam, it’s a semi vigorous that has a regular bearing habit. The fruits are medium in size and it has light yellow coloured skin with firm and fibreless flesh. It is also very delicious and sweet in taste.

Ratna, a cross between Neelam and Alphonso, it’s a regular bearer and usually free from any spongy tissue. These are of excellent quality and medium in size. It looks deep orange in colour and the flesh of the fruit is fibreless.

Arka Aruna, a cross between Banganapalli and Alphonso it bears fruit regularly and is dwarf in stature. It can accommodate about 400 plants per hectare. The size of fruits is large and it has attractive skin colour. The pulp of fruit is fibreless and is sweet in taste.

Arka Puneet, a cross between Alphonso and the Banganapalli, it is a regular and prolific fruit bearing. The fruits of this variety are medium in size and posses attractive skin colour. The pulp of fruit is free from fibre and very sweet in taste

…erotic about them

It was while savouring pieces of Mallika and Amrapali mangoes laid in front of me in a large plate, it occurred to me that most progeny of mango hybrids in India had female names. Sample these names Ratna, Sindhu, Arka Aruna, Arka Puneet, Pusa Prathibha, Pusa Lalima and many others.

Is it because most horticulture scientists happen to be men? And thus responsible in christening the progeny.


Mangoes are the best-looking fruit around. Endowed with a very sensual shape (alphonso being too ovoid and langra, as if wrapped like a mummy, fail to be members of that club), posses a smooth, soft skin (Katrina Kaifs of the world would die to get a skin like them) and with the just the right amount of blush (you’re unlikely get it despite helpings from L’Oreal or Garnier). Their aroma is divine (if someone could make a perfume like that) ; you could hold one all day, caressing and sniffing at it. And still not get jaded. Thanks to its shape with a seed inside and the act of sucking it, the fruit, rightly so, has been eroticised.

One of his five flower-tipped arrows which Kamadeva, the Vedic cupid, is said to shoot at gods and humans alike holds a mango blossom, inspiring lust, love and the rainbow in between.

It was E M Forester who in A Passage to India referred to mango to a part of human anatomy. “For you,” Dr. Aziz tells Dr. Fielding in 1924 classic novel, “I shall arrange a lady with breasts like mangoes.”

Forester, I’m sure, was referring to the Totapuri.

Incidentally, the ‘queen of fruit’ happens to be an aphrodisiac? The Vitamin E in mangoes helps regulate sex hormones and boosts sex drive. With a low glycemic index, this delicious delicacy is unlikely to increase blood sugar levels, but it does increase one’s eco-sexiness

Kadamba—the May tree

May is the month when the kadamba tree (Neolamarckia cadamba) yields fruit—those yellow-orange ball-shaped fruit, the size of golf balls. It’s that month when the sun is really, really harsh. It also happens to be the month when most deaths due to the heat wave occur. It’s not the month when you would like to venture out in the open (contrary to the claims by sun-screen TV commercials).


If you do, do venture out early in the morning or late in the evening and tilt your neck towards the sky while standing below a tall kadamba tree. I’m sure you’ll see a marvel. The crown is a canopy of branches, like an outstretched palm with leaves sprouting all around, as if an umbrella held over you. If you lie and stretch yourself (not possible because kadamba trees are used as avenue trees in cities) you’re likely to be awe-struck by what I call the nature’s wonder. The marble-white of the sky peeping through the speckles of green, reminding you of an embroidered sari you inherited from your grandmother.

A favourite of Lord Krishna, kadamba tree and its flowers is consider a universal favourite among the Gods. In fact, the Mother Goddess Durga is said to reside in a kadamba forest—for she is lovingly called Kadamba Vana Vāsinī.

The fresh leaves are edible and a favourite fodder among cattle. The ornamental tree, used for soil reclamation sheds large amounts of leaf and non-leaf litter which on decomposition improves some physical and chemical properties of soil under its canopy.

The fragrant orange flowers attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds. Furthermore, this tree can grow best in alluvial sites like river-banks and in the transitional zone between swampy, permanently flooded and periodically flooded areas.

Come rains, the branches lashed by wind the kadamba fruit–by now ripe and coloured bronzed brown– drop on the earth, one by one. In the mornings you’ll see scores of them lying around. Of them, some will grow to be a tree continue the life cycle.

Adivasis of Chattisgarh believe that planting kadamba trees closer to lakes, rivers and ponds, brings happiness and prosperity.

Rabindranath Tagore mentioned the kadamba in one of his poem: Badal diner prothom kodom phul.

You offered me your first yield,
The fragrant Kadamba of monsoon
For my part, I bring you
My rainy tunes.

I have shielded them
With cool shadows, dim skies,
My first lyrical fruition

I know today offers you abounding harvest
But tomorrow will leave you bare

And so each monsoon,
My songs will come to life,
My boat will be heaped with your honour
My melodies, echo your glory
Riding on tides
Of your lost remembrance.

English Translation courtesy Anjan Ganguli (GEETABITAN)

Listen to the poem. https://youtu.be/JAnevYvrs68/ https://youtu.be/cNNgPwLDyds

Learning from folk wisdom

KS, my friend of two decades, an original inhabitant of Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh, was the one who introduced me to Ghagh. ‘His proverbs are still popular among old timers,’ he told me. and went on to give me some examples.

Weather forecasts, predictions of rain, use of  organic fertlisers in farming, behaviour of birds/cattle/insects prior to rain, interpreting the signs of the seasons, folk perceptions of astronomy and other facets of environmental knowledge systems are interwoven inseparably with everyday peasant life in the world of Gagh-Bhaddar proverbs or Dak vachan. These vachans have been in circulation in the region of north eastern part of Bihar, popularly known as ‘Mithila’, since 14th-15th century A.D.

These proverbs and folk sayings have been preserved and passed down from generation to generation in oral tradition and show that the same kernel of wisdom may be gleaned under different cultural conditions and languages.

With time these proverbs, constituting a domain of ‘rustic wisdom’, have been found in languages like Bangla, Awadhi, Kannaujia etc.

Who was Dak? Interestingly, no one has been able to identify him but the consensus is that he was a Maithil Brahmin. Dak studied the heavenly bodies, the change of seasons beside being gifted observer of nature and human beings too.

The first Maithili compilation of these sayings is Kapileshwar Jha’s Dakvachanamrit published from Darbhanga, Bihar in 1905.

In 1931, Ram Naresh Tripathi brought out the most comprehensive collection of these sayings. Writes Sadan Jha in Many Worlds of Dak Vachan: Proverbial Knowledge and the History of Rain and Weather , published by Surat-based Centre for Social Studies that Tripathi “… with an objective to revive the agrarian condition, he travelled across the country, collected sayings personally or received entries by post, searched for them in the library and also wished that the Government had paid some attention to the peasant’s knowledge of rain by establishing a separate department to maintain an account of the environment of Paus and Magh.”

Reading Dak Vachan in the 21st century can be really instructive for those who practice organic farming or those intending to do non-chemical farming. The principles and methods of farming continue to remain the same: don’t harm the Earth for profit or greed.

Here is a selection of some vachan’s:

On rain

Phagu karaai, chait chuk, kirttik nattahi taar,

Swati nattahi makh til, kahi gae Daak Goar.

“If it rains in the month of Phagun (February-March) urid is spoilt; if in the month of Chait (March-April) lemons; if in the asterism of Krittika (about middle of May) the toddy palms; and if in that of Swati (latter part of October) beans and sesame; says Dak, the Gowaala.

Shukrabar ki badri, rahi shanichar Chay,

To youn bhakhaey bhaddari, bin barse na jay.

If the clouds which had appeared on Friday continue to be present on Saturday, says Bhaddari that there is likelihood of a heavy downpour.

Aage ravi peeche chale, mangal jo ashad,

Toh barseanmol hi prthvi anandayee bar.

If in the month of ashadh Mars follows the Sun it will result in good rains resulting in joyous celebrations.

Jo badri badar ma khamse,

Kahin bhaddari pani barseey.

Says Bhaddari if one bunch of cloud breaches the other it’s likely to rain.

On distancing the crop

Kark Buwaee Kakri, Singh abolo jai,

Aesa bole bhaddari, keeda phir khaye

Sowing cucumber during the period of zodiac sign of cancer rather than during Leo, says Bhaddari, the crop will repeatedly by attacked by pests.

Gajar, ganji muri, Teeneu boway doori

Radish, sweet potato and carrot should be sown at a distance.

On oxen behaviour

Pariba bahe dhurandhar, chhati aathain har jay,

Chaudah chauthi amabaas, ayalo har bithaaya,

Barda mute khet dahay, khasai khet jaun barad paray,

Gora jhar ki mura jhar, taun nahi nik jaun khasai faar,

Issa tutai sun ho kor, laagan tutai barad le chor,

Jua tutai ta subh hoya, ‘dak’ kahaichhathi nischint soya,

Khur singh samati liya, bahu sukh kari manahi diya.

Related to a ritual known as har thaadh karab (meaning placing the plough in standing position; thaad in Maithili also means putting to rest or break in motion) symbolically marking the commencement of the agricultural season and the day falls on magh sudhi shir panchami (which is normally in mid January). On this day, plough and oxen are taken inside the inner-courtyard (angan) and un-husked rice discharged over it. Following this ritual plough along with oxen are blessed (chumaun) and considered ready for the agrarian task. During this ritual if the ox urinates then the field is likely to be devastated by floods. If it drops poos (cowdung) then there is likelihood of a low yield. If its feet or ears itch or it drops on the ground—these are ominous signs of bad times ahead. Dak says if it scatters the soil here around with its horns or toes then the house keeper will have a pleasant time tending to the fields.

On easterly wind

Purwa par jaun pachhwa bahai, bihansi ranr bat karai,

Eh donon ke ihai bichar u barsai i karai bhatar.

If the west wind blows during purwai (easterly) and if a widow chats

and smiles, one may surmise that in the former case it will lead to a downpour and in the latter the widow may get married soon.

On organic farming

Jekar khet parrey na gobar,

Unhi kisan ko jano dubar.

The farmer who can’t afford to use cow dung in his fields is considered a poor farmer.

Wohi kisanon mein hai pura. Jo chodey haddi ka chura

The one who uses bone and flesh meal in his fields can be regarded as a genuine farmer.

Gobar mael neem ki khali. Inse kheti dooni phalli.

Using cow dung, farmyard manure and neem kernel waste is likely to result in more yields.

On mulching

Gobar maela pati sadey. Tab kheti mein dana parrey.

When cow dung, farm yard manure and leaf litter decompose it gives a good yield.


Proverbs courtesy Gagh Aur Bhaddari ki Kahavaten (Dak Vachan), Edited by Devnarayan Diwedi, Diamond Books; and Many Worlds of Dak Vachan: Proverbial Knowledge and the History of Rain and Weather by Sadan Jha, Centre for Social Studies.


Chandrabhaga Jackfruit

The first time I heard of ‘Chandrabhaga’ was while listening to Bhimsen Joshi’s soulful rendition of the abhang Majhe Maher Pandhari, Aahe Bhiware cha teere…
River Bhima which flows through Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana is renamed  as Chandrabhaga when it enters Pandharpur. On its banks is the famed Vitthal Temple. It’s so called as it is shaped like a half moon. Interestingly, it’s also known as Bhiware.
The second time I heard it was yesterday, when my dear friend Devidas Vaidya appeared in my office with a good-looking and a full of life jackfruit sapling and handing it over said: “This is the Chandrabhaga variety.”
Travelling with a sapling in a bus from Sirsi to Mumbai was a task in itself, as Vaidya recounted: “I boarded a sleeper coach bus and ensured that the sapling was standing and erect during the entire journey. I bought it from a nursery run by one NN Hegde of Krishi Bharati, who told me that it was a grafted one and if it snapped it would die. If it didn’t it would remain a seedling one.”
I googled the name but didn’t come across such a variety. “It’s a popular variety in the North Karnataka districts and I still remember my mother making kottae idli using it leaves,” said DV.
Kottae Idli is prepared by putting the dough in a receptacle made of green Chandrabhaga leaves and then steamed. It is then served with a dish made of sprouted moong.
As I recounted the story of the sapling wifey remarked: “A new task. Now I’ve to learn to make kottae idli.”

Terdal’s Banana Bounty

Terdal (16.5°N 75.05°E.) is a bustling municipal town of 30,000 residents in Jamkhandi taluka of Karnataka’s Bagalkot district. Lying on the Jamkhandi- Miraj road on National Highway 53, it’s one of the many so-called towns—a hybrid made up of a village and a wannabe town—one comes travelling on the highway. There no malls or multiplex here. Yes, it does boast of a polytechnic and an Ayurveda college.

If there is anything the town is famous for it’s the Terdal Shree Allamprabhu temple. Try googling “Terdal” and you’re likely to come across scores of entries related to banks IFSC code, Just Dial numbers and the name of the local MLA. The nearest big town is Jamkhandi, 18kms from Terdal while Sangli (Maharashtra) is 80kms away.

Siddappa with nephew Prabhu
Dhareppa with nephew Prabhu

Kitturs of Terdal, a family  of farmers, are writing the bright story of farming. A media which feeds on sensationalism has totally ignored the success stories scripted by the farmers nationwide. The Kitturs are believed to be originally from Kittur in Belgaum—famous for Rani Chennamma of the State of Kittur (1778–1829) who fought the British East India Company, during which a British Commissioner, St John Thackeray was killed. Prabhu Kittur, Dhareppa’s (23) nephew, is the recipient of Krishi Yuva Samman Farmer of the Year 2015 (Youth) Award, an initiative of the Mahindra Group, for his innovative farming technique of growing tissue culture bananas, using organic methods and drip irrigation. Like most youth of his age Prabhu likes to watch Hindi movies but is not able to string together enough Hindi words to form a sentence unlike his father. “My nephew dropped out of school after seventh standard and has been doing farming since then. He was just six month old when my brother, Siddapa, died” says Dhareppa (46).

The Kittur family owns 19 acres. In one such acre Prabhu planted some 1800 G9 Banana tissue culture saplings in August 2013 and had a bumper crop 67,600kg of bananas. The irrigation was through drip organic fertilizers included vermicompost, Jeevamrut, Panchgavya, goat dung and biogas plant slurry was fed to the crop. The eleven-month crop was harvested in the month of August. In the rest 18 acres, the Kitturs grow vegetables, turmeric, onion, methi, palak etc. “We acquired sapling for Rs 10 each and intercropped it with marigold and chilli which also fetched us a good price,” says Dhareppa who sells the harvest at Terdal market on his own. “Marigold and Chilli gave us an additional Rs 60,000 and that too without any any added expenses.”

A farmer who likes to experiment, Dhareppa who never completed his schooling sells what he calls “organic milk” at a price of Rs 40 a litre. He has installed a biogas plant which takes care of his cooking gas requirement. “I take lot of care of my 15 cows and 10 goats give them proper cattle field,” says he. After having read an article in a local newspaper about scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose’s experiment with plants Dhareppa has been playing music to his cattle and the crops since last ten years. “Between 10pm and 4am every day I play recorded instrumental classical music and have seen an increase in the yields by 10 per cent,” Dhareppa concludes.