Friday, 26 June 2015

An unexpected delight!

Last evening I went to a handicrafts fair at Chitra Kala Parishat (the College of Fine Arts), and in addition to all the amazing stuff I saw (some of which I bought), I also got to experience this:

Folk singers from Rajasthan! I've always loved their music (well, not ALWAYS, just since the '90s), and together with the green and rocky setting of CKP, they made my evening magical. Just felt like sharing this with you, even though my videography leaves much to be desired.

There are two better videos but I couldn't upload them here, so have put them on YouTube instead. You can see them here:

The nicest video (also the most problematic to upload!)

The second-nicest video

They're singing Mast Qalandar, a well known Sufi song. It's usually sung in Qawwali style, and I think it became more popular after Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sang it. Here's another version that starts in quite a different style by another singer, Abida Parveen. Her intro is more Hindustani classical, with all the vocal improv upon a particular scale/raga.

I don't know much about it, and can only understand a few of the lyrics, but the song itself is about the Prophet Muhammad's nephew Hazrat Ali.

I like the way it sounds.

Canine genitalia? Buy one, get one free!

When I was a schoolgirl, I called them "dog's dick flowers". Anthurium were not as common as they are today, nor did we have all the different varieties and hybrids I saw in the nursery last week, just good old pink and white (yes, dog's-dick-pink). I guess I must be grown up after all, because their flowers don't seem as phallic as they did thirty-odd years ago. No embarrassed giggles, just a big beaming grin when I brought home all this:

Five beautiful colours - purple, white, baby pink, light orange and scarlet. (The one in the middle that looks different is a type of bromeliad - I'll have more to say about it, but not today. I'll also have more to say about the terracotta pots in the corner, which constitute my composter).

Apart from the bromeliad, my shopping strategy was "buy one, get one free", and so I chose plants that had already started to divide. From six pots of anthurium, I ended up with nineteen individual plants! And two pots of parsley aralia (at the bottom of the picture) have given me umpteen cuttings that I have already tucked in to bed and hope to raise more than enough aralia to make some pretty borders in the garden downstairs.

But back to the anthurium - nicknamed the flamingo flower - which apparently is native to Colombia. It likes humid conditions and good drainage, but not direct sunlight, which makes it a good indoor potted plant, as well as a pretty addition to shady areas in the garden. I stirred up a nice batch of potting mix with coco peat, soil, manure, home-made compost, perlite, charcoal and pot shards this evening, and have just finished potting my indoor anthurium. The charcoal, perlite and pot shards give the roots more air and space, and help keep the pot draining well, so the plants should like this. I even dampened some cotton wool and carefully wiped down the leaves to clean them. I'll only do that once in a while - too often would be too much. As with fertiliser - anthurium don't need any for at least a year after planting, if you use a good potting mix, they'll be fine on their own.

The ones for the garden will have to wait for the weekend, when I plan to plant some of them around one of our big old trees, and the rest to spruce up a rather pathetic and unloved long narrow plot round the back. But I'll need to enlist the help of Mr. Arasu and his good strong knees to get the plots dug and cleared and ready.

Meanwhile, the indoor anthuriums are all settled in, in some very pretty pots I picked up earlier this week - the white ones are all from my favourite haunt Krishnendra Nursery, and the other two I picked up from a roadside stall just outside the Catholic cemetery!

And here's what transformed my living room tonight:


Saturday, 20 June 2015

What is a gun?

What is a gun?
It's a medal for fear.
It says to the world,
"Don't come too near!
Don't give me your god, germs, or your DNA.
I don't want to feel threatened,
get out of my way."

The potential to hold one
against someone's head
is what keeps your bogeyman
safely under your bed.
If you'd only exorcise
your own fears instead,
perhaps there'd be less people dead.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Earth galore!

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging for a while, is my latest addiction:  gardening! After wasting a lot of time and energy looking for a new place to live, I decided to give the old place a second chance - and turned my attention to the common garden surrounding our flats. The building association does as little as it can, so the garden has been left to its own devices for the last few years, and the crazy cat lady whose home and clothes reek of eau de piss continues to live undisturbed (but that's another story)!

The garden was the more pleasant task to take upon myself, and so I have been digging, weeding, pruning, and repotting with much joy for the past two months, never mind the mosquito bites and undeserved attacks by the roses and bouganvilleas.

It's a medium-sized garden all the way around the building, so I've been tackling it a bit at a time. Here's some pictures from one corner that is more or less "done":

Before .. 
While it looked nice and green, most of that was weeds. There were some crocuses and lilies struggling in a corner, two resilient but not very nurtured dracaena (that's druh-SEE-na, on the left, with reddish leaves), and a lovely jasmine creeper my mom had donated a while back.

After clearing all the weeds (this is an on-going process, as I refused to use weed-killer, and obviously didn't get all the roots on the first round), and rescuing all the bulbs, I made little round plots for the bigger plants and invested in some ridiculously expensive fake plastic picket fencing and some delightful bright kalanchoe (kal-an-KO-hee). The crocus and lily bulbs were replanted in front of them.

 I found some lovely monstera (the big green leaves) growing neglected in a broken pot, and shifted them here.  The jasmine creeper started blooming madly within a week of all the attention!

The gentleman in the next picture is Mr. Arasu, my mom's gardener, without whom this garden would never have made it! We make a good team, and his knees are much better than mine, so he does all the digging and groundwork. He's ex-Lalbagh, and has years of experience (except with his pruning, which horrifies me), and gets very sad every time I ask him to uproot anything that clearly isn't a weed. Those are scented geranium (pelargonium) in his hands - they went upstairs to the terrace, to flank the benches there, where our senior citizens like to sit every evening.

The neighbours often asked what happened to the "lawn":  I guess green weeds look nicer than plain brown earth - but with Bangalore's water problems there's no way I'm putting a lawn - weed or grass - back in. So this is what I did instead, and we all love it:

I'm now keeping my eyes open for more discarded tiles, and also got my mind set on some lovely river pebbles I saw at a local nursery, so I can extend the pathway further down.

If you're wondering what's filling up the plot at the base of the jasmine, it's eucalyptus bark, which makes good mulch (unlike eucalyptus leaves, which have too much oil). We have two gorgeous eucalyptus trees growing outside our compound, so I get a regular supply dropped off daily: crunch it up and fill the plots with it - mulch that keeps the water in for longer, and also discourages insects and weeds.

But now the sun has peeped out - it's been a drizzly day - and I must take advantage of this to head back downstairs and do some potting!

Thursday, 11 June 2015