Wednesday, June 30, 2010

29 June 2010 - Bakasuramalai

Govindharajan, District Manager-Nilgiris, of Tantea Corporation, needed to check a tea plantation in the vicinity of Bakasura Malai where it is believed there are ancient mysterious caves that can take you to Mysore and other faraway places.  He took us along for the view and a picnic.

Bakasura Malai is also known as Droog Fort, built by Tipu Sultan of the Kingdom of Mysore in the 18th century to fight wars with various adversaries, including the British.  Parts of the stone wall are still there.  It is now located in the Non Such tea plantation and was a 1.5 km climb on rugged trail for us.  I think if you were not guests of tea-plantation folks, it would be a much longer trek as we were able to drive through Non Such plantation, ya know?

We drove to Govindharajan's office at the Tiger Hill factory.  The scene as we approached was breathtaking since the fog had settled down into the valley.
Tiger Hill factory of Tantea where Govindharajan's office is
Gopal and Raju with Tantea employees who report to Govindharajan.
Raju at Bakasura Malai
Raju on the left, Govindharajan 3rd from the left, and Tantea employees who accompanied us
View-point structure at the top of the hill.  If the clouds had not accompanied us, the views would have been incredible.  The hike up there is so rigorous, I can't imagine doing it again soon, ya know?
Stopping for water on the way down
I tried to help this guy who was carrying these pots of water and tea.  But I guess it would have been unseemly and inappropriate for him to accept help from me.  (The smile is for having his picture taken.)
Gopal ahead on the trail.  The plants on either side are 'pruned' tea trees.  Tea trees on tea plantations are actually bonsai trees, since they naturally grow to 70-80 feet tall.  The trees scattered around are silver oaks which are in every treed plantation since they absorb extra water in the soil and provide shade.
This is the view from our SUV on the way home.  I wanted to show you how HORRIBLE the road is, but failed.  The bumping along violently actually made us sick to our stomachs.  My little Maruti would never had survived this road.
This is Raju backed by a typical tea plantation scene.  All the following photos are our views as we rode home.

27 June 2010 - Visited Shriya and Atul in Ooty

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, but did get this one of Shriya.  (Atul is very camera-shy.)
Shriya and Atul, our neighbors in Boys Company, have now moved to Ooty, about 14 kms away.  On Sunday, Gopal, Raju and I went over to visit them in their new home.  After Gopal, Raju and I took the kids to the botanical garden nearby, it rained so hard without stopping, so we raced home in the rain through street rivers in our good shoes.  It was fun.  Vijay came home for lunch, and Shemi served us a very lovely vegetable biriyani lunch.

We had a great day with them, and then I drove home.  It was raining, and the drive was challenging as usual.  I'm getting there (slowly).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

23 June 2010 - Pradosham at Kalyani and Ramanan's home

This is the Ramanan's puja room, during Pradosham
Pradosha puja is one of the most sacred and important among the pujas performed by Shivites to the Lord Shiva.

/This puja lasts four hours and the Ramanans perform it twice a month.  After the puja, we guests are served a dinner of prasadam.  This time, the Ramanans had been to Australia and Singapore for over six months and had just returned.  We had since moved away from Brooklands to Bedford.  It's good to have them back.

Car dieties

Every self-respecting Indian car has a diety proudly displayed, as well as every bus, truck and autorickshaw..  Sheila gave me the Ganesh having from the rearview mirrow.  Gopal bought our trilogy of gods for the dashboard.
Lackshmi (wealth), Ganesh (new beginnings), and Saraswati (learning)

20 June 2010 - Kodanadu's View Point

Raju, Gopal, Govindharajan, and Aishwarya
Kodanadu's View Point is near Kotagiri in the Nilgiri Mountains, about 15-20 kms from our house.  Govindharahan and his daughter Aishwarya took us there.  We had been there once before, but it was misty and the views were limited.  This time the views were vast and wonderful. 

We had a good time on our little road trip.  They are a lot of fun.
(When we first arrived, there was a young monkey carrying her tiny dead baby around, grooming it.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We got a car

We bought a 2006 Maruti Alto
This is for perspective.  It's really tiny.  It's a nice little car, and
I am now driving in India!!!    Aaaaaahhh!

There are no rules of the road.  Anything (and everything goes) utter and dangerous chaos.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Island Trust's Community Care Centre for HIV/AIDS infected people

On Thursday, 10 June, Dr. Sheila and I went to Island Trust’s Community Care Centre in Ooty, a center for people suffering from HIV and AIDS.  A doctor sees these people at the center, and some of them live there or spend several days at a time for treatment.  The regular doctor was away, so Sheila came to fill in.  I drove her there (but that’s another story).

Jerald Anand and Dr. Sheila at the front door of the center
Mrs. Puwaneswari Packianathan, the Counselor (and backbone of the Centre)
Jerald Anand, Coordinator
Mrs. Packianathan in the Counselor's office
Some of the stats
Since most of the patients are day laborers, when they have to spend overnights at the center, they don't eat until they go back to work and get paid.  So, when they leave the center, Mrs. Packianathan gives them one of these bags, containing lentils, beans, rice, millet, etc.  She also provides transportation money, backpacks, and sometimes books for their children.  She also cooks greens for them.

The funding for the clinic comes from the government agency, TANSACS, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society.  Anything not covered by those funds, the staff tries to solicit from individuals - like cataract surgeries, cardiac surgeries, any treatments outside their funding.

The center has two floors.  The ground floor is reception, counseling office, etc.  The upstairs is the residential care part.  While we were there, two young women came and met with the coordinator.  One thing that is common in the rural villages is that the infected wife gets thrown out of the village to fend for herself.  Mind you, her husband has infected her and has been sick for years or may have died.  But SHE gets thrown out because somehow they reason that she has been unfaithful to her husband and is therefore a slut.  Needless to say, they have absolutely no clue about HIV and AIDS.  So, Dr. Sheila can do outreach and education in Badaga (tribal) villages since she is a doctor and she speaks Badaga.

There are no pictures here of patients for privacy reasons.  The patients staying at the center are incredibly sick and ematiated, since they don't get diagnosed until they are extremely sick.  One woman's husband had died 17 years earlier, she had been so sick for the last ten years she took her 12-year-old daughter out of school so she could go to work supporting the family.  She works construction which means she carries pans of rocks and dirt on her head to the men on the construction sites.  She was there looking after her mother. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Badaga Shivalingam temple in Coonoor

I took this exciting picture from the street before entering. Never knew it existed.
The line to the temple starts on the left, circles all the way around, ending where the lady in red is standing.
After the visit to the Shiva lingam, you receive prasadam (a mental condition of generosity, as well as a material substance that is first offered to a deity (in Hinduism) and then consumed. -- from Wikipedia) at various places, going to sit for a short period on the hillside above.


This temple only opens one day a year, and that day was yesterday. My friend, Sheila, took me upon our return home from the clinic yesterday. I never knew this temple existed, and it's within easy walking distance of the house. Very special.

Humility in a Climate Age - Paul Wapner

Tikkun offered the following article and welcome clarifying perspective by Paul Wapner, director of the Global Environmental Politics program at American University. His most recent book is Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism (MIT Press 2010).

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Nilgiris Dioica Tree

This is the tree I have been doing yoga under, and I am in love with it. The sign on the tree says it is a Nilgiris Dioica Tree. The genus listed took me to the Omnu from South America. This is how Wikipedia explains it.

The ombú is a massive evergreen herb native to the Pampas of South America. The tree has an umbrella-like canopy that spreads to a girth of 12 to 15 meters (40 to 50 feet) and can attain a height of 12 to 18 meters (40 to 60 feet). The ombú grows fast but being herbaceous its wood is soft and spongy enough to be cut with a knife. Because of this, it is also used in the art of bonsai, as it is easily manipulated to create the desired effect. Since the sap is poisonous, the ombú is not grazed by cattle and is immune to locusts and other pests. For similar reasons, the leaves are sometimes used as a laxative or purgant. It is a symbol ofUruguay and Argentina, and of Gaucho culture, as its canopy is quite distinguishable from afar and provides comfort and shelter from sun and rain. The fireproof trunk also stores water for the large fires.The tree is categorized in the same genus as the North American pokeweed. The species is also cultivated in Southern California as a shade tree.

It is my understanding that the Taj Hotel was originally lodging for the monks at the very old All Saints Church next door and that some of these exotic trees were planted then.

These are spider plants someone planted around the base of the tree. Isn't that gorgeous?

See how branches that look like roots grow up out of the bigger branches? It's like an upside down banyan tree.