Ungardening

The biblical garden of Eden is supposed to represent an idyllic life, perfect and complete. The word “garden” here represents the perfect world that God created, not the work of man. Since then we have had the hanging gardens of Babylon,  Mughal gardens in India and Pakistan, perfectly maintained gardens of royalty and rich people in  Europe,  Zen gardens, and others. These are man-made, and for the most part unnatural.

Man is always trying to improve on Nature. This wasn’t always regarded as good. Take “Yoga-sutras of Patanjali” from several thousand years ago. The first two statements are

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Right at the beginning Patanjali says that Yoga is not about doing complex and hard things so that we become more and more better. It is about quieting the mind, and in the stillness realising the perfection within and around us.

Mansobu Fukuoka, Japanese microbiologist and farmer philosopher, realized that nature is perfect, and man cannot improve on it. Of course, in his earlier years, he was intensely focussed on his work, and would sometimes faint in his lab. But later he gave up on science, to come up with natural farming.

Our faith in science is not constant. It changes, and most often, as we grow older, we become a little more cynical, and less impressed by the promise of science.

Reverting back to original nature, and like Fukuoka san, trying to find and eliminate unnecessary tasks, has become harder. Right from seeds, to water, to soil, man has manipulated and degraded them. But then, one has to start somewhere, to remove the layers of maya (manipulations by man), and see nature, the way God created.

In a small corner of the terrace garden, we just put back the organic matter from plants grown earlier, along with some rabbit manure, and planted some seeds. The idea was to “ungarden”, let the plants, soil, sun, wind, water, insects, birds, and micro-organisms interact. No space calculations, no attempt to find out if one plant suited the other, no careful tending, or maintaining straight lines.

garden

Garden

The soil here is about a feet and half deep, and two feet wide. Water is mostly high TDS (total dissolved solids), mixed with chlorinated water from the river, that fortunately comes only once in two weeks. Salty bore well water is better than the heavily chlorinated river water, for microbial life in the soil.

Pumpkin with big leaves, and a few yellow (male flowers) dominates the space. Small yellow pumpkins are present. Mixed with this, is okra, lab lab (Dolichos bean/hyacinth bean), thin (foxtail millet), kambu/ pearl millet, பொன்னாங்கண்ணி கீரை (ponnanganni keerai, Alternanthera sessilis or ficoidia),  a red leaved type of Alternanthera, butterfly pea (Sangu pushpam/Clitoria ternatea), sunflowers, and a few others.

Here’s the bluish-purple flower of butterfly pea.

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Sangupushpam flower

There’s a wasp drinking nectar from a tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica,  Mexican butterfly weed).

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Wasp on Mexican butterfly weed

Okra (Ladys finger) plant, with pods, and a flower.

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Okra flower

Lab lab flowers.

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Lab lab flowers

Ponnanganni keerai plant. Several plants are called Ponnanganni, this is one of them. The leaves are cooked and eaten. Here’s another one with red leaves. If drier and sunnier, the leaves become more red, but remain small.

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Ponnanganni (green)

ponn_red

Ponnanganni (red)

Yellow karisalanganni (Sphagneticola calendulacea ) plant, its leaves when crushed, become black. This is used to dye hair, either alone or mixed with Hibiscus flowers, or Indigo leaves.

karislaganni_yellow

Karislaganni (yellow flowered)

There is another plant with white flowers, that is also called karisalanganni (Eclipta prosata). Athough these grow easily, it is hard to find these plants.

The Musumusukkai (Mukia maderaspatana) plant’s leaves are used for colds. It is also cooked and eaten as a green.

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Musumusukkai

Brinjal (eggplant) with light purple flowers.  There are so many varieties, some of them grow very tall, and produce profusely. But now this is a target plant for genetic manipulation.

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Brinjal

A honey bee landing on a (male) pumpkin flower.

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Honeybee in pumpkin flower

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Pumpkin flower

The Veldt grape plant in a different part of the garden, is back in bloom. The red fruits haven’t attracted any birds. The leaf and stem of this plant, if eaten raw will make the throat itch. The oxalate crystals scratch the throat. But properly cooked with tamarind and coconut, this makes a tasty chutney.
Not many pollinators visit this plant, in the cooler weather.

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Veldt grape flowers

Kuppai keerai, (குப்பைக்கீரை,   Amaranthus viridis) another weed, that grows profusely, and is used as a green.

kuppai

Kuppai keerai

Cardiospermum halicacabum (balloon plant, modakathan) is used for arthritis and joint inflammation.

modakathan

Balloon plant

The yellow flowers of nalvelai plant (Cleome viscosa, நல்வேளை) attracts several types of honey bees. There is also a white variety Cleome gynandra.

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Nalvelai (yellow)

Several dwarf honey bees on this sunflower. There are a lot of other sunflowers, that bees seem to avoid. May be those are poor hybrids, that don’t have honey.

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Sunflower with honey bee

A couple of birds visit the garden. There is a finch. And a sunbird.
finch

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Sunbird

Babblers, red-vented bulbuls, mynahs, and Indian robins come occasionally. Swallows and bee-eaters catch dragonflies in flight.

There’s a red bug on a balloon plant.

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Red bug (juvenile)

An orange cucumber beetle.

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Cucumber beetle

And a tiny beetle on a leaf.

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Tiny black beetle

Fly with honey bee style stripes.

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Fly with honeybee like stripes

The bugs are no longer plentiful. With more houses and high rises coming up, with use of pesticides for ants and termites, and with a “cleaner” culture and top-down control, insects are seen as a nuisance. Some are afraid of the biblical plague of locusts. Grasshoppers and locusts are eaten in some places. A fully grown hen would eat a quarter kilogram of insects a day or more. The babblers that come to the garden are finding it difficult to get small cockroaches and crickets. There are not many nesting sites either, for the birds.

Once I took a caterpillar of the tiger butterfly from one Mexican butterfly weed plant (which was totally stripped off), and put it on another plant of the same species, but the caterpillar just shrivelled and died. Fukuoka san mentions that in some cases the yield improves with insect infestation. The insects provide an useful service of thinning out plants of the same species. The caterpillar doesn’t even move to another plant of the same species, it just stays on one, strips it bare, and lets the other non-infested plants thrive.

With less insects, there is no buzz of the bees. No butterflies flitting from flower to flower. No dragonflies. There are less birds. No lively chirping to wake us up in the morning. Some of the plants  bred through radiation-induced mutation, or mutation from chemical stress, are not attractive to the insects, even if the flowers are colourful.

Technology is not all bad, but forcing everyone to overdose on it, all the time, may not be right. We need unadulterated nature as a reference, to know if technology has really improved things, or not.

By removing the layers of manipulation by Man, going back to native plants, mixing up several varieties of seeds, introducing animal and bird manure, and letting the soil remain covered with dried leaves, and twigs, we can ungarden. The plants thrive, insects create a lively buzz, and the birds seek out seeds, nectar, and insects. The un-gardened patch, comes alive, enlivening our spirit, and enriching our souls.

Tribal Resilience

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Who wouldn’t want to be resilient, relaxed, able to enjoy life, when it throws unexpected surprises. To be resilient, is to be aware, even if subconsciously, the base that sustains us, mostly hidden, unknowable, but pervasive. Who exemplifies this better than the tribals.

A tribal who enters the forest, does not carry anything, not even a stick. Now, tribals live in the forests, so there is little to separate his habitation, or farm from the forest. But for argument sake, let’s assume he leaves his house, and enters the forest. A modern man, would want a rifle. Lest he encounter a bear, or a leopard. Why doesn’t the tribal carry a knife, or a stone, or a stick? The reason is subtle. By carrying a stick, the tribal separates himself from the forest. That separation reduces his awareness of the forest around him. He is no longer tuned to the life under his feet, the elephants nearby, or to the smells of a leopard. This awareness prevents any surprise encounter.
But there is a deeper reason. When you carry a stick or a stone, you carry fear. Just the very act of holding the stick, creates a subconscious fear. This is against modern belief. After all, every kid, locked up in a dreary classroom, dreams of the Westerns, the wild, wild west of America, where cowboys, get to their guns in a jiffy, and shoot the bad guy down. This action, of putting your hand on the gun, in the holster, drawing it out in a fraction of a second, and boom-boom – that it seems to the kids, is what bravery is about.

A police officer in America, walks to a car stopped for, say over-speeding, with his hand on the gun holster. Or an officer on night duty, would use the lights on his car to focus on some window on an apartment. When someone appears at that window, he quickly draws his gun, laser sight on target, ready to fire. Heroic? Perhaps so, for the modern man. But for a tribal, this represents fear. What about a deer? Does it live in perpetual fear of tigers? They don’t. If a deer senses a tiger has just had a full meal, it will frolic around, without fear. Forest life is full of life and death, but the kind of fear, we assume is all too common, is not so. When it comes to humans, in a forest, that is not broken by modern progress and attitudes, there is not much to fear. No animals have humans on their diet. Only if one encounters a bear with a cub, the bear is likely to charge. For a tribal who lives without fear, even this encounter is manageable. All other animals would leave humans alone – tigers, leopards, elephants, or wild buffalo.

Speaking of elephants, tribals had no fear of them. There would be absolutely no conflict between the elephants and the tribals. Elephants are very intelligent. When they enter a tribal farm, who do they use to guide the elephants out, back into the forest? A small child will go in front of the elephant herd, directing it away from the cultivated crops, while the rest of the tribals hold burning sticks, and occasionally beat drums. Today they are annoyed by high intensity flashlights, fire crackers, and sometimes gunfire. With electric fences, and “elephant-proof” trenches, the relationship between man and elephant is gone. For a determined elephant electric fences or elephant-proof trenches are minor nuisances, easily overcome. It would use a wooden stick to push down an electric fence, or kick dirt into a trench and cross it. Even non-tribal people who understand its intelligence, would simply do a respectful namaste, to the (elephant) God, or Raja, and walk on without fear. Why allow all that, when technology can take care of minor nuisances, like elephants.
A tribal in his seventies or eighties, will walk in the forest barefoot, without fear. Their food was nutritious, and herbs were available for all illnesses. There is a tribe in south India, that used to eat around 60 different grains and vegetables. The actual number may be much higher, 60 would be the number of the most popular grains and vegetables. But now, it is mostly ration shop rice. Unable to cultivate the land, because they don’t “own” it, and unable to access forest resources, they suffer from malnutrition. After “interacting” with plains people, fertility rates of women have gone down 30%, in case of some tribes, it is even 80%.

So it is not just laws against hunting, that prevent them from getting the required nutrition. The laws against hunting derive from English poaching laws. Most of the English countryside were under the control of royalty, anyone else taking anything from the land would be regarded a poacher. If tribal poaching is a problem, why is it that the tribal regions are rich in wildlife. Or rather it used to be. Until the English, to show their “manliness”, got into hunting tigers. The wildlife laws today are mostly dictated by phoren interests, which neither understand the psyche of the people, nor the nature of wild animals. Most of the destruction happens, because of so called “habitat loss”. But the real reason is modern pretences to efficient living. A tiger may hide in a shrub 100m away, without a human noticing, in a rural hinterland. But today efficient farming, means levelling the land, removing weeds and shrubs, and heavy use of pesticides and herbicides. The base of the pyramid of life has been destroyed, along with much of wildlife.

All environmentalists wet their diapers in joy, when some Englishman, I guess, lighted a bonfire of African ivory, a few decades back. By destroying ivory, the “illegal trade” in ivory is destroyed, elephants will not be poached for ivory, all ivory artisans will find some other work to do, and the world will be wonderful again. Today elephants are diminishing lot more rapidly. Great big fences of capitalism, are preventing the much needed migrations of elephants and wild beasts in search of food. Yet no one can question this idiocy, for we have found the problem, “poaching” for ivory.

Most ivory came from dead elephants. Ivory gatherers, artisans, traders, and ivory users had a vested interest in keeping the elephant populations thriving. That is not true, for the fools, who make todays laws. In fact, I saw one pathological idiot, an environmentalist, who was saying we should ban the use of peacock feathers. Peacocks are abundant, but most importantly, once a year, the male peacock, sheds all its feathers. These are the most abundant things, and they come, without hurting the peacocks. One male peacock has so many feathers! Or take the laws under Goondas Act for hunting wild hares. Wild hares are not exactly rabbits, but still there is no reason, that their population cannot quickly rebound. Except that modern agriculture, dispensed by award winning, fathers and grandfathers of the green revolution, in collaboration with government, and agricultural universities, has no space for “weeds”, live fences of shrubs, and native trees. It doesn’t like land that is not levelled, or frequently plowed to a fine tithe. It definitely, is not poaching, that kills the wild hares. More laws will only mean less wild hares, but we can expect the idiocy to worsen. These laws, remove another connection between people, and the wild.

The houses of the tribals suited their environment. Made of clay with thatched roofs, they were nice and cool during hot weather. Of course, a tribal rarely spends time inside the house. Even at night, he is likely to sleep outside. But such natural houses built out of their own hands, is a strict no-no. Our weeping leaders, want them to have pucca houses, of concrete. In one place, the Japanese had heavily invested in building resort style pucca houses for the tribals. Except that, the tribals find pucca houses too hot in summer. Initially they kept their cattle in the houses, and slept outside. But they found, that the cattle did not like it either. Pucca houses, mean’t sanitation. Even places with steep slopes, have concrete ditches. Yes that is the rage of the “cleanerers”.

There was this place in Michigan, a software development unit, that did programming for a certain automobile group. At lunch time, one walks down to the cafeteria. One can see a lady, spraying and wiping down the glass, that covers the deli meats, and assorted goodies. Nice hygienic place, just what you would expect a cafeteria in a hyper-power to be. Usually I don’t eat outside, if I can avoid it. But due to a combination of circumstances, I was at the cafeteria. Ordered some slices of turkey, from the deli, for a sandwich. Ate it, felt not so comfortable. Went to the toilet. What do I see, a couple of native Americans there. The toilet is comfortable, there is a magazine rack, and some do spend  half-an-hour in the toilet. It seems the norm is that you eat, and then shit.

Take a tribal, he squats to shit, and is done in less than 15 seconds. The food he eats, real food, with lots of vegetables, makes for easy shitting. The modern man, with bread of bleached wheat, and 20 other ingredients, meat that is preserved with chemicals, and stored for several months, from “clean” surroundings, has very sticky shit, that he has to spend half-an-hour in the toilet. Not to mention the modern hybrid wheat, tetraploids, hexaploids, and other polyploids, make food sticky, and pathological. Shitting in a seated position, that is the most idiotic thing ever, it prevents proper elimination. Yet, these phoren folks, have all of a sudden taken interest in open-defecation, and the “problems” they cause. But in tribal areas, with high biological activity, shit is processed, and vanishes in a day.

In a smart city like Chennai, with underground drainage, during the 2015 December, shit got forced out into the streets. Don’t expect Swachh Bharat to deal with big problems, this program is mostly about centralised control. That minimises the role of plants, and micro-organisms, to keep the air and water clean.

Squatting – that is what the tribal women do, during childbirth. The women, give birth alone, in their own house. During childbirth they pull on a rope, and squat. These women can’t understand modern childbirth, where a woman lies on her back in a padded bed, and tries to “push” the baby out. Even the guy who watches it has to be given a shot of epidural up his spine, just for watching. Overdose of painkillers for the woman, that shows up in breastmilk, and multiple vaccine shots for the child, in the first few years, and progress is complete.

Speaking of vaccines, a few years back, some of the common illnesses, had no vaccines. The apparent reason, was that this is a developing country, and these illnesses are not a concern in the rich countries. So without funds, vaccines cannot be developed. But now, with vaccine pushers like Bill Gates, even illnesses, that may affect few tens of people in tribal areas, have vaccines. Policy changes influenced by Bill Gates, government and NGO activism, all sorts of vaccines get pushed onto the tribals, even though they don’t trust them.

In rural areas people drank spring water, from the wells. The wells are not too deep, 40 feet at the most. Rain, filtered through the soil, and rock, became life giving water. In the forests, the streams are a source of water. It was full of life and vitality. There were no parasites to be afraid of. Chew on some herbs, malaria, typhoid, or intestinal parasites, will cause no illness or discomfort. But today, tribals have begun to use heavily chlorinated water, that meets WHO standards. Destroying their beneficial intestinal flora.

To bring in a “Right to Clean Water”, one has to dirty the water, and reduce access to it. Dams, and mining do that, so that a “Right to Clean Water” can be imposed from above, by a centralized authority. In a free flowing stream, even a check dam, can change the water quality. More organic matter gets collected in the dams, or check-dams, and their decomposition reduces water quality.
So how did tribal people, who ate a rich diet of grains, vegetables, drank life giving water from streams, walked barefoot, in the forest without fear of snakes or tigers, whose women gave birth alone, who obtained all the necessary medicines from the forest, lose their resilience? That, today, their children die of malnutrition, the women frequently infertile, the men unhealthy or alcoholic.

Do we understand their ways, emulate their free spirit, and live a life of freedom and abundance? At least during our vacations, from work or study. Or perhaps look at their sorry state (after collective efforts at “improving” their lives), and get back to working hard, in our smart cities, where rights to education, clean water, good governance, are guaranteed. We of course get this perk – to look down upon those who don’t enjoy the system, and do not want to fully submit to it. In our controlled, monitored existence, that is our only source of joy, the joy of having someone or some group to look down upon. In a world, where a single finger waggerer, can turn things upside down for people who don’t do what is expected of them, this joy could be priceless.

Paradigms lost, or mis-applied?

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It was sometime around the middle of 1999, during the dot-com boom. The project at one of the big companies, was being handled, by one of the Big-Five consulting companies. Initially this project was handled by another big-five company, but after a big struggle, they just managed to come up with a single page architecture document. So the other company had to go, and this new one (which will be referred to henceforth as “a big-five company”) was brought in. The rates were high, $300/hour for the senior mangers of the consulting company. The freshly minted interns used for testing the application for bugs, had rates only slightly lower, $250/hour.
There were other consulting companies, who dealt directly with the client, and the consultants from these companies charged the client $175/hour or more. The client was sold a fancy term, “time-to-market”, which meant that the first one to implement an idea, will get the most customers, and hence will be profitable. The competition, will be stuck at the starting gate. The client was getting into a segment, which regulations, previously restricted them from entering, so as to not create a monopoly. But now that things were relaxed, they were heading into it, full-steam, with highfalutin consultants. Many of the big-five consultants, would work fifteen hours a day, sometimes more, for four days a week, and then fly elsewhere for a 3 day weekend. The others, may also work for 15 hours a day, and a few clever ones, even managed to average 80 hours a week, for an entire year.

Not all consultants, had it good. Many IT coolies, were on H1B visas, and couldn’t easily switch. They also had too many layers between the client and them, so they saw a lot less money. But on average, the IT coolies were raking in money. The client was burning the money real fast. Estimates of the total spent, varied from a minimum of 30 million to a hundred million, in a little over two years. Which even during dot-com days, was lots of money.

The project had lots of Americans, and as usual, lots of Indians. But interestingly, the client had at least one Indian, in a high level post, directing the project, and the big-five company had an Indian at the top. There was a talk, in the beginning of the project, that there was high level corruption. It was mostly white Americans, who made this accusation.

There was this Pakistani guy, who a little senior, to the others, was usually approached for advice. So I walk over to him, and ask him – “Is it true that there is corruption, hidden dealings ?”.  He just lifts his left hand, puts it under his nose, sniffs, says “Smells good”, then lifts his right hand and does the same.

It takes me a while to realize that what he is talking about is the “street-dog paradigm”. One dog sniffs the rear, “smells good”, the other dog sniffs the rear, “smells good”, and they go to the next step of social interaction. Here was a guy, in elite (and polite) society, in an expensive project, working for a big company, during the hey-days of the dot-com boom, referring to the “street-dog paradigm”!

If Trump is to be believed, even democracy has this weakness. Because he is going to redeem it, from special interests, and restore it to the people. Eunuch A meets eunuch B, and we have a new set of laws and regulations, and zero tolerance for any opposition!  Such control by special interests, is apparently how great democracies have been working.

There is a fundamental problem with democracy. To see that, one has to go back to a feudal setup, which has a king or emperor or pharaoh as the head of society. A king represented an ideal, an ideal of handsomeness and manhood, an ideal of a good family man, an ideal of a person well-versed in the arts and sciences. But somewhere along the line, things got corrupted, and hermaphrodites, or bastard children, insecure, narcissistic, and weak-minded, but supported by crooks, working behind the scenes, became kings.

Peoples’ need to see an ideal in their leader, either a king, or a democratically elected leader, was always there. The need for a conceptual king as an ideal, never went away. People, in their right minds, always sought to have a strong leader, his or her strength, visible in the successful business they did, in the happy families they raised, and in their health, intellect and judgment. Even in a democracy! We need a strong leader, who can stand up, to the powerful but corrupt, rather than make the weak subservient, to powerful special interests. So essentially democracy, is to elect a king, and not need democracy, at least until the next elections.

There was another concern, in India, after the colonial hangover, that democracy, would let a million eunuchs override a single wise man. So democracy can’t be good for the nation. This is actually, another way of saying the same thing. We hope the man on the street is not fooled, we really want a king to rule over us, who represents an ideal of good things. If people wanted a king, how is it they always end up with puppets to hidden interests? There have been quite a few cases, where people with strength of character, real strong leaders, did come up, through democratic elections. Will Donald Trump be one of those strong leaders? Or will he end up, characterless, like Obama? And all great decisions, like for e.g. Obamacare, be made using the “street-dog paradigm”? Not subject to criticism or review!
Speaking of street dogs, there is another paradigm, a saying in Tamil

நாயை கண்டால் கல்லை காணும், கல்லை கண்டால் நாயை காணும்

(naaye kanda kalla kaanum, kalla kanda naaye kaanum ). When our Tamil teacher, mentioned this, decades back, he used to make an action of picking up a stone. We all laughed. Those days, boys on their way back home from school, when they see a dog, take a stone, and try to hit the dog. It probably has something to do with education, being cooped up, and controlled by the teachers for most of the day. Those who didn’t get educated, had lots of empathy for the street dogs. Anyway when you make an action of picking up a stone, the street dogs immediately fled. The easy but comical interpretation for the saying is that, “when you see a stone, there is no dog (to hit it with), and when you see a dog, there are no stones around”. This paradigm is actually about worship. It means, if you see the God in stone (statue), you don’t notice the stone. And if you notice the stone, you don’t see God.

This paradigm may be useful in life, see the good, ignoring the evil. We don’t want to go after evil, the hidden elites, or whatever, one thinks is suffocating human progress. This actually reminds me of a story by Somerset Maugham, called “Rain”. An intense missionary, crosses path with a “loose” woman, who has been “corrupting” the sailors. He takes on the impossible task of correcting the impertinent woman, to make her morally sound. And also make her accept imprisonment for her “loose” life. The story ends with the missionary dead, having committed suicide. And the woman, when asked by the narrator of the story, a doctor, what happened, says simply “Men are pigs”! All of us, if not forced by circumstances, would want a good life for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Back to the project. There were some critical failures, in deciding who would do what, so when the time came for the client to decide “go-or-no-go”, the contracting companies were alarmed, because the crucial piece of functionality, the raison d’etre, didn’t even get designed. A war room was assigned, people were brought together for brain-storming, and a few weeks later, with lots of late-night hours, that piece got implemented. Client said ok, and the rest of the project continued for another two years.
A few years later, I ran into the architect. He said, don’t you remember that big project, real time ordering, and all the hard work we did to get it running? It’s all gone! 30 or 100 million dollars down the drain. The client took the loss, ditched “time-to-market” hysteria, and went with a simpler alternate system.

There were too many backend systems to be integrated into the order processing and provisioning workflow, that transient failures, were preventing the orders from being provisioned. The architecture did not have a proper retry mechanism for transient errors. Highly paid consultants were pushing the orders manually. Even if the customer account remained with the client, for the rest of the customer’s life, the client wouldn’t recover a fraction of the cost spent to acquire it. The Pakistani was perhaps right, the whole thing broke, because the street-dog paradigm cannot be the basis of business decision making. But by then, the consultants had made their money, and flown off to their next “time-to-market” assignment!

Jeevamrutha – the nectar of life

Genesis 2:9
The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:16-17

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Genesis 3:22-24

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever”– therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

Why does God not want his creation, Man, to eat either from the Tree of Knowledge, or Tree of Life? Knowledge of good and evil – does that mean discriminating knowledge? Which can be obtained only when we take things apart. Take a pretty flower apart, you see a lifeless entity. One can claim that they have learnt about petals, stamens, antlers, pollen, sepals, and the relationship between the parts. But somehow that knowledge is shallow, that comes at the expense of losing the big picture. The more we take things apart, the more the number of relationships we have to deal with, and the less we understand. Mansoubu Fukuoka, Japanese micro-biologist, turned philosopher/farmer, realized, in an epiphany, that nature is perfect. There is no sense, in trying to improve one element of nature. Doing that will break something else, either immediately or over the long term.

Reductionistic science in labs has brought us antibiotics, jet flight, iPhones, and other tech gizmos. We have been able to bring things from specialised, reductionistic research, together, to apparently create things that are “better” than nature.

Bible does suggest that discriminating knowledge, is death. Yes, the same Bible and Genesis, that puts creation of day and night, before the creation of Sun. Quran avoids this issue, by not explicitly mentioning the order in which God created the world. If discriminating knowledge is bad, what if Man had also eaten from the Tree of Life? We sure have applied our scientific understanding to the field of medicine, and perhaps, with stem cells, we may get to essentially eat from the Tree of Life.

The famous proponents of natural farming come from conventional scientific training. Subhash Palekar, and Dr. Nammalvar studied conventional agricultural science. Palekar has been quite aggressive in his contempt for western cattle breeds, “organic” farming, or vermicompost with red-wiggler worms. Fukuoka, was a microbiologist. His “Natural Way of Farming”, which I have read only in parts, says Nature is perfect. There is no good or bad or evil in Nature, and Man’s attempt to improve on it, will only lead to an endless increase in work. All that extra work just weakens and degrades Nature, and human life along with it.

Now there are heroes that like to work 20+ hours a day, and want everyone else to do the same. There are others who don’t like work, the mindless sort, that perhaps Nature can do for free. Fukuoka says, only humans have to work. The rest of life, they simply live.

One wonderful way to make soils fertile, crops disease resistant, is to use soil life, mostly microbial. The best way to do that, is to use a native cow, Bos indicus, the humped Indian cattle. Subhash Palekarji’s research had found that a preparation, called Jeevamrutha, with native cow’s dung, urine, jaggery, pulses, and a handful of forest soil, makes soil fertile. Like most things in Natural farming, if this is done right, in 3 years or less, soil becomes alive, and you no longer need to continue with this. Unlike some of the modern technology, that requires more and more people, sucked into a widening spiral of work.

Cow dung always had a pride of place in Indian households. Britishers, and westerners mocked at this. Cow dung used to be diluted with water, and the mud floors of the houses, and outside, were coated (waxed) with this solution. This reduced dust, and was healthy for people. Cows those days, ate grass, and a whole lot of herbs with it.
The cows today are not the same. The western or mixed breeds have stinky, pathological dung. Even native breeds, are given imported feed, grains, or Co-4 grass. Lot less diversity in their feed. The farms no longer have herbs or weeds, and the boundaries are bare. No mulberry, moringa (drumstick) or other fodder trees on the borders. One of the most nourishing things for the cows is ground cotton seed meal. A very nutritious drink for people too. Except that today most cotton is Bt cotton, or pathologically hybridised. The fans of science, claim that, since cotton seed oil is used in biscuits, breads, and other snacks, we have done a great experiment in science, and Bt cotton is safe for human consumption. By extension Bt brinjal (eggplant) should be safe!

Speaking of brinjal, our environmental activists, with their “We are not lab rats” banners, stopped Bt brinjal. With help from Environment Minister Ramesh Jairam, of the previous government ( ‘Jairam Ramesh Report’ of February 2010). That is a heroic story of successful activism, or is it? Let’s take Bt cotton. How did it appear in India? There was this article in “The Hindu”, which I can’t locate online, that said, both Monsanto, and India’s regulators, were surprised, when they found farmers growing Bt Cotton. Bt cotton was so good, that farmers sourced it from America, and shared the goody-goody stuff with progressive farmers, and soon it spread all over India. All under the watchful eyes of the regulators, who we expect to regulate GM crops. This link at Outlook India (http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/bt-cottons-chequered-history-in-india/213620) has one point, that mentions “Oct 2001 Illegal sale and farming of Bt cotton in Gujarat”.

Since Cornell university, in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, created a sob story of pesticide usage in brinjal, and used that sob story to do research on Bt brinjal, we can expect Monsanto/Mahyco and our glorious regulators to be pleasantly surprised when most of the brinjal in India have the Bt gene. You can be sure, that right now, there are brinjal varieties in the local market that “mysteriously” carry the Bt gene (besides being herbicide tolerant). The story, will ofcourse be, that someone brought it from Bangladesh. I found a brinjal variety that had a kind of unnatural fluorescence in a shop, but didn’t buy it. The only saving grace in all this, is that without all the support structures, and herbicides (Roundup), GM crops, will not thrive. No wonder, our truly Indian GM mustard, did not stop with putting good features into the mustard. It had to bring herbicide tolerance, before it can be marketed. Otherwise, a crop that produces such tiny seeds, will slowly lose all its genetic modification, through cross-pollination. One will have to kill all competition with herbicides.

Getting back to indigenous cows, of late, a new kind of heroic act is going on. Certain folks are getting high milk yielding Bos indicus cows from Brazil. Why? Because Brazil imported those cows from India, and then through “selective breeding” made it “better”. At what point does milk stop being milk? A native cow, on a very limited diet, of say Co-4 grass, and maize stalks, is less of a cow. Now if we come up with a native breed, that gives 10 litres or 20 a day, is that still milk, or some breakdown product of cow’s metabolism? Some of the native cows, grazing in the forests, give less than a litre a day. This milk, rich from the herbs that the cow grazes, is real, health giving milk. But the eunuchs of science, will not have it otherwise. And cows ecological purpose, from enriching dung, is simultaneously lost.

Just to get a real cow, and real dung, we have to go back so many steps. Ah, the beauty of science!
Anyway, for the experiment here, I cannot say for certain, that I started with pure native breed dung. But from the smell, and appearance, and the fact that of the two cows, one was pure (the other mixed), I can say, that the dung was good.

Jeevamrutha, like concoctions that farmers dream of, varies, depending on what is available. The main ingredients are of course native cow dung, urine, jaggery, pulses, and handful of forest soil. Sprouts, coconut water, toddy, fruits, medicinal leaves, or seeds, are added.
There is lots of intuitive wisdom in combining things, it is not the witches brew of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

One ingredient I chose to skip, is cow’s urine. Didn’t want the powerful smell. The things that were added, in some random proportion, were dung, water, palmyra jaggery, sprouted ragi and sprouted green gram (moong dal), growing shoots of drumstick (moringa) and veldt grape (pirandai). They were mixed in a clay pot, covered and left in shade. Plastic is used these days, cement tanks are better. Best is clay, one can still find clay containers (water troughs) used to provide water to cattle. They can hold more than 50 litres. For a small experiment an easily available clay pot is sufficient.

The mixture was stirred with a stick, in the morning and evening. The solution in the pot, started frothing by the second day.

The photographs show the changes in sequence. The first slide shows random sprinkling of microbial cells, along with fragments of half digested plants, at 40x magnification.

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Day 1 – Cells at 40x

The next two are at 100x, and the last one used the zoom on camera, to get a slightly higher magnification. There is a spiral strand in the bottom, a little hard to make out.

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Day 1 – Cells, half-digested plants at 40x

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Day 1 – Cells at 100x

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Day 1 – Cells at 100x

On day 2, it looks a little different. There are clusters of cells of various sizes, either cooperating or feeding off, of each other. This slide shows a spirulina segment. A couple more, in the next slide. Could that spiral have come from grass or a plant, that the cow ate? Unlikely, because of its tiny size, shown here at 100x magnification.

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Day 2 – cell clusters

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Day 2 – cells of various sizes clustered together

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Day 2 – spirulina

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Day 2 – spirulina

Here is a slide, that dried out, it shows clearly the cells of all sizes, grouped together.

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Day 2 – half-dried slide

Day 3 – this one shows an unusual cluster of same sized cells at top left. The photo is not very clear though.

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Day 3 – big cluster of similar cells

Day 4, once again similar to the other days. There is a round big cell at the centre. Next to it, down slightly left, a cell undergoing division, looks like a broken egg.

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Day 4 – Big round cell

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Day 4 – cells

More cells in this slide.

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Day 4 – cell clusters

Day 5, little sharper photos. Lots of cells all over. The smaller cells look sharp in this photo. Closeup of the cells. Further magnification, at 400x, doesn’t reveal any more details. Requires better equipment, and staining of the cells, to see details inside. At higher levels of magnification x1000, one can see bacteria.

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Day 5 – cells at 40x

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Day 5 – cells at 100x

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Day 5 – more cells at 100x

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Day 5 – cells at 100x

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Day 5 – cells

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Day 5 – cells at 400x, no details visible

A fragment of undigested grass.

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Day 5 – grass fragment

The edge of the droplet of Jeevamrutha solution, can be seen in this.

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Day 5 – water droplet edge

Peering into the microbial world is not reductionism, yet it is hard to see the connections, which makes one to lose the big picture. There is enough to indicate self-similarity, with the microcosm, operating in the same way as the macrocosm. One can see more lively stuff through a microscope, with a drop of water from a paddy field (untainted by chemicals). The easily visible larger fungal cells in Jeevamrutha, unfortunately, don’t actively move.

All this grand microbial activity, consumes the dung, and makes nutrition available to the plants. It is this, that has sustained plant and animal life. Billions of micro-organisms in just a few grams of solution. That can be used to bring the soil back to life, and create a favourable ecology for plant growth.
Natural farmers cannot outcompete the agro-industries, government and the regulators, with propaganda, rules, and punishment for non-compliance. They have to take a leaf out of the Big-Ag companies book, and do it quietly.
The same way GM crops suddenly started showing up in India. There are people in government, in bureaucracy, police, or elsewhere, who don’t subscribe to the dominant paradigm, thrust top-down from UN, WHO, Bill Gates Foundation, CATO Institute, or other, New World Order organisations. It is these people, who can keep the world sane. Not our “leaders”. Most “leaders” are caught in circumstances, that they cannot escape. Same thing with regulators, they can’t hope to keep their jobs, if they stand in the way of industries, pushing their “bestest” solution, on the population.
Does anyone remember how Obama railed against American invasion of Iraq, or against the huge American debt? How did the pre-election Obama, turn against his own ideals, and expand American intervention abroad, creating chaos in the Middle East, while increasing government debt? Would Trump be different? His position is similar to Obama’s ideals. Very unlikely, but at least he provides entertainment. In a world of social justice warriors, feminism, micro-aggressions, and political correctness, he’s irrepressible. That behavior, by itself, frees people from the suffocating emptiness of nice talk. On the other side, we have another brave guy, Duterte. Could there be many Indians who can relate to Trump? Doubtful. For we have our own ideal world, unquestionable and un-criticizable – desh bhakt citizens, Aadhaar enabled for total surveillance, fully taxed, vaccinated and medicated, in tune with the lofty ideals of UN and WHO. Living the packaged life, convenient and cashless, as regulated mindless coolies, in high-rises, in massive cities, promoted by the Mckinsey Boys (consultants to world governments).

Fragmented scientific solutions like synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides, clever and perfect in isolation, have led to more work, more problems, and more poisoning of the land and ourselves. Natural farming, seeks to revert that. The micro-organisms just by living their life, create richness, and abundance. Man with all his cleverness, that came from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, cannot create a wholesome solution, that nature, undisturbed, provides with ease.

Summer Buzz

It was an accidental serendipity that brought this Veldt Grape (Perandai, Cissus quadrangularis) plant here. A small piece of the stem, took root and grew. Slowly at first, and then after a year, it took off. Irrigated with tap water, which was quite salty, high in TDS (Total Dissolved Solids ), it managed to do well. Spring this year, it sent out lots of green shoots. When summer came, it started flowering. Tiny pink buds, that opened to reveal four stamens.

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Pirandai

Flowers and nectar brought in the bees, butterflies, and wasps. Reminds one of lazy summer afternoons, under the shade of a tree, with the buzz of the bees. The pirandai plant, with abundant flowers and nectar, is not enough to attract the pollinators, especially in a city suburb. A variety of weeds are required to support insect populations. Fortunately, the cleanerers in all their rage, could only do so much. There were lots of weeds around.
Insects requires weeds, the usual kind, for nectar, and leaves for the caterpillars. Tulsi (basil), siriyanangai ( [சிறியா நங்கை]/ Nila Vembu [நிலவேம்பு] Andographis paniculata), kanakambaram (கனகாம்பரம், firecracker flower, Crossandra infundibuliformis), thumbai (Leucas aspera), tridax, oxalis and many others.
On this Tulsi plant (this photo was taken a month earlier), a green spider is feeding on a grasshopper. Tulsi with plentiful flowers, is a good source of nectar. The plant is highly medicinal. A few leaves once in a while, and one need not worry so much about mosquito related illnesses.

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Green spider and grasshopper

Another plant that is useful in dengue, and chickungunya is siriyanangai or nila vembu. Tamil Nadu government fortunately had people use a Siddha remedy for mosquito borne illnesses, both as a preventative measure, and as a cure. The medicine is called Nilavembu kudineer. This increases immunity, and is effective for several mosquito borne illnesses. A combination of several herbs like these, can free you from fear of mosquitoes, or water puddles, or organized hysteria against mosquitoes.

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Siriyanangai Andographis paniculata

Siriyanangai like most weeds, flowers profusely. My daughter used to take the dry seeds, and drop them in water. They make a popping sound, and burst open, spreading the tiny seeds. She was illustrating the cycles of life. Rain after a hot summer, would have done the same thing, making the seed pods go pop. The leaves of the plant are extremely bitter. That makes it effective against snake and scorpion poisons. Yet the nectar is sweet, and attractive to bees. This striped fat bee, makes a loud buzz, as it flits around from flower to flower.

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Fat striped bee

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Fat striped bee

Another one, slightly bigger, is bright, shiny blue, and has an equally loud buzz.

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Fat blue bee

This yellow butterfly has settled underneath a leaf.

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Yellow sulfur butterfly

The almost pure white flowers of thumbai, find a place in rituals. This plant, along with wild indigo (Tephrosia purpurea) is also used in treating poisonous bites. In my younger days, we could see lots of butterflies, and honey bees visiting this plant.

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Pure white thumbai flowers

This one has a small butterfly.

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Small butterfly on thumbai plant

A weed similar to amman pachharisi, snake weed.

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Weed similar to அம்மான் பச்சரிசி – Snake weed

Kanakambaram used to be popular with girls, who decorate their hair with this flower. So the plant used to be common in home gardens. Not so much today. This plant also produces seed pods, that when dry, pop open on contact with water. The flowers have a good deal of nectar.

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Kanakambaram flowers

This wood sorrel plant, found some soil and moisture, between the cracks in the cement tiles. Another weed that attracts small bees.

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Yellow wood sorrel

It is all these weeds, that the cleanerers have missed, that provide space for insect life to flourish. Insect life that is now attracted to a singularity in their midst. A single Veldt grape plant in bloom.

The plant did not have the “advantage” of science, which would reduced to a pathetic twig, that will grow only on life support of irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides. It retained its wild roots.

Tiny fruit flies showed up. These seem to have hunched backs, it might have been a genetic experiment gone wrong. Except that all the flies seemed to have the same “defect”.

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Two fruit flies

Here is a honey bee, smaller than the bees seen earlier on siriyanangai plant. It has yellow hairs on its back legs. This bee is bigger than the dwarf honey bee, which has a black body. And smaller than a regular honey bee.

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Small honey bee with yellow pollen sac on its legs

A slightly bigger, but similar looking bee.

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Honey bee with yellow pollensacs, larger

A red wasp, the common type around here (Ropalidia marginata, a paper wasp). One can see its nest on walls, and on plants.

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Red-brown paper wasp

Another wasp, of almost the same size, with a metallic blue body. This type is a frequent visitor.

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Metallic blue wasp

This one could be a wasp or a bee, hard to say. There was a similar one with short yellow stripes, running parallel to its body, which seems to indicate that this is a wasp.

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Black wasp with white stripes

This honey bee, doesn’t have yellow on its legs.

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Honey bee, no prominent pollen sac

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Honey bee, no prominent pollen sac

This wasp, much bigger than the other ones, has striking yellow legs. Its body and head are fully black, except for the thin midsection which is yellow. A mud-dauber perhaps, that builds nests of mud.

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Black wasp with yellow legs

This honey bee, is the size of the rock bee (Apis dorsata), but looks different.

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Big honey bee

Another honey bee, smaller than the regular honey bee.

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Gray honey bee

This one is fatter, has a different pattern on its body, like stripes on a tiger, and is slightly smaller than the one on siriyanangai plant.

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Tiger striped bee

A strange brown moth, it is quite tiny.

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Little brown moth

The regular honey bee. Unfortunately not many of these visited the plant. Had to wait for a few days, before I could take a photo of this bee.

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Honey bee

There were several types of flies, some too small to photograph. There was the regular domestic fly. Then this one hairy, with bright red eyes.

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Black fly

A small one, shiny green.

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Green fly

Another one, with greenish blue body.

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Blue green fly

There was this moth, bluish-black, with an orange band, sipping nectar, in the bright morning sun.

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Black moth with yellow band

And a bright green bee, on a sunflower next to the Veldt grape plant.

 

The beauty is not in the Veldt grape plant, but in the life that it nurtures, in the multiple connections that it forged. A wholeness that is greater than the sum of its parts. Bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies, find this plant, through means that are in many ways mysterious, to feed on its nectar. When the fruits ripen, there will be birds to feast on them. This single plant has created a summer buzz, the way life was meant to be.

A helmeted rule

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In Twinkle comic, there was this tale of Suppandi, youthful but wise in years, who goes on a picnic with his friend Maddy. They are on a rural road, and encounter no traffic. They come to a bend on the road. There is a tree by the side of the road. Suppandi, however, suggests that they sit on the middle of the road and have their food, since they don’t see any vehicles on the road. Pretty soon, a guy comes in his car, turns around the bend, and surprise! Two fools, having their picnic in the middle of the road. Trying to avoid them, he crashes into the tree nearby. Suppandi rises up, surveys the scene, and says solemnly – it is a good thing we sat on the road, instead of under the tree.

Comics are a good source of wisdom.

Helmets are compulsory in many places. Helmets for bicycle riders. Not really sure if WHO (the World Health Organization) mandates it or not, but apparently they have studies that helmets save lives (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr44/en/http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_traffic/countrywork/ind/en/). And sure some regional judgements quote WHO statistics. In a place called X, some lawyers protested against mandatory helmets for motorcycle riders. There was this article in The Hindu, where the author suggested, that helmets are for a person’s safety. Who can ever argue with that? Sure, you are on a motorcycle, fall down and bump your helmeted head. If the helmet did its duty, then you are saved from injury. Simple, no arguments here. It is in fact too simple, that no arguments should be allowed. That exactly was the author’s logic. Apparently the lawyers had several issues, mandatory wearing of helmets was just one among many. We don’t know what the lawyers’ reasoning was, probably the place had a gag order on public discussion of this safety issue.

Helmet rules in this place come and go. But in the recent instance there was this guy, a doctor, who claimed, in “Letters to the Editor”, that in 40 years of practice he had encountered about 25 thousand cases of motorcycle accident victims. His obvious agenda is to promote the mandatory helmet rule. Four decades back in small towns, there were just a few people with motorcycles. A villager or rich guy, might have a Royal Enfield. His stance, the slow paced ride, and the wide distance given to him, might have avoided all accidents. He’s also not a wage coolie, trying to meet some deadline, or has to be on time, for a meeting with his boss. Three generations of his family might have ridden the bike without a single accident.

About two decades back, lighter motorbikes came. Youngsters those days, to impress their colleagues, or others, would ocassionally speed, and get injured. Even big cities like Chennai or Bangalore, you might hear just a couple of two-wheeler accidents a month. That too only if are tuned to all talk or news about accidents. And today in these cities there might be about ten accidents a day, where a motorcyclist is injured. The reason being, that people have become more cautious, motorcycles very common, that youngsters don’t have a need to impress anyone. So how could this “doctor” have encountered 25 thousand cases, unless every case in a mid-size city came to his hospital. When this guy was in attendance, for the last 40 years! With cities twenty kilometers across, and having several hospitals, it would require magic to get every victim to this guy’s hospital. Lies, damned lies, and statistics! Most serious accidents are on highways, from excessive speed between cars, buses, and bigger vehicles.

In western countries on residential roads, or rural roads, at intersections, you’ll encounter the “Stop” sign. To westerners, India’s model of traffic (until recently) is chaotic, and unsafe. Indians are used to the flow model, not the western model, stop, observe, observe again, and then go. Even Darwin’s evolution doesn’t flow! Evolution became punctuated equilibrium. Why? Because we can’t see the intermediate stages. Quick periods of evolution, when the optimum is reached, optimum with the most survival adaptations, and then things remain stable. Stop and Go. No flow. That leads to an issue, how can the eye evolve in steps, unless it can predict in advance, that a certain set of muscles will be useful, when the eye finally begins to see. Not only can something as complex as an eye not evolve in steps, but if we throw in the fact that the human “brain” is now wondering how the eye evolved, something is totally amiss with Darwinism. We can try working backward, in reverse, check some fish or salmander in dark caves, and see how they lost most of the functionality of the eyes. Their eye muscles would have atrophied. But the reverse, devolution, unfortunately does not explain forward evolution.

Skipping Darwinism, lets get back to the flow model. At an intersection, a person can go in 3 different directions – straight ahead, turn right, turn left. If there are 4 people, coming to the intersection, from 4 directions, then we have 12 possibities. So 12 people can come to an intersection, and take different paths. In India, people will not stop and go, all 12 will slow down enough, to understand the intent of others, and go their way. No accident. If someone seems to come too fast, or seems to lack judgement, others will sense that, and react accordingly.

Now to do this, apart from the fact, you need slower speeds, you need to be able to sense another person’s intent. Sunglasses – no! Helmets – no! Harder to judge the other person’s intent. But more importantly, helmets reduce peripheral vision. Not a whole lot, but just that little bit, to impair judgement in a flow scenario. Just removing the helmet makes one feel, that they are out of tunnel vision mode, and seeing in 3D. Would accidents be more or less without helmets?

Folks when they wear helmets feel a little more invulnerable. That means more speed. And reduced peripheral vision. Less able to absorb the whole scenario. More accidents perhaps?
Helmet influence in many cases is subtle. There are some folks, the moment they wear their helmet, are reminded of their mortality, and become cautious. But those are exceptions, rather than the norm. The average person is cautious, and more aware, without a helmet.

There is another side to helmets as noted here (http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1012.html). When those driving cars saw helmeted riders, they were more likely to go too close. That can make the motorcyclist lose balance, and get injured. Also, going back to the peripheral vision issue, our ability to judge distances on either side, whether a car is too close or not, is not so good, increasing chances of losing ones balance in a tight scenario.
Then there is the weather. Helmet rules come and go, and even though the cops enforce this, I had never seen a cop in a helmet, until very recently. Why? Let’s check our schools, we have shirts, pants, ties, and shoes. Shoes in this weather? Do we need to imitate the uniform of the waiters (according to Subramanian Swamy)? Most schools also have the Singaporean, penal colony style lawn grass in their “gardens”, and decorative palm trees. That’s the foundation of smart cities, promoted by McKinsey boys, consultants to world governments. Isn’t smart city a modern version of penal colony, with monitored, carefully regulated, and fully taxed, living. So sweat, socks, and shoes are ok. And the rest of the dress?

I think, it was about two years back, we landed in a college, my friend and I. There were mostly elementary and middle school students, showing off their projects. Then there were the higher secondary school students (11th, 12th). The lecture halls where they were making the presentations, were fully air-conditioned. Girls and guys had laptops. Guys were in pants and shirt, with an overcoat. The girls were in suprisingly short skirts, and they too had their overcoats. What were they presenting? Yes, global warming, a very endearing topic for the world improvers. Kosher glo-bull warming of holo-hoaxian proportions! That would explain the short skirt. The overcoat? Well, global warming is now climatey changitiness. Just in case things become too cold for comfort. The dress covers both hot and cold extremes.

That leaves us with just the head, which needs to be helmeted. For the unbelievers, hot weather and helmets, means dandruff, and itching. Women had an extra reason, helmets and humidity can cause hair loss. And some hair styles seem to exclude helmets. So they suggested gently, that God had given us our heads (skulls) to protect what is inside. They were perhaps implying that God has given us heads so that an individual can decide the risk to her life and limb based on her understanding of the local context.
When the hot weather really went over your head, some sought temporary exemption from the helmet rule. But making a law with exemptions is same as letting people decide for themselves, a strict no-no. How do you ask for an exemption? Like in kindergarten? One raised finger to pee, two raised fingers to shit?

Itching! What would you do if you have this need to scratch the itch on your helmeted head? While driving! That means another distraction on the road. Did I mention that I never saw a cop wearing a helmet until recently?

Sometimes in places where there are flying insects, there is a chance with helmets, these insects enter your ear. Why? The wind is in your face, and a insect hitting your face, moves toward your ears, and enters it. Chances are higher with a helmet. Yet another distraction.

Once you stop at a place, now you have an extra thing to handle, your helmet. You have to carry it with you, or you can lock it on your motorcycle. There are lots of people, rural or otherwise who have mopeds. These are covenient to carry milk cans (for a milkman), sacks of produce, etc. A helmet in hand, and those tasks become harder or impossible. On a street with traffic, and parking isses, that disadvantage means only one thing – more chances of accidents.

The link that I referred to earlier (http://www.cyclehelmets.org), also mentions several other things. Higher speeds, protecting just the head, will lead to spinal injuries. Fall with a helmet on, can rotate the head abruptly, twist and injure the neck. Lower speeds, the slight increase in weight of the head from the helmet, makes a person bump his head more. Concussions can happen from the impact, even with helmet on, because the cushioning from styrofoam is marginal. Sharper objects, yes, the outer shell can cushion and spread the force.

Also with children, and even perhaps adults, with helmets on, and the head heavier, they are less likely to balance properly, and more likely to fall in a way, that bumps their head. Or get hit by other vehicles. After all don’t all of us feel slightly disoriented with a helmet on?

So how do we engineer statistics that say helmets reduce accidents in a population as a whole? Should public policy should be made on such statistics? It is all so obvious in a simple scenario – fall, bump your head, helmet spreads the impact, and you are saved.
Proximate causes and their effects can be compelling. If someone throws a stone at the car, the windshield can shatter and injure the occupant inside. We can save lives by making the windshield and windows out of solid steel plates!

The public can over-think an issue. They may not find WHO statistics convincing. Fortunately, in some places, with mandatory helmet rule, we have gag orders against public criticism. Strengthening the helmeted rule. A rule, so perfect, and reasonable, that it is unlikely to leave you scratching your (helmeted) head! The heroes who save us from ourselves, like Suppandi, will be celebrated in the comics of the future.

Spring 2016

It is mid-april, early spring at the farm, and the air is warm. There’s a bird’s nest on a karuvellam tree, a small thorny tree (Vachellia nilotica /synonym Acacia nilotica, gum arabic).

karuvelam

Karuvelam tree

There is a mangium (Acacia mangium) tree. If you are one of those who keep track of periodic hysteria engineered top-down from some global organisations, you’ll realize that this was yet another tree that was hyped up as a fast growing tree, and a good source of biomass. Like the Jatropha bio-diesel scam, this one too petered out. Although you might an ocassional plantation in some hills near the forests. Somehow its seed had landed in the farm, and now there is this shrub.

mangium

Mangium tree

A palmyra tree, surrounded by shrubs and trees. A creeper has spread on its drying leaves. If left alone, life finds a way to flourish. Birds and animals require a place like this, to hide, or raise young ones, or to forage. Natural farming requires mixing in “undisturbed soil” from the farm, with cow dung, jaggery and other ingredients, to create Jeevamrutha, which has trillions of micro-organisms. Undisturbed soil is usually found under this place overgrown with weeds! And although not very pretty, for the average folk, these isolated singularities can help maintain bio-diversity.

palmyra_shrubs

Palmyra tree surrounded by shrubs and creepers

Arjuna tree (Terminalia arjuna, Maruthamaram) sends out pink leaves. This didn’t grow so well, considering it is more than seven years, since it was brought in from a nursery. A couple were obtained as very small seedlings, and planted this year. They seem to be doing better.

maruthum_spring_leaves

Arjuna tree

There’s a pungam tree (Pongamia pinnata), surviving, but having a hard time due to insufficient water.

pungam

Pungam tree

Dwarf morning glory (Evolvulus alsinoides, Vishnugrandi, Vishnukrantha, Shyamakuranta, Sankhapuspi) has nice pretty flowers. It is used as a tonic for the brain.

dwarf_morning_glory

Dwarf morning glory

Ocimum gratissimum, also known as clove basil, African basil, is in flower too.
Another cream-yellow flower, name unknown, tiny like the dwarf morning glory.

small_yellow_flower

Small yellow flower

A rat hole. Owls, peacocks, mongoose, and snakes eat the rats. Field rats (unlike sewer rats) are a tasty snack for those who eat rat meat. Modern activism looks at field rats as starvation diet, but those who eat these, will never go near a broiler chicken.

rat_hole

Rat hole

Looking out from within a cashew tree.

cashew_tree_inside

Looking out from within a cashew tree

Cashew tree in flower, with a few fruits. You’ll rarely see any insects pollinating these flowers. There is a big overuse of pesticides in this region.

cashew_flowering


Cashew flowering

This cashew fruit is partly eaten, could be fruit bats, mynahs, red-vented bulbuls, or some other bird.

cashew_fruit

Cashew fruit

Small neem trees from bird droppings. The bigger ones are in blossom, nice fragrance. Tree planting by people, is mostly attention seeking, fraudulent behavior. In nature, weeds prepare the soil, then small shrubs take over, and finally trees establish themselves. The soil also becomes enriched with symbiotic micro-organisms, and other bugs, making it easier for the trees to grow. If there is grazing not many trees get to establish themselves. If one needs to plant trees, you better let the weeds grow first, then plant small shrubs like pigeon pea, and then finally plant the tree, or better still plant a tree seed. Most tree planting done on bare earth, requires heavy maintenance, which is rarely given. So trees fail to survive. But our heroes go on planting millions of saplings, with nothing to show after an year or two.

small_neem_trees

Small neem trees

A creeper, if left alone, it does add to the ecology, and provides some positive connections.

creeper_unknown

Creeper

Nice flower of Avaram plant. Good for diabetes. (Senna auriculata/ Cassia auriculata ஆவாரம்)

avaram_flower

Avaram flower

Fruits ripening on the jujube tree. A variety of pollinators on this small tree – ants, bees, flies, wasps, and bugs ( Spring and the Jujube tree )

jujube

Jujube

An open, thatched shed for the cows. It is hard to avoid plastic, or metal sheets, or concrete in today’s world. Even tribals in god-forsaken places are provided free “pucca” concrete houses. The tribals don’t like it, they don’t even use it for their cattle. It gets too hot. Thatched homes with mud walls remain nice and cool. Our heroes build houses for the “poor and dis-empowered”, so that later when they earn enough, they can pay thousands of rupees, in a resort, and enjoy mud houses with thatched roofs. Or tree houses. Some heroes, these “elected” ones!

thatched_shed

Thatched shed for cows

Nice clear water from the well. Many people get angry when they see this waste of water. When we could use the latest technology and supply water just to the roots of cultivated plants. Precision agriculture in all its glory. This modern hysteria about waste has reached a new phase in developing countries. We want cold storage, so that we can store our vegetables indefinitely, and provide them, when there is market demand.

water

Irrigation Channel

See all the plastic trash everywhere. Chennai stinks, even 50 kms away from the heart of the city. It all has the same source – hysteria about waste. We got the various ways to treat food – drying, pasteurizing, cooking, etc. And then we pack in plastic. All the plastic trash, can be traced to this great desire to avoid “waste”. Generate long lasting waste to avoid waste. Now in many cases, unless food in packed in plastic, with a label, license number, and packing date, it cannot be sold. Swachh Bharat is a recent evolution, that ignores nauseating nastiness in cities from trash,ditches and sewage, and goes after ordinary folks who pee on bare earth, or spit. These things, spit and urine, get processed by micro-organisms leaving no odor, no pathogenic germs. Spittoons for spitting? Pathological idiocy!

Pesticides and herbicides were another way of “avoiding” waste. That has laid waste huge tracts of land, and created health issues for people.

I was sitting under a tree. Coffee was being made in an open stone stove. Which attracted the babblers. Fire! Primitive man was supposed to have feared fire, and worshipped fire as a god.That is what science says. Rig Veda starts with

अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवं रत्वीजम |
होतारं रत्नधातमम ||
अग्निः पूर्वेभिर्र्षिभिरीड्यो नूतनैरुत |
स देवानेह वक्षति ||
अग्निना रयिमश्नवत पोषमेव दिवे-दिवे |
यशसं वीरवत्तमम ||

“I worship the Sacred Fire (Agni) that is chief priest, the deity of the sacrifice, who works according to the seasons, the invoker, best to grant the treasure.
The Sacred Fire honored by the ancient sages is invoked again by the new. For us he manifests all the Gods.
To you, oh Fire, day by day, by dawn and by dusk we come bearing our offering of surrender, the king of the sacred rite, the guardian of truth, flourishing in his own nature.”

babblers

Babblers

Why did the babblers come near the fire? The heat from the fire drives away the insects hiding in the leaf litter. The babblers were smart enough to use the opportunity. If only they learnt science, they might have ended up creating a fire god and worshipping it. Normally animals don’t fear fire. My dog will go within a feet, of a raging fire. When we burnt some coconut shells, on open ground, swallows showed up immediately, to catch insects that were escaping the heat. When there is a big fire, and animals get surrounded by fire without an easy escape, only then they become afraid. So why did the ancients “worship” the fire god?

Mangoes that you have stoop to pick. Low hanging fruit, very likely to be “stolen” before it is fully ripe.

mangoes

Mangoes

Guava fruit. A few of these guava trees most likely grew from bird droppings, or from seeds dropped by squirrels, while eating the fruit.

guava

Guava

Vetiver, with a reasonable supply of water for the first two years, does establish itself well. Easy to propagate, since one slip will grow into a hundred in 6 months. Another useful plant that can help soils retain moisture, and encourage tree growth.

vetiver

Vetiver

The Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace), a common butterfly, but gradually disappearing.

blue_tiger

Blue Tiger butterfly

A spider hides quietly among the branches of a mango tree.

spider

Spider

Further up red ants stand guard. This one, backlit by the sun, looks like a drop of honey. Some people are not bothered by these ants.

red_ant

Red ant

Caterpillars on a mulberry tree. These if located by a shrike, will all get eaten. People generally assume that birds operate on instinct, which is pre-programmed. Pyschology books extend this, in a way to humans. It is assumed that an unpleasant experience with bugs, or hairy caterpillars, reprograms the human mind. The only difference with instinct is that this hard-wiring takes place after the first bad experience. But it doesn’t really work like that, birds and animals are quite flexible.

mulberry

Mulberry tree

caterpillars_mulberry

Caterpillars on mulberry tree

There was a two month old chick. I offered a moringa tree moth with a red striped body. Moringa tree (drumstick) is a nutritious tree, so any caterpillar that feeds on it, will be non-toxic. But its body has stripes like a honey bee or wasp, so the chick clucked in alarm and refused to eat it. But a few months later, I offered it the same moth, after it had acquired experience in eating centipedes and scorpions. It just gobbled the moth in an instant. Unfortunately, psychology requires us to replay bad experience repeatedly in our mind, and limit our experience. Chickens are smarter.

Mulberry tree is a wonderful tree for live fences. Cows and goats feed on its leaves, and its fruits are sweet and nutritious. Yet, outside of mulberry farms, where these are grown for silkworm rearing, this tree cannot be seen.

Looking down from halfway-up a coconut tree, one can see a couple of lemon trees in the foreground.

lemon_trees

Lemon trees

Another dense thicket, this is the place where all the gravel, and rocks taken out while digging the well, are dumped. Snake catchers would come every couple of years, catch the snakes, and take their skin. Not anymore. There are laws against that, and against using animal products. The snake catchers understood the behavior of snakes, and had herbal remedies that protected and made them immune to snake poisons. Even their children did not fear poisonous snakes like cobras and vipers. This lack of fear also sort of rubbed off on the rest of the population. But now with laws to “protect” the snakes, there are no snake catchers, and the general population would wet their diapers, even if someone saw a harmless snake on the other side of the globe. And fortunately for them, there are no snakes, the “snake lovers” fear, have eliminated all snakes in human habitats and farms.

thicket

Dense thicket

Lush grass amidst the banana plants. Weeds! The native cow, would graze the grass, and leave the banana plants alone. Cows and goats, eat lots of weeds, and enrich the soil with dung. The more variety in their diet, the more medicinal the milk.

grass

Grass and banana plants

A creeper, with small yellow flower, probably Fabaceae family. The fig tree (Athi, Ficus racemosa syn. Ficus glomerata Roxb ) is the biggest tree in the landscape, may not be the tallest. A little shorter than some of the palmyra trees.

A tridax flower (Tridax procumbens), another weed loved by cattle. Milkweed, food for the tiger butterflies.

tridax

Tridax flower

milkweed

Milkweed flower

A blue dragonfly, resting on dry, cracked, clayey soil.

blue_dragonfly

Blue dragon fly

Not sure of this plant, with tiny white flowers.

tiny_white_flowers

Unknown plant with white flowers

A wild hare, hidden in the leaf litter. The person in the farm noticed this. I was able to take just two photos. And even though the second one, sort of scared it, the hare just ambled away. Only people tuned to the environment can recognize and locate the hares.

wild_hare

Wild Hare

Indian Mallow, Paniyaratutti ( Abutilon indicum syn. Sida indica) flowers.

indian_mallow

Indian mallow flower

Native cow (Return of the native) and its dung. It is still a little wild, if a stranger approaches, it sniffs the air, and flits its ears, trying to catch any sound. A reminder of its semi-wild past. This cow eats lots of grass, but it is unlike the pathological western breeds, jerseys and holsteins, that eat almost continuously. This dung looks and smells good. Western breeds provided manufactured feed, their dung is diarrheic, and stinks. This one, when it provides milk, it will be less than a liter. Breeders want to make the native cows gove buckets of milk, with selective breeding, and feeding them Co-4 grass, and manufactured feed. That will make its milk as pathological as the jerseys and holsteins. Doesn’t matter if native cows give A2 milk. Another thing is that western interests, NGOs and activists want to eliminate jallikattu, a vigorous sport, that seeks to tame the bull. Modern authorized, and licensed forms of this, where youth are dressed up in uniforms, and big crowds, are a sham. It should be more of a play, where the bull is not alarmed, and the youth in traditional attire, challenging the bull in a way that displays both the strength and cleverness of the bull, and the skill of the tamer. And no big crowds, cheering or otherwise. Just the local folks, who see this as a sport between man and animal, that also nutures the animals’ desire to play.

native_cow

Native cow

cow_dung

Dung from native grass and weed-fed cow

Looking through the eyes of animal rights activists, and the caged coolies, we might end up with a different perception. Reality however is complex, and cannot be influenced solely by simple minded idiots. Once I was talking our dog for a walk. There were a couple of goats grazing. When we went near, one of the goats, wanted to head-butt with the dog. It repeatedly came near, lowering and raising its head frequently, saying, do you want to head-butt with me? Another time, we, the dog and I, stopped to chat with a person. A goat came by, sniffed the dog, near its mouth, stepped back, and butted hard into the dog’s chest. It was painful for the dog, and it wanted to immediately leave the place. The person who I was taking to, was amused. See, a goat attacking a stronger species, a dog, which could have seriously injured the goat with it’s powerful jaws.

Sometimes what might appear like a predator attacking a prey, ends up more like a play. There was this cat, and a bunch of peacocks. The cat thought it could bring down one of the much bigger peacocks. It would lie down, stalk, and when it was within a couple of feet, make a leap. The peacocks had no fear, they could see all the cat’s antics. If the cat got too close, the peacocks leapt, rather casually, and moved a few feet away.

Now back to the native cow. A single cow can be used to increase soil life and fertility on 30 acres of land using a concotion of dung, urine, pulses (dicots, sprouted to increase activity), jaggery and fruits (Jivamruta). That is what zero-budget natural farming proponent Subhash Palekarji says. Native cows have beneficial bacteria, lots of them. Mixed with rich soil from farm bunds, or forests, soil life is totally enhanced. The mixed breeds, Jerseys, and Holsteins have very little beneficial bacteria in their dung.

This looks like the wild indigo plant (Tephrosia sp.), but with white (instead of the usual purple or reddish) flowers. Legume (Fabaceae), and nitrogen fixer. (Edit: It is not Indigofera tinctoria, as mentioned earlier)

indigo

Wild indigo plant

Curry leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) in flower. Butterflies frequent this flower, and some caterpillars, do feed on its leaves.

curry_leaf_flower

Flowers on curry leaf tree

A sitharathai (சிற்றரத்தை, Snap Ginger, Indian Ginger, Alpinia Calcarata ) plant, its dried roots are used for treating cold and cough.

snap_ginger

Snap Ginger