It was one of the warm summer afternoons when all was well with the world. I was sitting in a rectangular concrete heat trap, staring at a screen, to meet some work target. Laws and regulations were being made, with enthusiasm, thousands and thousands of pages of laws, rules, and regulations. Our shiny chested leaders with fat heads, or fat chested leaders with shiny heads (or whatever is in fashion, among the “leadership” these days) were generating and crushing numbers to impress the coolies. It was amazing, all numeric targets were being exceeded.
Utopia, rectangular, technologically advanced, highly regulated, with big data and numeric supremacy. Utopia from all angles, recto-techno-regutopia, or recto-tecto-regutopia, or should it be recto-tecto-reguto-numerotopia? Wisdom was flowing, more abundantly than sewage on the roads, in smart shitties (cities?), after the summer rains…
There was a news report, that in Mumbai, security folks, after a “high level” meeting, came out with a suggestion, that all boats be painted with the same color and pattern. To identify the regular boats from tourerist or terrerist boats. Different countries use different spellings, based on the equipment they use to create terrorism, or fight it. Another one, in Mysura, wanted all landlords, who have rented out, to provide name, photo, id proof, Aadhaar card info, etc of the tenants. Ah, the sweet smell of Aadhaar! RBI wanted KYC forms filled out by customers, even those who have had accounts for 20 or 30 years. Or they wanted gold to be surrendered for some higher purpose. Not just individual gold, but those of the Hindu temples. Or the recently mandated rule, in our place, that all schools should have CCTV cameras. No, schools, can’t of their own free will make a judgement as to what is good for them. So wisdom was flowing everywhere, coolies marvelled at the techno-rapture that will soon be.
My wife came running up, saying someone is at the door with honey that he personally collected. And this person, supplied honey last year to a few other neighbors. Honey – that primitive stuff, that has no place in the land of scientific, desh bhakts. After all our constitution, the holy book, demands that people cultivate a scientific temper. I told my wife to buy it if the fellow sounds genuine, or send him on his way. She said, he has a small steel can, just come down and have a look.
I go down, the guy, in his rustic dress, looks like a worker in a farm. He holds a can, with about a kg of “honey”. Says, it is “kombu thein”, that he personally climbed a coconut tree and got it. He offered some to taste. It was a wee bit sour, like real honey. Then he takes a match box, dips it in honey, and lights it. Any doubts about this poorly dressed fellow was gone. He was a true desh bhakt, with a scientific mind. I asked him, how much was the honey? With a deep bow, and hands in a supplicant gesture, he asked for 250 rupees. This was a good deal, since organic honey from a Bangalore company goes for about 500 rupees a kg. He gives the honey, and makes a good suggestion, that even the educated elite may not be aware off. Don’t put the honey in the fridge, it will crystallize.
But as a last question, I ask him, why is it, there is no pollen, or bits of wax in the honey. He goes all haywire, says, how can I betray your trust? “I have children like you, will I sell stuff that can harm my children?” So, that was settled, we buy the honey.
I walk him to the gate, and he puts the empty can, in a plastic wire basket. There in the basket, is more than 3 kg of “honey”. He makes eye contact, sees my surprise, says he got 3 kg of “honey”. He offers, extra, unsolicited information, without any prodding. Says, he climbed the tree and smoked the bees out. It was in XYZ farm, of one of the big land owning communities, here. “Last time too, at this time of the year, I was similarly lucky, and got some honey.” And then added, let me be honest, I had a little bit of drink (the all popular arrack from TASMAC, I presume).
Now that the fogginess from screen staring had left, I decided to find out what this “honey” was, that fooled me. Although you get fooled often, in the back of your mind you can always tell, say, when a person who works for you on the farm, expresses extra concern for you or your family, that he has taken a few things from the farm for his personal use, without telling you. His concern is cover for slightly frayed conscience. Or when you ask him, why this looks like it hasn’t been cared for, he’ll say something like, why should I betray your trust, after getting money from you. Instead of simply saying that he’ll take care of it. There is no need for surveillance or CCTVs, or spy cameras or anything. If you are introducing surveillance cameras, you are bringing in an extra-layer of pathology, while losing your innate intelligence in judging people. And the other issue, is that, in nature, there are always leakages. Life is possible, and seems perfect, as waste from one form of life, becomes food for another. No 100% utilization, by anyone. Just to make sure what “belongs” to you, comes to you, you don’t want to go down a slippery, pathological slope.
The next day, the same guy was there, selling in another house. When my wife asked him, he said this is the season, he’ll get honey for a whole month. One of the construction workers already told my wife, that you’ll get a quarter or half kg at one time, of “kombu” honey. “kombu” in tamil, colloquially might mean a small branch, or might refer to a horn. But this honey cannot be several kgs from a single comb. Among the neighbors, someone got 2 kgs for 450 rupees, someone else had got it last year, and swore by its purity and genuineness. Someone else, bargained, and got a kg for 100 rupees.
I told one petty (kirana) shop owner about this honey, and how it may not be real honey. He went in, and got a big bottle of honey, the most pure that you can find – Dabur!. Now this company combines the “best” of east and west. 30 years back, their hair oil, had hydroquinone, a skin bleaching agent. In some hair oils they substitute palm oil, or canola oil for coconut oil. And you have Himalaya, a worthy competitor. Ayurvedic companies, pure and holy.
You rarely get to see pollen in honey from the stores. There are just a couple, that I know. One comes from the Nilgiris, Kothagiri mountains, it is wild honey, and they do make sure to leave pollen in the honey. This organisation, is I believe supported in part by the Ford Foundation. Another one, from Bangalore, claims, it is organic, and sometimes they do give rock bee honey (Apis dorsata), with pollen.
In the pictures, the organic honey had quite a bit of pollen, when I last purchased it. It is usually the wild honey that has good amount of pollen. This time, it had considerably less. One has to check quality, the variety of pollen, which is more important than quantity.
Typical pollen and their shapes are in this article http://www.apimondia.com/apiacta/articles/2009/honey_karnataka_india.pdf
A better one in PLOS – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0101618
Honey Pollen: Using Melissopalynology to Understand Foraging Preferences of Bees in Tropical South India
Raja Ponnuchamy, Vincent Bonhomme, Srinivasan Prasad, Lipi Das, Prakash Patel, Cédric Gaucherel, Arunachalam Pragasam, Krishnamurthy Anupama
Published: July 8, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101618
What was this “honey” that seemed to pass all the dumb tests for honey, and had the consistency and color of honey. A little bit of search, and invert syrup came up. With enzymes, it is possible to convert sugar into invert syrup, a mixture of glucose and fructose. 100% conversion efficiency. With citric acid or lemon juice, and boiling of sugar, it is about 60-70% conversion efficiently.. Sugar, the bleached, white one is just under 40 rupees a kg, retail. This invert syrup is so common, that you will see it used in candy, ice-creams, biscuits, etc. Some companies sell a “higher grade” version, that they call honey invert syrub. Good enough for Ayurvedic medicines, that’s exactly what they claim. Ayurveda for coolies, in climate conditioned cages!
The pot of gold, discovered at the end of the great GDP rainbow, and delivered direct to your house, with rustic charm, sits on the shelf. A bottle of this “honey” kept in the fridge, has crystallized a bit, the crystals are very fine.
Looking to the future, it seems almost criminal, that bees, with no IDs on them, who have submitted no KYC forms, take nectar from flowers that may not be FSSAI approved, pollinate the plants, and deliver honey almost free to people. When science in all its glory, can deliver, what even vegans can delight in, (and that spares the bees, their unlicensed criminal occupation) the most purest, golden honey – honey without the honey!