13 Oct 2011

Fruity lore

Unfolding the newspaper yesterday morning, I was taken aback by the front-page headline declaring the guava as the healthiest of fruits.

While my grandparents praised the guava, I had not realized that it was the healthiest. And what is a ‘healthy’ fruit anyway ? Fruits have always been food for Indians, eaten for nutrition and health. I was curious to understand how the humble guava became topper. Reading on, I learnt that ‘healthy’ in this case was a measure of the abundance of antioxidants in the fruit. That a certain institute had evaluated 14 fresh fruits commonly consumed in the country and found that the guava contained the highest quantities of anti-oxidants.

We consume fruits for their food value – as a source of energy, roughage and essential micro-nutrients. Anti-oxidant content is only one of the several means of identifying a fruit as superior to others. The headline almost portrays the guava as the best fruit available for the common man, the manna from heaven for the millions of Indians who toil to eat one square meal a day. At the other end of the economic spectrum, this news also strokes the upwardly mobile urbanite, well-fed enough to choose food items by their antioxidant content.
A dearth of sensational news on this particular day had catapulted the humble guava to front page ‘breaking news’. How casual our news reporting has become. Context management, controlling the availability of information, dearth of knowledge and at times, ulterior motives and common agenda end up influencing readers - Firing up imaginations, fueling passions and nurturing fads. Driven by such stupendous discoveries, the guava will become ‘cool’ and too hot to be digested by the common Indian. The aam admi will learn to be satisfied with cheap mangoes.
This news item also underlines how as a nation, we remain far behind leading-edge research. Although early studies abroad suggested that antioxidants may promote health, large clinical trials have since been unable to establish benefits and instead suggest that excessive supplementation may be harmful.

Anyway, I am hoping that someone abroad hasn’t already filed for a patent on the guava genome, preparing to consign the bicycle-borne guava seller by our roadside to history. I am reminded of the travelling fruit hawker from my childhood, trudging down the lane with a large cane basket on his head, crying ‘panifal singara’.

Water chestnuts, anyone ?

Glimpses of the festivities last week...

 Durga Puja at the Bengalee Association, Bangalore
Durga at the Bengalee Association, Bangalore
 My screensaver of the month
Cactus rocks @Indiranagar, Durga Puja, 2011
 Pota rocks with Cactus @Indiranaagar, Durga Puja, 2011

11 Oct 2011

Pictures and Memories : The Ladakh Journey - I

A couple of airtight boxes have been lying in the cupboard for sometime, loaded with colour transparencies (Fuji Velvia was my favourite film stock for TPs, as we used to call them) - treasures from a couple of decades of sporadic photography. Not to mention the additional shoe boxes packed with colour and B&W film negatives in polyester sleeves. 
Over the years I have been dispassionate enough not to devote time to catalogue and scan the TPs to the digital age and offering a new lease of life. Today I have resolved to spend a couple of hours every day to begin organizing my digital photographs of more recent vintage. I began with the most recent photographs…

Here are some memories of my first trip to Ladakh during July this year, by road through Srinagar - Kargil - Leh - Nubra - Pangong - Tso Moriri - Tso Kar - Jispa - Manali - Delhi. 

Frame #1 – The Black Pavilion in the Shalimar Bagh near Srinagar. This sprawling Mughal terraced garden with fountains and water bodies on the bank of the Dal Lake is a popular location for family outings. Vandalized over centuries like most other historical architecture in our country, the Pavilion now stands desolate and unkempt behind steel net fencing. At a glance, the stone columns of the Pavilion bear an interesting resemblance to columns in South Indian temples.

Frame #2 – The garden built in the early 17th Century by Emperor Jahangir has gravity-driven water cascades and fountains and served as his imperial summer retreat and royal court. The Emperor and his entire court entourage are known to have travelled to Srinagar from Delhi at least a dozen times, crossing the Pir Panjal mountain ranges on the way on elephant back.
While we visited the garden in the height of summer with the holiday crowd milling around, I could only imagine how beautiful it would be on an early autumn morning.
Frame #3 – A little girl plays hide and seek with friends in the garden
Frame #4 – Summer bloom at the Nishat Bagh on the bank of Dal Lake
Frame #5 – A glacier on the Soemarg - Kargil road
Frame #6 + #7 - Couple of views on the Sonemarg - Kargil route
Frame #8 – Locals by the roadside in Drass town
Frame #9 – The windswept Fotu La (La = Mountain Pass) beyond Kargil town, where our gentle guide and chauffeur, Norbu put up a prayer flag. At about 13,500 feet, Fotu La is the highest point in the Srinagar-Leh road (National Highway - 1D) and is higher than Zoji La, which made headlines during Indo-Pak conflicts.
Frame #10 – A majestic Ladakh landscape in this wide-angle frame taken during the drive into Leh. On a straight, flat stretch of road near the “Magnetic Hill”, about 30kms from Leh