Some pictures of Scaly breasted Munia 

Scaly breasted Munia is a very small but attractive bird. They are very agile and combined with their small size , it becomes very difficult to take good pictures. Nevertheless, with patience and luck which are two most important qualities to capture a bird in nice photograph, I have taken a few pictures.

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When Braham Kamal (ब्रह्मकमल) Bloomed in our home

One of neighbours in ONGC colony Dehradun gave us a cutting of a cactus like plant in March 2013. She told that the plant is called “Brahama Kamal” and is considered very auspicious in Hindu mythology. It is said that a lotus bloomed from the navel of Vishnu who is the greatest of holy trinity of Brahama, Vishnu and Mahesh or Shiva and Brahama was created on this bloom. That is why it is called Braham Kamal (ब्रह्मकमल). Kamal means lotus in Sanskrit

It’s scientific name is Epiphyllum oxypetalum. It is a very interesting and unique plant. It belongs to Family Cactaceae. It is commonly known as Night blooming Cereus, Queen of the night, Lady of the night as its beautiful Lotus like flower blooms late night. In India it is called as Brahma Kamal ( ) and is treated as a sacred plant. It is popularly known as Orchid Cactus as the flower has orchid like beauty and plant resembles cactus in habit. It is known by different common names in different parts of the world viz. Jungle cactus, Dutchman’s Pipe.

The plant is native to Sri lanka where it is known as Kaduphul ,it is believed that plant blooms rarely and that too late night. People in many places of India have been successfully growing it in the pots. At least I know of two people in Mumbai and Dehradun.

In the meanwhile, we shifted to Panchkula near Chandigarh and brought the plant with us. It began to add on branches but no flower appeared on it for two years. Then in the last week of July, a strange stem like structure covered with pink threadlike structures began taking shape. Firstly it grew straight downward from the tip of a blade of plant. Then the lower part began swelling and becoming like bulb. On the evening of second August around seven o clock the bud began opening and flower unfolding. By ten o clock in the night, it completely opened up to show a pristine white lotus. It was mesmerising to see it.

We were very excited as we were told that flower blooms for one night only and had a life span of 10 hours. In the early morning, we again observed it. It was still there but had begun to shrink back. In the noon, it completely became like a thread. But after three weeks it again gave another flower.

It is said to blossom during mid July to mid October in India. Let us see that if it bless us more times during this season.

Honey, Bees are getting shrunk

Worldwide the number of bees is reducing due to various detrimental factors. In the past four years reduction in their numbers have shrunk by as much as 30%.

beehive

Honey has so many properties and benefits to humans, that it is considered as the food of Gods. It is full of nutrients and is complete food. And how is it made? Flowers with nectar, and a beehive and bees do the rest. It was also the first food of the cavemen. Our food will be less diverse and less nutritional without honey.

Not only that they convert the raw nutrients from flowers into the brown colored liquid but during the collection of nectar by visiting one flower after another, they are carrying out the process of cross pollination which results in better kind of fruits. The bee keepers keep their beehives under the shade of flowering trees or crops with flowers to enhance the pollination rate and thereby the productivity of farm crops. It has been observed that production increases to the tune of 35% due to pollination by bees.

India in this regard has done better with increase in the number of bees. The production of honey in 2014-15 has been 29578 MT as compared to 28376 MT in 2013-14. The value of export of natural honey was 445 crores rupees in 2013-14 and 555 crores rupees in 2014-15. The major buyer countries are USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya and Morrocco.

In India, 500 species of flora exits which are suitable for bees to extract the nectar and pollen. Major areas of production of natural honey are Maharastra and North East India. Some of naturally pure honey types are:

  1. Rapeseed or mustard honey.
  2. Eucalyptus honey
  3. Lychee honey
  4. Karaj or Pongamea honey
  5. Multi flora himalayan honey
  6. Acacia honey
  7. Wild flora honey
  8. Multi or single flower honey

The possible reasons for the decline in numbers are the use of pesticides in the farming, pathogens and lack of foraging. The has been marked increase in the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) disease during recent years. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.

Even nature is giving us enough indication against the use of methodologies which run counter to the harmonious ways of the nature.

Dove

Dove is the symbol of peace. It is a very gentle bird. Although it resembles pigeon but unlike pigeons, it lives in the wild. During hot summer days here in North india, you can hear its voice among the trees. It comes down to search the seeds and prefers to sit on the branches of trees with sparse foliage.
I located some of these sitting on one tree and using the newly purchased Canon SX60 hs camera, zoomed on them. Very difficult to still the hand during zoom but somehow managed to capture these pics. Hope you will like them.

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Chessboard and Wheat Puzzle

Game of chess is a cerebral game. It is a game of strategy, advanced planning and endless possibilities. A chess player becomes so engrossed in it that he forgets about his other activities. Such was the condition of the main characters in the Satyajit Rays movie “Satranj ke Khilari”. The story is set in the reign if Nawab Wajid Ali of Lucknow and how by hook or crook the British East India Company took over the princely Avadh on the pretext that a king who is engrossed in licentious activities like dancing with nautch girls and singing cannot look after the well being of the subjects. This is mirrored in the addiction of two friends who oblivious of everything are always devising means to play the game somehow or the other.

The game is said to have originated in the Eastern India and its precursor was called Chaturanga having four limbs or the four divisions of the army represented by a piece. It then traveled to Persia where it was called Chatrang and when Moguls swayed the area, its name changed to Shatranj and it travelled to Southern Europe.
The board has 8 rows of 8 cells each. 64 cells in all. There are king, prime minister (queen in British version and now universally prevalent), two bishops, two knights and two rooks. They occupy the first row and second row is occupied by pawns when they play starts.
The original chess board was mathematically revolutionary, as reported by the infamous Wheat and chessboard problem. A common theory is that India’s development of the board, and chess, was likely due to India’s mathematical enlightenment involving the creation of the number zero.

Chessboard and Wheat Puzzle

The puzzle is about the inventor of chess in India by mathematician named Sessa or Sissa. He presented it to the ruler of the country, the ruler was elated and asked the inventor to choose his prize. The man, who was very clever, told the king that for the first square of the chess board, he would receive one grain of wheat, two for the second one, foimageur on the third one, and so forth, doubling the amount each time. The ruler, who did not understand the gravity of what was asked and who was not adept in mathematics laughed at the paltry prize. He was wrong as the numbers increase astronomically as the squares progress. However, when the treasurer took more than a week to calculate the amount of wheat, the ruler asked him for a reason for his slackness. The treasurer then gave him the result of the calculation, and explained that it would take more than all the assets of the kingdom to give the inventor the reward. The story ends with the inventor being beheaded.

I tried to calculate how much wheat it will be in the last square.

Going by the rule, the number of grains in first cell be 2^0, second 2^1, third 2^2 so 64th cell, the number of grains will be 2 ^63 (2 raise to power 63) which will amount to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 grains
And weight of 1 grain is approximately =0.06479891 grams
So the weight of grains in the last square

=(9,223,372,036,854,775,808 * 0.06479891)/(1000x1000x1000000) =597664.4545 MMT !!!!!!!!!!!

Annual production of wheat in India in the year 2011-12 =94.88 MMT

At this rate, it will take 6299.1616 years for India to equal his demand even for the grains in the last cell not to talk of the vast numbers in the preceding cells.
Now you can imagine why the king who was at first laughing at the his demand, had him beheaded. Or should not the king had conceded and rewarded the inventor……

A visit to Wagah Border

Thanks to television and internet reaching out to nooks and corners of India most Indians know about the foot stamping ceremony also called “beating the retreat” conducted by members of Indian and Pakistan armed forces at border post in the Wagah village. Everyone want to visit the place because a picture is formed in their minds about the soldiers in the most aggressive moods.
The village was divided between India and Pakistan during the bloody partition of India with Eastern part of it going to India and western part to the Pakistan. The place is about 22 kilometres from Lahore and about 32 kilometres from Amritsar. The border post is on the Grand Trunk Road constructed at the time of Sher Shah Suri’s regime and many subsequent rulers. It runs from Peshawar to Kolkata covering almost whole of Northern India.
So every visitor to Golden temple makes it a point to visit the border and witness the ceremony. Even as you come out of the temple, cab drivers almost mob you for going there.
I also visited the place sometimes back along with my wife and our friend and his wife. After visiting the golden temple, we made the programme to visit the place. Ceremony takes place in the evening for about an hour. Even on the days when it is not holiday, there is a big crowd.
We hired a taxi which was arranged by the hotel where we were lodged. Amritsar is a city which is very ancient with narrow lanes which are brimming with crowds and vehicles of all kinds. It is miracle of drivers how they navigate through lanes. Much time is wasted in the city.
Drivers are generally very clever type. Although money was paid for air conditioning, he would not switch it on unless you press him. As the vehicle neared Wagah, it was almost traffic jammed. There were trucks which were taking goods from India to Pakistan which were waiting endlessly for clearance blocking one side of the road entirely.
We reached about one and half hour before the gate will open forgoing inside. Already there were crowds in the queues. There were separate lines for men and women. It is an open area with no shelter from sun and rain. There are boys selling water bottles and pouches pestering the crowds no ends. Small kids are a harassed lot from heat and thirst. Wait seems endless. Meanwhile we saw many people coming up to the closed main gate presenting recommendation letters or passes and entering the gate without any time limit.
At last, the gate opened for ladies first and almost 20 minutes later for men after all women had crossed. You have to walk another kilometres to reach the action theatre. People who are shouting patriotic slogans race pushing one another to reach the place so that they get a seat to sit. The seats are like stadium rows with men and women in separated areas. People seems hysterical and hoarse. It is overcrowded. The songs blare from both indian and Pakistan side outdoing each other. School children do the dancing and run with the flag. When the ceremony begins, soldiers from two countries charge at one another, throwing one leg in the air so high that their legs form almost 180 degrees angle. They stare at each other. The gates are slammed mercilessly while opening and closing. As this happens, people sitting away stand up and cheer their soldiers making it impossible for the elderly people to watch by sitting. If all sit again it is possible you will lose your sitting place to someone.
This was so much that I was waiting for it to be over. When it was over, you will find yourself floating with crowds as now everyone is in great hurry to go out and return to the city. People are spilled on every inch of space. There are two three shops including the one run by the army selling tea and water bottles and snacks.
On a summer evening you are exhausted to walk another kilometre to the main gate. The driver was waiting although I suspected that he might have deserted us. But it was not over. Because there was a big traffic snarl and a good half an hour spent to cross the area and come on the main road. There was evening crowds as we neared the hotel. At last, we reached the hotel fully exhausted.

Carotenoid Rich Cucumbers

Cucumber along with raw carrots, radish, and tomatoes has been a part of salad for the time immemorial. Cucumber is also consumed as cooked and pickled form in many parts of the world. People on diet for weight control eats this vegetable as it is often regarded as a health food because of its low calorie content and its high vitamins and minerals content.

Common cucumber varieties are white to greenish inside and are of low nutritional quality. On the other hand, orange fleshed cucumber is rich in carotenoids. India, being the centre of origin for cucumbers, is known to be the treasure-house of cucumber diversity. Mostly the first variety is used as it is abundantly grown.

But in the Mamit district of Mizoram, two varieties are found which are very rich in carotenoids as high as 6.5 μg/100 g as compared to 1.17 μg/100 g in the best check variety Himangi.. They have yellow to orange mesocarp and endocarp; an extremely rare trait.

cucumber

Previously orange-flesh cucumber was reported to be derived from a land race named Xishuangbanna Gourd from a Prefecture Xishuangbanna of the Yunnan Province in the South-west China, which is closer to north-eastern part of the India. Studies indicate that orange fleshed cucumber of China (Xishuangbanna Gourd) is closely related to Indian cucumber found in Mizoram. This suggests that orange-fleshed Indian cucumber might have migrated to China from northeastern parts of the country; which is the primary centre of its origin.

All this information is from ICAR.