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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monsoon Mushrooms

During the monsoon season, it is fascinating to observe nature's reaction to the rain.  Mushrooms and fungi spring out from various locations and they surprise as well as arise your curiosity.

Knowing when to look is also important. Mushrooms are not formed until temperature and moisture conditions are right for them.  Look out a few days after monsoon rains and you will find small mushrooms sprouting in the lawns.

Mushrooms and other fungi grow almost everywhere, on every natural material imaginable. Some fungi grow only in association with certain trees. Others grow on large logs. Mushrooms are also found in soil, on decomposing leaves, and in dung, mulch and compost.

Mushrooms are fungi. Fungi are as uniquely different from plants as plants are from animals. In fact, fungi and animals are now in the same super-kingdom, Opisthokonta.

Many mushrooms grow towards light, following the sun just like plant. Unlike with plants, scientists do not yet know how mushrooms use sunlight; only that they do.

Fungi recycle plants after they die and transform them into rich soil. If not for mushrooms and fungi, the Earth would be buried in several feet of debris and life on the planet would soon disappear. Some of the oldest living mushroom colonies are fairy rings growing around the famous Stonehenge ruins in England. The rings are so large that they can best be seen from airplanes.  Under the right conditions, some mushrooms' spores can sit dormant for decades or even a century, and still grow!

The spores of mushrooms are made of chitin, the hardest naturally-made substance on Earth. Some scientists suspect that mushroom spores are capable of space travel; a few even believe that some fungi found on Earth originally came from outer space!

Dried mushrooms are good props for 'Ikebana' lovers.  This Japanese art of flower arrangement is particular about staying true to nature by using dried leaves, flowers and mushrooms as props with fresh flowers to make a statement.

Mushrooms are useful not only as food and medicine; some are also being used in bioremediation, to absorb and digest dangerous substances like oil, pesticides and industrial waste, in places where they threaten the environment.

The world of fungi holds many secrets yet to be discovered.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth day 2013

Google earthday 2013 logo is a great way to experience our planet earth!

The ambitious founders of Google, the popular search engine company, have set up a philanthropy, giving it seed money of about $1 billion and a mandate to tackle poverty, disease and global warming.
But unlike most charities, this one will be for-profit, allowing it to fund start-up companies, form partnerships with venture capitalists and even lobby Congress. It will also pay taxes.
One of its maiden projects reflects the philanthropy’s nontraditional approach. According to people briefed on the program, the organization, called Google.org, plans to develop an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline.
The philanthropy is consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and automakers, and has arranged for the purchase of a small fleet of cars with plans to convert the engines so that their gas mileage exceeds 100 miles per gallon. The goal of the project is to reduce dependence on oil while alleviating the effects of global warming.
Read the full article at

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surjivan-Village Tourism

" All the academics in the world may write a much as they want, in as many fancy words as they can about this country and its people, their plight and their struggles but it will always be wanting.  For it cannot and never will hold comparison to what is out there to be seen, to be felt, and to be heard on our own." 
-SBI YFI Fellow Akshay Kumar in the Book "Experiences of SBI Youth for India Fellows in Rural India.

Khus fields in Surjivan

The words of the youngster quoted above rang a bell when I returned from Surjivan, a village approved for "village tourism" by the Haryana Government.  Here is a resort which makes a valiant effort to connect with the 21st century mall city of Gurgaon. 

About 40kms from Gurgaon driving through the Jaipur highway for about 15kms and then through metaled roads, one can reach the village.  For just Rs 950/- per person, you can enjoy the ambiance of the 50 acres, take guided tours and partake in an organic lunch cooked the traditional way.  All the ingredients used for cooking are grown organically in the 40 acre organic farm, which also boasts of a chicken farm and milch cows.

While sipping the welcome drink of masala lassi, we watched a large group of young families walk in.  Children were frolicking all over in no time leaving parents to chat and enjoy their drinks and music. It was a Sunday-a well reserved holiday for these back office employees.  Yet no one seemed to be complaining.  " I am glad to escape the claustrophobia of....." ,  I overheard a young smartly dressed lady remarking.

The manager, offered to show us around.   We have all the facilities for adventure games, he started and insisted that we first take a look at these.   The last part of "Survivor Series" on Television was shot here, he proudly proclaimed. 

Where are the herbal gardens?  In the very next plot, our guide answered.  Also the main ground has many local trees and ancient plants. 

Lemon pansy on lavender plant

Bakul plant

Kalpavriksh or Wish Tree

We were informed that the big "Kalpavriksh tree" the resort had earlier grown, died, suffocated by the red threads tied by believers!

"Reetha" the seeds of which are commonly used by villagers for washing clothes and their hair, is also a rarely seen plant these days.

As we watched village artisans giving the final touches to a motif, drongos and parakeets announced their roosting time and we realized that we need to drive back to Gurgaon before the highway gets choked by office commuters.

The resort has twelve mud huts complete with cow-dung plaster on floor and mud beds and seats- also equipped with fans, air conditioners and attached baths with geysers.  All these come at a price though.   The solar panels support lights and fans but geysers and a.cs are run in winter and summer using Diesel generators.  

Surjivan is a bold attempt to connect Maximum City dwellers with nature- Spend a day there and you realise what it is that we miss in Big Cities-Again I quote our young friend Akshay Kumar of SBI Youth for India
" Gone were all delusions of "uplifting them", wanting to make them more like us and it was replaced by shame, shame about my own superfluous sense of superiority that had led me to believe that my way of life was something better and worth being forced on them."