30 November 2016

Persimmon: The Fruit That Nobody Wants?

 These were the persimmons my husband went and purchased from a village near Pauri town.

In 2015, when we were still in Khirsu (about 20 km. from Pauri town), we were able to purchase persimmons from a local fruit shop, Himalaya Fruits at Agency Chowk. Of all the fruit shops in town, only this guy had persimmons. So upon buying, talks came up as to how we knew the fruit to asking where did he (the shopkeeper) get the fruit. Locally, he replied. From nearby Pauri. He did mention the name of the place but we forgot it.
Anyways, at that first time we were only able to take 7 kilos because the rest of them were not good...rotting (sadly, not many knew the fruit and somehow people don't have the 'let me try this' kind of mentality and apparently, they seem to have an aversion towards eating fruits). For Rs.50 per kilo, we took home 7 kilos, most of them were already ripe and ready to eat. 
Before we left, we took the shopkeeper's phone number and my husband did some arrangements with him. It was agreed that when the next batch comes, he would send us 20 kilos of properly selected persimmons. And so, after 25 days, I think, Suresh, our regular taxi guy, got us two boxes of persimmons from Pauri. Payment was made a week later when we went for marketing using Suresh taxi service.

One year later, in a new place called Koteshwar which is around 100 kilometers to Pauri via Chakka - Devprayag - Pauri road, the same problem occurred. Nobody around here even knew the fruit. So as usual, I carried its photograph to show to shopkeepers hoping one or two of them will be able to arrange for us.
In the meantime, knowing it's already persimmons' time, my husband rang the Pauri fruit shop to check if persimmons were available. Confirming, he said. And they've been in his shop for a week already. 
We were very excited!
And so, an order for 30 kilos was talked and he has to call us a day before it arrives in his shop so we can arrange for its transport. Transport means, we will be hiring a taxi to go and get persimmons. 
This time though, we asked for the name of the place where persimmons were available.

Two Saturdays ago, a call came from Himalaya Fruits. Persimmons were there!
Right then, B arranged for a transport to go to Pauri.
And so, at 8:30 the following day, he went to get 30, or maybe 40 kilos of persimmons. I didn't go because nobody was there to take care of Perci and Meegnu. Six hours drive plus a few more for packing and others, so more or less we would be gone for 8-10 hours minimum. So B went alone.

But there was a detour. Around 5-7 kilometer before hitting the proper town of Pauri, the board 'Satekhal', the place that the Himalaya Fruits guy mentioned appeared on the road. So, they stopped and asked around. Luckily, one man was familiar with the fruit and knew someone who had the tree, but he wasn't sure if fruits were still there. He called the guy, nonetheless. It turned out, his was empty. But, this guy knew someone else who also had the trees. He rang him and, fortunately, his trees were still full of persimmon fruits.

He then sent his son to accompany B and the driver. He even warned B to wait and let them do the harvesting because the village had no motorable road. But, no! B and the driver trekked for a kilometer uphill, saw the trees, climbed to pluck them, and took some pictures. 
They helped in packing, too!

One of the guys who owned a tree of persimmons shared his story about how no one wants persimmons. He said that a month back, he and another guy took about 100 kilos to a Mela in Dehradun. In the morning, they were selling persimmons, freshly harvested but unripe, for Rs. 20 per kilo. Many people inquired about it. When it was told that the fruit isn't ready to eat yet, that it has to be kept for a week or more to ripen since it has to be fully soft, people rejected the idea out rightly. 
They waited. And so, towards the end of the Mela, about afternoon, they dropped the price to Rs.10/kilo. And guess what. NOBODY bought it still. I mean, it is a fact that somehow many people have an aversion towards fruits up to an extent of avoiding them because they cause diabetes when, if they really take a thought of it, fruits are hardly (to nil) part of their diet. But for a fruit that was sold for as cheap as Rs.10 per kilo, isn't it worth a try to buy one kilo to see how it is? 
Have people lost curiosity? 
I didn't think so because when it comes to processed foods -junks like pizza, 
burger, chips, etc. these same people would not even have a second thought of stuffing those into their mouths.
So, I guess, this unpopular culture of fruit-eating has to change. And I can see that it has already begun. Most people are not just aware.

Anyway, they ended up taking 50 kilos of persimmons back home.

Persimmon trees yield less at first and then as it grows older the yield increases. The tree above is around 50 years and this variety of persimmons, small, tomato-like, not every fruit has seeds. In fact, seeds in fruits are rare. According to the man who tends this tree, from whom B took persimmons, the roots creep underground and a few meters away from the main tree a sapling grows to become another tree. And so on. 
So the picture below must be like that.

Back to my story.
B ended up taking 44 kilos from this farm and Kishan, the taxi driver, took 6 kilos for his family. Kishann, however, regretted he only took 6 kilos later on and suggested to come back a week or two to get more.

Because B told the Himalaya Fruits guy that he would come, before heading home they went to his shop at Pauri town. The guy was selling it for Rs.80 (the same fruit but not from the same guy whom B bought for Rs.15/kilo). B got it reduced to Rs.40/kilo and as a formality, he took 6 kilos more to make our persimmons from Pauri 50 kilos in total. He also took some other stuffs from the fruit guy like Californian grapes which was sold for Rs.600. B took a kilo and paid Rs.400/kilo for it. Some pears were also bought.

~our typical breakfast along with homemade fruit juice (canary melon or watermelon or banana) and oat-nut mix (oats, dates, pistachios, almonds, cashews, munnakka, green raisins, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds~

This is how the small variety of persimmons look like in half -seedless, juicy, and sweet. It has sweetness different from the Himachal variety (capsicum-like, with seeds).
Persimmons are absolutely divine fruits. It's no wonder it's called Ramphal. It is, indeed, fruit for the gods!

Never miss persimmons every year. I know we won't as much as possible.
Buy it hard, keep it at home. Wait. Check. Eat. 
You'll never regret you bought it.

28 November 2016

The Abandoned Puppy: Perci's Tale

The story:
My husband and I always try not to have fur-friends living with us considering 
our situation. We move a lot. But somehow, we generally end up taking care of one, 
two or more cats. After our last cat's disappearance, we strictly told each other not to take in animals anymore because we don't have a permanent home and 
it would be devastating for the animals to be carried around wherever we go. 
Just think about their stress of learning new neighborhoods and 
all the details that are attached to it. 
We don't want those for them.
In November 2015, however, in a new place called Khirsu, a puppy (I can't figure out how old the puppy was) was dropped at the hospital campus 
(Well, it's not actually a usual hospital with 24 hours service and admission. 
It's just an OPD entertaining patients beyond office hours as emergency cases. 
But it's quite a big campus since it has an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) center where students stay in their hostel, which is also located at the campus)

                                           ~Perci on her second day with us, sniffing around~

Anyway, who dropped the puppy was unknown. 
Now, at the hospital campus were two mother dogs who just recently given 9 pups together. 
These mums were actually living in someone's house. So when these pups were born,
 the problem of taking care of them came up. When they became older, the 4 male pups were taken by various people. People around here prefer male dogs, even male child. 
So, five female "unwanted" pups remained. 
The owner, who didn't really care about dogs, sent her grandchildren to transfer the pups to the hospital campus. What prompt her to do this must be the fact that 
the hospital has a kitchen for ANUM students and so kitchen equals food. 
Her food problem would be solved if they'd stay here. 
Then, she must have noticed our fondness for dogs (well, not just dogs, but she surely didn't know that). That could have added to the factor of leaving the puppies at the campus.

So, two mums and 5 female pups were already at the campus 
when the abandoned puppy was dropped. Knowing lactating dogs, 
they don't want any intruder to compete with food with them. 
They have to ensure that their pups survive!
What happened then when the mums saw this abandoned puppy?

According to those who have witnessed the incident, 
one mum was at the tail while the other was at the neck. They were as if trying 
to pull the puppy apart. Loud shrill shrouded the entire campus. Even I who was at home at that time heard that cry. Help came but the puppy was already bitten under the neck. 
My husband, who was doing OPD, came out to check out what just had happened. 
And so the story was told. Talking about the incident were a few hospital and ANM center staffs. 
Upon inquiry, nobody wanted to take the puppy in. 
One of the center's cook even had a plan of leaving the bitten puppy at the Khirsu market. 
Realizing not one would want to care for this pup, my husband carried her home asking my opinion of what to do with the puppy. Knowing myself, I couldn't say no!

So we took her in. We cleaned her wounds. Her left ear was torn a little. 
Our plan was to keep her well, let her grow a little older and we will find her another home (a farm, if possible) since we only planned to stay at this place for a year and move someplace else again.

We named her Perci. It's short for Persimmons because the day we took her in, 20 kilos of persimmons was delivered at home (as ordered) from Pauri.

~Abscess-forming cheek of Perci~
Her bite at the neck developed into an abscess after three days. 
When it was ready to burst, my husband did an incision. 
There was too much pus!
 Geez, I have never seen so much pus in my entire life! 
Anyway, she seemed better after that surgery. But the incised area expanded. Instead of a small cut, it became big...big enough to fit my two fingers inside. We thought of getting it stitched! 
Then I remembered, Droolee, our cat who had an abscess we didn't even know. 
Her cut was bigger than this and we did nothing. We just let it healed on its own. 
After a few days, no one would even suspect that she had a cut in that area. 
So we decided to let nature take its course. 
True enough, a few days later (I think more than a week because she kept scratching it)
the cut was healed on its own.

Weeks later she suffered from an infection, which one, we didn't know. 
She didn't eat anything for 3 days. She only kept drinking water and slept....most of the time! 
We force-fed her with a gruel made of ripe papaya, dates, flax seeds, banana, apple, and cashew nuts. She liked it.

The fourth day she was perfectly all right! The infection passed without any "help" from antibiotics or any other medications. We trusted nature (as we often do) more than these things, except of course if the situation is fatal and only modern medicine can help.

~Perci's Carpal flexural deformity~

Then she began limping. At least she looked like she was limping. 
At first, we thought her limp was a footpad infection, which is quite common among puppies,
 though we couldn't find any wrong in her foot or paws. 
So we thought the limp will heal on its own. But a week passed and she still limped. 
We didn't know what to do. Days passed without knowing what to do with her limp until the wrist got deformed. She walked as if she was scooping something. And then the right leg got expanded as if to level with the left leg. Instead of walking on paws, the wrist was also touching the ground. 
Nobody around knows anything about her situation, too. 
And as first-time carers of dogs, we didn't know much also. 
So we turned to Google. Perci was actually suffering from carpal flexural deformity -a deformity, which is common among giant breeds, caused by too much protein in the diet and too much spending walking on smooth surfaces. Before we noticed her limp, we were giving her an egg a week since she's too young to be separated from her mum. She certainly needed her mum's milk. This and our floor surface must have contributed to her deformity.

So we splinted her left leg -a homemade light wood, shaped like a splint. I wrapped it with cotton, taped it with surgical tape, and placed it on the back of her left leg and finally tied with a gauze. She tried to remove it many times. I also kept putting it back again. Then, the idea of taking her around the campus right after she's splinted worked. She forgot about it. At least for a while. So while at home, I kept an eye on her. 

The splint was on her for just a day and a night. After that, her deformity got resolved....so quickly. It was amazing. We also stopped giving her egg.

With all the things happened we even forgot the idea of giving her away. My husband and I talked about it, though. And I ended up crying. The thought of giving her away was unbearable. "She will never get papaya, apple, grapes, dates, tomatoes, cashew milk, etc. anymore." I murmured.

So one day we decided to keep her. When she misbehaved (from our own perspective, of course), we thought of finding someone to take her in. Then again, we changed our mind. 
When she kept waking us up at night because she wanted to go out to do number one or two 
(We made a blunder by not training her to do them in the bathroom -water problem is heavy here, not an excuse though), I get pissed off and I complained. 
Then again, we thought of giving her away. 
Every time we asked ourselves what to do when we leave this place always gave us the go signal to give her away. But then again, we changed our mind and we kept telling ourselves "we'll see".

To be continued.......

03 July 2016

Khirsu: A Picturesque Hill Station in Pauri Garhwal

~one of those few days when those towering snow-capped mountains are visible~
(This isn't the best Himalayan range one can capture during those days. The Horticulture is where a wide range of the Himalayas can be photographed. The Chaukamba will be mighty up there)

 Khirsu is a hill station located at around 1700 meters above sea level and about 19 kilometers from the capital district, Pauri. From Delhi, the routes to Khirsu are Delhi-Kordwar-Pauri or Delhi-Rishikesh-Pauri. The latter is longer.

Khirsu is a community development block headquarters in the hills where villagers practice terrace farming and animal agriculture (cows, sheep, and goats for milk and meat). The market, though small, has three to four vegetable shops, a few grocery shops, small tea stalls and hotels, stationery stores, computer service, among others. Because it is a block headquarter, all government offices which cater the need of the Khirsu block are located here including India Post office, State Bank of India (with ATM), BSNL (broadband is available), police station, government hospital, veterinary office, Forest Department and rest house, GMVN Hotel and Restaurant, Inter-College, etc.

Khirsu is known for the Himalayan range view in winter (November to February )  and the Forest Department's Botanical Park in winter and summer.

Because of the two features mentioned above, many tourists from nearby states of India come here to unwind and keep themselves from the hustle bustle of the cities even just for a few days. (Well, some are so detached with nature that even at this serene place they play loud music without realizing that their stupidity disturbs the forest and the animals in it and the neighbors, the nearest happens to be a hospital which is supposed to be a silent zone?).

Summer seems to be the season when tourists flock in great number to this place to escape the heat and deadly pollution of industrial cities. They generally stay at GMVN where accommodation can be arranged by phone or in person. Inquiry reveals a whopping Rs. 1600 per room for a night stay in season and Rs. 200 less during offseason. 
Quite costly huh? 
Well, that's what tourism does (one of)!
(I'm not sure though if it's the same price this year).
There are also cheaper accommodations available in and around Khirsu. The Hotel Taj Himalaya which is located along the national highway, a few meters from the entrance to Khirsu is one. Another one is Shri Badri Vishal guest house located just a few meters from The Hotel Taj Himalaya and just along the highway. I am not familiar with their charges, but they are cheaper than GMVN.

~a home away from home, GMVN, Khirsu~
People in the vicinity come on weekends with their families, too, to enjoy a day of tranquility and greenery at the Forest Department Botanical Park.
~one side of the park~
It's pleasant, quite big, and with open spaces and huts where one can lay their picnic baskets and simply savor the pleasant sight of the forested surroundings, the bees and other insects that are busy doing their day's work and the mellifluous songs that birds sing.
Or, one need not bring their own food supply. A few local hotels serve tea, pakoras (gram-coated onions or potatoes), and chow mien (noodle snack) and other cold drinks.

Where there are people, hotels are always in operation! It's always is.

~another part of Khirsu Botanical Park where kids' playground is situated~
(It's upsetting and maddening to witness how a beautiful place is being turned into a dustbin where people leave and throw thoughtlessly their garbage: plastic bags, paper plates, bottles, cans, etc. Please, be always reminded that doing such -not disposing of unusable things properly -reflects who we are. Also, since we love and are happy to be in this kind of places, we have the responsibility to maintain its beauty, protect it, and keep it clean. Let us do our part!)

~bloom time @ Khirsu Botanical Park~

So, let's move on!

In and Around Khirsu
The nearest, walkable market in Khirsu is Chaubatta. It is the stop point towards various villages. It has a bigger market so people generally get their goods and other items from here, if not from Srinagar or Pauri.

Khirsu Horticulture
The first place (longest trek) we visited a few days after we arrived (June) in Khirsu was the Horticulture, which is located in Raikal, around 3 km. from Khirsu, about an hour walk through the shortcut via Khirsu market with an 800 meters trek climb among Deodar, Oak,  Rhododendron, Kafal, and among other trees and bushes.

The climb starts from the first bore well found along the road a few meters from this intersection. You have to take the road towards Khirsu-Khakra-Rudraprayag route.

~The boards that tell you which way to go. Raikal is forward ahead.~
(This is connecting road: one forward goes to Rudraprayag where Rahaikal road is, to the right goes to Khirsu and Pauri, then the back section goes to Srinagar)

After around 15 minutes of climbing with a few stops for photographs, we reached the area and welcomed by the area-in-charge, Mr. Bisht. (This year -2016-, it is Mr. Premsingh). We told him we will take whatever fruits or vegetables he has. He then told us to roam around and pluck whichever fruit that is ready as much as we can eat. That, indeed, we did! I got to climb their trees, too, which I haven't done in a long time.
The feeling that you are eating fruits right from the tree was simply delightful. Plus you get to eat pesticide-free produce.
~aadu or peach (maroon variety) which was not ready at that time~

In 2015), we were not able to taste this peach. It seems like we were late and Balu or bears have also claimed our share. Anyway, it's good to know they get something to eat. So it doesn't matter if we didn't.

This year, 2016, they were diseased...must be the weather. Though there were a few which seem okay enough to eat, Balu, again, knocked down the trees before they are ready. So, yeah, guess we just need to wait for next year?
~fresh, half-eaten apricot (bigger variety) which is so juicy~
This variety was nothing like in the market, or at least, I haven't found this variety myself. Generally, what's available is the smaller variety. Earlier this year though they didn't yield much because of climate change. We were only able to take home about 3 kilos. And the department itself was not able to harvest for the local market.

~The view of the community health center (CHC) Khirsu (tallest building) and 
GMVN  (white building, right) from one of the house roof-tops at Khirsu market area~ 

My husband worked at PHC Khirsu, now CHC, as a resident doctor and wherever he works comes the adventure of exploring the place and its neighbors, documenting everything our camera can capture from cycling, trekking, to hiring a taxi to take us to a place far enough to walk let alone the bird watching and naming, leopard spotting, and barking deer bark-tailing.

The next photo was taken after it rained the whole night:

~view from the hospital~

The three-pointed snow-clad mountain is Gangotri range. The towns and villages which are normally visible from afar on brighter days are fully covered in fog. What's visible is the helipad hill. It's non-operational, never was, I guess. Only the H sign is still there.

To be continued........
Some more pictures to be uploaded once broadband is back. Right now, I am on a data card. Keep visiting!