Nourishing Neem

It is impossible to pass an unworshipped neem tree, especially in rural India. Neem tree, also famously known as sarva roga nivarini, has proven to be a sure panacea for many physical problems. Here are the many benefits of neem:

Chewing a couple of tender neem leaves can deworm your stomach, help you recuperate from jaundice, and also help in regulating blood sugar. It can also treat mouth ulcers, bleeding sore gums, and can prevent tooth decay.

Regular intake of neem leaves after meals regulates your digestive system, and can also get rid of psoriasis.

Consuming tender neem sprouts or capsules for a fortnight to a month can detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system. A healthier immune system helps your body in fighting off many illness and diseases.

When a paste made of neem leaves mixed with coconut oil and turmeric powder is applied to the face and washed off after an hour, it can leave it glowing.

Regular consumption of tender neem leaves can help you deal with fever, cough, aches and pains, sore throat, fatigue and nasal congestion.

Make your own insecticide by making little cloth bags of dried neem leaves and leave it in your provisions, clothes cupboards and bookshelves.

Bacterial infections in the nasal passages and respiratory system can be decreased by inhaling steam from boiling the leaves with a drop of eucalyptus oil.

This neem tree was outside our home.

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Palm Leaf Paper


Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

Green Building for a Better Future

Every creature on earth worth its salt has carved a niche for itself in some portion of the earth by way of shelter to see them through the inclemency of extreme weather conditions. Such being the case, can man, the most intelligent creation of them all, be left behind?

Archaeological surveys across the globe have revealed that ever since the evolution of man, he has felt and acknowledged the need to be sheltered from extreme conditions exuded by natural elements. Natural caves chosen as residence by the Paleolithic man had all the makings of a rudimentary home. Gradually, he gleaned know-how from the natural life around him and learned to build secure liveable homes deriving his sources from nature.

We have come a long way since then. Today we have the know-how to build state of the art buildings with every possible facility under the sun. Yet there is much to be desired in terms of planning and having equal accessibility to these conveniences. Startling realities of life like congestion and pollution are wreaking havoc especially in Indian cities.

Alarming urbanisation on the one hand and the need for cost effective housing on the other is pressurising architects and builders alike to construct homes for just about everyone who chooses to live in the cities. Every prospective house owner dreams of having a sleek, functional aesthetic contemporary home that is reinforced with strength sourced from premium housing material at an affordable price.

The expectations of the public appear to be reasonable and the builders are only too eager to fulfil them but in the process. Hence, homes are built all over the place without really ploughing through the pros and cons of the issue. The housing sector is riddled with chaotic posers from environmental, economic and ethical issues. There are a plethora of other related aspects that need to be sorted out.

It is high time man realised that global warming across the world is not a coffee table topic of the “eco-friendly lot” anymore; it is a serious issue that needs to be reckoned with. Conservation of natural resources and abstinence from using non-biodegradable materials should become the sovereign duty of each and everyone who walks the planet earth.

This does not mean that man does not have the right to enjoy his life, build his home or do it up the way it pleases his aesthetic sense. Yet if man remembers the words from the “Good Book” he will understand that “Charity begins at home.”

Dignity of labour
Home builders, owners and users should realise that the strength of eco-friendly architecture can go a long way in replenishing or at least sustaining the natural resources to a large extent. For starters, we can circumvent the use of extensive machines in the building industry and rely upon skills of people, thereby attempting to revive dignity of labour besides empowering labourers economically.

Eco-friendly ideas span across several possibilities like building materials, construc-tion technology, attitudes towards workers, alternative lifestyle, passive solar cooling, embedded energy, localising the act and such others. No construction can have all these possibilities explored in one, but may adopt as many ideas as possible towards a greener future.

Using natural building material tempered with technology can prove not only to be cost effective but can revive several traditional time-tested building techniques by master artisans across India.

If this measure is taken seriously by architects, builders, interior decorators and prospective house owners alike, we will not only be supporting the livelihood of several masons and artisans but will indirectly promote and rejuvenate a dying art which is eco-friendly and the need of today.

These days, space is a constraint in growing cities hence most people have to compromise on translating the home of their dreams on terra firma and look forward to realising them in one of the floors of a high rise building. Strong and light materials will prove to be invaluable companions in providing more floor space and letting in light and air in good measure.

When we take practical realties into consideration, it is obvious that one cannot turn the wheel of time back and undo all the damage that has already be­en wreaked on earth yet, if the decisions we make while constructing or renovating homes can be examined philanthropically, it automatically becomes our duty to switch over to eco-friendly building material.

Testing time For Trees


How does one kill a tree? Axe it down silly! I can almost hear you screaming out loudly. But then, we also know that the old fogey will shed tears for a while, mope around a bit and spring right back with tender green sprouts at the earliest opportunity.

So, if someone wants to get rid of the tree forever, they must ensure that the roots are pulled out entirely and they are denied access to moisture because they can battle back to survival with the least of resources.

Man learned to do this job meticulously because he did not want impediments in the form of trees on his road to progress. Never mind, if he destroyed the green cover, he could always cross bridges as and when he came across them. Well, what has been outlined is a well known old story.

These days, the green activists, the government, its opposition party and the common man are in agreement about the importance of growing and nurturing trees for our own sakes. This wisdom has dawned across mankind around the world after mother nature has given us a sample of how climate change and depleting natural resources can actually spell disaster to us in the long-run.

So, If we are under the impression that we have turned into Samaritans who will squirm at the very thought of bringing down sturdy trees, we must stand corrected. We have simply changed our excuses to do the dreadful deed.

These days we bring down the old fellows who are threatening to fall down during the next rains. This measure has the sanctified permission of the powers that be and is carried out in full public view in broad daylight.

Inhuman way
However, this piece aims at throwing light on several other inhuman ways which are being employed to do away with the green shade. How many times have we not noticed a lot of garbage, mostly the inflammable variety being dumped around a tree?

They are regularly burnt down till the tree gets browner by the day; even as its life supporting roots are singed to death. When the tree starts resembling deadwood, they become officially ready to be brought down with official sanction. It is strange but true, that this modus operandi has been almost uniformly adopted by urban India.

Materialistic instincts

It is also a fact that these trees are invariably the ones that are found on the pavements or properties that have been earmarked to serve a greater commercial purpose driven by the materialistic instincts of the perpetrator/s.

All the same, these days, the eco-friendly lot occasionally smells a rat and bung a spanner in the destructive project. Nevertheless, there are people who are ready to go to any length to eliminate the obstacles that come in their way of their growth.

More recently a bunch of diehard tree lovers were shocked out of their wits to see a whole copse die and fall down. When the area was marked to be developed as a commercial complex, the builders wanted to get a better look at the ground and ordered the trees to be cleared.

The tree enthusiasts managed to convince the owner to retain the trees and even came up with a less lucrative plan B which would prove to be a green service to the society at large.

The matter did seem to conclude amicably and seemed to be that way for almost a year, till the day when all the trees came crashing down within a matter of a few days. A little investigation by the heartbroken group revealed that small dozes cups of poison had been dropped around the roots of the trees, one foot below the ground level. When they shared this bit of tragic news, it became apparent that this dirty secret happened to be the cause of death of many such random trees that came down across time and space.

Once the initial distaste for the morbid thought process ceases, one must realise that people will always be on either side of the fence when it comes to their equations with nature’s verdant bounty.

Therefore, it becomes the solemn duty of the champions of the cause of trees to watch out and foil the clever, furtive and sly attempts of their detractors. If we choose to be passive onlookers of the massive annihilation of our green cover, we may not even have enough time for retribution.

Health Leaves- Curry Leaves

Curry leaves are an integral part of Indian food. However, children and adults alike tend to pick them out of their meals and put them aside without second thought. Here are a few of the iron-rich ingredient’s benefits that will make you consider developing a liking for curry leaves:

Research has shown that regular intake of curry leaves not only promotes hair growth, but also keeps your locks shiny, black and healthy.

Munching on eight to 10 curry leaves every morning can help you keep obesity an high blood sugar at bay.

Curry leaves, thanks to their high iron content, are excellent for the health of mothers before and after childbirth.

Grind up the curry leaves and add them in curries to make sure your children get the full benefits of the leaves.

Spicy gravies made of curry leaves, when eaten hot with rice and ghee, can stoke one’s appetite and regulate metabolism for the next couple of days.

When eaten for dinner, it which relieves one of body aches and congestion of the lungs. Patients recuperating from simple flu, fever and other minor illnesses will find this dish to be soothing.

 Munching a a dozen fresh curry leaves everyday in the morning can help you reduce high blood sugar levels even some of your unwanted weight.

Those of you who have green fingers will vouch for the fact that, growing a curry leaf shrub can be a very demanding task, especially in the sapling stages. Besides turning the soil gently and watering it in a limited way, traditionalists have found that diluted sour buttermilk poured at the roots of the plant can improve its colour and flavour.

Legend has it that king Thondaman lined up a whole range of gifts for his daughter Padmavathi on the occasion of her wedding with lord Srinivasa. The gifts consisted of just about everything that she could need– expensive clothes, jewellery, furniture, flowers, fruits, nuts and vegetables among other things. However, Bakulamalika, the groom’s mother, gently pointed out that they had missed out on gifting their daughter something important -curry leaves!

Uniting to Fight the Mosquito Menace

When Namma Bengaluru metamorphosed from being the much touted Pensioner’s Paradise into a tech savvy Silicon Valley, we started paying the price. The city expanded till it burst at its seams and then grew taller by the day till it became an unwieldy giant. The leafy avenues made way for wider roads and flyovers shaving away the green cover smoothly.

Electricity and water supply have been stretched to unimaginable limits to cater albeit insufficiently to the ever growing population. The sewage and the garbage disposal system which was built once upon a time, do not know how to handle our extraneous contemporary needs. The city has just about started rectifying the infrastructure.

Simultaneously, it has also started identifying and battling new age problems like public transport, traffic jams and all kinds of pollution. More recently, the mosquito menace has descended on us.

A little analysis of the dire straits that we have landed ourselves into will sadly reveal that we have no one else to blame for the same but ourselves. The biological food chain has been cut unceremoniously by us.

The mosquitoes which happen to be the meals of many varieties of amphibians and reptiles have lost their habitat and have come down in numbers. We cannot expect Mother Nature to take care of the imbalance immediately after flouting every rule in her book. Consequently, we now live in the terror of this miniature demon in disguise.

The population of the little blood sucker has boomed beyond imagination. Gone or the days when the occasional troublemaker could be reduced into a squishy insignificant pulp with a little alertness on our part. The tiny mosquito has grown big, quite literally. The ill effects of its bite has enhanced proportionately.

These days the mosquito bite can render us quite ill, helpless and sometimes do away with our lives by manifesting as multiple ailments like malaria, dengue and chikungunya among others. Each one of us has developed our very own methodology for overcoming this nuisance.

Mosquito coils, nets, repellants and creams, electric and electronic devices have fallen short of our expectations to annihilate the tribe off the face of earth. They don’t seem to be protecting us as well as we expect them to do.

Even if we do succeed in keeping mosquito-free premises, we cannot rest on our laurels. For, the moment we open the door or window, the little beasts will fly in gleefully and make life miserable for us.

Survival threatened
It is a fact that mosquitoes cannot be simply wished away. They are here for real. Unless we collectively do something about getting rid of them, we cannot avoid being bombarded by mosquito related news which sometimes hit the headlines. It is very obvious that no single individual can take up such a responsibility all on his own. Residents of a street could get together and take turns to do the duties assigned to them.

We must plant a few saplings of neem on the roadside wherever possible and make sure to take care of them. We could grow short hedges along the open drains.

Mint, tulsi, lemon grass, marigold, all spice and other such fragrant plants can dissuade mosquitoes. Besides, these plants will absorb the excessive moisture there-by draining or at least lessening the drain water to a large extent.

Whenever we see sewage water flowing into the storm water drains, we must make sure that we report to the authorities. Let us not wait for the local city corporation’s turn to spray mosquito repellant into the drains, we could spray the same on their behalf on a daily basis by taking turns till all the larvae disappear. We must not allow water to stagnate around our tenements.

If we have space in our compounds, we could make our own compost pit and dispose all bio-degradable waste into them and ensure that we add a layer of soil once in every three or four days.

Though the fumes emitted from burning of garbage and dried leaves can get rid of the pesky mosquitoes, avoid burning for it will pollute the air and will also ruin your chances of making rich compost.

All of us know that united we stand and divided we fall. We have come to a point where our health and perhaps our very survival is being threatened by these winged creatures. We must decide whether we want to annihilate or help the tribe of mosquitoes to thrive and act accordingly.

Top Spot For Green Spots

Radha Prathi Sep 15, 2015,

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It is a known fact that therural population across the world is on a fast track conversion mode, filling in urban spaces. It is no wonder then that we are being faced with some pertinent questions.

If every country cousin of oursseeks the pleasures of city life, then who will grow our food for us? If at all a few do decide to cater to our needs, how will they price it? When the demand becomes overwhelming, will food come under the hammer? Would it not be safe for the highest bidder to apply for special protection, lest he gets lynched for his precious possession?

These and more futuristic questions relating to the state of our health if we use food grown with the help of chemical fertilisers or food which is not grown indigenously have been foreseen by some green minds around the globe. They have realised that what has been done cannot be undone.

For instance, it would be a criminal waste of human effort and money if we raze down buildings to recreate arable lands.

We cannot ground people to their villages and farms if they have other ambitions. But then, everybody needs to eat. If we have to fulfill our needs,  we must come up with ingenious solutions to stem the issues which are weaving their way to consume us.

The people who applied their minds on the issue have understood that only growing food on the good earth cannot provide for all. With the villages emptying out day after day and land resource getting scarce in the city, they came up with a master plan. They simply decided to take the soil to the terrace and grow food there.

Once the idea slipped into place, enterprising people have started working on the idea methodically. These smart brains realised that if each person, family or community started growing their own food, then they could overcome many problems at the same time.

The process is easier said than done. In the past, India has had a few terrace gardens sporadically, mostly because of the gardener’s passion or because of its novelty. It is only in the last decade that we have taken up the business of kitchen gardens and terrace gardens seriously.

Governments, NGOs and individuals have come up with several programmes which create awareness about the trending concept. Once they find an interested group of people, they are updated on the subject. The questions of the curious are answered. Sometimes the wannabe gardeners are taken on a field trip to the terrace garden of the people who already have one in place.

Work experience
The newbies are also provided hands-on work experience by allowing them to work on a garden which is being created newly.

A kit consisting of seeds, saplings, containers, soil, garden implements, waste management material among other things are put together, making it easy for the enthusiastic taker to buy them without running around.

An experienced hand helps the novice set up his or her garden. That is not all. There are experts who guide the first time gardeners by answering their questions and offering timely tips. In other words, the people who have been there and done that are most willing to hold the hands of the debutante and guide them through the green path. Once the first crop is harvested successfully, most gardeners are hooked to it for life.

At the practical level we could have chemical free fresh produce, besides enjoying pollution free and healthier life. At another level, people will renew their interest in life when they reconnect with nature. For starters, they will find their bodies toning up because of all the physical exertion.

Gradually, people will find themselves becoming caring and observant towards their plants. Over a period of time, they will learn to appreciate the finer aspects of life like emotions, sentiments, beauty, patience and the enormity of nature’s process.

The newly learned lessons will evoke their sense of equanimity. Sharing their bumper crop or bartering them with fellow gardeners can actually improve their social relationships and boost their feel good factor.

After all, happy and contented people pave way to a harmonious society. With such sterling support from all quarters and so many fringe benefits, we really have no legitimate excuse for not experimenting with our green thumbs and contributing to our green needs!