Sunday, 30 March 2014

Sour....Sourer........Sourest.... Bilimbi Bonanza.

Just one tree and a million Bilimbi’s.  This amazing little fruit also known as tree sorrel, Irumban/Chemmeen Puli or Bimbul  grows in abundance in almost every backyard in this region. 
The lush evergreen tree sprouts tiny red flowers right on the trunk itself.
 And within a few weeks,  bunches of shiny bilimbis are visible. 
 You can use them as long as they are bright green and crunchy, but the minute they start yellowing, they turn mushy and inedible.   
And no, they cannot be refrigerated/ transported, their shelf-life is just a day.  So what can I do with so much of it?  I tried sun-drying the slices and they turned out nice. The sambar gets a perfect tang and I can do without the store-bought tamarind.


And I churn out  a few bottles of Bilimbi pickles.
 The aroma of home ground spices and the tart, crunchy bilimbis make a great combo in these pickles.
Varan-bhat and pickles any one?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Moonlight and Music on the mountainside

If there is one thing that I miss from our city-life, is the choice of  Music concerts that we had.  What with Karnataka- Sangh’s Sunday morning musical feasts,  Pratha-swar at Ravindra Natya mandir, the numerous shows at Nehru centre – .....sigh...  So the other day I was just mentioning this fact to an acquaintance here and he promised to inform me about any concerts in the vicinity. Sure enough, he called up the other day to tell me about an all-night music program, at a place called Karikaan Parameshwari temple about 10 kms from Honavar.  I had never heard about this place so I took down the directions. He warned us about the steep road to the place and asked us to carry some warm clothes as it was an open-air concert from 7 pm to 7 am.

So Saturday night (the first Saturday after Magh Purnima) we decided to leave after our usual farm-chores and an early dinner. The ride on the almost empty NH-17 was a real pleasure. I had googled the place and got the precise distances, so we could spot the narrow road leading to Areangadi town quite easily. We had to travel about 6 kms and then we would see an arched entrance leading to the temple.  Most temples in this area have elaborate, brightly lit decorated arched entrances, so we almost missed this one- it was  a dull grey square entrance leading to what looked like a forest area, with a barely legible  name painted on it. This is when my Kannada reading skills come to my rescue. The whole area was deserted so I could gawk and decipher it laboriously. Yes –this is the place I stated to hubby who looked rather unconvinced – he expected some banner or some some indication of the Music program – but there was none. Are you sure you heard right .. is it really today?......  Aw come on – if not, let us enjoy a ride in the wilderness I replied.

So we set off onto the road which got increasingly narrower and steeper. Several hairpin bends later, not a soul in sight, in total darkness as the forest cover obscured the moonlight and even I started doubting whether I had got the name and the directions right. Temple names can be very confusing in this area. So, we continued up the road. Ocassionally the forest cover would open up, displaying a brilliant moonlit view of the valley.  Only 2 kms more I said peering at the speedometer – well 2 kms on a narrow gravelly road with steep haipin bends can seem pretty long when it is getting close to midnight.   But then, google maps are right most of the times (thank heavens) and indeed after 2 kms, we reached a clearing which appeared like a parking lot with scores of cars and 2 wheelers parked. We  walked out in the chill night air. The entrance to the temple was abuzz with people. The melodious strains of Raga Kafi kannada rose as we removed our footwear in the designated area and walked in.  The music seemed to be coming from the upper level, so we walked up the narrow flight of stairs onto what looked like a terrace. The musicians were seated on this, and in front, an amazing sight greeted our eyes. The audience was spread out on the rocky hillside all of them bundled up in shawls and sweaters. We picked our way carefully up the rocks and found a comfortable place and sat down. What a view!!!! The whole valley lay before us bathed in the moonlight, the musicians were weaving out their magic and the enthralled audience lay sprawled on the rocks. It was a night to remember.
We enjoyed every bit of the 2 hours that we spent there. It was tempting to stay on till morning to watch the dawn break over the landscape and listen to a few morning ragas, but morning at the farm is the busiest and we had to get back. 
A view of the temple during the day
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