A Grape Adventure – Grapes are not sour

Sometime back, my wife had come across a photograph in The Hindu of grapes being harvested at the Grape Research Centre, Rajendranagar. We figured out that they had opened their gates for the general public for harvesting. Too good an opportunity to let it go. So all excited, we headed to the centre to try our luck at getting some sweet yummy grapes fresh from the farm.

On reaching, a big hoarding with the pictures of different varieties of grapes grown at the farm welcomed us. The girls were intrigued by the varied hues of the grapes – green, black, red, purple, dark blue. Our energies were upped with the enticing prospects.

We made our way to a small stall set up at the centre to facilitate the process.  In response to all our enthusiastic queries, the person at the counter looked at us sympathetically and shared that the harvesting had begun more than a month ago. So, despite a bumper produce of 10,000 kgs, we may not be able to get even a kg of grapes from whatever was left at the vineyard.

The adults in us who need volumes for gratification were disheartened. Not the girls who were ready for action and fun. So there we were armed with two baskets, one for each of the girls to put their harvests and a knife. As we were about to enter the vineyard, the security personnel in charge of the place suggested that we begin our exploration from the far end columns of vines, just in case.

The entire vineyard had overhead bird netting in place – to prevent the birds from feasting on the produce. The net had to be lifted to enter the vinery and this act made the girls feel as if we were entering a special secret zone. As we walked through the grape climbers, the green leaves of the vines were pleasing to the eye. The girls were happy because they were able to touch and feel the plants, all by themselves. After running around a few columns, the girls finally chanced upon bunches of hanging grapes. Big, small, tiny, firm, soft, mushy, dried, green, black, purple, maroon – they described every fruit they picked. We helped them to figure out the difference between the raw and ripe ones and the care that they need to take whilst picking the ripe fruits.

Just as they were going about harvesting, the drip irrigation system was switched on to water the plants. There were pipes running along the grape climbers with holes for water to trickle drop by drop directly onto the plant’s roots. Seemed to be everything that we could ask for – each of the picked fruits started to get washed and gobbled. And that is when they realised that grapes also have seeds. I mean until then, all the market bought ones that they had been introduced to were all of the seedless variety. B +ve asked if they should eat the seeds like those of the watermelon or spit them out like those of the custard apples. I asked her to give it a try and she started crunching and munching.

O +ve had not been fond of fruits, grapes in particular until then. But she couldn’t resist the taste of her sweet labour. Unfortunately, all that she tasted was sour and had seeds much to her chagrin. Good enough for her to conclude that grapes are not worthy of her appetite. B +ve with her fondness for sour had her tummy full. The icing on the cake for her was when whilst reading out the names of the grapes, she figured out a variety of grapes which actually shared her name. O +ve searched in vain but couldn’t find her name etched on the sign poles.

In all our exploration, we managed to find only one variety of grapes that was sweet. The rest were sour to the core. But nothing deterred us. I mean the girls and they went on and on religiously walking through every column at the vineyard.

After a good two hours, we came out of the netted zone. A tractor in a corner caught the girls’ attention. They spent next 15-20 minutes in driving the stationary tractor. Finally, all our efforts were weighed at 300 grams and priced at Rs. 30/-.

Farm visits which tend to focus on picking and plucking give a great high. After all, who would not miss out on a chance of harvesting and savouring farm fresh produce? But such visits also tend to inadvertently not focus on the intensive and interesting facets and processes at the farm. It is often noted that kids, more so adults are on an accumulation spree/ on a race to fill baskets and sacks during harvest festivals. We are forever in a race and leave no chance of getting our kids inducted into it at the earliest, isn’t it?

Had there been more grapes, would we have missed out on getting acquainted with… The twists and bends of the grape vines? The smell of moistened earth? The number of nozzles between two sign poles? The textures and colours of the heart-shaped leaves? Intricately created spider webs?

We set out on our grape adventure in search of sweet grapes. At the end of it, all I can say is our grapes were not sour.

Colour Me Purple – A Day with Berries of Basella

In our apartment’s car parking lot, there are a few potted plants along the sideways. O +ve and B +ve like to pick up twigs, fallen leaves and poke around the wet soil. Just as we were all walking, we chanced upon the berries of the Red Malabar Spinach vine. Oh, My! In a jiffy, they brought back colourful memories of my childhood.

My wife and I went ahead and plucked some of them. We gave the girls one each and asked them to squeeze the berries. They were a bit apprehensive not knowing what is to come out but as the lovely purple colour oozed out, the girls squealed with delight. B +ve immediately remarked that she liked this colour and asked if she could colour her palm, fingers and nails. Even before I answered in the affirmative, O +ve also got hooked on the idea and they both got busy in painting their – whatever they can with the purple colour of the Red Malabar Spinach fruits. I asked them not to throw away the seeds after rubbing the colour.

The girls wanted to do more – so they started off on my hands. Whilst they were at it, my wife told them about the Red Malabar Spinach vine and showed them its heart-shaped semi-succulent leaves with red veins, petioles and stems. She also shared memories of a time when her mother used to grow them in their backyard and whenever they were in the mood for it, she would dash off to bring some freshly harvested leaves for a yummy daal.

My nails, fingers and palm were all well done.

And then O +ve asked if they could use the colour for playing Holi. I said yes and they went gung-ho smearing each other’s faces with the berry’s juice. After they exhausted their handfuls, I asked them to pick some berries and leaves for home and also collected all the seeds that the girls had left behind. That’s when B +ve shared that she would use some to colour water in her squeeze bottle to play Holi with her grandparents.

Their afternoon nap was followed by a Holi session with their grandparents. And then I asked them if they were willing to plant the Basella Rubra seeds in their pots in our flat’s balcony. My daughters were all for it – so after digging out the hardened soil in unused pots, they sowed the seeds, filled up the pots with red soil and watered them. And the minute they finished the task, they started asking, so when will the berries come? So much for my taking them through the entire growth cycle of a plant:)

There were some more berries left in their basket along with the leaves. When their mother asked them if she could use the leaves to make daal in the way their grandmother made, they readily agreed. And whilst their mom was busy in the kitchen, we were trying out ways to put to use the remaining berries.

I made some quick outlines with their names on cards and asked them to follow suit. O +ve and B +ve were very happy to see the output. They really enjoyed writing their names with the berries. We then tried splat painting with the berries on both paper and fabric. And it was just awesome fun.

The day ended with a meal of hot piping rice, ghee, yummy malabar spinach dal and smudges of purple colour all around. Who would have thought that we could spend an entire day with a berry fruit? Girls are not going to forget the colour purple any time soon or the berry or what all can be done with it.

A day well spent with Berries of Basella – Colour me Purple.

A Day Out with my daughters

India is not a place for the comfort of the very elderly, infirm, differently abled when it comes to travelling in public alone; though surely there are exceptions. So, when I whine about the issues faced by me as a father who wants to travel around with my twin daughters of 3 years and 6 months, I know that I come at the end of the priority order for the convenience expected.

Washroom for the Girls:

I cannot take my daughters to the washroom in a public place. Finding a functional washroom is a task in itself. Even if I find one, I realize that it isn’t of any use for me. I can request women to take my daughters to relieve them, but the girls would just not go with strangers. And that is how I want it to be as well.

Washroom for me:

I cannot use the washroom in a public place. Where do I leave my daughters?

As a result of the above two reasons, we welcome ourselves only in parks and gardens where we can find good enough number of trees to hide behind, whenever required, for obvious reasons. Sorry Modiji, but we have not been able to contribute to Swachh Bharat.

Public transport:

The RTC buses in Hyderabad have back-door ear-marked for men and front-door for women. The seating is also demarcated – women in the front seats and men in the rear ones. With my 2 daughters, I fit nowhere. We did try to travel in non-peak hours on relatively empty buses. I realized that the steps are very high for the girls to manage by themselves. So getting in and out of the bus for us takes too much of time for the driver’s comfort and we just get honked out.

With people hanging out of the local trains, there is no way that we can even think of sneaking in.

Crossing the road:

I have my heart in my mouth if we have to cross the road at all. Roads have become too wide and the time allotted at the traffic signal has gotten way too less for crossing unless you are a 100 m sprinter, which we are not. And whilst we are racing across to cross and save our lives, there have hardly been occasions without a two / four wheeler jumping the signal and coming straight for us.

Walking on the road:

Whenever we are out, the girls prefer to hold my hand whilst walking. This means that I have to keep them on my either side. Not having footpaths all across means that one of the girls is always on the side of the traffic and let me tell you that it is just so scary.

 Auto drivers taking us for a ride:

Due to the difficulties we face in travelling by buses and trains, autos are our go-to option. Hyderabad autos don’t work on a meter. If they do, you wouldn’t want them to as you realize pretty soon that the tampered meters are doing their job pretty well by overcharging. When the auto drivers see a man with 2 young girls, they see a victim very vulnerable, who can be taken for a ride – figuratively and literally, as they understand that the option less situation that we are in.

Metro:

Hyderabad Metro started functioning some time back. We tried a couple of times but found ourselves not fitting in. Both the girls do not require a ticket to travel and with my one token, I can cross over in/out only once, lifting one of the girls and the other girl gets left behind, needing to be picked up from sideways and they do not like such treatment. The timing at the in/out token gates does not allow all three of us simultaneously. Even the timing for the train gates – opening/closing is a bit too much for us to cope up with. Better to leave Metro alone, till the girls grow up a bit more.

We have refused to buy a vehicle. Conscious of our carbon footprint and also not wanting to add to the traffic chaos, we have always been ardent believers and users of public transport. And now, I as a father of twin daughters find it way too difficult to exercise my freedom of movement, in a safe – secure way.

Anyways, as mentioned in the beginning, we are the last priority and if our nation does manage to make roads, footpaths, public transport services, toilets truly accessible to the old and the differently abled people, then we will surely suit ourselves in.

What do you say? How to better the moving around?