Posted by: cochinblogger | July 10, 2009

The Blue-Veined Beauty

Hi, this is Cochin Blogger at your service. I’m based in a town called Cochin (officially, Kochi) in the state of Kerala, which is perched at the southern-most tip of India. It’s just a stone’s throw from Sri Lanka, and is famous for its unique natural beauty. Kerala is a slim, blue-veined beauty, with canals, backwaters, lagoons, rivers, lakes, ponds, and puddles galore, a thin strip of land caressed by the waters of the Arabian Sea.

Kerala’s trademark is tropical fecundity. It’s a paradise that is still largely unspoiled because of the low level of industrialization. Kerala first hit the international headlines when it voted the communists to power in 1957, this being only the second time communists anywhere in the world have formed a popularly elected government (the first time was in the tiny republic of San Marino).

Right, I’m signing off now. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. 🙂

Posted by: cochinblogger | June 14, 2019

St. Teres’a Monastery Church by Night

St. Teresa's Monastery Church, located on Banerji Road opposite the T.D. Road intersection, washed clean by the first showers of this year's monsoon.

I shot this one-handed from T.D. Road. The other hand was holding up my umbrella.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | June 10, 2019

Matadors of the Rain

The monsoon has arrived in Kerala, and with it have erupted the matadors of the rain: the frogs. They are more heard than seen, and their loud croaks are a reassurance that all is not lost though much of the natural world is disappearing before our eyes.

However, the Indian bullfrog is a fearsome predator whose diet apparently can include other frogs, snakes, chicks, ducklings, centipedes, etc., given the opportunity. It is a fierce carnivore — even a cannibal — even as a tadpole. Yes, I found all this difficult to believe, but see how as an invader it has wreaked havoc in the Andamans:

Walking down T.D. Road yesterday on a rain-swept night, this huge bullfrog hopped in front of me on the pavement. I managed to take this one-handed shot as it froze beside a wall.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | June 7, 2019

Easy Rider Redux

Shot from a moving auto-rickshaw on Banerjee Road.

He's one of a group of nine youngsters who set out for the city on bikes from the Infopark region of Kakkanad every morning at the crack of dawn and return rejuvenated to begin their workday. I've never seen him before, so how do I know so much about him? Read on.

I was traveling in an auto when I saw this biker just ahead of me. Zipping open my camera bag, I requested the driver to overtake the biker so that I could shoot him. He obliged. At a traffic signal, I showed the driver the photo I had taken. He nodded his appreciation.

"He is one of a group of nine who bike to the city every morning from the Infopark," he told me.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"One of the riders had a flat one day, and hailed me. I took him and the bike to the nearest repair shop, which was some distance away. We got talking. That's how I know."

I'm an inveterate auto user, and found myself once again admiring the intimate knowledge the auto driver has of the city and its inhabitants. It's not just that they keep an ear to the ground, but that they have six ears: two in the usual place, and four that roll along on the ground.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | May 31, 2019

Bee Ball

Shot at the Panampilly Nagar park.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | April 30, 2019

Cochin Oil Terminal by Night

Shot from Subhash Park.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | March 23, 2019

Mein Schiff at Cochin Harbour

Even the sun needs a drink at the end of the day.

Shot from Subhash Park.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | February 24, 2019

“Celebrity Constellation” at Kochi Port

Shot from Subhash Park.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | February 20, 2019

The Name of the Rose

I sat at the table, trying to read the face of the bank manager seated opposite me as he spoke on the phone. What was his mood like? He seemed alright. There were no telltale signs of tension that I could spot. I was apprehensive because the purpose of my visit was unusual. I had a question to ask him about his bank that had nothing to do with banking. I had entered his room tentatively, had smiled my greeting, had been invited to take a seat. And here I was.

He put down the phone and looked at me inquiringly. I cleared my throat and arranged my face into what I hoped was a disarming smile. "Err … I've come to ask about a plant growing in your compound." He looked at me quizzically. "It has bright orange flowers. Would you happen to know its name?" He took it well. "Hmmm … some plants were sent over by the regional office for the inauguration. I will have to check with them. But let me see which plant you're talking about." He rose (pun unintended!) from his chair, and I accompanied him outside. The plant had grown over the wall, and the branches peeped out into the street. They were studded with brightly colored orange flowers that looked strangely artificial, as though a skilled craftsman had fashioned them out of wax. The manager took in the scene for a full minute. Finally, he said "I will write to the office and ask them. Give me a couple of weeks. " I thanked him and left, happy.

To identify plants and trees, I have several resources that usually get the job done: Kehimkar's Common Indian Wild Flowers, Karthikeyan's Discover Avenue Trees, and Srinivasa's Discover Garden Climbers. There is the wonderful Flowers of India website, where one can browse flowers by color. There is Google Search by Image. There are nature forums where one can post a photo and request an identification. And last but not least, there are knowledgeable friends to consult. I'm never in a hurry. There is pleasure in lingering over the problem, and I enjoy the thrill of the chase. In this case, for my orange flower, Google Search by Image turned up the name of a variety of rose. It looked similar, but I needed confirmation. Hence, the visit to the bank.

A few days later, at a family gathering, I met a horticulturist. This was too good an opportunity to miss. I pulled out my phone and showed her the orange flower. "Oh, that's a cactus flower," she said. A cactus? Those spiny plants that grow in the desert? I couldn't think of a less likely candidate. My plant looked nothing like a cactus; it was a right proper shrub, luxuriant, with spreading branches bearing leaves and flowers. "Isn't it a rose?" I asked.

"A rose?? Does it look like a rose? Did you notice the leaves? That's not a rose. It's a cactus flower. I don't remember the name. Give me a few minutes." She reached for her phone, and a little later, I had my identification: Rose Cactus (Pereskia bleo). "So, there is a rose in the name," I observed. She was not amused.

Later, I examined the shrub more closely and saw spines on the thick, dark green branches. They were more blunt projections, bony knobs, than true spines and were easy to miss from a distance. A strange plant, this. It was a cactus alright, but it certainly didn't look like one. I learned that it is one of the oldest cactus species, which is why it has true leaves. In later cactus species, the leaves became modified to spines. The home of the Rose Cactus is not the desert but the jungles of Central America, and I could imagine a brilliantly plumaged bird perched on its branches.

Two weeks later, I dropped in at the bank. I had my identification, but I was curious about what the bank manager might have found. As before, he was alone in his room, talking on the phone. I entered and tried to catch his eye. He was frowning as he spoke, looking out of the window. It seemed to be a tense conversation. I began to back out of the room, when he put the phone down and noticed me. For a moment he looked at me blankly. "Ah!" he said. "I wrote to them, but there was no reply." He turned to a letter lying on the table. The frown reappeared on his face. I hesitated. Should I tell him what I had discovered? He had picked up a pen and was writing rapidly.

I turned around and left the room, a little sad — for he would never know the name of the rose.

Photo: Close-up of an orange Rose Cactus (aka Leaf Cactus). The inset (extreme right) shows the knobbly branches.

Scientific name: Pereskia bleo

Where to see it: (1) Rama Varma club, near the entrance. This specimen is in its prime. (2) Maharaja's Stadium, M.G. Road entrance, near the metro station. Enter and turn right. You will see several juvenile plants.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | January 29, 2019

A Piece of Bolivia on T.D. Road: Heliconia rostrata

I spotted this flower hanging over the wall of a house on T.D. Road. It's common names are Hanging Lobster Claw and False Bird of Paradise, and its scientific name is Heliconia rostrata. I had no idea what it was called when I saw it, but I felt then that colors like these belonged to the Amazon. Indeed, the plant is a native of South America, and is one of the two national flowers of Bolivia.

I identified this flower using Reverse Google Image Search. It doesn't always work, but this time it was on target, giving me "heliconia" in the search box after it had finished, with matching images displayed below.

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Posted by: cochinblogger | December 28, 2018

Selling Wild Honey on Broadway

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