Posted by: cochinblogger | December 22, 2011

The Dark Side of Bamboo

The recently concluded bamboo fest (see Kerala Bamboo Fest 2011) reminded me of of how we schoolboys in Calcutta used the word in the 1970s. If you asked someone how the exam went, and he responded thus: “Bumboo mil gaya,” the meaning was abundantly clear. The translation from Hindi is “I received a bamboo,” and no prizes for guessing which orifice was the proud recipient.

This memory made me investigate negative bamboo associations, and my research unearthed two fascinating examples. The first one almost beggars belief. Bamboo torture. Yes, you heard right. And the torture does not involve any natural orifices; the victim is suspended over over young bamboo, which grows rapidly, pierces the victim’s body, and in effect impales him. Here, take a look: Bamboo Torture (don’t miss the video on the page, in which the Mythbusters experimentally prove that bamboo torture is scientifically feasible).

The second negative bamboo association is well documented, unlike bamboo torture. There is a species of bamboo (found in Northeast India, Burma, and Bangladesh) that flowers every 48 years. The fruit is succulent and attracts rats. Their population explodes, and they eat up anything edible that crosses their ravenous path. The result is famine. This bamboo flowering cycle is called Mautam by the Mizos. Here is a comprehensive report (Mautam) on the phenomenon. The length of the report is intimidating, but skimming the first few paragraphs will give you a good idea about this terrible scourge that bamboo helps wreak.

So, it is beyond doubt that bamboo has some skeletons in its cupboard. No matter. Bamboo is my favorite wood, and a clump of bamboo in the wild never fails to raise my spirits. Whatever its catalog of crimes, I’m on bamboo’s side.

The photo above was taken on Kuruva Island, Wayanad, Kerala.

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