Update as of 9 December 2009
As a member of the Young Farmer’s Association (YF), I spent time with my classmates and other schoolfriends learning about cash crops and livestock. I learnt how to pick a good egg from a not so good one, and why some chicken eggs had a pinkish tinge while many were milky white. I also learnt how some cash crops were grown and promoted with a dual purpose – of using fallow or “waste” land and also to generate income, while some were grown only for their lucre. Like I learnt that the sisal was a hardy plant that could survive sub-saharan dry condition and also yield strong fibre to compete with the coconut coir. And that the flimsy flowering plant with purple flowers, the pyrethrum, was an excellent insecticide and a perfect foil to the damaging DDT; and “green” to boot. But the most amazing cash crop that I encountered was the bixa – a shrub that had maple-shaped leaves and fruits that looked like miniature ladyfingers, dipped in blood. These scarlet fruits or pods, were an excellent source of edible food colouring, ideal for the food industry, as well as the cosmetic industry. I am not sure why this is not grown in India, but an interesting corollary here is the palash, a wild tree resembling the teak (and also known as Flame of the Forest) that grows abundantly in Central India and has a deep orange/scarlet blossom that bursts into a riot in mid to late March each year. These flowers are picked and crushed with water to dye clothes or even dried and powdered for future use. An interesting twist to this permanent colour dye is its notorious use during the festval of colours, Holi. Nothing can get rid of this “stain” except the destruction of the cloth itself!
After yesterday’s exuberance, the D Boyz needed some rest today and though it is not March and bixas are not commonly cultivated on D street, their attire was stained red. The extent of the redness varied during the day, but these Boyz just stayed happy in their spotted or streaked red clothes. It was not a complete red-wash, and so not a jarring sight. While there were moments when one could spot some Boyz with no red stains (say at around 11:30 am); there were also moments when you could count about 200 red spots on them (after 12:30 pm); but on an average there were about 100 or 102 red spots on the Boyz and they all went home – hoping their spouses, mothers or servants don’t yell at them. (End of Day SENSEX at 17125 – 102 points down).
An unusual finale to the annual YF event (the Agricultural Show) used to be a cookery contest, where only the final product used to get tested, not the culinary skill. I don’t know what the connect was with the farmer’s way of life, but it was fun, because we would get our mothers to rustle up something that could be different, yet appealing to the judges. 2 decades on and I still don’t know what the criteria for winning this was, when I landed the prize for our YF club! I could see the other more flamboyant clubs with their elaborate dishes going red in their faces at the prize distribution ceremony.