RV Matters - 5 Dec 2018

One morning during the recent school vacation, we went to the Sunrise Point adjacent to the Cave Rock Hill and we were in for a shock! An enterprising villager apparently had acquired some 5 acres of flat land near the Sunrise Point (a few metres from the RV wall and got a JCB to flatten the area further, clearing it of all the scrub vegetation including the lone Acacia tree that used to be a favorite perch of birds.

rvm1.png

This was painful since we have been seeing the rare Yellow-throated bulbuls here, foraging on berries of several shrubs. As if to confrm this, even as we were horrifed at the destruction, a pair of Yellowthroated bulbuls few in and settled on a boulder adjacent to the cleared area.

We are not clear about the intention behind this destruction of this natural habitat. We are told the person who acquired the land intends to grow trees. Another version is that he intends to cultivate the land and grow crops. With no access to water and given the rocky substrate, both these ideas appear impractical. I have not been able to visit the spot since and hope no further damage has been done. It is time something is done to protect the area from further encroachments as this is a great habitat for birds like the Marshall’s Iora, Sirkeer Malkoha, Jungle Bush-quails, Tawny Eagle (nesting nearby , ahite-eyed buzzard and several others. I have also seen the Five-striped Palm Squirrel (a species rare in the south) and a few other interesting mammals including a possible Rusty-spotted Cat here.

rvm3.png

Dr Santharam

RV Matters - 7 Oct 2018

“Did you sit and paint this cockroach?” asked my cousin who saw this photograph. It took a while to explain to him that this was not a cockroach and certainly I did not paint it!

We have had some sightings of this exotic-looking creature in Rishi Valley last month and this photograph was taken near the Senior School, last week.

A member of the Buprestidae family, they are known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles – Sternocera sp. This nearly 2-3 inch long insect, is one of the 15,500 species belonging to this family, one of the largest beetle families! The elytra (wing cases) of these creatures were traditionally used to make beetlewing jewellery in parts of South and South-east Asia.

Photo: V Santharam

This morning’s birdwatching yielded three more migrants – the Ashy Drongo, Barn Swallow and the Forest Wagtail. The last-named is a very uncommon bird of passage in Rishi Valley, encountered during the autumnal passage in September-October and again in March-April. The Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, a local migrant, has been seen over the last week in overhead flight over the campus as they fly southward, through the day.

The tall and stately Millingtonia or the Indian Cork trees have started flowering indicating the term is coming to an end and winter is not far away. Each year these trees bloom in profusion towards October-November, filling the air with a sweet but heady scent and the ground below them, a carpet of white flowers. For those with a keen olfactory sense, the valley offers a variety of scents through the year. I wonder how many of us stop and inhale the fresh, scented air?

Dr Santharam

Kitchen Chronicles - Proso Millet Bisibele Rice

Here is another millet recipe from our Kitchen - Proso Millet Bisibele Rice.

Ingredient
Posco Millet
Brown Rice
Toor Dal
Musterd
Turmaric Powder
Oil
Ghee
Salt
Vegetables
Carrot
Beans
Green Peas
Small Onion
Drum Stick
Garlic (paste)
Tomato
Green Coriander
Kadi patha
Masala (Roast and grind)
Coriander Seeds
Red Chillies
Dry Coconut (grated)
Cinnamon
Cloves
StarAnas
Mace

Qty (for 600)
15 Kgs
5 Kgs
6 Kgs
50 gms
50 gms
1.5 Kgs
1 Kg
As required

7 Kgs
4 Kgs
4 Kgs
4 Kgs
5 Kgs
100 gms
3 Kgs
2 bundles
1 bundle

300 gms
200 gms
1 Kg
30 gms
30 gms
10 gms
10 gms

Qty (for 10)
750 gms
250 gms
325 gms
5 gms
5 gms
50 gms
20 gms
As required

100 gms
60 gms
50 gms
50 gms
4 nos
1/2
4 pcs
Little
2 stems

50 gms
30 gms
150 gms
2 pcs
5 pcs
3 gms
3 gms

Soak Millet and Rice in the water separately for one hour. Cook separately and mix tougher. Keep aside. Heat oil and splutter mustard, add kadipatha, garlic paste, roughly cut small onion and turmeric powder. Add chopped tomato and salt. Roast well and add beans, then carrot. Again roast for 5 minutes before adding grinded masala. Roast well till oil floats on the top. Pour hot water and boil (1:3). Add dal and cook till the dal is fully cooked. Add Green peas and drumstick pulp. (We steam the drumstick and take out the pulp).

Mix cooked rice and millet to this sambar. Add chopped coriander and ghee on top.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager

Kitchen Chronicles - Foxtail Millet Kesari

Here is another millet recipe from our Kitchen - Foxtail Millet Kesari.

Ingredient
Foxtail Millet Rawa
Jaggery
Palm Jaggery
Ghee
Cashew nut (Splited)
Raisins
Nutmug
Raw Campher
Cardamom Powder

Qty (for 600)
12 Kgs
10 Kgs
4 Kgs
6 Kgs
1.5 Kgs
1.4 Kgs
3 nos
25 Gms
50 Gms

Qty (for 10)
200 gms
200 gms
50 gms
100 gms
10 gms
10 gms
A little
One pinch
3 gms

Boil 24 ltr of water. Dilute jaggery in 6 ltr of water and boil (total water will be 30 ltrs). Strain the liquid and keep separate. Roast rawa in 4 kg of ghee. When fully roasted and good fragance of rawa comes, add 24 ltr of water. Reduce the flame of the stove and mix well. Add jaggery liquid and again mix. Boil balance 2 kg of ghee, add cashew nut and raisins and pour over to the kesari. Add grated nutmug, raw campher and cardamom powder. Mix well and enjoy the tasty and healthy Kesari from Rishi Valley Menu.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager

RV Matters - 30 Sep 2018

For once, I was alone this morning as I went birding outside the campus to the Sunrise Point and the valley beyond. A thin veil of mist covered the hills and the morning sunlight filtered in, lighting up the rocks. The landscape looked lush and green after the recent spell of rains, contrasting with a clear blue sky. The green grass was soft and moist with the dew. Every bush and tree was alive with activity of birds.

I was hoping to catch up with the recently-arrived migrants. I have only been seeing Greenish Warblers and Grey Wagtails regularly on campus for the past few weeks. I was not at all disappointed. Up on the rocks, above me, there was a pair of Blue Rock Thrush. Usually these birds which migrate from Himalayan region, are seen singly. Perhaps they have just arrived and are yet to stake out their individual territories. From some shrubs, I could hear the familiar “churr”s of the Hume’s Whitethroat, another migrant from Central Asia and the Western Himalaya. Later in the morning, I spotted half-a-dozen of these warblers, foraging and calling energetically. A Brown Shrike put on a brief appearance before diving back into cover. A Paradise Flycatcher, a local migrant, called from some distance but I could not spot it.

Migrants apart, I had excellent views of the rare Marshall’s Iora. A pair of these birds were noticed foraging in low bushes. The white on their tail feathers was quite striking as was their truncated whistling notes. A male Common Iora landed on the top branches of the bush even as I was observing the Marshall’s pair. I could make out the relatively larger size of the Common Iora and its uniform black tail feathers. I could witness no aggression among the two species as they continued to forage on the bush for the next two or three minutes before moving to an adjacent shrub. Though I heard them on three occasions this morning, I could not spot the Yellow-throated Bulbuls as they moved in the higher reaches of the hills.

A Vine snake attracted the attention of the smaller passerines and I could see the snake beat a hasty retreat as it was mobbed by several purple and purple-rumped sunbirds, Pale-billed and Thickbilled Flowerpeckers, Redvented Bulbuls, Common Iora and a Three-striped palm Squirrel.

Dr Santharam

Kitchen Chronicles - Proso Millet & Rice Pongal

This Pongal is very popular in Rishi Valley menu. Ingredients and quantity are as below.

Ingredient
Proso Millet
Rice
Moong Dal
Ginger (grated)
Green Chilli (sliced)
Pepper (roughly pounded)
Cashew Nut (splitted)
Kadi patha
Jeera
Turmeric powder
Ghee
Oil
Asafoetida (Hing)

Qty (for 600)
20 Kgs
10 Kgs
10 Kgs
750 Gms
500 Gms
200 Gms
2 Kg
2 bundles
200 Gms
100 Gms
2 Kgs
5 Kgs
50 Gms

Qty (for 10)
800 Gms
200 Gms
200 Gms
75 Gms
20 Gms
15 Gms
50 Gms
As required
50 Gms
10 Gms
200 Gms
400 Gms
5 Gms

Soak Millet, Rice & Moong dal seperately. Boil 120 ltrs of water (1:3). Add Moong dal to the fully boiled water followed by Millet & Rice in 5 minutes gap and boil all further 10 minutes. Add salt and boil the Pongal till 75% cooked.

Keep another kadai on the stove, heat oil, add jeera, followed by pepper, cashew nut, kadipatha, green chilli, ginger, hing, turmeric powder. Pour over the Pongal. Reduce the flame and add ghee on top of the Pongal. Cover with lid, further cook for 10 minutes in slow fire.

Our combination/or side dish for Pongal is Bringal Kostu. Recipe for Brinjal Kostu is as follows. Broil and grind to paste:

Bengal gram dal (Chana dal)
Coriander
Red chillies
Kaskus

300 Grm
400 Grm
300 Grm
500 Grm

Other Ingredients:
Brinjal (medium size – Cut 8 pcs)
Toor dal (Boiled and smashed)
Tomatto (Choped)
Mustard
Green Chilli (Paste)
Kadipatha
Red Chillies

Qty
15 kgs
10 Kgs
6 Kgs
100 Gms
150 Gms
1 Bundle
20 Grm

Heat oil, crackle mustard, then add half of the Kadipatha and Red chillies. Add Brinjal, roast well, then add tomato, green chilli paste and grinded masala. Roast till oil floats on top. Add smashed dal, salt, balance kadipatha and hot water. Boil for 10 minutes or till the gravy is thick. Add chopped Coriander.

This Vegetable dish is made without onion and garlic.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager

RV Matters - 23 Sep 2018

Last Thursday, my brief siesta was disturbed by the loud, raucous screeching of the parakeets from the tamarind tree outside the house. Initially I ignored this but when it persisted, I decided to investigate. These incessant alarm calls normally indicate the presence of a predator, usually a snake.

I could notice half a dozen parakeets fluttering and excitedly flying about a particular branch and there were also a couple of palm squirrels moving around the same spot, their tails raised in alarm. A few minutes of patient waiting revealed the cause of their concern – a 4-foot long rat snake, moving slowly along the thick branch, thirty feet above the ground. The noise attracted the attention of a crow that briefly joined the parakeets. The drama persisted for well over 45 minutes during which the snake moved from branch to branch, the birds in hot pursuit. There were some intervals of silence, during which the snake was concealed in one of the numerous cavities of this ancient tree or amidst the foliage of the pipal tree that has taken root on the main trunk of the tamarind. I had to warn the girls who were going for lunch or coming back from lunch to Red House (completely oblivious to the racket made by the parakeets!) since the snake has a tendency to drop off from the tree to escape the harassment of the birds. Close to 2.00 pm, a couple of students reported seeing a large snake crossing the road and by then the parakeets fell silent.

Communal mobbing of snakes is a fairly common sight in Rishi Valley and I have come across this on several occasions. On some instances, I have seen a host of bird species participating in this activity and the list includes sunbirds, flowerpeckers, tailorbirds, Magpie-robins, common iora, bulbuls, occasionally drongoes, parakeets, mynas and crows. Rat snakes regularly climb trees where there are bird nests, especially those of parakeets and mynas. The smaller birds named above usually mob the green vine snake which is an arboreal species. While mobbing, birds give sharp alarm calls and move excitedly and often very close to their adversary. Birds like crows even nip the reptile’s tail and harass it. Once a few years ago, I had seen a vine snake with an ashy drongo, dead, in its mouth, being mobbed by crows.

Dr Santharam

RV Matters - 16 Sep 2018

After a gap of nearly two months, we finally had good (6.1 cm) rains on the night of September 11. It was great to see the dry spell broken, finally.

The leaves of the duranta bushes which were drooping have sprung back to life almost overnight. Millipedes (the long brown ones) have emerged from their hiding places. Frogs started croaking. The grass that had turned brown is lush green once more. The Scaly-breasted Munias which had suspended their nesting outside my house have resumed their activities by coming in with long strands of green grass for lining their dome-shaped nests.

To me, the most interesting development since the rains was the emergence of winged termites. They started making their appearance the evening after the rains and they were immediately noticed by their predators. Crows gathered in the playground, picking out termites as they came out of the crevices in the ground. A spotted owlet made sorties in the air flying after the insects. Even the next morning, the feast continued – several dozens of crows and mynas were busy picking the termites from the open meadows and fields. They were joined by bee-eaters, babblers, drongoes, coucal, bulbuls and a host of other bird species. A flock of House (Little) swifts flew unusually low over tree-tops, catching the termites in mid-air and consuming them.

Winged termites are the most sought-out food by many birds. Even humans (tribals like Irulas) consume them regularly for their proteins. Though a lot of these insects fall an easy prey to birds, mammals, larger predatory insects, reptiles and amphibians, by their sheer numbers the termites are able to satiate their predators and a large proportion of the population actually escapes and survives. Maybe these insects have already learnt some of the basics of economics by which they can outstrip the demand by excess supply!

Dr Santharam

Kitchen Chronicles - Pav Baji

Pav Baji is one of the popular dishes in Rishi Valley. The main ingredient of the Pav made in our bakery is Wheat flour and not Maida.

Pav Ingredients
Wheat Flour
Maida
Brown Sugar
Cooking Butter
Cooking Oil
Yeast
Guar Powder
Milk
Salt
Fresh Water

Qty
20 kg
5 kg
3 kg
2 1/2 kg
1 kg
200 gm
150 gm
2 ltr
250 gm
As required

Mix Wheat Flour, Maida, Brown Sugar, Butter, Yeast, Guar Powder, Salt, Milk, and Water. Blend for some time till the batter is smooth. Keep the batter for half an hour after rubbing the oil on top and cover with wet cloth.

Make small balls and keep on the baking tray for one hour. Bake for 25 minutes at a temperature of 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven and again rub with oil on the top of each Pav. For the above quantities, we bake 650 Pav’s.

Masala Ingredients
Coriander
Red Chillies
Cumin seeds
Kasthuri Methi
Bedi Somph
Turmeric
Cinnamon
Cloves
Star
Cardamom

Qty
300 gm
100 gm
100 gm
100 gm
100 gm
50 gm
25 gm
25 gm
25 gm
50 gm

Broil the above ingredients and powder.

Baji Ingredients
Potato
Dry Green Peas
Onion
Tomato
Carrot
Capsicum
Cauliflower
Ginger paste
Garlic paste
Green Chilli paste
Oil
Cooking Butter
Salt

Qty (for 600)
25 kg, boil, remove skin, mash
5 kg, soak overnight, boil till soft and smash
8 kg, grated
8 kg, chopped fine
5 kg, grated
3 kg, chopped fine
7 nos, big, grated
300 gm
300 gm
300 gm
2 kg
1 kg
As required

Heat oil. Add grated onion, followed by ginger, garlic and green chilli paste. Add salt and turmeric powder. Roast further till onion is brown in colour. Add chopped tomato and roast till oil floats on the top. Add chopped capsicum and grated carrot. Roast till carrot is cooked. Add grated cauliflower and cook. Pour Pav Baji masala mixed in little water. Cook for 5 minutes and then add smashed potato and green peas. Cook further for 10 minutes. Switch off the stove after adding chopped coriander and butter.

Hareendran A K
Dining Hall Manager