October 20, 2016


The people of world are really very diverse.  Not only they have different looks, but their thinking is also amazingly different. Here is an example.  “My mother’s boyfriend” when translated literally into Hindi  will be “मेरी माँ का यार” (MERI MAN KA YAAR). This is one of the most objectionable phrases in India. In fact the words “तेरी माँ का यार” (TERI MAAN KA YAAR), your mother’s boy friend, is one of the filthiest and most anger provoking abuses in India.  But in Liberia, West Africa, it was a normal introduction about some person and there was nothing objectionable in it.
When I heard these words from the mouth of a lady from a respectable family at Monrovia, I was literally shocked. Well the story goes like this.  I used to teach at the college of Agriculture and Forestry at Monrovia. One day one of my female teacher colleague at the college asked me to visit her home and meet her family.  I readily agreed.  In fact, I was always interested in visiting the homes of local people to see how they lived.  The people of Liberia (I was told that in other West African countries) were very friendly and hospitable.  They did feel shy in the beginning to take a “white foreigner (in Africa, they categorize India people too as “white men”) to their homes, but later their treatment used to become very friendly.
After we reached her home, I was made to sit in the drawing room. Other members of the family also came.  Then she started introducing them to me one  by one. Her mother, a lady in fifties was also there.  Next to her mother was a sitting an old man.  I asked my host about this gentleman.  She was slightly perplexed about my question and then said he is “my mother’s boy friend”.
I was quite surprised about his reply because the word, “boy friend” you do not hear during the course of introduction of family members of friends in Indian social get togethers.
These were my initial 2-3 months in that country.  So I used to get such surprises or shocks quite often.  In fact, Africa is very different from India, even more different than Europe and Americas.  Here people look very different.  Flora and fauna is different, climate is different and the social ethics are also very different than what we have in India.
Promiscuity is nearly a way of life in that society.  Every man and woman has an opposite sex partner.  If they are married, then the relationship is called husband wife, if not then it will be termed as boy and girl friend.  Boy and girl friend couple can be of any age. There is no shyness or hesitation is declaring it.  According to them, everyone has to have an “opposite sex” companion.  This is socially accepted.     

                                 My colleagues at the College of Agriculture & Forestry, Monrovia

                                                    My wife sitting with her friends

                                                              Partying with colleagues

Children moving in the street for collecting gifts at the time of a local festival in Monrovia

October 2, 2016


The other day I received a check for 500 US dollars (over 32,000 Indian rupees) from an American gardening magazine for my article.  This is the maximum amount I had ever been paid for any article.  This reminded me of Prof. S.P.Dhall, an old colleague of my Solan days. Prof. Dhall  always used to say I had a sign on my palm which indicated that I would make money from writing.     

I had met Prof. S.P. Dhall first time in 1972 when I had joined College of Agriculture, Solan, after doing my Ph.D.  The College used to be located at Chambaghat during those days.  Nauni campus was yet to come up. 

Prof. Dhall had started reading palms at that time and had not become that famous for this by that time. A few of us used to have lunch together.  During our post lunch gossip session, we would spread our palms before Dhall requesting him to tell something new about future.  Prof. Dhall had remarkable patience and always obliged us. 

I had a flair for writing right from my school days.  At Solan, I had started writing popular articles on gardening for magazines and newspapers.  I, however, lacked right skills in popular writing, so most of these used to come back.  But still one in five or six used to get published.  
It was in seventies.  Most of these magazines like Femina, Eve’s Weekly and Sunday supplements of Nav Bharat Times etc. used to pay 20 or 25 rupees for an article and this amount would be sent by cheque.  So after deducting all the costs (typing, postage, bank commission) I used to be left with 12-15 rupees which was not worth the labour for your work.  But still I felt happy and continued writing.

Prof. Dhall had always been telling me that there was a triangle on my palm and the persons who had such kind of triangle, made money from writing.  I used to laugh at this prediction.  I would then tell him about the amount that one gets from writing articles.  But Prof. Dhall was very sure about it. He had always been telling me to continue writing.  He was very sure that someday it will bring me money.   

After some years, my book, WILD FRUITS OF THE SUB-HIMALAYAN REGION, also got published and for this the publisher was to give a royalty of 15 per cent.  At the end of the year the publisher would send me a cheque of a few hundred rupees saying that there was no demand for the book. 

Then suddenly the time started changing.  I went to Liberia, West Africa, 1982 on a two year teaching assignment with the University of Liberia.  That country had only one newspaper, The Daily Observer.  It was a tabloid size newspaper published five days in week.  One day I just entered their office and met the editor, Mr. Best.  I told him about me and offered to write a column on agriculture for them.  Mr. Best did not seem to be very positive in the beginning, but when I told him that in India, my articles had been appearing even in Times of India group magazines, he immediately agreed.  It was decided that they would start a half page column “Observer Farmer” in their newspaper as the remaining half page will carry an advertisement on some farming related product.  It was also agreed that they would pay me 50 US dollars (500 rupees at that time) for each article.  It was a very big amount compared to what I had been getting in India. I was immediately reminded about Prof. Dhall’s prediction.   

 During his last years Prof. Dhall had become very famous for his future predictions and was a very sought after person.  His clients included even many VIP politicians. I had left Solan in 1992 and we could not meet after that but we kept hearing about each other.  Whenever, some common friend happened to meet Prof. Dhall at Solan, he would enquire about me and say, “Tell Parmar to continue writing”.

Though I do not have any faith in any kind of fortune telling, but Prof. Dhall’s prediction certainly turned out to be true as the money really came to me and from writing.  It also helped me indirectly.  The best job of career, which was with an US based pharmaceutical company, came to me because my writing.  Those people noticed me from one of my articles on Indian curry leaf plant (called गंधेलू in Himachal Pradesh) published in an American fruit growers’ magazine, “POMONA”.

My articles on wild growing and lesser known fruits published in foreign magazines brought me recognition as specialist of such fruits and got me jobs and consultancy assignments one after another.  Till March 2014, when I completed 75, I had been on regular pay roll of foreign companies.  I could also travel all over the globe.

I must have received several lakhs of rupees only as honorarium from various newspapers and magazines for my articles.

Nine years ago, I started Fruitipedia, the encyclopaedia on edible fruits of the world.  This now contains information on 557 fruits.  This website has been visited by three million people till now.  It gets 1200 to 1500 hits a day. It has also turned out to be a source of regular income because of Google Ads. 

The day I received this 500 dollar cheque, I missed him a lot.  I wished I could tell him that his statement about the “triangle” on my palm had really turned out to be true. 

 Late Prof. S.P. Dhall

Me and my wife Pushpa outside the office of Daily Observer at Monrovia in 1982.