June 22, 2017


Dr. M.S. Randhawa was a person who always encouraged juniors and helped them.  I met him at Solan in 1979.  He had come there for convocation of the College of Agriculture, where I was Assistant Professor of Horticulture.  Dr. Randhawa had arrived about two hours before the function and was sitting with the Dean.  My office happened to be next to the Dean’s office.

Dr. M.S. Randhawa

            Incidentally, this was one of the leanest periods of my career.  I was not getting positive response for my efforts.  I had started research on wild growing fruits of Himachal Pradesh.  Work on these fruits had not been undertaken by any fruit researcher until then.  I wanted to bring out a book on these fruits which were very little known to outside world. The manuscript was ready.  But no publisher was ready to bet his money on a book written by a young assistant professor.  My senior colleagues also thought that my dreams were too lofty.  So I used to feel quite discouraged during those days.  
            One of my senior colleagues, Dr. R.S. Minhas, who happened to know Dr. Randhawa personally, was also sitting with him in the Dean’s office. Dr. Minhas organized my audience with Dr. Randhawa and said, “Sir, he is Dr. Parmar and he has written a book on wild fruits of Himachal Pradesh”.  Dr. Randhawa   gave me a piercing look and told me in his rustic toned Punjabi, “Kithe hai, lya - कित्थे है, ल्या (where is it, go bring it)”.  I brought the typed manuscript and gave it him.   Dr. Randhawa opened it and to my great surprise started reading it.  Then he took out a pen and started making corrections.  He was quite absorbed in it.
            There were also few other professors sitting with the Dean, waiting for their turn to talk to Dr. Randhawa.  Naturally, they were not feeling happy over my intrusion.
            After a few minutes Dr. Randhawa looked up and said again in his typical rustic Punjabi that the work was good and worth publishing but had many mistakes.  He advised me to take the manuscript to Dr. Kishan Singh Bedi at Chandigarh for corrections.  He further said that once it was vetted by Dr. Bedi, he would recommend it to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for its publication.  He also told me that Dr. Bedi, charged a fee for correcting manuscripts.  But after noticing signs of worry on my face about payment, he offered to do the corrections free of cost.  However, he asked me to book a room for him at PWD Rest House, Barog and also bring some good stenographer. I found the first option easier and preferred to go to Dr. Bedi who also happened to be our Principal at Government Agricultural College, Ludhiana. 
            Luckily the manuscript did not have to go ICAR for publication.  Before that a good publisher of agriculture books from Ludhiana agreed to publish it.  So finally it was released in 1982 under the title, “Wild Fruits of the Sub-Himalayan Region”.  Dr. Randhawa was also kind enough to write its foreword.
            It was a very pleasant surprise to find Dr. Randhawa at Chandigarh airport en route Delhi in May, 1982.  I was on my way to Monrovia, West Africa.  I had been selected for a teaching assignment at the University of Liberia.  He was happy to see me and was even happier to know that I would be teaching in West Africa.  He wished me all the best and asked about my future plans.  I told him that a book on lesser known fruits of the world was next on my wish list.  I bade him adieu by touching his feet at Palam Airport. He placed his hand on my head and said in Punjabi, “Paramatma tainun kaamyaabee deve - परमात्मा तैनू कामयाबी देवे  (may the Lord give you success)”
            I think that Fruitipedia, my popular online encyclopedia of the edible fruits of the world, which is over nine years old now and has been viewed by over three million people, is the result of that blessing I had got from Dr. Randhawa .

June 16, 2017


In India, a trend has set in for building SAMADHI type memorials.  It started with Mahatma Gandhi’s Samadhi at Rajghat, Delhi.  This was followed by Nehru’s Shantivan, Indira Gandhi’s Shakti Sthal and then a few other ex prime ministers in the same area.  Not only prime ministers, but there is also a samadhi of non-prime minister Sanjay Gandhi in the same area.  A demand was made by Shiv sainiks for building a samadhi of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thakeray at Shivaji Park, Bombay.  Voices, though feeble, have often been raised by persons from various walks of life against the wastage of prime Delhi land for these samadhis. 
         There are always few important and popular persons in every country whose samadhis or mausoleums exist there.  The relatives and successors of every VIP want to perpetuate the memory of their mentors by building some sort of memorials.  Though some such monuments meet the fate of Stalin’s mausoleum at Red Square, Moscow.
         This problem has been very cleverly solved in Argentina.  They have built samadhis of all Argentinean VIPs of varying hues by creating a VIP cemetery.  This cemetery is located at Recoleta, a suburb of Buenos Aires city.  With the expansion of Buenos Aires, Recoleta has now almost merged with Buenos Aires.  It has also become an important tourist destination of Buenos Aires and attracts thousands of visitors daily.

A street in the cemetery
         The cemetery is located in a 15 acre and has over 4500 graves some of which are of very important and famous persons in various walks of life.  There are also graves of some past presidents and important politicians of Argentina.

 Me at the Cemetery

         You don't have to be a president or prime minister to be laid there for final rest.  If you have means, you could buy a plot there for burial.  However, it must be costing a fortune and have your grave or a family grave at that spot.  But the place is not exclusives earmarked for politicians like Rajghat area.  Such graves are like vaults and coffins of different family members are kept there.  Some these are very well kept and some seem to have become unattended and are therefore declining.

 Another street at the Cemetery
         How about having Recoleta type of Cemetery in Delhi or even other Indian cities and to consolidate the samadhis and save hundreds of acres of prime land for some other useful purposes.  

 Coffins of some family kept at one of the the graves

 Visiting tourists at the Cemetery with an official guide telling the vistors about this place.

June 8, 2017


The farmer’s suicide at New Delhi’s  Jantar Mantar reminded me of my visit to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture  at Tokyo  in 1990.  I was on a lecture tour of Japan at the invitation of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).  My itinerary for that tour also included a visit to the Ministry of Agriculture at Tokyo and to meet and have discussion with the people at the ministry connected with fruits.
               One of the officers at the Ministry, Dr. Itamura, told me that on that day discussions were also in progress at the Ministry about a very important as well as sensitive subject.  On my asking, he told me that they were going to take a decision about fixing the price (something like our minimum support price) of rice in Japan.

Ministry of Agriculture building at Tokyo

               I do not remember the exact figure now, but I had noticed that rice, which was the main food of Japanese, was very expensive in Japan.  I told Itamura that rice was already very expensive in Japan and did they intend to reduce it to make it more affordable for public.   He said that it was not like that.  In fact there was a feeling that the margin of profit in current price of rice was not enough and therefore farmers were not finding it attractive to grow paddy.  So there was a fear in the government the farmers may not start shifting to other professions and leave farming.  The authorities were therefore thinking for an upward revision of price of rice.
               It will not be out of place to tell the readers here that in Japan there is no unemployment.  Rather there is a perpetual shortage of workers in every area so it is not at all difficult to change jobs there.  If a farmer did not like farming for some reason, he could quit and start working in industry.  The Japanese government did not want that to happen at any cost.  Therefore, it had always been trying to keep this profession attractive.
               Now let me tell something about how Japanese farmers too.  In Japan they use only flat lands and avoid slopes.  So there is a shortage of cultivable flat land.  Therefore they try to make use of every vacant piece of flat land.  If there was vacant piece of land measuring even 10x10 feet located even between two houses, it will not be left uncultivated and they will plant paddy there too.  To work at such pieces, the Japanese farmer, usually accompanied by his wife, will come in his pick up van with rice planting implements.  Both of them will then get down from their vehicle,  dress up in a water proof dungaree like dress; wear a water proof hat, gum boots, waterproof gloves and also special goggles to protect their eyes before entering the field.  Only then they will enter the field and start planting paddy seedlings.  After that they will again change their clothes.  I noticed that during this process, the mud of paddy field did not touch any of their body parts.

Japanese paddy grower couple working in the paddy field

               Dr. Itamura told me that naturally they needed enough money to maintain their life style as everything was expensive in Japan.  If they had to enter the paddy fields barefooted and bare handed as farmers in other Asian counties did, they will leave farming out of frustration and take to some other job.  The Japanese government did not want this to happen and did not bother about the price level.  For them the comfort of rice farmer was more important.
               Will someday the Indian government will also think like that?