Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

28 June 2010

The very form, the very scent, not heavy, not sensuous, but perilous perilous of orchids

I've been meaning to make a post on orchids for a while now. Say the word and you get a range of intriguing reactions from people. It goes from outright delight and wonderment to sheer aversion. William Faulkner goes so far as to say "Nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption."

Personally, I am enamoured by their complexity and diversity and above all, their cosmopolitanism! They appear in almost every sort of habitat you can think of. Excepting glaciers and deserts, of course. The largest number of species occurs in the tropics, but is followed closely by countries in the temperate region. Very few orchid-lovers know the startling fact that the number of orchid species is almost twice that of bird species and almost four times the mammal species.

In my hunt for orchids to photograph, I found interesting variation, which I'm going to illustrate in my deeply unscientific fashion. I found two whorls: an outer one with three sepals and an inner one with three petals. The upper medial petal appeared to be much more enlarged and modified, perhaps to aid pollination. There are three stamens whose filaments appeared fused or joined to my untrained eye.

Reading up about orchids, I cam across some interesting facts. Like the one that everyone's favourite flavour, vanilla, is an orchid genus. Or that orchids are used for making hot beverages, for flavouring ice cream and even rum! In Turkey, certain species of orchids are considered to have aphrodisiac powers.

Here in Shimla, I've found the prettiest orchids being grown by Shri Mela Ram Sharma for the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. My friend R's venerable father-in-law also grows gorgeous ones. Orchids which he's brought from Sikkim and Meghalaya and which, miraculously, survive the heat and humidity of Sunni.

For the detail-minded reader, some limited information:
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidacaea


varsha said...

God at his vivid and colorful best...

Rahul Bhargav said...

Hey! Good to see a fellow Maharashtrian in love with Shimla and Himachal. :) Nice blog, good stuff, good photos.

Gallimaufry said...

Thankee, Varsha. My sentiment's the same.

Thank you, Rahul.

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