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....

3 August 2010

The motion of light, spills itself in astonished seed

I dragged myself away from beloved Shimla recently. Favourite fellow-traveller and good friend SdS and I went gallivanting over the hills from Kangra to Chamba to Lahaul to Kullu. Over hill and dale, past many a waterfall, it was a marvellous journey. I leave it to SdS to tell that tale since she does it far far better than anyone else in our circle of acquaintance.
En route from Chamba to Lahaul falls that magical place called Pangi Valley. Its beauty deserves not just a blog post, but perhaps an entire book, and even so words will not ever be able to describe, nor any camera be able to really capture the bounty that Nature lays out before human eye.
SdS and I stopped innumerable times to smell the flowers, so to speak. For a flower-lover Pangi is a treasure trove, and more so in the monsoons when many rare flowers bloom for a short while only to disappear for a whole year until the rains arrive the next time.

So, somewhere between Bairagarh and Satrundi, on a path unknown, this bright yellow bouquet caught my eye. Growing in a tight tuft, there was a cluster of leaves at the base of this plant. Its stem was delicate but erect. The flowers grew in an interesting, interlaced arrangement, as you can see above. They were about 2 to 2.5 cms in length including a spur that was half as long, growing straight or in a gentle downwar curve.
My vade mecum, Polunin and Stainton, tells me that the name of this plant is Corydalis govaniana Wall, Family fumariacaea. My entourage (which excludes SdS!) told me it is locally known as "bhutjata" "bhutakesi" or "bhutbishi". I also found this flower being referred to as "Govan's Fumitory".

A common alpine species, corydalis govaniana is usually found at a height of 2400m to 4800m on open slopes. Narain Singh Chauhan in his book "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of Himachal Pradesh" says he has found these along places as disparate as Rohtang, Churdhar and Lahaul.

The leaves are radical, growing in a dense tuft and reminded me of those belonging to the marigold plant, or even coriander. They were clustered at the base of the plant. The stem arose from the centre of this bunch.
The root and juice of this plant have several uses. These range from the cure of dandruff to the use of the juice as a diuretic. Interestingly, I found citations in the US Food and Drug Administration daabase which state list Corydalis govaniana as a poisonous plant. (Ref: FDA #F05964, GRIN #11624). The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology also includes this plant in its acute toxicity data. Amazing, that a flower so beautiful should have beneficial powers and at the same time be so toxic!

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