I started working on fruits in 1962. In this connection I travelled widely in India and all continents of the world. During this period I not only saw new fruits but also met a wide variety of people and had equaqlly wide variety of social and cultural experiences. I am going to share these with others in this blog.
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 Hindiwill 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 & 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
oneby 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
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
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
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
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.