Thursday, July 24, 2014

The morning walk in Ohio University...

Shashwati Goswami

Athens reminds me so much of the quaint little town I grew up in, tucked away in the far away country of India's North- eastern state, Assam. The Hocking River silently flowing by the University, the geese quacking and welcoming the morning... I wake up at 5.45 watching the morning break out. That is also the time I talk to my family back at home in India...the boys back home with stories of school to tell. I walk on the bike path and it is a spot in the campus which I will take with myself from Athens. 
I like to walk towards the left of the bike path which goes by the residential units for the students as well as a playground and a school. There is a construction site far ahead from where I retract my steps.

I remember the school days when I used to walk alone to school as the only school bus met with an accident and I was hurt and too scared to board one since then. As I was the only student from our area going to the convent which was two miles away my school trips was full of imaginative stories that I weaved in my mind. This also left me with time to look at nature, small dainty wild flowers and chirping birds. I started to recognize them and ask my grandmother about them. I would pluck a new flower or a leaf of a new plant and take it home to my grandmother. Some she could name and some she could not....but she did try to tell a story around a few. That tryst with plants continued and it grew further when I married and met my mother-in-law. She is a store house of knowledge about small herbs and plants with medicinal value. It needs to be mentioned here that the North-east of India is known for its medicinal plants as well as orchids. She also taught me which plant was useful in which sort of sickness and also in which climate. She taught me how to cook them as well.
The reason for this long introduction was necessary because in Athens I saw a few herbs/plants as well as wild flowers that we find in Assam. Let me take you through them and introduce you. This is a wildly growing herb which I found to be growing everywhere in the campus of Ohio University. We call it Tengeshi. There are three varieties of this herb that I know and all of them I could see in Athens. While two of them are different in the size of the leaves, one is of the color of deep purple. It has bright yellow color flower. This herb cooked with very minimum effort is excellent for stomach ailment.
This is another plant which is eaten as greens in almost all parts of India. The Assamese name is jilmil or bhotua, whereas in Hindi it is called bathua. When cooked it is a very tasty green rich in nutrition. It generally grows wild but due to the growing market it is being grown in farms as well.
This plant I saw in the Farmers' market as well as in the campus. Though I don’t remember the name it is called in Assamese, but we do make very tasty dish of this. I found them growing just outside the Adams Hall, our residence during our time at Athens.
This plant is another medicinal herb which is very beneficial for the lactating mother as well as debilitating people. It is called mati kaduri. This I found growing everywhere, by the bike path, by the sidewalks of the South Greens as well as by the road to Scripps Hall.
The most interesting and nostalgic of all the plants is the flower on the flower bed near the library. It just took me back so many years to my school days. This flower is never grown in the flower beds in Assam. It grows wild and people mercilessly chop them off. The town that I spent my childhood is called Diphu. That district was notorious for cases of malaria. It was believed that this shrub breeds malaria and in dirty places. However I had seen this flower being grown in flower beds in Delhi as well. My memory of that shrub and its flower is very personal. As I had mentioned above I was the only student going to the convent and so my walks would be always alone. The school that I studied in, Don Bosco School, Diphu had a very big campus on the slopes of a hill. Towards the left side of the campus was an undeveloped patch where these flowers grew rampant. Interestingly this shrub yields a very sweet tasting small berry like fruit which grew in bunches. I liked to while away a lot of time under these shrubs plucking those berries and eating them straight away. It was a personal journey and has been never shared with anybody till now. I don’t know the name of this shrub but it is deeply rooted inside me.
This was interesting sojourn for me to reconnect with my childhood and my home! Ohio University you will be remembered in a special way!!!

All photographs by the author.



Dear Shashwati Goswami
What a person you are! You notice the things other do not.
regards from cool Kathmandu

Shashwati Goswami said...

Thanks so much for the compliment....I so loved being at Athens!!!