Friday, November 4, 2016

Stargazer Lily

[Foremost I should record my gratitude to my parents, grandmother, and a number of village friends for imparting gardening skills and practical knowledge. In the village and later in big cities I acquired a vast array of techniques related to horticulture, water conservation, and propagation. Real gardening involves growing from cuttings, seed gathering, and pest control. Of course such matters can be learnt in classes or green houses, but many master gardeners in India mastered such skills through the “borderless open universities” spread across farms under the vast skies. They may not have any diplomas to display their proud achievements, but I’ve seen them raise prized gardens with vibrant flowers, tasty vegetables, and fruits. I bow with reverence to all such gardeners in India and across the world. My affection is always biased towards India and other developing countries because there they have to work with the real life constraints of water, fertilizer, weather, and other resources.]

It has always been our constant focus to produce reasonably good yields with minimal inputs. Thus whenever possible we resort to obtaining high quality compost, organic manure, or coffee grinds from local recycling centers, farmers, or Starbucks. There are some outrageous cranky experiments of producing a $ 100 dollar tomato or splurging hundreds of dollars for a raised patch of vegetable garden. But in most cases we have refrained from such wastage of resources. Our motto is always – simple living but high thinking. You can produce extraordinary results in gardening through careful observation, patience, and timely hard work.

            Now coming to these stargazer lilies, it has been a wonderful experience working with these bulbous plants. Right from childhood I have been exposed to colorful sweet fragrant flowers and tasty fruits (chakkar-keli Banana), thanks to mom. That sensuous memory remained with me intact throughout life. Thus I am always partial to aromatic flowers. Sadly some people cannot bear intensely fragrant flowers due to allergies. These stargazer lilies (also known as oriental lilies) are perennial plants. Originally we had planted half a dozen lilies but only three got established – two stargazers and one white lily.

            Here, in the northeast due to heavy annual snowfall much of the garden soil gets quite compacted. The soil is good for strong native trees (honey locust, hawthorn, maple, and oak, etc.) but for most garden plants and roses the soil needs improvement. Before planting the lily bulbs, I add a bit of compost, leaf mold and fresh topsoil. Basically the lilies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, gladioli, cannas and narcissuses all love loose soil with good drainage. The soil needs to be highly fertile too because they need to manufacture extra energy for producing large flowers with vivid colors. And our flower patch is in a shaded area due to large trees with outstretched canopies. Perhaps part of the nutrients is regularly washed away due to heavy downpours or taken up by nearby trees and lawn. Thus we have to periodically replenish the soil system. Otherwise the bulbs eventually diminish in their output (flowers) and we have sterile standing gladiolus blades or forlorn daffodil grassy leaves without flowers.

            We must have lost more than half a dozen lilies over the years. They just disappear in the soil. Some years the rabbits nibbled away at the new sprouts in spring. We lost a prized sweet scented Hosta thus. Once a deer has munched on the fresh flower buds early in the morning. You lose the entire year’s worth of priceless sweet aromatic flowers and of course priceless labor. We’ve learnt our lesson and immediately erected a 4 feet plastic tall fence around the lilies. Some times we put physical obstacles (like big pots with bananas) around the lilies to discourage the deer. That worked. So now we’ve been getting a good crop of these stargazer lilies regularly. They are giving slender side offshoots too. These plants are actually in the shade of large pine and magnolia trees. So they get only partial sun and of course plenty of diffuse light. One lily plant is almost 6 feet tall and has yielded fifteen flowers. Just with two stargazer lily plants, the garden was full of sweet aroma for more than a month. A total of twenty-five colorful sweet scented flowers decorated the front yard during the early summer. This seems to be a reasonable (rather the best) record for stargazer lilies seen in any prized garden. We may have to dig up the bulb in spring and replant with fresh loose soil sprinkled with bone meal, compost, and slow releasing fertilizer.

            Normally we leave these bulbs in the ground for the entire year. They sprout in spring, give flowers in summer, and the leaves stay green till late fall. Before the snow, I cut the long stems. I leave about 4-6 inches above ground for easy identification in the spring. Both the gladioli and lilies get thick layer of mulch for protection from the sub-zero temperatures during chilly sub-zero winters. Some years I have used the loose dry birch leaves for cover. I also utilize pine needles and straw. Maple leaves tend to form soggy heavy buildup, so mostly I avoid maple leaves as mulch. As it warms in spring, slowly I remove the mulch (top cover) little by little and start watering the sprouting bulbs. Once or twice during the growing season, I add fresh compost, topsoil, and bone meal. A general-purpose lawn fertilizer is also useful for these lilies and other bulbous plants. The only pest we’ve encountered is the lily leaf beetle. The beetle looks almost like ladybug but with a bit elongated body. You can just pick them off of the leaf and drop in a coke bottle. Neem oil spray does wonders in pest control. Some times I just dislodge the sticky larvae with gentle water spray. In an earlier gardening post I’ve given details about preparing neem oil emulsion for spray.

            The flowers stay fresh for a week in cool indoors. The whole room gets filled with its scent. Certainly my mother would have enjoyed it. Once I came across a big spherical cut flower arrangement in a hotel lobby with stargazer lilies, ferns, large magnolia leaves, and other seasonal flowers. These lilies make a bold statement and of course they make my head turn in appreciation every time.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

Red Velvet Hat (A Weekend Musing)

Red Velvet Hat

Red hat, red hat
My red velvet hat
With three things – the winter jacket,
Little purse with cell phone in hand,
And the red hat
Like the Gulmohar flower on top
I started with my hubby
To the Saturday Farmers’ Market
In my tamarind brown van
Playfully swinging
Reached the large shed
In thirty minutes –
Cold, cold, shivering cold,
Tickling nippy cold
Biting cold, 
“Eggplants, red eggplants,
Onions, potatoes, oranges,
Apples, pears, ”
Strolled up and down
Several times
Bought three dollars’ apples, bell peppers…
Then I found my crown jewel missing!

My dear husband, nay mari perle
Walked up, and down
Checked all the stalls across
The two isles
Where would it go? In this North America
The norm has mostly been: “Finding intact
The lost ones”
“Where’re you going little damsel?” Thus
Greeted me. There, next to the (cardboard) oranges
Crate, it hung on the steel post
Beckoning me sweetly
My golden red hat, my red hat! 

(English translation of the Telugu poem "ఎఱ్ఱ టోపీ" both penned by the author) 
Copyright 2016 తె. వె. రావు.   

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lyrics of "Sita kalyana vaibhogame"

శంకరాభరణము - ఖండలఘువు

సీతా కళ్యాణ వైభోగమే
రామ కళ్యాణ వైభోగమే  || సీతా || 

పవనజ స్తుతి పాత్ర పావన చరిత్ర
రవిసోమ వరనేత్ర రమణీయ గాత్ర  || సీతా || 

భక్తజన పరిపాల భరిత శరజాల
భుక్తి ముక్తిద లీల భూదేవ పాల  || సీతా || 

పామరా సురభీమ పరిపూర్ణ కామ
శ్యామ జగదభిరామ సాకేతధామ  || సీతా || 

సర్వలోకాధార సమరైక ధీర
గర్వమానసదూర కనకాగ ధీర  || సీతా || 

నిగమాగమ విహార నిరుపమ శరీర
నగధ రాఘ విదార నత లోకాధార  || సీతా || 

పరమేశనుత గీత భవజలధి పోత
తరణికుల సంజాత త్యాగరాజనుత  || సీతా || 

seetaa kaLyaaNa vaibhOgamae
raama kaLyaaNa vaibhOgamae | | seetaa | |

pavanaja stuti paatra paavana charitra
ravisOma varanaetra ramaNeeya gaatra | | seetaa | |

charaNamu 1 
bhaktajana paripaala bharita Sarajaala
bhukti muktida leela bhoodaeva paala | | seetaa | |

charaNamu 2 
paamaraa surabheema paripoorNa kaama
Syaama jagadabhiraama saakaetadhaama | | seetaa | |

charaNamu 3 
sarvalOkaadhaara samaraika dheera
garvamaanasadoora kanakaaga dheera | | seetaa | |

charaNamu 4 
nigamaagama vihaara nirupama Sareera
nagadha raagha vidaara nata lOkaadhaara | | seetaa | |

charaNamu 5 
paramaeSanuta geeta bhavajaladhi pOta
taraNikula saMjaata tyaagaraajanuta | | seetaa | |

[Tyagaraju (త్యాగయ్య) was a great bilingual scholar. He learnt both Telugu and Sanskrit as a kid. His songs are replete with words and phrases borrowed from the twin languages. He could also coin new phrases with his linguistic skills. Therefore we should not distort or modify his original songs with our limited knowledge. Plenty of errors, typos, and transliteration distortions abound on the Internet and even in printed books regarding his Carnatic song lyrics. The disciplined singer is forewarned to look out for such avoidable mistakes and pitfalls. If you substitute soft 'da' for the aspirated 'dha', the meaning changes. In Sanskrit language even a single letter conveys meaning. Much of the profound meaning and feeling goes out of the window if you do not sing these songs faithfully with perfect diction. When properly sung, Carnatic songs produce unbelievable effects - both the body and soul become peaceful through the cool vibrations of sound. There are many instances where such soul-stirring music has produced beneficial effects to people. English transliteration is generated by Lekhini.] 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Autumn's Debut (English Translation of శిశిరాగమనము)

Autumn's Debut

It’s coming, the Fall
Coming slowly without a stir
Still her brother isn’t ready
With flute, horn, and the brass
Nor is the caravan of colors ready
Poets like me
Have seen, nay observed
Your beauties, your enchanting grace
Your shy glances
While returning from the walk
Noticed two tiny silky feathers –
Have the migratory birds started already?
One red maple tree
Turned rouge all over
Won’t it? After all her lover has
Kissed, kissed underneath the blanket
Through the long chilly night
Come my darling
My Gandharva maiden
Blossomed in my sweet dreams
How lucky! What a fortune
No, I don’t feel bad
Missing the Blue Jay of Godavari
A Blue Bird cooed looking at me –
It was calling with a graceful crown
Calling his affectionate mate
“Ti, titi, titi”
Where have they all gone?
All our black, gray, and red
Bushy squirrels?
Now they’re munching on the walnuts
Screeching in between. I too teased
Them with my calls giving ‘em company
No, I did not see the Annapurna peak
Did not climb the Nanga-parbat
Did not fly to the Kailas
All the beauties and majestic graces
Came to me. Now for the coming Dussera
Mums, colorful chrysanthemums would be everywhere
Come, my nature maiden – I’ll decorate you
From head to toe, beckon your brother
The Northern Wind
Let him rise from the North Pole
I’ll pull out my Kashmir shawl
And the tufted woolen cap!
© 2016 t v rao

(The original Telugu poem was penned on September 15, 2016. September 22nd is the official start of autumn here.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016



శిశిరం వస్తోంది
వస్తోంది చల్ల చల్లగా, చడీ చప్పుడు లేకుండా
ఇంకా వాళ్ళ అన్నయ్య
సన్నాయి బాకాలు శ్రుతి చేసుకోలేదు
ముస్తాబుకి రంగుల బండి రాలేదు
కాని నాలంటి కవులు
చూచారు, లేదు గమనించారు
నీ అందచందాలు, నీ ముగ్ధ మనోహర  
లావణ్యం, నీ దొంగ చూపులు
నిన్న వాహ్యాళినుంచి వస్తుంటే
రెండు చిన్ని చిన్ని ముద్దు ముద్దు  
పట్టు ఈకలు కనిపించాయి -
ఆప్పుడే ప్రవాస పక్షులు బయలు దేరాయా?
ఒక ఎఱ్ఱ మేపల్ చెట్టంతా
కందిపోయింది! పోదా మరి
వాళ్ళాయన రాత్రంతా ముద్దాడితే?
అందులోనూ చలి దుప్పట్లో దూరి దూరి
నా ప్రియాతి ప్రియ
సుందర స్వప్న గాంధర్వ బాల
ఏమి అదృష్టం ఏమి భాగ్యము
గోదారి పాలపిట్ట లేదని బాధ లేదు
నిన్న నీలపిట్ట కూసింది నన్ను చూచి -
మంచి ఠీవిగా కిరీటంతో
పిలుస్తోంది వాళ్ళ రాగాల చెలికత్తెని
“తీ, తీతి, తీతి
మధ్యన ఎక్కడికి పోయాయి
మా ఉడుతలు?
మా నల్ల, బూడిద, ఎఱ్ఱ బొద్దు ఉడుతలు?
ఇప్పుడు మస్తుగ అక్రోటులు మెక్కుతున్నాయి
కీ కీ అని అరుస్తూ. నేను కూడా అరిచాను
వాటికి తోడుగా
అన్నపూర్ణ శిఖరాగ్రము చూడలేదు
నంగాపర్బత్ ఎక్కలేదు
కైలాసమునకు ఎగరలేదు - అన్ని అందాలు సొగసులూ
నా దగ్గరకు వచ్చాయి. ఇంక మా దసరాకు
చేమంతి పూలే పూలు, రా నా
ముద్దుల ప్రకృతి బాల - ఇక నిన్ను 
సింగారిస్తా ఆపాదమస్తకము,
రమ్మను మీ ప్రభంజన సోదరుని
కదలమను ఉత్తర ధృవం నుంచి 
తీస్తాను నా కశ్మీరు శాలువా
ఉన్ని కుచ్చుల టోపీ

© 2016 తె. వె. రావు  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lyrics of "tane tane" Telugu Song with Translation

తానె తానే యిందరి గురుడు | సానబట్టిన భోగి జ్ఞాన యోగి
అపరిమితములైన యజ్ఞాలు వడిజేయ | బ్రపన్నులకు బుద్ధి పచరించి|
తపముగా ఫల పరిత్యాగము సేయించు | కపురుల గరిమల కర్మయోగి ||

అన్నిచేత(ల)లును బ్రహ్మార్పణవిధి జేయ | మన్నించు బుద్ధులను మరుగజెప్పి |
ఉన్నతపదమున కొనరంగ గరుణించు | పన్నగశయనుడే బ్రహ్మయోగి ||

తనరగ కపిలుడై దత్తాత్రేయుడై | ఘనమైన మహిమ శ్రీ వేంకటరాయడై |
ఒనరగ సంసార యోగము కృపసేయు | అనిమిష గతులను అభ్యాసయోగి ||

Lyrics: Annamacharya (1408 - 1503)

Annamayya’s birth anniversary fell on May 21st this year, as the day aligns with the Hindu (Telugu lunar) calendar’s vaisakha suddha purnima (Full moon day in Spring). I came to know about this marvelous composition while listening to Brahmasri Chaganti's discourses. Sri Garimella Balakrishna Prasad has 
rendered it exquisitely, highlighting both the feeling and profound meaning. I have followed my heart in translating this musical piece, hope my elder brother (rather ఆంధ్ర పద కవితా పితామహా, అంటే మా పెద తాత గారు!) Annamayya will kindly pardon me, if any infidelity has crept in.

He, alone is the real Guru for all
He revels in supreme luxuries
(Equally) He is at ease as a great wise Yogi

He spreads intelligence among
His refugees 
Who do endless actions (yajna)
And totally sacrifice the fruits (of action)
He is the great graceful Karma-Yogi
Amidst such selfless people

(He) Hides all inappropriate thoughts
That prevent (excuse) submitting all acts (actions)
To the Brahman
He gracefully gives higher (exalted) positions
He is the Brahma-yogi, who sleeps on
The Adi-Sesha

Excelling as Kapila, as Dattatreya
and as Lord Venkateswara,
The One with great miraculous power
He deftly bestows the skill to maneuver  the world
(of bondage)
and He is skilled at the ways of celestials © 2016 తె. వెం.రావు   

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lyrics of "Madhuramu Siva mantram" Song

Singer: Ghantasala
Film: Kalahasthi Mahatyam
Lyrics: Tholeti

మధురము శివ మంత్రం
మహిలో మరువకే మనసా
ఇహ పర సాధనమే నరులకు
సురుచిర తారకమే 

ఆగమ సంచారా
నా స్వాగతమిదిగొనుమా
భావజ సంహారా
నన్ను కావగ రావయ్యా

పాలను ముంచెదవో...  
మున్నీటను ముంచెదవో
భారము నీదయ్యా
పాదము విడనయ్యా
నీపాదము విడనయ్యా  

జయహే సర్వేశా
సతి శాంభవి ప్రాణేశా
కారుణ్య గుణసాగరా
శ్రీ కాళహస్తీశ్వరా నన్ను కాపాడవా శంకరా    

madhuramu Siva mantram
mahilO maruvakE O manasaa
iha para saadhanamE, E E
iha para saadhanamE narulaku
suruchira taarakamE 

aagama sanchaaraa
naa swaagatamidigonumaa
bhaavaja saMhaaraa
nannu kaavaga raavayyaa

paalanu munchedavO...O O 
munniiTanu munchedavO
bhaaramu niidayyaa
paadamu viDanayyaa
niipaadamu viDanayyaa  

jayahE sarvESaa
sati Saambhavi praaNESaa
kaaruNya guNasaagaraa
Srii kaaLahastiiSwaraa nannu kaapaaDavaa Sankaraa 

(Sri Tholeti Venkata Reddy produced excellent lyrics for this superb devotional movie. I've come to appreciate this song only recently; as it was not included in my little book of Ghantasala's Songs, my meagre repertoire remained deficient of Saivite music. If I have to say anything about learning music, it is this: just focus on the emotion, everything else will fall into its place. If you can master the two principal "rasas", the sringara and bhakti, that's enough. All other shades of emotion will come naturally. Ghantasala is a great master, even today one can learn a lot by just listening to his songs. This song is not an easy one to learn. But it encapsulates very beautifully the essence of Siva and His compassion.)