Apple cider of your eyes

A healthy cocktail of affordability and good taste, apple cider is fast becoming the most sought after gift, says Saurabh Malik

Fizzy logic

Cider is a stylish drink and it is extensively used not just for gifting, but also by bartenders to create exotic cocktails. Chefs also use it as an ingredient while preparing fancy continental dishes.

Cider can be “still” or highly carbonated with low bitterness and no aftertaste. It is extremely light in body and mild in flavour with a pleasant apple taste for you to savour excitement.

Enriched with vitamins, it is absolutely pure and natural drink without presence or even a hint of synthetic chemicals and preservatives. The tingle of sweetness and the inherent mellowness of the fruit combine to provide a cocktail of delight to the drinker.

It has all the good qualities of fine wine. And after the very first sip, you realise there can be no taste more evocative.

Cheers! Apple Cider is adding more than just fizz to the lives of so many connoisseurs. The invigorating golden elixir, low on bitterness and high on flavour, is also raising the spirits of so many gift-givers in the state.

It may hit you like a strong drink, but the angels’ own nectar is fast attaining the status of most-sought-after gift among Bacchus devotees. In fact, cider cases are fast replacing apple boxes in vehicles leaving Shimla and other boomtowns of the state with tourists, and souvenirs from the hill state.

If you are wondering why the gift is fast becoming the apple of all eyes, Shimla-based businessman with shops on The Mall, Vivek Sood, has the answer. Bubbling with enthusiasm, he says: “Distinct from apples, cider is not bound by any season. And then, the product has a longer shelf life as it comes in carbonated form. It’s not very expensive either. A bottle costs just above Rs 60.”

Bottoms up

Raising a toast to the product’s popularity as a gift item, cider manufacturers in the state have come up with special gift packs. “You can pick up special take-away packs of six not just for dine, drink and dance parties, but also for celebrating an occasion called life,” says Sood. “For, what’s better way of rejoicing than holding in your merry hands a glass that cheers!”

Flashing an intoxicating smile, owner of liquor superstore Spirit in Chandigarh’s Sector 9, Rajiv Suri, agrees. Offering a bottle of magic from Himachal, he says: “Resurgence of interest in cider drinking has brought about a change. Until a few years ago, foreign tourists were more or less the only ones saying bottoms up to cider. But now, even local wine-lovers are clinking sparkling cut glasses with beads of excitement bursting at the brim.

Drink from the past

You may find it hard to guzzle the fact; but cider is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks. It has a 2,000-year-old rich tradition and originally originated in the UK, but is now produced wherever apple cultivation is high like in the US, New Zealand and Australia.

In India, it started as a fresh draught drink and is now available in a carbonated form. World over, cider sales are estimated at about 22 per cent of annual beer sales.

It is made primarily from the juices of specially grown varieties of apples and pears. In most places across the world, cider refers to fermented apple juice and pear juice. But the drink is known as hard cider or ciderjack in the United States and parts of Canada as plain cider almost exclusively refers to non-alcoholic apple cider.

Soaring spirits

No wonder, the sale of first-class cider is soaring, along with the spirits, like never before. Quoting not just the grapevine, Tempest Cider managing director Dinesh Gupta says, “Just four to five years ago, HPMC and a few private manufacturers were selling anywhere between 40,000 and 50,000 cider bottles annually. But now, we alone are offering 50,000 to 60,000 cases of 12 bottles each every year.”

The stuff’s effervescent popularity can also be gauged from the fact that the company — among the first ones to introduce carbonated apple cider in the country — was initially targeting the foreigners in big cities of the state like Shimla, Solan and Dharamsala. But now even small towns like Hamirpur, Kangra, Noorpur and Kangra are on the their list.

This is not all. Even in Goa, Chandigarh, Gurgaon and Rajasthan, the revelers are gifting ice-cold apple-based alcoholic beverage to the out-to-chill cronies. “Rather, Chandigarh is guzzling apple cider like never before,” says Gupta. “Every month, we are selling two truck-loads of cider in the city.”

Sounds neat fellows. So what are you waiting for? Just get ready to pick up some real good cider with revitalising froth of good life bubbling out of the bottle. 

Guzzler’s delight

Hic! Cider’s better than beer. With alcohol content up to eight per cent, cider provides a healthier alternative. Right guys, a mug of beer may leave you worrying about a fat belly and high cholesterol, but not cider.

Apple cider may not keep the doctor away, but it is supposed to have incredible healing powers. And, like red wine, it is claimed to be good for the heart. It’s effective to beat the summer heat as it has a cool and purgative effect.

Otherwise also, more and more people are now showing general tendency of moving away from traditional drinks to fruit-based alcoholic beverages. To top it all, cider gives you the feeling of sipping something “oh-so-western” because of its international image and worldwide popularity.

Just in case you do not know, cider is “handcrafted” in small batches using only the finest ingredients. For producing cider, apples are washed and mashed, pressed usually in a stone mill or hydraulic press and then fermented in oak vats using natural or added yeasts. So, next time you hit the pub, do check out cider.

Global high

Cider is extremely popular in the United Kingdom, especially in South West England. In fact, UK has the highest per capita consumption, as well as the largest cider producing companies in the world. Overall, UK produces 110 million imperial gallons (500,000,000 L) of cider per year.

The drink is also popular and traditional in Brittany and Normandy (France), Ireland and northern Spain. The drink is making a resurgence in both Europe and the US.  In India, though cider is still not as popular or widely consumed as wine, the Himachal Pradesh Government has been trying to popularise the apple beverage. 



Like father, like son
by Shriniwas Joshi

Photo by S. ChandanMany sons have outshone the halo their fathers wore. A few doubles are Jawaharlal and Motilal, Amitabh and Harivanshrai, Hrithik and Rakesh, the list can go on and on. Shimla had witnessed the luminescence of such a father-son duo in Joseph Rudyard Kipling and John Lockwood Kipling in the late nineteenth century. People remember Rudyard because he won the Nobel for literature and for his writings but have forgotten the contribution that his father Lockwood made in the art world of India and Shimla.

John Lockwood Kipling, who was a sculptor and pottery designer, was appointed principal and professor of architectural sculpture in 1865 at the newly-founded Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay. His wife Alice was one of the four remarkable Victorian sisters who made their names through marriages to celebrities or by producing celebrity sons.

The ceiling of Himachal Raj Bhawan Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India, had gone to Port Blair from Simla on an inspection, and was assassinated there in 1872 by a Pathan convict, Sher Ali. It was in the Viceroy’s memory that the Mayo School of Industrial Art was started at Lahore in that very year and John Lockwood was appointed as its first principal parallel to his charge of the curator of Lahore Museum. Lockwood Kipling allowed the functions of the museum and the school to merge in a creative manner. He planned and arranged the museum in such a way that it reflected both the archeological and the traditional crafts heritage of the Punjab. He turned his attention to the school more exclusively when it acquired its separate building in 1882 in the majestic Mall, also called Thandi Sarak.

That time Kiplings’ son was studying in London. And when it dawned upon the Kipling couple that Rudyard did not have academic ability to study further in Oxford on scholarship and that their financial condition could not afford his education there, they called him to Lahore to work as assistant editor in a small local newspaper, Civil and Military Gazette. It was the October of 1882.

Kiplings visited Shimla the first time in 1883 and then became a regular visitor in summer from 1885 to 1888. Lockwood and his family stayed in The Tendrils where The Cecil now stands.

Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy, and his Lady had great liking for Kiplings and the Lord was so impressed by the vivacity of Alice that he had once said, “Dullness and Mrs Kipling cannot exist in the same room.” He would often come walking from Peterhoff to meet the Kiplings. On his request, Lockwood Kipling did frescos in the Christ Church on the Ridge. The frescos surrounding the chancel window having allegorical representation of Te Deum, a traditional hymn of joy and thanksgiving, were designed by him and carried out by his pupils from Mayo School under his supervision . It is a pity that the Church management instead of conserving have plastered and whitepainted these, thus incurring an irreparable loss to the heritage of the town.

Lockwood Kipling had also designed in eastern Moorish style the plaster-work and the interior of Barnes Court and the present Raj Bhawan (see photographs). There are vaults and arches in the doors and the ceiling has stylised foliage motifs in geometric ornamentation of minute detail and intricacy, executed with surpassing skill in plaster. Lockwood had a fascination for Islamic art. He has drawn a figure of a lion with cryptic Arabic inscriptions for the book Beast and Man in India authored by him. He had also designed for the books of his son and for Tales of the Punjab by Flora Annie Steel.

In the final decades of the nineteenth century, there was a general drive among the British to preserve and revive the vestiges of unpolluted traditional India, whether it was manifested in architecture, craft, custom, or people themselves. John Lockwood Kipling took keen interest in the drive and made sincere efforts to preserve the hill temples and indigenous decorative arts of Shimla. He used his influence to see that these remained reservoirs of traditional Pahari culture.


A priest was being promoted in the episcopal order as canon. His baby son, in all ignorance, asked his Mom: “Now that Papa is a can(n)on, am I son of a gun?”



shimla Diary
Restart electronic voting
Rakesh Lohumi

The Election Commission of India has been insisting on use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all elections.

The machine was introduced in the 2003 assembly polls, and in the subsequent 2004 Lok Sabha elections votes were cast through the electronic ballot.

However, the state election commission, for reasons best known to it, took a retrograde step and opted for the traditional paper ballot system in the recent municipal corporation poll.

The entire election process left much to be desired. The electoral rolls, it appeared, were prepared in a hurry as evident from the large number of omissions. Even names of prominent persons were missing.

For instance, the name of B.C. Negi, a former chief secretary who is a permanent resident of New Shimla was missing. The names of Sangeeta, the sitting councillor from Chhota Shimla ward and her husband also did not figure in the voting list.

In case the state election commission does not have the resources to prepare a comprehensive voter list, it will be better to update the electoral rolls prepared for assembly or Lok Sabha polls rather than messing up things like it did in the recent polls.

The Congress retained the corporation with a tally of 15, while BJP could secure only 8 seats, two more than the previous elections.

It paid the price of not giving tickets to candidates from upper Shimla who constitute the bulk of electorate.

It fielded six candidates from the Sood community out of which four emerged victorious.

However, the Congress did much better by giving tickets to 11 candidates from Upper Shimla out which 10 won.

The party created a record of sorts by winning the polls for the fifth consecutive time.

Warning signs

The helicopter crash near Sungra in the tribal Kinnaur district, which claimed the lives of two army pilots, has once again drawn attention to the ever-increasing threat to aircrafts from spans and power transmission lines. The accident occurred when the rotor of the helicopter got entangled in an unmarked span, a single cable ropeway with a trolley used for transportation across valleys in the hills.

In a similar accident a helicopter crashed after hitting a span near Sapni in the year 2000. With a large number of power projects coming up across the state the problem is going to worsen. While appropriate warning signs have been marked on power lines passing through high areas, the spans were mostly without such signs.

The Kinnaur police has registered an FIR against the public works department in connection with the crash. It could spell trouble for the officials if it is established that there was negligence on their part. The department has now issued instructions to the mechanical wing that maintains spans, to take immediate steps to put up warning signs to prevent recurrence of such mishaps in future.

Chilly summers

The queen of hills and other parts of the state has been experiencing a rather cool summer this year. The region saw mercury shooting up in mid April, followed by a shower. There have been frequent spells of hailstorms and rains all across the state.

The high reaches of Kinnaur, Kulu and Lahaual Spiti experienced snow last this week. It was after a gap of 25 years that Nako and Hamta peak had snow in May.

As a result the temperature in the region has been hovering between 5 and 7 degree Celsius below normal.



Sky was the only limit for him
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

He was a daredevil. Serving the nation was the only thing on his mind since childhood and that’s exactly what he did till he lived. Thirty-year-old Major Puneet Karol, a pilot in the Army Aviation Wing, was killed when his chopper crashed in a remote area of Kinnaur on May 24.

Born in Kotla Nullah (Solan), Puneet studied in St. Edward School, Shimla, till class IX. After passing his matriculation from St. Luke’s School, Solan, in 1992, Puneet enrolled in the Government College there.

But he always had something different on his mind. He joined the National Defence Academy in September 1994 and was commissioned in June 1999. His first posting as lieutenant was in the 210 Rocket Regiment stationed near Kathua. Due to his age, his colleagues called him the Baby of the Regiment.

After serving for two years at Kathua, Puneet was promoted as Captain and selected for Army Aviation. He joined as chopper pilot at Jalandhar after getting training on aviation at Hyderabad and Nasik. Puneet had also served in a United Nations mission in 2006-07.

Major Karol was posted at Jalandhar and when he took off that fateful day for Karcham in Kinnaur, no one knew it was his last flight. Remembers his mother Urmil, a retired lecturer from Solan Government College, “Puneet has always been a patriot. He was crazy about the Army even as a child and would get excited on seeing Armymen. He would have turned 31 on July 8.”

Major Karol got married in June 2003. He is survived by his wife, Shelly, mother and a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Saranya. Now, little Saranya will only have to know her fearless father through his photographs.



Techno-friendly forestry
Rakesh Lohumi

Forest management in the hill state will undergo a sea change with the government deciding to use the hi-tech geomatics technology for generating authentic data, mapping and survey of forest areas, and monitoring the implementation of various forestry-related works in the field.

A combination of geographical information system, remote sensing technology and global positioning system, geomatics provides a high precision tool, which can be used for planning, implementation and monitoring almost all the forestry related activities. Apart from mapping vegetation to the accuracy of a sub-metre, it enables landscape characterisation that helps conserve biodiversity and evaluate environmental impacts of indiscriminate and effective micro-watershed management. Not only that the system could also be used for monitoring the performance of officers on the basis of vegetation change.

The state land use board will be the nodal agency for the introduction of the geomatics technology, for which a separate GIS (geographical information system) centre will be set up at Khalini. It will be equipped with high-end global positioning systems, cartographic unit, GIS capable computers, and remote sensing laboratory. The department is sending six officers to the Forest Survey of India for training in the geomatics technology.

The biggest advantage will be that the forest department will be able to keep a close watch on the vast open forest wealth, including inaccessible and inhospitable hill terrain. Over 37,000 sq km has been classified as forest area out of the total area of 55,673 sq km in the state.

“To begin with the state-of-the-art technology will be used for digitization of forest areas to generate compartment-wise data which will include specific details like forest density and species-wise information of the growing stock,” says Pankaj Khullar, principal chief conservator forests. The next step will be to digitize the forest working plans and carry out forest resource mapping. Once the database is ready, geomatics will become an integral part of the decision making process. “It will serve as an useful tool for selecting suitable sites for development projects, water harvesting structures, eco-tourism, alignment of roads, right species for plantation, identifying forest fire risk zones,” he adds.

The status of existing forests and new plantations will now be available at the click of the mouse. The decision-making will also be much faster as all relevant data like eco-sensitivity, green cover, environmental status, wild life, climatic conditions, carrying capacity and other details will be readily available for generating a suitability map for any activity.



HP nests 447 bird species
Vishal Gulati

It is probably one of the storehouses of biodiversity in the country. As many as 447 species of birds and 107 species of mammals have been recorded in the forests and snow-capped mountains of Himachal spread over 55,673 sq km. A total of 1,342 species of birds are reported in the country.

Of the 447 species of aves recorded in the state by the Zoological Survey of India in its report Fauna of Western Himalaya, the state has the largest population of chir pheasants in the world. Western tragopan, an endangered species, is confined in the temperate zone.

The state abounds in rich invertebrate fauna with 184 species of moths, 288 species of butterflies and vertebrate fauna, including 17 species of amphibians.

Moths can be seen flitting all over the tree-lined avenues and lush green valleys, especially in Solan, Shimla, Sirmour and Chamba districts.

Nineteen species of moth have been recorded for the first time in the state, whereas 33 species are reported from north-western India for the first time. Two species — Hemithea ochrolauta and Idaea leucozona leucozona — are new records from India.

The flower-rich forests are rich in avifauna. A large number of resident birds, including the red jungle fowl, pariah kite, spotted dove, green barbet, Indian mynas and spotted munia, can be spotted flitting throughout the state. They found fairly in good number in the Shivaliks and lower Himalaya as compared to trans-Himalayas.

Thirty-five per cent of the country’s bird species have been reported in the state. Of the total birds, 15 per cent migrate in the state during winter. The maximum number of species has been recorded in Kangra district, 313, while the lowest number of species recorded in Kinnaur district, 40.

Twenty-six species, including the pallid harrier, painted stork, spot-billed pelican and lesser gray-headed fish eagle, which have been declared threatened by the Wildlife Protection Act, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the CITES, have been recorded.

Seasonal streams, rivers, lakes and marshes are home to 104 fish species of 14 families. As many as 57 species have been recorded in Sirmaur district, followed by Kangra, 55, and Bilaspur and Solan district with 50 species each.

Mammalian fauna is plentiful. In the subtropical region, which comprises the Shivalik range, rhesus monkey, nilgai, sambhar, chital, barking deer, Indian crested porcupine, pangolin, jackal, red fox, leopard cat, rat snake, cobra, Russell’s viper, common krait, python and monitor lizard can be spotted.

In the temperate zone (between 1,500m and 3,600m), ghoral, barking deer, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, leopard, Himalayan black bear, brown bear, stone marten, Himalayan weasel, Asiatic jackal and langur are found.

However, the report has expressed concern over the fact that human interference is depleting its flora and fauna. Overexploitation of flora by local people has led to the degradation of forests. Soil erosion and the construction of roads are a serious threat to natural vegetation.

It says the introduction of exotic fish species like common and silver carp has adversely affected native fish fauna.

Says H.S. Mehta, in-charge, Zoological Survey of India, Solan: “If we don’t show urgency about the need to protect wildlife, there might not be enough wildlife to worry or protect later. So save the environment for future generations.” 



Water conservation project a success

WASH (Water Availability Through Self- Help) implemented in Kangra district in collaboration with the German Government has proved a boon for people in rural and far-flung areas.

The project aims at enabling panchayati raj institutions, water users associations and other stakeholders to plan, implement and manage safe drinking water and minor irrigation systems in a sustainable manner. The Himachal Pradesh Eco Development Society, an NGO based at Palampur, is also extending its cooperation to WASH for its success.

The project was also providing training to the key staff of the Irrigation and Public Health Department as trainers and facilitators of the process of planning and implementation, management of community-based demand-driven water projects. A senior officer said rural masses had been educated how to manage their water resources and maintain sanitation in the villages. The first phase of the project — technical cooperation — had successfully been implemented in this district.

In the next three-year phase WASH would provide policy support to the IPH, Agriculture and Panchayati Raj Departments and the Himachal Government for the development of necessary legal and institutional framework of reforms in water management and its conservation. Workshops and training camps would also be organised in projects areas.

WASH officials conducted training camps in various villages of Kangra district in the past three days to educate people about the management of water resources and irrigation channels. Over 3,000 persons from different villages of the district attended these camps. — TNS



No laughing matter
Hasya Kavi Sammelan draws flak
Kuldeep Chauhan

It may be difficult to digest but its true. A Hasya Kavi Sammelan was organised at Sundernagar to commemorate 150 years of First War of Independence on May 24. The organisers for the event received both bouquets and brickbats from participants as well as art critics.

Organisers said that it was a melodious evening in which 12 poets participated. The participants dished out great poetry in Pahari, Hindi, Sanskrit, Punjabi and Urdu. They read out poems on various themes starting from war to humour, which were thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

This multilingual gathering of poets was organised jointly by Himachal Pradesh art, language and culture department and North Zone Culture Centre (NZCC), Patiala and Urdu academy, Haryana. But there are others who said that the organisers invited poets for the evening belittling the significance of historic 150 years of First War of Independence by choosing Hasya Kavi Sammelan for the occasion. A reputed Urdu poet, Ravi Rana, who participated in the symposium as part of the audience said, “Mandi is the cultural capital of state, but no local poet was invited. On the other hand a poet from Uttarakhand was allowed to read out poem on a chit given to him by a top official present there, making a mockery of the show,” he asserted.

President, Dinu Kashyap, HP Progressive Writers’ Association (HP PWA) said: “Organisers could have included some local poets. Also, themes suiting the spirit of independence would have been appropriate.”

A poor light and sound system made matters worst. However, participants were happy with the cultural show performed by artists from NZCC, Patiala. Senior poets protested poor management and the organisers also apologised to it, said an irritated participant. Director of the Department, Prem Sharma, also the chief guest said that only five top poets from Himachal were invited.

“The poets from other states were invited on the basis of merit. The idea was to remember and pay homage to the war heroes but there seems to have been a difference of opinion. Eight poems read out there revolved around the theme of independence. Some of the participants could not handle the sound system properly causing a little chaos,” clarified Sharma.





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