Quality time and mushrooms

As you settle down to live in places like the US or UK, you start hearing people mention about a commodity called ‘quality time’. It took me a while to figure it out. I had initially thought that it meant, as Americans put it, Jackshit (if u did not know what it meant, it is – bowel movement of a donkey). You hear guys say, I am gonna take a vacation and spend some quality time with my children, or I am taking off with my wife and we will spend some quality time together. There is even a nice definition to it in Wikipedia.

Here I am, sitting in the departure concourse for Southwest airlines at the Las Vegas Mc Carren international airport (LAS) waiting for the boarding call and I wondered, so in all these great economies, over 90% of your time spent everyday is not quality time? What kind of a life is this when we spend all our time for our employers? As I ruminated on all this, I remembered a friend who lives in Switzerland and spends some of his quality time together with his Swiss pals, all dressed up in typical Swiss garb (Boots, long red socks upto to the knees, long tight lederhosen shorts and the cap – like Raj kapoor wears, with the feather on it) …no! no! my friend who may read this is going to clobber me, he does not wear all that, but he is very serious about all this, well, he goes mushroom picking on particular days in the autumn. It is a big thing in that part of the world and there are very strict rules about it. Not only that, it is a thrilling endeavor (so they say!) as one could die (~30 die in France, every year!) from eating the wrongly picked one. Switzerland is the Mushroom Mecca of the world, with 6000 species and over 700 mushrooming groups!! They even have Mycorama, an international center for mycology research.

In France - Article 547 of the Code Civil stipulates that mushrooms belong to the owner of the land where they grow. Each commune has the right to decide whether mushroom picking is allowed, can say what quantities can be picked, can charge a fee or can totally forbid mushroom picking in the surrounding forests and the rules are

· Mushrooms must be a certain size before being picked so that they have a chance to release their spores
· Tools of any sort are forbidden with the exception of knives
· A knife must be used to cut the stipe so as not to damage the mycelia
· Mushrooms must be carried in a wicker basket to let the spores fall out and help propagation

The world is quite funny, actually. An Indian won’t understand what this is all about. You try telling somebody in Pallavur that you spend a holiday and quality time picking mushrooms; they will tell you that you are downright crazy and recommend a visit to Kuthiravattom in Calicut, where the nearest mental hospital is located. In most houses out in Palakkad, even watching TV is considered wasting time and dreamers are losers. Unless you are studying, working, toiling in the farm or reading, you are wasting your life away. A nap after lunch or a loiter around the temple is the only pastime allowed. If you are in Delhi, acceptable pastimes include kitty parties, watching TV, wandering around Palika bazaar, Chandni chowk or ……. In Bombay, watching TV and ogling opposite sex is about the only things you actually find time for. If you are in the UK though, it is a lot different, everything takes a new meaning and they appreciate it if you have time to reach back into history – going to places like oxford, London, Nottingham, reading books and so on. But well, for youngsters & middle aged in UK, the favorite pastime is goofing around drunk, that is their definition of quality time. A few are into games and computers, but by and far there are many who have nothing to do. Pubbing is a national hobby; see what it got Andrew Flintoff into last month.

Well, in Switzerland & back to my friend, they think otherwise and spend hours worrying quite seriously about nature, global warming etc. They talk about rising water levels, rising ozone levels, the end of the world and so on, sitting at altitudes like 3,000-10,000 mts or walking up the hill shepherding, where neither pollution nor rising water levels will affect them, unlike the poor people of Bangladesh & Calcutta who are soon going to seriously take up swimming classes to stay afloat (remember Kevin Costner in Waterworld?). But when the Swiss don’t while away time worrying, they will still have quality pastimes like mushroom picking….

Ah well, it is time to board the plane now – so let me digress.

Southwest airlines is interesting, they have no seat numbers, it is free seating and as soon as you pass the gate, the guy takes away your boarding pass, that was a first time for me, in a plane without the stub of the boarding pass. Aha, an interesting announcement. Know what, these Americans can be quite funny even if they don’t mean to be – the announcement says – For William Buck “your brother won’t be available to pick you up at Ontario. He can’t get the car started and wants you to bum a ride with somebody to Corona. If not you should start walking and he is very sorry about this”. We all laughed, what else to do, you see, it is 15 miles from Ontario airport to Corona, the man is going to have a tough long long walk in the 750F temperature. There are no buses from Ontario to Corona!!

Know what, after parking the car and starting the walk to the terminal in Ontario, I was pleasantly shocked when a lady came by in a rickshaw (no roof cover though, like in India) and asked me if I wanted a lift to the terminal. She was chatty for the 5 minutes the ride took, covering subjects like the flight security, the weather etc…when I was getting ready to alight at the terminal, she abruptly terminated the chat & said “Sir I work for tips, so tips are appreciated”…This incidentally is called a PEDICAB service,
read more about the service, here.

Time to get back to Temecula…Vegas seems to have had a good effect on me.

Sorry, my mushroom picking friend in zwitzerland, no offence meant with the mushrooms and global warming comments, I hope you will take this lightly and continue with all your environment friendly activities.


diyadear said…
i love mushrooms... [:)]n hey thanks for the mallu comment on my blog [;)]
krupa said…
Very amusing post! I love mushrooms too and would love to go mushroom picking!

Quality time is very subjective.One man's quality time is another man's waste of time:)