Now that I have your attention, meet sea-buckthorn. A prickly deciduous shrub that has grown wild in China, Mongolia, Tibet and the Trans-Himalayan zone of India for many million years. Said to contain over 250 bio-active ingredients, it is today feted as the ‘Most Perfect Plant in the Whole World’.
For long, visitors to the Ladakh & Spiti regions will have seen its optimal use as a thorny keep-out around homes and fields; and fuel. Though traditional healers have always known of its wondrous qualities (credited as it is with treating many hundred diseases); that it is anti-cancer, anti-radiation & anti-aging is a wisdom of recent vintage. I was recently introduced it by Ishita Khanna who is working closely with local communities – women being major stakeholders – to resuscitate what a decade ago was a fast depleting super food.
The common variety favours dry and sandy regions with a hearty dose of sunlight. It shuns the shady company of larger trees & is usually found along river banks, at least in Spiti. A mention in Greek mythology suggests that Hippophae rhamnoides (its formal moniker) may also have found salt-sprayed coastal Europe congenial enough for sinking roots. Legend has it that the plants leaves were the preferred food of the mythical winged horse, Pegasus, and were quite literally the wind beneath its wings (due apologies to Bette Midler). The Mongols, too, will have you believe that Genghis Khan credited seabuckthorn with giving his armies the incredible strength and endurance they required to conquer his enemies. Who, then, are we to disagree ?
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, travel enthusiast and the author of Adrift: A junket junkie in Europe is the youngest of four siblings born into an aristocratic family of Punjab. Dogged in her resistance to conform, and with parental pressure easing sufficiently over the years, she had plenty of freedom of choice. And she chose travel.
She was born in Shimla, and spent her formative years at their home, Windsor Terrace, in Kasumpti while schooling at Convent of Jesus & Mary, Chelsea. The irrepressible wanderlust in her found her changing vocations midstream and she joined Singapore International Airlines to give wing to her passion. She has travelled extensively in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe, South Africa and SE Asia; simultaneously exploring the charms within India.
When she is not travelling, she is writing about it. Over the past decade or so, she has created an impressive writing repertoire for herself: as a columnist with Hindustan Times, as a book reviewer for The Tribune and as a contributor to travel magazines in India and overseas. Her work-in-progress, the documenting of colonial heritage along the Old Hindustan-Tibet Road, is an outcome of her long-standing romance with the Himalayas.