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The banana tree

What a wonderful plant is banana! Not tall and tough  like coconut or  hard and broad like mangoes or jackfruit trees, but soft and smooth with the look of a woman of marriageable age even after presenting  a whole bunch of raw banana, which turns its color from bright green to pleasant yellow! I can’t climb on it as I used to do with a mango or jackfruit tree during my young days, but I can hug its silky body even at my old age and be happy! 

We cook and eat raw banana, make chips.  Kerala chips are available even in NJ Malayali stores! Add a bowlful of payasam and a handful of banana chips to an ordinary meal, you’re ready to serve an Onam feast. 

Even the peel of nenthran, the long variety, is cut into small pieces , cooked and consumed.

It’s stem has medicinal value, they say. It is an art cut it into small rounds, removing the thread with your finger. During my young days, I have watched with joy, young women doing it. 

Stem fibers are used as craft material and plant fibers to make garments.

Eating in Vazhai Elai or banana leaves, has been our habit from childhood.  Even star hotels are now using plantain leaves for serving food. When plantain leaves are unavailable, they use plastic imitations! So high is its attraction among the upper class outside eaters. In many  South Indian restaurants even tiffin is served on plantain leaves. For me personally, food served on plantain leaves gives more satisfaction than that served on plates, may be made of silver. No one has offered me golden plates and I shall convey my reaction when it happens! 

And my favorite elai adai!  imagine elai adai sans the flavor of its folded wrapper- steamed plantain leaf! 

And elaprasadam! When the Namboodiri gives prasAdam in a piece of ! It takes me to the doors of Swargam instantly.  

Perinkulam Kailasa Vadhyar stayed in my Habsiguda house when he visited Hyderabad for an Athirudram in 

Shankar Mutt. I received him from the railway station but forgot to buy banana leaves from the market though my wife had specified to buy on my way back.  We were yet to plant trees in our new house then .  No nearby shops too selling the leaves. 

I told Vadhyar I would get the leaves from the market before he was ready for food, after his bath and worship. 

‘Don’t worry, I will find a way’, he said.  He left with his angavstram on his shoulder and returned with a bundle of leaves within half an hour! 

‘Enganae pattichu? How did you manage ?’, I enquired. 

‘Ennada periya kashtam? I went around your colony. Saw a few plants in one garden, went in and asked the owner, by hand – signal for one leaf. With much respect, he gave me a bundle of leaves and then offered coffee etc, which I politely refused, ‘ he replied. 

Banana is rich in Potassium. It’s powder is used in baby food, I was told. 

Plant one banana tree in your yard. It will grow into thousands! The other trees need seeds for expanding their families. Plantains do not ; cute little ones come out from the mother plant’s base! 

The last but not the least-  the joy of seeing a pair of banana trees with bunches of fuuly grown raw fruits installed on the sides of the entrance of a wedding hall, welcoming you is unique .

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Let the snow go on

The year 2019 is on its way out. It has to go. Anything that came,  has to go.  Anything which began has to end. And that is the best part of life. Yes, the charm of life is in its extinction! 

How will 2020 come in unless 2019 quits? 

Quitting is clearing the way for the entry of something new. 

This millennium, for my family, started with a tsunami. It carried away a part of my life. I thought, with that loss, I too was lost.

No, I was wrong. I have lived 20 more long years. The Destiny wanted me to live for a purpose. That purpose is over. 

He will decide what to do next. He will. It is not my worry.

Most of the time we worry about men and matters when men and matters will take the course on their own. Good or bad may be the result. In what way our worrying is going to help them or us, when the decision making is not in our hand? 

We act. Someone else decides. And again, that is the best part of it. 

Let the show go on! 

 

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Chakkaravattupperi

 

Warning to my young friends to be married soon:

Before leaving for your honey moon trip, decide how to address your honey. 

———————

What made these two queens, mother in law and daughter in law to break out  into laughter ?  

My story of a just -married couple in their five star hotel suit in a honey moon night.

The story, in short:

Seshu whispered into Kunja’s ear, ‘honey, you’re my chakkaravattu upperi’

Kunja though of Kerala origin but born and brought up in USA, had never heard the word ‘chakkaravattu upperi’. 

‘You’re addressing me as Jack’s friend ?’, she enquired anxiously.

‘Oh, no. I called you as my jackfruit chips’, my sweet heart’, he explained.

‘Jackfruit? What fruit is that ?’ she asked.

Though in her ancestral Kerala home, there are three jackfruit trees,  the girl never visited the village and her question was pertinent.

The boy lifted his hand apart, raised  and said. ‘It is a big fruit with thorny outer layer and sweet fruits inside’

‘Am I that big and thorny?’, she got up from the bed and asked him in angry voice.  Apparently, she had no patience to hear about the sweet inner part. If I were in his position, I would have mentioned first about the sweet inner part and woukd have added, ‘like your heart ‘.  But the bridegroom, unfortunately was not me and I may not get a chance to explain.

No, I was wrong. I was in the neighboring room in the hotel and my tele. rang.

‘Uncle, come soon and explain to Kunja, what a Jackfruit is’.

‘Give me five minutes’,  I said, rushed out, bought a Jackfruit from the opposite Koya’s shop, entered into Seshu’s room, with the fruit on my head.

‘This is a bundle of thorns’, Kunja protested. ‘Am I this, for you?’

Seshu’s face sunk. 

‘Uncle can you cut and show the seeds inside, please?’

‘Why not?’, I said, placing the thorny globe on the table and rushed to collect a knife from the manager.

‘Give me a big knife, please’, I requested.

The manager gazed me from top to bottom and called the police.

‘Here is an old man. Come soon’, he requested.

‘If he is old, why trouble us now, at this odd hour?’

‘No sir, he is asking for a knife’

‘Might be for cutting areca nut for his Pan chewing . Give him’

‘No Sir, he is asking for a big knife’

The Kerala police is duty- conscious.  In ten minutes, the police van came and the inspector asked me, ‘whose throat you want to slice?’

‘Chakkadae, Sirea ! (Jackfruit’s Sir’)

‘Show me’. The inspector thought I wanted to cut Chakku’s throat. Chakku is my close friend. Why should I trouble him? 

I was hesitating to take the police to my friend’s honeymoon suit, but was forced to do that. 

Kunja  was shocked. Seshu was puzzled. He muttered, ‘Uncle I asked to get me a big knife and you brought the police here?’

‘Oh, the big knife is for you? You wanted to cut the throat of this innocent girl? ‘ The police raised the baton against Seshu’s head. 

I’m known for my crisis managing ability. ‘No, inspector, the knife is for cutting this jack fruit’

‘Why jack fruit here?‘

‘She wanted it’, I explained. 

‘She wanted now, here ?’

‘Yes, Inspector. We have a practice of fulfilling the desire of a pregnant girl, whatever it be’, my CMS (crisis management skill ) reached happily at its zenith.

‘I’m pregnant?’ Kunja screamed at me. She turned to the PC and said, ‘officer, I’m here for my honeymoon night. How can I be pregnant? This old man is bluffing.

Kunja collected her handbag and was about to shoot out when Seshu stopped her. ‘Don’t go, my chakkaravattu upperi’

I can’t blame him . That was the only word he had by-hearted to address his sweet heart.

‘Chakkaravattu upperi? ‘Evade’, where enquired the PI.

‘I will get in five minutes from Koya’s shop’, I said and rushed out. In less than five minutes, I was back with a packet which I opened and distributed. 

The PI was happy. The honeymoon couple was happy.

Then what ? 

Pavamaana——

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Question of adjustment

‘Ammalu, if you make a little more adjustments, we may perhaps live more happily’

‘There is room only for one person in this chair and I can’t therefore accommodate you. I don’t mind handing over the chair to you and sit on the floor ‘

‘You didn’t get my point. I don’t want space in your chair. I want you to adjust in life, in our living together under the same roof’

‘That too is no problem. I can climb up the roof, though with difficulty and you can comfortably live in the house’ 

‘Oh, my God! How to make you understand ? OK . Don’t make any adjustment. Let us continue to live, as we are now’

‘That adjustment, I’m for’ 

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Beyond a wife’s expectation

‘You forgot to add sugar in the evening  coffee, Ammalu’

‘I gave you tea in the evening and not coffee’ 

‘And your Sambar for dinner tasted like rasam’

‘I served you rasam for dinner, not Sambar ‘

‘You’re kidding. I did bite a drumstick piece.  You add vegetables to rasam?’

‘What you bit was coriander leaves’

‘What’s happening to you, Ammalu?’

‘Nothing for me. You’re aging’

‘And you’re becoming younger, my dear wife ?’

‘Thank God, you realized that I’m your wife and not a Murinkai Kai piece  in the rasam, I served’.

‘Ammalu, a girl is dear till she becomes wife. For me, you’re dear even after living together for over four decades’

‘SP, you’re adorable at times and tolerable most of the time!

‘A woman can’t expect more from her man’

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Not keen on marriage

I’m observing that the enthusiasm to get married amongst the earring middle class womenfolk is drastically dwindling. Main reason is their economic independence. Another one to avoid troubles in raising children. 

Sex was a necessity, had a purpose. No more now.

Sex was a pleasure when the avenues of pleasure were little. No more now.

Sex had aura of divinity. No more now. 

Family life had a respect and a status. No more now.

‘Are you married?’ ‘How many children ?’, ‘should you not settle in life?’ 

We used to ask such questions in India. No more now. 

Go ahead. But, when you grow old, consider getting married – not for pleasure, not for status, not to please God or to get some one to pull you up from hell, in the after-life journey- Just for a human companionship. 

Canine can be a good company. But when you want a hot chai or Chukku vellam, medicated warm water,  lying on the bed, a human companion will be better than the company of an animal, dog or cat. 

When you long for someone to hear your story or history, a human presence is ideal, not that of a cat or a dog.

I have plenty of humans around, all the time, caring, compassionate. Hence I don’t need an animal to be with me.

 

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Separating the grain from straw

Muram, where’re you ?

I’m yet to see a wind winnower in any of the houses, I visit in USA . Chool, broomstick Yes, though rarely used, as the houses are carpeted and machine removes the dust, if any. 

Recall my early days when murams were in regular use  for separating grain from straw.  Not only straw, even pests were removed from stored grain, using murams. 

I used to watch with amazement the lighter chaff flying in the air blown away by wind and the heavier grains falling back down, when my mother and servant maids, enjoyed doing the separation job, sitting in our veranda humming some tunes.  How relaxed they were then leisurely but quickly and happily engaged in their separation activity! 

Separation is unavoidable in many of our life activities too, to remove unwanted from the wanted, when they come together. 

Nowadays married pairs get separated for the reason above and a few more! Separation of bad thoughts from the good ones too are unavoidable as well as articles from our house and office. Even our body mechanism engages in non stop separation of wanted from the unwarranted. Nature has its own way to separate. 

My childhood habit of watching with amazement the lighter stuff flying in the air blown out by the wind, comes to my mind often when Fate removes people from my life, though they were not chaff or light weights! Of course, Fate is the Master and His action is unquestionable!

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What happens at night, he doesn’t know !

 

Mothers of daughters -to -be married can be more courteous.

A friend in Chennai with prior appointment went to meet a woman in Mambalam after his son and her daughter, both working abroad, had telephonic contacts and the boy suggested his father meet the girl’s mother and proceed with the negotiation for the alliance. The present day practice is the boy and girl meet, date, decide on their wedding and then inform the parents, requesting to come and bless them. Some smart kids inform their parents only after kids are born to them! But in the above case,  the boy decided to go by the conventional path of parents meeting first. The girl agreed, on phone, as they hadn’t met face to face. 

The boy’s father, let us call him Seshu, spoke to the girl’s mother, got appointment, went with some fruits as is the custom, at the exact time prefixed .

The woman, (let us call her madam  to suit her rich appearance,) collected the fruits and directed Seshu mama: “I’m busy for another two hours.  My father in the next room will entertain you, in the meantime”.

Seshu said, ‘madam, I’m here with prior appointment and at the exact time prescribed by you.  I’m here to talk to you about the alliance of my son and not to get entertained by your father, who is possibly of my age or perhaps older. If you suggest, I will talk to your father about the alliance ‘

‘No, mama. What does my father know about my daughter’s requirements? It  is me, not even my husband, to decide about my daughter’s marriage’.

‘Good. You want me to come another day?’

‘No, mama. Wait for a short while. I will be back quickly’

Seshu waited and waited.  Madam didn’t call him. He thanked the old man for his valuable advice on ‘sthree dharmams’,. The entertainment was no more endurable ,as the old man had started snoring . Seshu collected his bag and took leave of the madam, saying, ‘we will meet on our grand child’s first birthday in Boston.’

Madam was shocked! 

‘Mama, wait please. Please come in. Tell me what is happening behind my back in Boston’

‘Nothing much madam. The day temperature is -4 deg. C. What happens at night, I don’t know ‘

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I’m not a preacher, not a teacher

I am not a spiritualist. Not even a ritualist doing nithyakramas regularly or visitng  Temples often.  Just an ordinary story writer I am, , living a normal family life with my chidlren, grand children, roaming the world if they finace me and if my health permits or sit below a tree or walk through the woods and rice fields of my native land,  that rich Kerala, again if my  legs coperate, humming  a Thyagaraja or a  Swathy Thirunaal  or Deedkshithar, for mine  and mine alone –  satisfaction  and not for others’ certificate.. In fact,  my own people have said ,that I am more tolerable when I don’t song and keep my mouth shut.

But I can’t keep my mouth and eyes shut  I look at the trees, the hills and meadows, the squirrels and monkeys roaming over there, the deer looking at me from its bush, wondering who this fellow is, when I go for a walk in the evening through the highways of Baltimore or Florida or at the innocent cows wanderimg in  the lanes of Kasi or Kalpathy. I run along with the river in Ottappalam or stare at the Ganges with awe at Utharakasi or Gangotri . I talk to the guys sitting near or far to me in a sleeper class, force him to talk to me, may be a panda from Benares or a chettiar from Madurai, or an young girl bubbling with enthusiasm or a depressed soul sitting alone in a corner worrying how to feed her children, the next day.This  has helped me to live so long .   This  has helped me to live happily. And I have lived long enough and damn care if I am showed the gate tomorrow.

And, and I read our Upanishads, that invaluable record of our ancestores, who roamed in the forest , alone, wearing practically nothing, in the hot , in the cold, among the animals, enjoying the raising and falling sun, enjoying the waxing and waning moon, enjoying the twinkling stars and silent or roaring clouds. 

If all the books are lost tomorrow, pray that doesn’t happen and if we are left with a single upanishad , we are safe, our culture is safe.

I am not a preacher or a  councellor but suggest,  read our Upanishads and understand their meaning. You won’t regret.

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Mud we’re

I was in Hyderabad for the Deepavali, last year. Our compound wall is pretty long and was wondering how to arrange deepams on the entire length.  Remembered about the huge stock of materials dumped in the attic, when my wife was there. But how to climb , was the question. 

There is a boy in the outhouse behind our rear wall. 

‘Madhuuuuuuuu’, I cried. He jumped over the wall, climbed the attic and brought down a carton full of earthen lamps. I liked them. May be because I came from and will go back to earth, I like all products made of clay, lamps, pots even Moorthy of Ganesh for the Ganesh pooja. 

Products made of clay will break, if you drop them, as we too will, one day.  They won’t choke and kill animals as plastic does. 

Mother Sita, who came from Earth, went back to the arms of her 

Mother , leaving behind her husband, children and Kingdom. Her end was beautiful . More natural than mounting a vimanam and flying to heaven.