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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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