Thursday, December 20, 2007

Trees Around My House - 2

Continued from Trees Around My House - 1......

Coconut Tree –

We have about 50 odd coconut trees around the house. As our ancestors have named it, indeed it is a Kalpavraksha – A tree from the heaven that can offer anything desired. Every part of the tree is made use of -Tender coconut to drink; the grown one for cooking or to make oil. The leaves are stripped to make broom stick and the rear end of the leaves can be used as fire wood or for children, can be converted into a cricket bat. After you rip off the outer cover of the coconut the coir is used to make ropes and mats. In older times we used to even tie the leaves crossed to convert it as a shelter, when shamiyana’s were not in use, these were the substitutes. Now we can’t deny the word selected by our ancestors to this wonderful tree, can we? I used to try climbing it and had rashes all over my leg once. It requires a very good skill. Every month we got the grown coconuts plucked and to me the worst part was to collect all of them and get to the common location where we stored them all. Every year we make oil out of the hundreds of coconut collected. First the coir is removed, and then the nut is cut into half, dried for several days until the nut is easily separated from the dried flesh which is called Kopra. Kopra is then sent to mill to make oil. When you break the coconuts, the ones that are very old would have sprouted and inside the nut we find an excellent, sweet and tasty growth that we call “Moonge”, which is still a treat to us. Even today my mother keeps them stored in the refrigerator until I arrive.

Tamarind Tree-

Tamarind tree has a story similar to the coconut tree. We use tamarind every single day for cooking sambhar. So it follows the same procedure. During a suitable time we pluck all the tamarind and then dry it for several days. Then we peel off the outer cover (Which for me is a boring job but forcibly done.) Amma, Ajji and Appa would separate the seeds out. The flesh is stacked for use during the year and the seeds are sometimes fried and eaten. The outer cover and some seeds are thrown out on the road. A belief from ancient time is that if done so there would be more tamarind on the tree during the successive year. Before the tamarind is plucked, several fall off and our neighbor’s kids come to steal them, so we had to be alert to chase them away. Ajji used to be our guard in such matters. “Yer Ambhey Aow” (Who is that man?) she would run shouting at the kids.

Palm Tree –

Several stories haunt me about these trees. Two beautiful palm trees stand even today in front of my house. When I was small, my sisters would fool me by saying stories about them; that they were ones lovers and a curse had them turned into trees. So they made me apply powder on the bark of the tree to heal their rashes. Well these fooling techniques are kind of hereditary. My elder sister would fool my second sister and my second sister would fool me; Anupama and I would fool her brother krish.

Another memory related to this tree is about a unique game invented by my Muslim neighbors. We would play cock fight with the fruit from the palm tree. The fruit is not eaten, so instead we assume that they are cock. :-) We would select the best fruit each and hit the opponent’s fruit as hard as we can. The fruit that rips off completely is a loser.

Sampige Flower Tree –

I have two memories related to this tree. When I was a kid, I used to wait for my mother to return from her party meetings (My mother was a politician). When I saw her coming, I would hide behind the Sampige flower tree and surprise her.

The second memory is with Vasu, my childhood friend. Sampige flower spreads a beautiful fragrance which some like and some don’t and my mother was in the latter group. Vasu’s mother on other hand loved the flowers, thus he would come home to collect them for her and in turn I would get to play with him for a while.

Jack Fruit Tree-

We use the leaves to cook “Mudde”. Jack fruit leaves are pinned together with sticks (left after peeling off Coconut leaves) to form a cup shape, into which the idli – rice batter is poured and steamed; the fragrance from the leaves blend with the batter to provide excellent taste. I don’t like the fruit a lot but my grandmother and father love it. We lend the extra ones to relatives and friends. I love the seeds though; mother cooks excellent sambhar from them. We have about 3 jackfruit trees. Out of them one is not at all sweet, so it is generally used for cooking curry’s or making papads. Ajji and mother make a paste out of the jackfruit after separating the seeds and they make papads out of it which are dried and stored and as and when required, fried and eaten. Even today every year, we use homemade papads, coconut oil and tamarind.

Almond Tree –

Well we do not own this tree, but our neighbor does. Nobody wants to break their head with the almond, because it’s a tedious job to peel of the flesh, then nut etc. The owners had abandoned it and we enjoyed the freedom; hit the Badam with stone until the shell breaks. The hard work isn’t very relishing. It is much easy to buy some Almonds from shops.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trees Around My House -1

Yes, I know that the title sounds like a topic given to a nine or ten year old at school. But I deliberately choose this as most of my memories with these trees are of the time when I was a child, the time I would love to go back to, in my thoughts. Some of the trees still silently stand and some no more decorate the front yard of my house, but they all have stories to tell about me and my childhood. So let me just pick the favorite of mine first.

The Guava Tree-

It won’t be wrong to say that I would be found more on top of this tree than any other place around the house. If I was bored, I climbed to the topmost branch and sat there to enjoy the cool breeze of air. If I was hungry, soon after lunch, there are always some guavas to taste on. I knew which fruit tasted the best. I preferred the ones which were half ripe. During exam times, if I needed privacy, Guava tree was the first priority. Subjects like Hindi, English and Social science where best suited to be studied on trees. :-)

My sister and I would choose a few guavas and book them for ourselves. We would cover the chosen one with a plastic bag to recognize who they belonged to. At times, when I was very desperate and could not find any good ones, I secretly ate the ones reserved by my sisters and leave the plastic bag intact. :-)

Chikku Tree (Sapota in Kannada) –

The chikku tree in our front yard had one special thing. Till today (20-25 years after it was planted) we have not tasted one single fruit from the tree. Few tender chikku’s were seen in the beginning but they vanished with time. Culprit – Squirrels.

But my memory with the tree has nothing to do with its fruits. Anupama (my cousin) & I had one favorite time pass during holidays - fooling her little brother Krishna. I would climb the Chikku tree and sit there, hiding between the leaves. Anupama would convince Krishna that she & I were friends with a ghost that lived on the Chikku tree and it would provide us diamonds and gold if made a wish. When did so I would slowly drop an artificial jewelry (Mostly the buttons from my Kurta which had some polished stone).
Krishna would be surprised, thrilled to know about the ghost. But at the end of the game always we got good scolding from the elders as he would complain crying to the elders that we scared him with such stupid stories. Anupama and I would then run away to escape scolding’s. :-)
Cashew Tree –

The cashew tree in our compound was my other favorite study place. I used to sit on one of its branches while studying for exams. This tree was right next to the path that leads to many houses around. So when our neighbors would pass by, I would drop a cashew nut or sometimes a stone next to them. Some spotted me and smiled or talked but some would just walk away picking up the cashew nut that they had received by chance, without knowing my presence. This was a nice break for me in between the rigorous studies.

Parijaata Tree-

The flower parijaatha makes its presence in stories of Lord Krishna. The fragrance of the flower is unique and its appearance lovely; Small white flower with an orange neck. My grandmother (mom’s mother) stayed in our house only once for a long period, which was during my thread ceremony. Early morning she would go to the tree and pluck flowers and make mala out of it. I used to follow her. Even today when I walk there and spot the flowers fallen loosely, unheeded, on the ground, I recall those moments with amma-amma (Grandmother).

Banyan Tree -

Banyan tree till date remains my favorite tree. My most relished childhood memories are with this tree. I used to enjoy swinging with the roots that break loose off the tree. The tree was at a certain height and we would catch hold of its root to glide and fall on to the ground. My sister and my relatives would cook dishes beneath the tree by stealing some oil and vegetables and they would even bake the already baked biscuits. :-) I was sad when tree was cut; they say the roots of the tree travel distance and may be dangerous to the foundation of the house. I was too young to notice such reasons, to me it was end of lot of fun; end of the pride with which I used to impress the little guests to my house.

Mango Tree –

We never seem to be lucky with mangoes though. We have two trees but never get to taste more of it. Pickles are made from them because they do not taste very good when ripe. I would go to my neighbors and borrow mangoes from them for lunch. I love to have sliced mangoes along with meals (A style I learnt again from my favorite Muslim neighbors). When I had to pluck some from our tree, I would climb up the roof and use what we call “Donti” – A long bamboo stick to the end of which is attached a knife or another sharpened bamboo stick. We have a bamboo bush of our own to make quick donti’s. But there were always many other options to relish tasty mangoes – by stealing from others garden, which I loved the most. :-)

To Be Continued.....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I had not been to Mangalore for more than 2 months, so I decided to go home last weekend. My father had sent me the Kambla timetable by post and Kadri Kambla happened to be right at the same time while I was there. Kambla – means Buffalo race. It’s very popular in south canara district. First the paddy fields are turned into a muddy water pool, and then the lanes are created using coconut leaves tied in a form of mat which act as partitions. The first few hours are spent on tug of war and running race. The latter half of the day is the actual Kambla. I had never been to a Kambla before and I was very excited to be there. This particular kambla happens every year only few steps from my grandmother’s house. My cousin and I went there at about 4:00 PM and the game had already started. I enjoyed standing exactly in front of the lanes to click several pictures.

Every run is timed and the fastest wins.

On the way back home, in the bus, I got into a conversation with a fisherman. He shared his stories about life in the sea. He works for a company that own about 12-15 fishing boats. They spend 2-3 weeks in the sea, several miles away from the shore. For every 2 lakh worth of fish he brings back, he would get an amount of RS 3000. Sometimes the owners ask him to take half the money and the other half next time, which is a difficult situation for them. He visits home only once a month. He also shared how they track any obstacles such as rock or even the nearest shore through a device in the boat. He shared with me how they lay net and drag the fishes along with the boat. Sometimes the ropes get tangled on to the fan and he being an expert in underwater swimming takes up the opportunity to show his skills. Two drivers run the boat on shift basis and four others help them in fishing, cooking and preparing ice to store fishes. Once the diesel falls to reserve, they have to return no matter how much fish they have in hand. He demonstrated how they need to tackle the waves; they cannot speed or neither can they slow down infront of huge waves, if they slow down the boat would turn upside down; well this requires special skills, he adds. I sensed his eagerness to share all this and talk non-stop; he must have been terribly bored by limited conversations in the boat, I thought.

Picture Taken At Thanirbhavi Beach, Mangalore.

I returned back with a good dialogue with the Fisherman and I wondered how has this changed me? Quick reply from my mind was – Tomorrow if I am sitting by the beach and see a fishing boat sail over, appearing close to the horizon at the backdrop of setting sun, I know that it means much morĂ© than a picturesque view; the emotions let out by it perhaps can never be captured by any photograph ever.