The Mighty Coconut

Coconuts Drying in the Sun

The ubiquitous coconut holds an important place in the hearts, minds and daily life of all  Indians, eclipsed only by the king of fruits, the mango.

It is an essential ingredient in South Indian cuisine, featured prominently in the curries and chutneys of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Goa. Popular dishes like the masala dosa, wada and idli are always accompanied by a luscious, creamy, grated coconut chutney.

Idlis with Sambar and Coconut Chutney

The name of the state, Kerala, means land of coconut trees and is the largest producer of coconut related products. Cookbook author, Nimi Sunil Kumar, told me that by definition, all recipes that require oil in Kerala must use coconut oil.

Coconut water is a refreshing and cooling beverage that many believe helps to keep the body free from parasites.

Don’t You Dare

So elevated in importance that the coconut is firmly associated with nearly all Hindu religious rituals. The coconut is symbolic of prosperity, signifying the blessings of nature. Its white color represents purity and its hard kernel inspires people to do hard work. Devotees offer coconuts to deities in temples and celebrations like weddings often begin with the breaking of a coconut, symbolizing the removing of the ego. Fishermen offer coconuts to the sea in the hope of an abundant catch. Devotees break 108 coconuts at a time in temples that honor Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman. When broken and placed before the lord in such a way, it symbolizes the removal of negativity and brings out goodness.

Hindu Priests Paraphernalia with Coconuts

After this new understanding of the significance of the coconut in India, my enjoyment of a delicious slice of coconut cream pie is only enhanced and my admiration for this complex country and culture expands!

 

 

 

 

 

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A Lasting Memory

Curious Companion

Curious Companion

It was a beautiful, clear morning in South India. I boarded a local bus to the next town where I could easily tick off my long shopping list. I was grateful to get a seat as this route gets packed, mostly with students on their way to school.

The view out the window is familiar but stunning with its fields, bright red earth, occasional lagoons and scenic temple spires looming skyward. Women tend to sit together on buses and some buses even have a ladies section.  I sensed that the local woman seated next to me was studying me in great detail. I smiled at her. With extreme shyness and hesitation, she smiled back.

She touched my bracelets, admired my embroidered salwar/kameez outfit and admired my matching tie dye dupatta/traditional chest scarf. She pointed to my long hair and light-colored eyes too. Her friends across the aisle watched this interaction with near envy. For a moment, I was a celebrity.

When we finally got to our destination, I pulled out my camera and with sign language asked if I could take her picture. This is the result and remains a wonderful lasting memory.

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Farmer Woman

Part of the urge to document theme.

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The Urge to Document

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Village Woman

Water Pots

India is changing with such astonishing speed that I find myself in a constant state of wonder. In the West, this sort of change is known as progress. And it is about life becoming easier.  There are now highways ( often with tolls ) that cuts travel time substantially and is more comfortable than the old bumpy roads. More homes have running water instead of pumps and wells and the roadways swarm with cars, motorcycles and scooters, just to cite a few obvious examples.The price of this progress is exorbitant.

This has catapulted me into a perpetual state of conflict: the old versus the new, the benefits versus the losses. And they are many. I restrain myself from writing about it as it is painful yet I don’t want to be stuck in the past. Watching a way of life slip away in front of my eyes invades my thoughts and moods too.

The urge to document it all before it is too late is born. This gnawing compulsion accompanies me during every moment of my day while I am here in India.

My constant clicking  and obsession with taking photographs is beginning to irritate my friends who walk with me. They, too, are witnesses to this upheaval and mourn its demise. We have lived the “good” life in the West and know what we have lost in the process. We have the advantage of hindsight. If only the East could learn from the mistakes of the West, then our loss would almost be worthwhile. Learning from others mistakes is so simple yet so few of us bother. Maybe it is our nature to keep repeating the same mistakes. I hope not. I have been plagued with an optimistic view so I will continue to trust but will also be documenting what I see that moves me.

Once I have access to better equipment, I will have more photos with more in depth analysis to share with you.Posting from my phone is very limiting. Thanks for reading! Seasons Greetings too!

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That little has changed in over a month is distressing, disturbing and of course, inconvenient. The timing couldn’t be worse. This is marriage season that is a big deal in India and a big cash business, it is planting season and most of the farmers don’t have the cash for seeds (imagine what this means for the food supply down the road) and it’s the height of the tourist season as well that so many large and small businesses depend on. The magnitude of this blunder hasn’t hit yet.

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One gets very good at waiting while in India. I feel badly writing anything negative about my beloved India but this situation is beyond comprehension!

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Thanks for the sympathy, though I have fared a lot better than most foreigners because I was in India before demonetization and managed to change back a large amount. I also have local friends who help me but the majority of arriving visitors have no resources and are flying straight to Thailand. Foreigners have nothing to do with black money and are sadly left to fend for themselves. India has made an error here.

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