THE TREE OF LIFE

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A coconut tree is once such tree where each and every part of the tree is useful.

The roots were used to make dyes, tooth brush, mouthwash and it also has medicinal values.

The leaves are used to make thatched roofs. Also used in making containers for storage. We store rice

The coconut water, we all love to drink. The thick, crisp, inner flesh of the mature seed is a regular ingredient in a diet for people in the tropics and subtropics.And from the same flesh of the mature seed oil is extracted, which is used for cooking and frying. Coconut milk is also made from the same, which is used to flavor different curries.

The coir from the fibrous husk is used in making a variety of furnishing products.

The coconut also has a religious and cultural significance in certain societies particularly in India

On this note I want to share some memories of a trip that I took to my village.

The part of India that I hail from Karawar in Karnataka is rich and luscious with coconut trees. Whenever I visit my maternal ancestral home the first thing that is served is fresh coconut water.

I went to Aversa a village  few kilometers away from Karwar where my ancestral home is in the rains. It was a trip that was planned on the spur of the moment. At 8:00 am in the morning I got a call from my uncle Balu kaka, saying I should attend the Nopi festival, which was a day away. So by 9:00 am I packed my bag and headed to the airport. Surprisingly I managed to get a ticket for the next flight and landed in Goa at 1:30 pm.

Found a local taxi that would take me straight to Aversa. It was a beautiful mesmerizing two, hour drive. Driving through the small winding roads and passing through quaint villages was so nostalgic. Finally reached Aversa and on seeing my entire family the fatigued of the travel just vanished.

As always Balu Kaka (uncle) went and plucked a coconut and served me fresh coconut water while the rest of the family was surprised to see me. Balu kaka and I decided to make it a surprise after her had convinced me to come. My parent, cousins, aunts and uncles were really happy that I came.

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The evening was spent well with family, we went for a long walk to our fields nearby and then returned home to see a sumptuous spread that my aunts and mum had made of fried fish, batatya talasni (sauté potatoes), dalitoi (dal made with ginger and chilles and laced with coconut oil) and rice. Nothing to beat a simple home cooked meal.

The next morning was even more fun. We all cousins had left for a town called Ankola at 6:00 am to buy the vegetables, coconuts, fruits and the rest of the ingredients that were going to be needed for the pooja the next day, where after the pooja the entire village is given a feast and so we had to go to the town to procure all the goods. All the ingredients and us cousins were loaded on a small truck back to Aversa, where the truck driver dropped us off to the village temple. The bumpy ride back home was fun but our bones were creaking too at some point.

My uncle who was the chef and in charge sorted the vegetables, fruits, flowers and over 100 coconuts and kept in their respective places. He was going through his lists and checking the stock and scribbling on small chits of papers assigning jobs for the prep.

After a while it was announced that I will be chopping vegetables along with other ladies of the village and then if time permits and my job done, I was also instructed that I would have to assist in making the garlands for the gods. These are anyways a few of my favorite jobs to do.

The menu for the next days lunch was a very elaborate and a traditional one of gajbajya randoi (a vegetable curry using gourds), muga molya randoi (sprouted mung curry), bhendi ghosalya upkari (okra and ridge gourd vegetable), dalitoi, rice, ambaya nonche (hog plum pickle), payasam (Kheera), kesar bhaat (saffron and sugar rice). The number of people eating would be 600, so one can imagine the kilos of vegetables to be chopped and the number of coconuts to be scraped, sounds tough but I was sure it would be fun.

In the afternoon after we returned home, the rest at home were relaxing in the courtyard sipping wine and vodkas and relishing freshly fried crisp mackerel that Balu kaka was frying and having a gala time. We joined in as well and had a wonderful afternoon where lunch went on till 4 pm till we finally one by one crashed in our beds for an afternoon siesta.

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After a cup of hot tea in the evening at around 7:00 pm we all assembled in the temple courtyard where the vegetables were washed and kept. We were 8 women who were on the job of chopping vegetables. As we were about to start one of them started singing hymns and the rest followed. I don’t know how to speak kanada very well so I was a silent observer enjoying it completely. By about 10:00 pm all the veggies were chopped and the coconuts were scraped and everything was neatly kept in a small room and locked.

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The next morning my uncle Gundu who was the chef woke up at 4:00 am and after a cold water bath at the well and headed to the temple kitchen with his team. So for this festival the cooking is done only by the males of the family, while the women get dressed in their fineries and head to the temple for the pooja.

So I along with the rest of the ladies at home, got ready in my fineries and went off to the temple and sat down to make the garlands.

The next few hours were just totally divine and mesmerizing. The melodious sounds of the mantras, the fragrance of the flowers, camphor and the incense sticks and the rain had simply put me in trance.

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By the time the pooja was over it was 1:30 pm and all the villager were queued up with their little offering of flowers, bananas and coconuts. After which they all moved to a hall where the food was going to be served. I too went along with my family, but to serve the lunch that was cooked by my uncle.

It was a long hall with a smooth slurry flooring where the banana leaves were placed in rows. One by one all the villagers sat down and washed their banana leaves with the water that was served for drinking. After that we all started to serve. First the pickles and salt was served followed by the dry vegetables and then the curries. Finally the rice and dal was served. After the priest finished saying some mantras aloud the people started eating. The system of serving was so well organized that I just didn’t imagine we had serve more than 600 people that afternoon. At the end my family and I sat and relished the meal to our hearts content.

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I returned home really tired but totally satisfied. This was indeed one of the best trips ever for me.

Is simplicity so difficult? …

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This maximum city has got us a lot of opportunities to grow and become successful. Even an uneducated person who comes from a village can make a living for himself here, which is amazing! But in the quest of growth some how I realized the simplicity of life has been lost.

I very vividly remember as a child every weekend my dad would make it a point to spend time with us, either go out for a weekend or Friday night would be a movie and Saturday night would be dinner at some restaurants close by, be it Chinese at Nanking or Flora, the Great Punjab for my simple dinner of alu matter and roti.

Our weekend trips would be so much fun…. Dad would pick me up after school on a Friday evening with mum and my brother already in the car with our suitcases packed and then we would decided where to head… no hotel reservations, no itenary planned and yet those weekends would be adventurous… Mhateran, Pune, Nasik, Bellary, Kolhapur, Alibaug were a few places we visited… and the list continues. So my childhood has been memorable.

As I grew up and went to college I still remember I would be given Rs 25/- everyday as pocket money, which was sufficient and a railway pass to reach college. I would take a bus from my home to the train station and then a train from Bandra to reach college.

Now with the 25 rupees that I had, I had to figure out how to save some from it, for a snack with friends, just an outing or maybe a movie and trust me it was a fun challenge  to managing to save quit a bit of it and then go gadding about with my friends. For that, sometimes I would walk from the station instead of taking a bus or an auto rickshaw ride  back home and use that money to treat myself to a nice mango dolly after the long tiring sweaty walk.

So you can imagine how simple life was for me. A simple dinner of alu matter and a crisp roti, movies, long drives, a mango dolly …. Life was beautiful

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Today things have changed…. I live in an amazing house, own luxurious cars and eat in the most fancy restaurants, have loads of friends and yet life seemed empty. According to everyone round me I seemed to have “the perfect” life and felt what the hell am I cribbing about! And yes I did believe them and felt everything is good then why this hollow feeling of emptiness

After much thought I understood that “for me” life is about togetherness, simplicity and doing things that I love and feel happy doing, like I love to walk on Worli sea face while the sun is setting, or at night I love to sit at the far end of Marine drive over looking the city blinging with lights and tall buildings making the place look glamorous, while the sea in front of me talks of its vastness and consistency. As much as I enjoy eating in a fancy restaurant I also love to go to a small khanaval (eatery) and relish a simple meal. I prefer spending my time in buzzed up markets with cramped shops selling masalas, vegetables, utencils and not to forget flowers, I love going for long drives and stopping for an ice cream abruptly some place. Cooking, listening to music and painting are very therapeutic for me. It’s not the number of friends that I have but who are the ones who will stand by me was important.

After a bit of a struggle and a lot of thought put in, I did manage to get some simplicity in my life finally ….feeling blissful

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