Of Bananas and Mangoes and other Foods in Between

The heat wave is really something this year (that’s how it feels every summer). There have been storms and a few weeks ago strong winds broke a branch of the banana tree that was already weighed down by a huge bunch.

Two of us adults had to lift it and carry it inside. We speculated on how long it would take to ripen them. We googled ways to ripen bananas naturally. I picked a few and packed them away in a brown paper bag with a couple of ripe tomatoes (it’s best if you have apples but I didn’t have them at this time of the year). Oh, that reminds me of the deliciously juicy green apples you can get in the hills by June end.

In the meanwhile I got to making as many things as possible with raw Bananas. Banana chips were a favourite with the kids. Then came raw banana fritters and veggie made from it. As the bunch ripened, we got to distributing them, graduating to making milkshakes and lastly many, many batches of banana bread.

The storms also brought down mangoes from the trees in the house. There were a few rounds of mango pickle, then sour chutneys and the sweet version, some dishes that neighbours and relatives suggested and finally mango shakes and ice cream.

It’s quite exciting to be getting fresh fruit and last year I realised (after a bounty of mangoes and home grown veggies) that the taste is really different from the produce we buy from the market.

While we started a small vegetable patch we also made sure to scout out more local vegetables. As it is, because of the strict lockdown last year, there was a glut of fresh vegetables in the market since the nearby villagers could not go very far to sell them.

Talking to the vegetable vendors I also realised that buying local means fresher vegetables, with their nutrients intact because they haven’t been lost in transit and lesser pesticides and other chemicals used to preserve their freshness.

I know I am also supporting the local farmers even if in a small way. It can understand that it makes some difference  because I talk to the people who get the vegetables from their own small farms or landholdings in the villages. And this connection with people I wouldn’t know otherwise enriches me with a knowledge of their lives.

In a way it’s thrilling to not choose what you are going to eat today but depend on which vegetables your vendor is going to get, all of which is guaranteed to be fresh and seasonal. It’s also making me more resourceful.

I know that buying local has a positive impact in the environment. There are fewer pesticides involved. Fewer transportation means a lower carbon footprint. In fact there’s something called food miles, the distance our food travels when it reaches us. The greater the miles, the more adverse impact on the environment. Local foods are mostly organic, if used for local markets and there aren’t many artificial ripening processes involved.

We really enjoy buying the litchis, mangoes and jamuns right from outside the orchards. Sometimes they even pluck the fruit right in front of us. Frankly, now that we can connect with the food we are eating, we can appreciate the hard work that goes into growing it and the people who are dependent on them for their livelihood.

It is said that buying local can help protect genetic diversity. Some fruits like the loquat and shehtoot and bel are not available commercially very readily. We are fortunate that we can source them here, if not very often, atleast once in a while.

Hopefully, when we buy these veggies and fruits we encourage the green spaces people have in their backyards and large vacant plots. My vegetable vendor frequently gets vegetables that he says have been dropped in by someone or the other who just had a lot of vegetables in his garden and couldn’t use it all.

Going local can make a difference on an individual level that becomes a movement when more of us practice it.

This post is part of CauseAChatter, and I am talking about Environment.

Also posted for Blogchatter Half Marathon.

What’s In a Name

A talentless bard called Cacofonix (people have a really difficult time when he sings as in it’s a cacophony), a dog called Dogmatix, an elderly person Geriatrix (the association with geriatics) the druid who mixes up a magic potion that makes his villagers invincible is called Getafix. The star of the story, why, Asterix!

A few more notables are Crismus Bonus, Fuliautomatix, Vitalstatistix, Psychoanalytix, Orthopedic, Impedimenta, Bacteria and more. There are around 400 characters in all the Asterix books and taking a good look at the names is the first thing I do.

Image from Wikipedia

Clever names are just one part of the charm of Asterix comics. The puns and the jokes are another level and have a lot of cultural, artistic and political allusions. When you get the joke, well, you feel smart and superior to those who didn’t get them. The Latin is another matter though. Knowing the literal meaning of phrases doesn’t help, you have to understand the grammatical nuances (of Latin, yes huh is my reaction all the time), know the context in the story and tie up the dialogue of the characters to see how the joke/pun is ‘closed’.

Written in French originally by Goscinny and Uderzo, the writer and illustrator team, Asterix has now been translated to more than 100 languages. Translator Anthea Bell has been responsible for bringing these delightful books to English readers.

Coming back to the names, Asterix, the star is also a typographical symbol used to denote a footnote. Obelix, his side kick, meaning a large monument, alluding to his size, denotes another typographical symbol, used when there is a second footnote. From this, you can get an idea of the layers of meaning in everything in the series. There is a challenge in keeping the wit alive as the books are translated to other languages.

The dog in the books is simply called Dogmatix, which is a play on the word ‘dogmatic’ or maybe it’s just because it has the dog in it? In Hindi, Dogmatix changes to ‘Kutta Bhaunkix’ (don’t cringe, I am sure it’s all very funny).

Even though the story revolves around the Romans determined to conquer a little Gaulish village (most of Gaul has already been conquered – the time is 50 B.C.) and even when there’s the army and ambushes in plenty there’s no real bloodshed. The battles are not gory; rather they are funny by virtue of the cleverness of some characters and utter stupidity of others.

The battles, ludicrous challenges and laughter inducing situations all end with a feast under the starry night where wild boar is eaten and Cacofonix is ‘usually’ tied up after he plays a few notes.

I am now (re)reading ‘Asterix the Gaul’, the first in the series. If you an Asterix fan, maybe you can tell me what do people do with the menhirs that Obelix keeps delivering?

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Make Friends with a Tree

My morning ritual involves spending time with plants and trees. I pull up a chair and sit close to a bush I love or next to the hardy aloe vera cluster whom I have never really attended to as much as I should have. Sometimes I put my arms around the jasmine bush, now pruned and skinny. The mighty mango trees; mighty because the thick trunks speak of many years on this earth have me intimidated. I put out a hand on the trunk so that I feel connected. I stand underneath the spreading canopy of the guava tree that had white flowers a few weeks back and that’s now bearing tiny fruit. I ruffle through the curry leaves tree. There’s a tree that’s suspected to be Amaltas (why hasn’t it borne any flowers?). There’s another one with tiny red flowers, which look more like thin strips of colour. There’s a tree of indeterminate name and lineage. It’s thorny and looks hardy. There’s peepal in the vacant lot next door, the heart shaped, fresh green leaves showing up above the boundary wall. And the little flowers growing from a green clump of what looks like grass open when the sun is out and close at sunset. 

When I read an article in Wall Street Journal on how a woman and her children made friends with a tree and felt happier and calmer I immediately thought of my tree gang. Just the thought of spending time quietly near a tree made me feel happier.

Years ago, I read a book on emotional quotient. It talked of the benefits of being connected with nature. At a workplace, even a single live plant can bring peace. No wonder, little potted desk plants are so popular.

All of us do not have the luxury of huge gardens or even easy access to green spaces. So balcony gardens, hanging plants, planters in corners can bring in the much needed greenery into our homes. The simple act of watering the plants, nurturing them, watching them grow can be soothing. If you are mindful in the time you spend with your plants, it can bring much peace.

For most of us, there’s a lot of anxiety bubbling inside us, as we navigate the pandemic. Distractions help only for a short while but something as simple as nurturing a plant can lead to a mindset shift. From trying to subdue the stress, you are actively managing it through your green friends. Being surrounded by plants also boosts creativity. I wasn’t aware of this but that might be the reason I like to think and do my writing sitting under a tree.

Having some green plants even if you live in a small flat is doable and has plenty of emotional benefits. And of course, along with our own emotional well-being, we are contributing to the well-being of our environment.

This post is part of CauseAChatter and Blogchatter Half Marathon, and I am talking about Environment.

The Case of the Missing Beehive

We first chanced upon the inverted triangle of a beehive as we stepped out from beneath the vine of grapes, having looked for a bunch to pluck in vain. Most of the grapes were still green, not yet ripe and really sour when we tasted them.

The beehive was a surprise; for hadn’t the children been climbing the guava tree? It was also a little scarey, what if the bees stung us as we went about looking for fruit and walking in that part of the lawn, just for the pleasure of hearing the leaves crunch under our feet.

The discovery preceded the day we had a storm and some rain. Expectedly, lights went out as soon as a strong wind started. It was in fact the norm. The power cut stretched into the night and then all of the next morning and there was no water either. With no expectation of us getting back to living with the modern amenities of electricity or running water, we sent the children to stay with their grandparents.

The next few days did not give us enough time to fret over the fact that there were bees in the house, that we would have to be careful, that we may have to get some help in driving them away. Vaguely I thought of the stories I had read of tribals who harvest honey. With trepidation, I walked around the guava tree with much distance between me and that branch.

Five days later, as the children arrived back the beehive got enough curious glances and estimates of how much it had grown. It hadn’t. And the next morning, just like that, there was no hive.

I forgot the stories of honey collecters, instead what buzzed in my head now were titles of Erle Stanley Gardner novels, The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito, The Case of the Silent Dog and so on, along with wondering how Perry Mason and Stella would have approached this.

Bees abandon their hives but they don’t take it away. Bee collectors extract honey, and if they want to take away the hive, they wouldn’t do so without asking us. Intruders? But the dog would have alerted us. Supernatural happenings? This house is alive, I know, in so many ways but it’s not haunted.

Uh, Google this? Even if we have to do with the bare basics, internet is a non negotiable luxury. And we finally got our answer. It sems, it wasn’t a hive at all but just a swarm of bees resting on its way to a permanent home. Just a swarm of hundreds of bees. That explained their sudden appearance and disappearance. And that explained why I saw no bees buzzing about. They had no young ones to protect. 

That’s one worry off my head. But as I said, the house is alive and nurtures flora and fauna and many life cycles. I now have honey dripping on my kitchen counter from a crack in the overhead chimney. It’s the beginning of the next quest to uncover a beehive.

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Weekend Coffee Date

If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you of the lot of writing that I am doing these days. I would tell you of my renewed longing to write late into the night, the paper splattered with ink blots and the exhilaration of finding the right word.

If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you how much I wish to go for long walks with you again. I would remind you of all the walking around the park, looking at the tall trees shedding their leaves and talking of our aspirations and dreams. We would laugh at how we thought we could change the world all those long years ago.
If we were having coffee right now…I would ask you of the lovely place you are living in now. I would ask you to describe the summer picnics there and the feet deep snow and the long walks in the woods that are the route to solitude.
If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you of the power of little moments and how they catch me unawares. I would tell you of the joy in my heart when I see the unpruned rose bushes tumbling down from the walls and the little potted plants set out in a row on a windowsill. I would tell you of the small stones that I mark in my heart and sometimes set down on paper.
If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you of unrequited loves and the fulfilled wishes. I would want to talk of the things that makes our hearts beat wilder and faster. I would tell you to go chase your dreams again and find new paths to tread.
If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you of the snatches of songs I hear when I pass through the market. I would tell you how I like listening and imagining the emotions that are sung with abandon in languages I cannot understand.
If we were having coffee right now…We would agree that sitting across from each or walking side by side is much better than our phone conversations. You would then laughingly tell me that you have marked your calendar for the next coffee date.

Word of the Year

Words are so powerful. If you have tried affirmations you would know the immense power intentions can have, when they are verbalised.

What is ‘Word of the Year’

Choosing a Word of the Year is harnessing the power of the word(s) by aligning your values with your intentions and choosing the most representative word for those intentions.

In place of having rigid resolutions or goals, a word encompasses a whole lot more. It is a mirror to what you hold true and what you want to follow through for the year ahead.
The year may not even go as planned or as expected but if you have a moral compass in the form of a word, it becomes easier to make choices when you feel challenged by obstacles or difficult circumstances.

How I chose my Word

At the end of last year, I felt a strange need to find closure before moving on to new things. It was just an overwhelming need to look back and let go of things and beliefs that no longer worked for me. I thought of ways I could say my good byes before walking on newer paths.

I thought about it for a few days and the Universe sent some help along. I chanced on a ‘Decoding the Year Workbook’ (more about that in another post) that promised to help me analyse the year that was ending and find my way forward. Over the next few days, I worked through my feeling, emotions and learnings and what it was that I needed to focus on in the coming year.

I tuned into myself to look at my values, the principles I hold dear and evaluated whether my life was a manifestation of these values.

I also realised that over the years, my values had changed. Maybe it was experience, maybe I was changing but I definitely needed to make space for a new set of empowering beliefs. It did not mean I was fickle, it probably meant that I was open.

After some deep thinking, I came up with the words, ‘Open‘, ‘Receptive‘, ‘Blossom‘. I still had to choose only one. I had to ask myself what was it that I wanted to do in all spheres of life and what was one thing/mood/emotion that I wanted by my side as I navigated the year. Of course, I wanted to grow and to blossom and yes, I wanted to be receptive to whatever life was giving me. And then I thought of my beliefs that had been holding me back. I wanted to let go of them and be more open to not only what life had to offer but also to a newer way of thinking. I wanted to be open to opportunities and also to places and people.

So, the word for me this year is ‘Open‘. I would try to stay open to life.

Open Lotus Flower
Image: courtesy Pixabay

I hope to turn this new year into a new beginning with my word guiding me. The year could be unexpected but I would trust the path, knowing that all is good, that I am living my values and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in this journey.

Have you tried to set an Intention for this year or chosen a word to guide you? I would love to hear how you choose your word.