Another page from my diary, June 11, 2004.
If I can catch the flight of this soaring temperature, I will bundle it
up and stack it away in the old tin trunk in my attic. I will not give
a chance to the mercury to read the temperature as ? 45.1 degree
celsius. For this, I need to know the art of witchcraft or have a
supernatural strength. This reminds me of Harry Potter's broom. Wow,
this broom reminds me of the broomsticks I can collect from the coconut
palm leaves. Wait for the broom and all the magic that is going to
glide before your eyes in words and paras of this journal. Have
patience, follow the lines, and then decipher the hidden secret.
Today is no better. The nagging heat has made life fretful. I say I am
sitting on a boiling pot, you whisk away my words and say, 'she is
saying all this to catch attention'. No, this is not my intention. An
early shower, a 'sprinkling feast' of the talcum powder to feel the
'cool, cool, cool,' touch on the body, gave the eye brows a prominent
line with the pencil, brushed my hair, a touch of sindur (vermilion) on
the parting of the hair and ready to plunge into activity. The choice
of colour for clothes is always the light shade collection for Summer.
I prefer a white cotton sari with colourful floral designs for this hot
The door bell rang, a signal someone there at this early hour. I hate
visitors in the morning. Unwilling opened the front door, and there
stood Mrs. Das with a beaming smile on her face. 'Hope I am not
disturbing you?' she said as she stepped into the room. Words working
in my mind had nothing pleasant to spell out as a reply. Just a smile
and she carried on with her words. 'I have come to take a few Tulsi
(basil) leaves from your plant. Your Tulsi has the dark green leaves,
more effective for cold.' She collected her needs and left. I watered
my Tulsi plant, plucked a few leaves and with a touch of sandalwood
paste, offered them at the feet of Narayan (a Hindu God) as was the
usual practice. A secret of the Tulsi --- If you are suffering from
cough and cold, take some tulsi leaves, crush, and get the green juice
from it. Measure a teaspoon of this juice, add some honey and gulp it
down. Administer this dose twice a day and get relief. Another secret
to water this plant without fail is to keep it healthy so that it can
bear leaves in abundance.
The doorbell sang, 'Ding dong, ding dong'. My neighbour had sent
freshly plucked spinach that grew in abundance in her kitchen garden, a
dozen drumsticks and a bunch of drumstick leaves. Palak (spinach) tops
the list of my menu for the day. Hey, this day is going all green for
me. And the pair, Titu and Mitu, the parrots, don't you remember them ?
chanting away their mantras in unison ?the green feathered birds. Let
me tell you, the drumstick leaves are so bitter to taste but it has a
value of its own. Elders say if you have poor eyesight, cook and eat a
small quantity every day and then see the results. So also is the case
with neem leaves. Bitter, very bitter will be more appropriate, but
these leaves find their way in many Indian kitchens to be cooked and
served as a dish. These two kinds of leaves, in their bitterness
purifies the blood ? elders say and so it follows down from one to
another whether you like it or not ? also a sort of a preventive for
chicken pox. Don't blast out at me; this has been passed down to me
from my mother. When I was in class three, I suffered from chicken pox.
Ma had kept a bunch of neem leaves in my bed and she would run the
leaves all over my body at least twice a day.
Today I remember Ma and her words that I had laid aside. She loved to
eat Paan (betel leaves). Those who are Paan addicts have their own Paan
container at home. These Paan containers are mostly made of brass, with
separation therein to keep the different items like the betel leaves,
alum, the different paan masalas ? sweet or having a tobacco touch,
betel nut, a cutter to cut this nut into small pieces, the lid back in
its place and the final touch lies in the art of folding the paan in
its triangular shape. Ma said the juice from the betel leaves served as
a digestive and after a meal, a paan could serve the purpose. Those who
chew paan throughout the day look more like a cow chewing its cud. You
have to take proper care of the teeth and wash you mouth from time to
time to keep away the stain. These days' doctors say paan chewing can
lead to oral cancer. Anyway, I don't have the habit, no strain.
I hate to read the newspapers. The headlines carry politics only. This
reminds me of Sonia Gandhi who said her inner self told her not to
adorn the chair of the P.M. People all over the world spoke in praise
of her sacrifice. She attained the title 'Mahaan' (the Great). What a
relief she must have felt ? a title she earned and all the more she did
not have to face the opposition and give an immediate reply which she
is not capable of ? she depends on written text. She thinks she has
mowed her lawn, but what about those who can read between the lines.
Woof! Here again there is the lawn, the green. Can I call it an all
I don't get time to watch movies often but I will see the recent Harry
Potter. The DVD's have not come to the market, so I can sit back and
relax until the day of its arrival. In the beginning, I had said I
would give you a lead to the making of the broom. Why keep you waiting?
The coastal belt adorned with tall coconut palms, standing straight
like giants, utility unlimited. Want a magical Broom to sit on and fly
high up in the sky? Easy, try it at home if you have the raw materials.
Some of the coconut palms stand as tall as 50 feet and the person
moving up to the top looks like a monkey in action. On reaching to the
top, he cuts and drops the fruit and the old leaves to make place for
the new ones to come. A single green leaf, is about two feet long, and
one inch broad on either side of the midrib. You should be careful
while using the knife to detach the green length from the strong brown
midrib. These sticks are strong and firm, you can tie a bunch of 30 or
40 sticks and there is your broom. In Indian households the broom is
used for sweeping. Strange it may seem but does not show any other
magic other than working as a sweeper. But here I am to tell you about
the leaves. If you are clever, you can use these thin strips of the
leaves in weaving them into square sized mats ? give them the square
shape with the help of these broom sticks and knit them into mats. I
tell you, still in many Indian houses, people prefer to sit crossed
legged on the floor, sitting on mats and eating their food with the
help of the fingers. Is there anything to feel shy about? I don't
thing. Sitting crossed legged with the vertebral column straight, is a
very good posture. In one way the whole body gets the chance to work in
co-ordination, and you don't have to run to the doctor saying you
suffer from joint pains. On ceremonial occasions, food is served on
leaves that work as a substitute for plates?not uncommon in Indian
households. First choice comes for the banana leaves, the leaves of the
giant Sal trees are stitched to one another with the help of small
sticks and shaped as round plates and all set for use. Small serving
bowls are made from these Sal leaves. These leaves are easily disposed
and not a threat to the ecology. Strange but true, lotus leaves also
serve the purpose.
From among the palm family, hand fans are another utility item made
from palm leaves. It is a natural product, not like the Japanese hand
fans. Is handy and useful when there is a power cut and still used in
rural areas where there is no electricity. The leaf of this assortment
of palm looks like the wing of a bird in flight. The strong and hard
part of this leaf is sized like a handle for grip and the leafy portion
cut in a round shape, a look like a bird's wing. The edges are
carefully knitted so that they stay in place and don't tear off easily.
The shaped leaf is left to dry, some artisans give it a touch of
colour, and the hand fan is ready for sale. Ma decorated these fans
with frills of brightly coloured cloth and even with coloured beads.
Modern girls don't have a knack for all this; thank god I have learnt
the secrets of this art from Mama.
When I started writing this journal I told you about the heat. Living
so close to the equator what else can we expect? I have been writing
about the green around us ? the leaves, aren't they our life savers?
Just think the oxygen they release and in turn take in the carbon
dioxide, simplifies the matter that we are inter dependent.
In my collection of clothes I have a huge collection in green, but my
favourite colour is blue. When I started writing this journal it was so
hot. Now I can see dark clouds gathering in the sky. I think we will
get the first pre monsoon showers this evening. I will let you know the
deeds of the naughty clouds in my next entry.