I suggested that she call the coconut tree man. He had come at about this time in 2006, when the coconuts were falling before ripening, and did the trees a lot of good by climbing up to the crown and applying a poultice made from rock salt, mothballs, sambrani (a kind of incense), turmeric and edible camphor, bound with oil.
The coconut tree man in 2006. He has a heavy black rope slung over his shoulder, and wears a cone-shaped basket for his machete. The gardener is mixing up the poultice.
The prescription for dry coconuts is different. In addition to camphor, turmeric and salt, he wants something called vepampunakku, which he says is available from nurseries. Sadly, the nursery which I used to go to, the enormous and serene Saundarya, has long gone to development, and most nurseries are in the suburbs. (For that matter, the coconut man himself lives in the Srinivasapuram slum, which is about to be emptied and its inhabitants transported to a distant project – what will we do then?)
Mary discovered from him, and told me, that vepampunakku is a paste made from the seeds of the vepam tree, and that we have one in our garden –a smallish slender tree. She said that the fruits are also medicinal, but that the crows eat them all.