A post to my sketchblog: Scenes From A Dentist.

Some Things About Coconuts

On the 25th we paid a man Rs. 20 per tree to harvest and clean our three coconut trees. He cut down 84 coconuts, leaving the ones that are not ripe yet. Half of the 84 had dried, but we can use one or two of them at least for recipes like bisibele bhat that call for dried coconut.

From the balance of the ripe fruits, the kaaikkaaran (vegetable vendor) has agreed to buy as many as we want to sell for Rs. 3.50 each. That means we’ll make…. Um… Well, Mary knows about these things. She's the one who hired the harvester, who shinnied up the trunk with a machete; and negotiated with the kaaikkaaran. If it were up to me I’d forget, and let them rot in the trees.

After we’ve made our fortunes, we’ll use the rest for chutney, which we eat several times a week.

The lower branches droop. Above them, a crown of newer branches grows upward. The clusters of nuts (pale yellow-green, the unripe ones) are surrounded by yellowish, crooked spikes.

The trunk is more grey than brown. Each segment of the trunk is as if stacked on another; each is slightly smaller than the one before. Where the trunk meets the ground it frays out, and extends a few worm-like roots above the soil. The gaps between the sections have more dots than lines. They look like stretch-marks.

Four ways to look at a coconut palm


I have been having so many problems with my computer - it's been crashing and crashing, and I'm feeling quite flattened. I'm still not completely out of the woods yet (not a felicitous mixture of metaphors), but hoping for the best.

After all, things can't be all bad, as long as our Chief Minister, Miss J. Jayalalitha, rules us under the watchful sunglasses of her political mentor, the late M. G. Ramachandran.

Daal Mein Kuchh Kaala Hai

The title is a Hindi colloquialism. It means, literally, There's something black in the lentils; and figuratively, There's something fishy going on. There's a small piece on this expression at Dick & Garlick.

So last night at dinner, our dal was black urad, which is round and black, like smooth peppercorns, only slightly smaller. I didn't eat it, because I'm not an urad fan, but Ramesh loves it. And he bit down on something, and was in terrible pain, and we're waiting till morning to see if he has cracked a tooth. We went through the cooked dal and found 7 of them: small black spherical stones, all exactly uniform, and exactly blending in with the dal. We had fallen victim to one of the banes of this country: food adulteration.

Rice contains white stones; pepper and, we have now discovered, black urad contains black stones. Everything has to be cleaned carefully before using, but these stones were so perfectly shaped that they had escaped Mary's eyes. There are said to be machines for milling stones to the correct size for mixing with dal or rice. Powdered spices may contain anything. Until the recent past we never bought anything powdered; we bought the whole spices and ground our own.

It's not just food. A number of years ago, someone told Ramesh that he wanted to purchase a machine for shredding the clear plastic bags that milk comes in, so that he could mix them with paraffin to make the cheap candles that used to be the only ones available. When the candles burn they sputter, because of the adulteration.

The cheaper grades of dal and rice and sugar and spices are more adulterated - what is sold at the ration shops for the poor, for example. So they suffer more, as usual.

I don't usually write about the downsides of life here -- it seems condescending, too easy. As if I don't know that human beings are flawed everywhere, not just here. But I'm pretty upset at the moment. Daal mein kuchh kaala hai indeed.

Threat Counterthreat

I've added another threat exchange from Hindi movies to my collection. This one is from Dhoom:

The policeman is trying to find the thief behind a series of robberies. The thief telephones the policeman to taunt him.

Thief: I'll walk right up to you and you won't even recognise me!

Policeman: Meet me once and you won't be worth recognising!

Demolition Day 4

I don't know how they are to work or be incarcerated in, but from the outside Chennai's old police stations are among the more charming features of the city. Now a number of them will be torn down as part of a modernisation drive. There's an article about them in The Hindu: Demolition Row. The article includes lists of stations to go, and those that will stay -- but it doesn't mention the one on Royapettah High Road, one of my favourites.

This picture of a typical station, by R. Ragu, accompanies the article. The woman in front of the station is wearing a sari in the traditional Tamil brahmin style, which is slowly dying out: