Tender Coconut


Our car is parked under the shade of a few big trees. We are on a road trip in the State of Odisha, in India.

The late afternoon sun casts long shadows. The kids and their father have gone to buy some supplies. I stretch my legs and randomly take pictures.

Close to where I stand is a banyan tree, its buttresses reaching out to the ground below.

Under the huge tree, is a man selling tender coconuts. The coconuts huddle one on top of the other. People keep stopping by for a drink to refresh themselves.

image

The tender coconut seller deftly uses his curved knife to chop-off the green cover on the top of each tender coconut. He carves the top, and with precision and skill, manages to nick the top, just enough, to provide access to the coconut water inside. He grabs a straw, puts it inside and hands it over to the customer.

His customers savour the cool and sweet juice, their eyes faraway. The moment they finish their drinks, he takes the shell back and cuts it open. Using a piece of the cut-off shell, he scoops the white and tender kernel from within and serves it to them.

He catches me watching him. He asks me if I want to have a drink. I nod in the affirmative.

image

I walk up to him, and he works his magic on the coconut shell again. Soon, I savour the first mouthful.  I begin to understand the difference between ‘cool’ and ‘cold’. Refrigerated soft drinks are cold, this was sweet and cool.

He scoops out the kernel and I wolf it down with relish.

The sun is setting and the seller clears up the huge mound of shells that has gathered through the day. I ask him what he does with them. He tells me that a lady buys them from him. Soon, the said lady comes by with a gunny bag to collect the shells. The seller sweeps the area clean and walks into the street, nodding to me.

Ice-cream in a Thermos


image

Image courtesy – Shutterstock

It is a dehydrating, hot day. Drops of water that fall on the pavement from my water bottle, disappear instantly. It’s one of those days when you ache to jump into the pool or sit in a cool airconditioned room with the blinds drawn. Merely seeing the Sun’s brilliance from indoors is also exhausting. Phew! I can do with an ice-cream (the crushed ice variety) that comes on a stick. Mango, lemon and orange.

My thoughts run back to my childhood. Where we lived, it was cold for most of the year. Sunny days in summer were lived and enjoyed to the fullest.

The summer sun was piercing in its intensity. We spent those lazy holidays with our friends, eating sugarcane, raw mangoes and water-melons.

Ice-cream shops were in a town 5 kms away, so our only chance to eat ice-creams was when the ice-cream vendor visited our small community; a rare occurence in our lives.

But the days he visited us were red-letter days. He arrived, with a square wooden box that was mounted on a bicycle. We would run home to pester our parents. Most adults also wanted to eat so we had a win-win there!

The ice-cream man parked on a small hillock, about 150 metres from our street.

To ensure that the ice creams did not melt before they were brought home, we carried one of those big thermos flasks with us.

With mouths watering, we would thrust the money into his hands and carefully put the ice creams into the flask. These were the stick variety and his specialty was a milk-ice cream, which truly tasted like a slice of heaven.

I still remember the yellow coloured thermos; we would sling it across our shoulders and run home.

Both adults and children devoured these ice creams, till the sticks were licked clean – our hearts happy and spirits cooled!

I come back to the here and now. I take matters into my hands; I walk down to the supermarket, pick up a lemon-vanilla stick ice-cream lolly and relive those days all over again.