Being Kodava – “No Thank you”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going against the theme of this blog by saying “no thanks” to being a Kodava. That’t not what this is about. Often I get asked where I’m from and more often than not people haven’t heard about Coorg. I also sometimes explain to people how and why the culture is so different from those that surround us.  There’s a lot of hype about our origins, including that we’re somehow connected with the Greeks of Alexander’s time. “Being Kodava” is my take on what it is to be a Kodava, and some of the things we should be proud of.

Someone once asked me how do you say thank you in your language. I told them in my language, we do not have words for “Thank you, Please, or Sorry”. We have never been taught it, and as far as I know, these words don’t exist. Did they once exist but were got rid of once the brits took  over our educational system? We’ll never know. But what I was told was the reason for this paucity of “Golden words” is because for kodava’s,  it’s our duties as family, community and friends to help each other out at all times, to always be there for anything, without having to ask please if you want something, say thank you when you have been helped, or say sorry if you have hurt.

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This is quite deep if you think about it. Western education is steeped in the use of golden and kind words almost mechanically, sometimes without really meaning it. Making helping others a duty is really unique in our culture, and it really has to do  with the unique clan setups we have in Coorg: Clans typically helped each other with everything from planting crops, defending them against wild animals, celebrations, festivals, weddings, wars, etc. Every traditional wedding begins with the close family members getting together to cook for the entire wedding. It is our duty to help.

See there is more to being Kodava than coffee, Greeks and our weddings!

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A Summer morning in Kuwait, one of THE HOTTEST countries!! Part 2

There was a lady plucking the henna (mehandi) leaves… its leaves are supposed to cool the head in summer besides being strengthening the hair roots.. there are many bushes in the park & when it blooms spreading the pleasant fragrance nice to be near it. As I was thinking what she is going to do I caught hold the sight of this young boy perhaps around 8 years of age sitting & crying. He looked like from a decent family sitting on the low parapet wall facing the 5th ring road in bright sun shine. It was only 6:10 am but it was bright.. I thought he must be lost & as a mother I could not resist myself & walked upto him & asked him if he is lost? He was a handsome little Arab kid neatly dressed in a white short & white & blue striped T-shirt. Shaking his head still tears rolling he pointed his finger to tell me he knows his house. I asked him if he needed anything.. he just shook his head.. when I finished the round about 10 minutes, I did not see the boy in its original place & I felt happy thinking he must have gone home… then I saw him moved to another part of the wall where there was shade from trees.. so he was clever enough to understand things… I did not want to ask him again but tried to take a picture from far without getting into his privacy. Even though I was not close when I clicked the mobile he turned immediately… so he was alert too… on the way home was wondering what must have made that young boy from a decent family to be in that spot so early in the morning… I was thinking of my own son in that age… somewhere somehow this stranger boy had touched my heart. My neighbor a doctor by profession forever punishes his eldest son (he has 3 kids – 2 boys & a girl) sometimes I hear him screaming late in the night & even 5 am…. the boy crying… there were occasion I felt like going & punishing the doctor myself. I myself was (is) a strict mother but when I punish my elder two children always smile at me or run around the coffee table me chasing them!! Is it because I am their mother & not father? do children punishment from parents differently? I still can’t understand..

Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot trash workers

The Park looked peaceful & safe. Last few years the Park has been the favourite joint for bunch of malicious youngsters from 3-4 different nationalities who snatched chains, mobiles & anything valuable. Thanks to the effort of the cops, eventually they were all arrested… not sure deported or rotting in the jail. How stupid of those young men who lost the privilege of living in Kuwait for temporary sensual gratification. They not only rocked their life but also their family… everything happens around us has a lesson to teach.. Once this park also hosted the one & only homeless Kuwaiti (but luckily it was self imposed – why I have no idea most likely he had mental issues as I had seen him passing vulgar/livid remarks on women passerby!) He used to wear clean clothes, had carpet with pillows to sit, cartons of mineral water, fan & visitors too… hum so much for homelessness!! Heard police had evacuated him & wonder where he is now?

There were couple of dog walkers around the park wall but unlike in USA they simply don’t clean up after the mess created by their dogs. May be they think they can create the top soil or manure for the trees from the biodegradable byproduct… just kidding.

It was time for me walk back home before the sun starts smiling at me… when I passed in front of an old Arabic school, scores of very large gunny bags were on the pavement for a second I thought wow such a large polypropylene (PP) cement bags… but when I neared the bags, it was cane sugar packed in Dubai… what a place to store… perhaps it was there for repacking… wondered if the heat will react with the gunny-bags & turn the  to cause some disease but one thing was certain that the sugar was insect free!

I saw one of the watchman was wiping the cars with cloth… giving the final touch. I wondered how long the hose was spilling water wasting the resources of the Mother Nature & contributing to pollution. I wish I could tie up those people who waste & not give them water for a day so that they will realize the value of fresh water. One interesting factor I like to mention which I am not sure practiced elsewhere is that when we rent a house, the watchman has a condition (UWL – Unwritten Watchman Law) that at least one car (usually everyone has more than one – secondhand cars as well as fuel are cheap compared to rest of the world) should be washed by the watchman, usually they do a lousy job. The standard rate is KD5/= (roughly the rate is 1 dinar = 3.3 dollars) per car. So 10 kd per flat along with the rent, 5 car wash & 5 for garbage clearance. The best joke is that the watchmen does not really clean the car… in 90% of the cases they will hire a free lance cleaner generally a Bangladesh to do the job & share the total cost.

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Cats and sparrows in kuwait garden summer hot trash workers kids playing football soccer

Finally I was home sweet home a place which makes me feel like a queen… when I walked in with sweat dripping all over, the cool air of central air conditioners & the sight of my indoor plants were more than welcoming but when I went to have bath I realized that my feeling of nice morning was almost a mirage… as the tap water was pretty warm… while having bath another surprising factor brought a smile to my lips… Sun.. Sun everywhere Sun but people still take Sunshine Vitamin “D” tablets!!

For those years I stay behind in summer, I am always compensated in a different way… also it brings the nostalgic memories of my childhood.. I love fruits, growing up in the wilderness of Kodagu I enjoyed my summer plucking & indulging in wild fruits which is of course a luxury now with growing population, plantation, felling of trees & extinction of species. In general Kuwait is paradise for fruit lovers & come summer the varieties of fruits available even in the small fruit shop is mind blowing. To top it the prices are so very reasonable compared to most of the countries I have visited & even to India!! Guess it’s because there is no tax & the low fuel price. God bless my beloved Kuwait & its people, a country with which I have developed a deep attachment with beautiful memories. Kuwait is a well balanced country with the blend of old & new… with myriad of nationalities working.

Its 10 am & decided to pick up some water melon from the fruit shop across the street.. I was wrong about the temperature… oh boy its already 40 degrees seemed like its hot enough to cook an egg on the bonnet of the car!! Walking back I thought of the Iraqi occupation days… Thursday August 2nd 1990, then we lived in another location called Shaab opposite to Arabian Sea. There were rumours that the Iraqi soldiers cooked their food just by burying the vessel on the sands… I couldn’t see from my balcony & not sure if it was true but surely it looked like my brain would get cooked if I stand for a while in the sun.

A Summer morning in Kuwait, one of THE HOTTEST countries!! – Part 1

July 19th 2015….. When I told my husband I want to take some pictures one morning & write about a summer morning… he just gave his usual calm soothing smile with a warning don’t get arrested… you will not be able to tolerate the heat!!

I did not realize how lucky I was as I could not have chosen a better morning for the weather God was little gentle. When I left the house at 5.35 am, my mobile showed the temperature as sunny 34 degree Celsius. Only thing I missed was the scores of Doves flying around pecking on the grains/rice scattered by some bird lovers & bathing/drinking on the pockets of water collected from the car wash before it evaporated. Also did not realize how the material for the article would just roll in front of me…

Kuwait is one of THE hottest countries in the world & this year it is been bad, really bad. And it’s one of those years I did not miss the warmth of summer… last week it was worst & on Wednesday at 15:09 one of the temperature display towers showed 52 degrees & yet another tower showed 50 degrees at 15:14. No way in 5 minutes within 2 kilo meters radius the temperature would fluctuate so much unless it starts snowing….It’s hard to know the exact temperature recorded as mobile, car, towers, media, meteorology department, your body, everything tells different readings… however you would really know it’s bad when the pavement/road practically throws heat back at you or the tap water is almost boiling… make you jump out of commode!! Last week my body told me it touched 55 degree Celsius…

Most people have Eid holidays & the roads were practically deserted. I live in an area called Salmiya, a favorite place for Indians where about half a dozen schools are located dotted with n-number of restaurants & stores selling Indian vegetables, fruits & other stuff catering to everyone’s need. In case you did not know when Indians are out of India they are very patriotic & prefer Indian stuff!! The desi term NRI (Non Required Indian) makes them crave for their Motherland!! It’s a joke but has some truth in it too…

When I passed Amman Circle, scores of daily wagers were either standing/sitting on the pavement under the shadow from the buildings, some with their tools & most with a packet (may be water & sandwiches). I had no heart & also have no right to click their pictures & peek into their privacy. What was amazing is that one-side was occupied by Iranians (known for their physical strength – I have seen average built old men carrying large air-conditioner units on the back & climbing the stairs. I wonder what their secret is) near “la baguette” & the other side near the temporary mosque was lined with East Asians. Birds of same feather…. I was not sure if everyone was hired every day & the logic of why an Indian would come here to work as labourer braving the heat when he could almost make the same amount working as a labourer back home had no answer!!

As I crossed the street I saw this car parked arrogantly on the bend… & that brought the thought of arrogant drivers (attributed to practically all nationalities). With the ever increasing number of cars it is getting from bad to worst. As I passed on I came across the 2-watchmen washing the cars with hoses… an act which boils my blood. Wasting the resources as if there is no tomorrow, using-misusing-abusing the generosity of the country which supplies the desalinated water (Kuwait has no natural resources & also rain fall is negligible) at reasonable price. One consolation is that compared to yesteryears it’s reduced drastically as Municipalities has issued strict instructions against the wastage of water.

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The other thing which makes me angry is the sight of garbage bins & its surrounding. Probably Kuwait has the highest per capita cleaners & domestic helps. Still I feel it’s very dirty thanks to the wasteful nature & ignorance of the general public. The amount of food of all kind wasted is unbelievable. In summer it crosses the limit because it tends to get spoil faster. The untied garbage bags are thrown outside the bin, anything & everything from cardboard boxes to wooden boxes to furniture to mattresses to construction material is discarded. When the fruit-vegetable shops throw the half spoiled stuff, someone who needs tries to pick out the usable ones & mess up too. How much a government can do… Cleanliness should come from within… a human should behave like human… one can exhibit only their true nature that’s what I can say.

As I walked further saw this gentleman walking his 3-dogs. Unlike the majority of Kodavas, I am not a dog person as I had bitter experience with them when I was young. {It’s a very funny & nasty experience; I will write about is some other time}. I am told that most countries in the Middle East do not encourage having dogs (pets) at home. I asked him can I take a picture & he agreed, I told him my daughter loves dogs… which is also true but I wanted it for my article!!

Aroma of deep fried falafel, hot fresh chapattis/paratas were teasing my nostrils. On the sandy ground men were playing football, construction workers were busy (they cannot work later as it gets too hot). It’s noteworthy that: Never ending construction… Ever increasing rents… an unusual phenomenon unique to Kuwait does not match the theory demand & supply. Every rule has an exception!!

As I entered the Rumaithiya Park about a kilometer plus I realized that I had seen so many things, then came the sight of the small group of Indians doing yoga… & laughing practice. As I walked further there were men playing football in the covered court, the cricket players (luckily with tennis balls) had not arrived yet guess mostly because their ground was wet. Then I saw my all-time favourite sight, the sprinklers & the birds & green grass. The sight of birds particularly sparrows brings me immense joy as it is almost extinct in Kodagu. The long stem of palm flowers swayed in the mild wind… spreading the mild smell of its flower (I don’t know if I imagined it) some still had its dry leaves & old dry black berry intact. The dry leaves provide shelter to birds & keep them away from dust storm. The cats were stretching on the grass & one cat had managed to catch a black dove & I was surprised the cats still hunt their prey. There are so many people bring & keep food for cats… so most of the time it seems like the cats does not have to work at all… like some spoiled kids!! Loads of black-yellow insects were around even after watching for a while I could not make out if it was honeybee or wasp…

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Why do we blink… a fascinating & beautiful story from Hindu Mythology

Have you ever wondered why we blink our eyes… like the beating of the heart.. it goes from birth to death.. unabated… something we take for granted as our birth right & yet we would never wish to lose it?

What would the world be like if we cannot see… the colours around us – the flowers, plants, birds, butterflies, fruits, etc., etc. Eyes are one of the most important organs gifted to us by our Creator. That’s why when the danger approaches the first thing we do is try to protect our eyes. Along with that, we are also blessed with a natural protection mechanism. Everyone blinks their eyes, unless they are paralyzed or suffer from some kind of disorder, till they bid final good bye to this worldly life. This process repeats itself without our knowledge unless we are sleeping. Blinking is the mechanism that protects the eye from external debris & spreads tears over the cornea. With every blink the eyelid spreads moisture over the cornea. There is a beautiful story about the blinking of the eyes (in every 0.2112 seconds) mentioned in Vishnupurana. A story of Love, Duty, Devotion & Commitment which seems to have almost slipped from the modern humanly diet!!

Ancient King Nimi was the son of Mithila King Ikshwaku & the grandson of Manu*, born in Janakpur (now part of Nepal). Nimi was a pronounced king with all the noble virtues & faultless ruling. Living in a utopia like kingdom, the subjects of his Videha Kingdom (aka Mithila) adored him. Keeping the welfare of his subjects and the peace & prosperity of the kingdom, Nimi wanted to perform a particularly powerful Yagna to evoke the blessings of the Gods. Preparation began & in the meantime he needed an exceptional powerful sage as the Presiding Priest for it. So after discussing with the Raja Guru & his Council, he came to the conclusion that Sage Vasishta would be the Presiding Priest.

So King Nimi himself went to Sage Vasishtha & bowed before him & with all the humility said: “Great Sage, I am performing a Yagna for the welfare of the Nation & the subjects. Kindly preside over it.”

Sage Vasishtha frowned & asked, “When are you going to start the Yagna?”

Surprised Nimi said, “as soon as possible Sir. We have already started gathering the essentials.”

Sage Vasishtha fell silent & perplexed & said “I am afraid I cannot come now. I have already committed to Devendra (Indra), the king of Devas, to preside on his yagna. In fact I am on my way & I cannot go back on my word.”

Now it was Nimi who went silent & kept looking at the Sage’s face with so many thoughts going through. He was wondering if he should wait for the great Sage to come back or not. Indra’s Yagna might take long time & it is a well known fact that it is always disturbed by the Danavas (demons – who also happened to be the step brothers of Devas). He thought, ‘the Yagna is not for me but for the welfare of the people…in this constantly changing world no one knows when things will change so I should not wait that long..’.

Sage Vasishta was also thinking… ‘the King has come all the way with humility, love & respect, & of course with a good cause, how sad would it be to send him back empty handed? The moment I am done with Indra’s Yagna, I will perform Nimi’s Yagna’.

Since both of them were highly evolved souls, they could not gauge what was going through other’s mind. Neither of them said anything & both went their ways….

Indra’s Yagna went on for quite some time & the minute it was over, Sage Vasishtha was happy because of the successful completion of the Yagna. Then immediately he remembered Nimi & bidding farewell to Indra he rushed back to Earth.

On reaching Nimi’s kingdom, Vasishta was in for a shock to see that the Yagna had already started with Sage Gautham as the Presiding Priest. Being Presiding Priest was a worthy & very revered job & sight of Gautham occupying what would have been his upset Vasishtha immensely. More over when he reached, King Nimi was sleeping & did not come to greet him too. It heightened his anger further. When in anger, one cannot think straight & Vasishta came to the conclusion that the King had deliberately insulted him by starting the Yagna without him. In the same fit of rage, Vasishtha cursed King Nimi: “You do not even have the courtesy to wait for the sage that you came to first. Such a man is not worthy of having a body. I curse** you, King Nimi that you will be without a body!!” As soon as the curse was uttered, Vasishtha realized his mistake but it was too late to undo it.

King Nimi woke up with a startle & when he heard the commotion around him realized that the things had changed from the time he went to bed. When he looked around he saw his own lifeless body & his family, the entire kingdom along with those present at the Yagna were crying. Wondering what was happening, he closed his eyes & meditated. With his divinity he was able to understand the situation & he was angry that Vasishtha was being so unreasonable. The thought of not completing the Yagna for his subjects & the opportunity robbed for no apparent reason accentuated the anger. Blinded by anger he cursed Vasishtha back saying: “I curse you that you would also be without a body!”

The king had not been a just ruler but also was very spirutal & had considerable spiritual prowess too. Hence his words also came true & Sage Vasishta’s spirit/soul**** left his body…..

Nimi roamed around in the form of a spirit & immersed himself in the Brahman. Now that he was not bound by his body or his responsibilities, he found the true joy of being one with the Brahman. The king became spiritually stronger as he meditated continuously.

In the mean time the citizens of King Nimis were very unhappy & they could not believe that the king who had looked after them like a father was no more. They could not phanthom the idea of continuing the yagna without their beloved King. So with help from the great priest present at the yagna, the family & the subjects manged to preserve the King’s body with oils & scents & continued the yagna with even more vigour.

Once the yagna was completed the Gods came in for their offering. At that time the people presented their plea before the Gods. They said,  “Our King was the greatest king in the world! He performed this yagna for our benefit! It was because of the yagna that his lifeless body lies there…. Please help us!*** “

“What do you want?” the Gods asked them.

“Let the King’s spirit be reunited with the body! We want our beloved King back! Without him we could never feel safe!”

Their intention & request was so genuine that pleased by the love of the people, the Gods agreed to their request.

Using their powers they summoned the King’s spirit & were about to put it back in the preserved body when the King yelled “Please… please… don’t do that!”

The Gods were surprised when the plea came from the King’s spirit.

“I am now free! I do not wish to have any more bondage! Please do not put me back in the body! I wish to continue to be free & become part of the Supreme Brahman!”

“Your people wish that you have to be with them! That is the reason we….”

Nimi looked at his people & memories of his subjects came to him, as if from another life. But he realized that these people genuinely loved & trusted him with their lives. He turned to the Gods & smiled at them. “If my subjects want me to be with them, I will! But not in the way they wish!”

The Gods looked surprised.

“I have lived like a spirit for too long & I cannot be attached to a body! However I wish to be a part of my people & their future generations to perpetuity! I wish to be in a spirit form with them always!”

The Gods granted this boon & even now Nimi is said to stay on in the eyelids of people. It is said that people open & close their eyelids because Nimi stays there. In fact the time it takes to open & close the eyelids is called “Nimisha” in Sanskrit.

However it was not good enough for the family & the citizens of Nimi. So they took the plea to the Sages to find a solution.

The Sages looked at the Kings body & decided that the body itself could be used for creating another King. Using the powers of the mind, they churned the body of the dead King & from it a glowing person emerged with complete spiritual awareness, well-versed in shastras & Vedas. The glowing man was named Kushadhwaja & was crowned as the King. Kushadhwaja was just as Nimi & he kept his people very happy & prosperous. However Kushadhwaja was not known by this name. Because he was born from a dead body, Kushadhwaja was known as Vaideha (son of the man without a body in Sanskrit) & because Kushadhwaja was born without an actual father or mother he was called Janaka (the man without a progenitor). Kushadhwaja was also born from the churning of the mind & hence was called Miti.

The King was/is better known by the name Vaideha Janaka from Mithila the father of Sita…. or Ramayana.

 

*It is said that Manu was the Manasa-putra (son created from mind) of Lord Brahma {the creator – one of the Trimurthi & not to be mistaken with Brahman, aka Paramatman, the Supreme Reality} & he started the new Yuga. The Sanskrit word Manav (for man) comes from Manu as he the progenitor of mankind.

** We often read about Curse in mythology. Everything in the creation is predetermined by Brahman, as Brahman is both the cause & effect. For example when we are born our death is already registered! Only thing a channel such as heart attack, accident, drowning, etc… is required. Hence even the curse of evolved souls has a purpose to surve. Even Sri Krishna was cursed by Gandhari to be killed & his clan Yadukula wiped out like hers did. Otherwise they could not just walk out of earth without reason.

***This was the face of ultimate Sacrifice/Love – Subjects wanted the boon for their King & King did everything for his subjects.

**** Some call it Spirit & some call it Soul… you can choose what you want… after all India is a democratic country!!

Krishna Kamala or Passion of Christ… did I fall from heaven??  

While walking around Kukkanalli pond in Mysore, I saw these wild fruits hanging from the vine on a fence which looked like a small wild passion fruit but was hairy like ramubtan. I was very sure it’s the cousin of passion fruit as the flower & the leaves looked same but I was not sure if the fruit is edible & as usual my husband would not let me pluck it to avoid me eating it. Known as Kukkiballi in Kannada is also called clock flower, love-in-a-mist and stinking*.

I have seen & tasted passion fruit all my life & simply love the amazing taste &, flavour of the juice which is hard to find on shelves even though its presence is felt strongly in most the cocktail juices. It’s a popular fruit in Kodagu & every one, young & old alike loves it. The pulp is used in juices, wines, ice creams, cakes (my mouth is watering, honestly), etc. Some of my relatives make amazing concentrates. There are more than 400 species in passion flower family passifloraceae & the flower is usually white & purple or mauve. Depending upon the variety & climatic conditions, there are many types of passion fruits & comes in different sizes, shapes & colours like purple/maroon, green, yellow etc & the taste could be sweet to sour to somewhere in in-between. Usually the purple/maroon ones are sweeter!!

When we were young we also used to eat a wild variety just like the passion fruit but with slightly elongated fruit with supple outer cover & white flower (I think), which is hardly seen these days. It said to have possessed many medicinal properties.

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Those who have not seen or eaten a passion fruit, the globose fruit have a white sack (which resembles dressed goat tripe – the Turkish towel like stomach cover) inside the smooth, hard outer shell/cover. The sack is filled with numerous black seeds with a very thin coating of orangish-yellow, pulpy-juicy flesh. Even when the fruit is wrinkled outside with aging, the sack inside remains fresh for some time.

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Coming back to the flower, it also comes in exotic colours such as dark purple, red, fuchsia, etc. But they are mostly ornamental & do not seems to be bearing fruits. The flower stays for a day only but blooms practically every day & butterflies are attracted to these flowers. The wild, cultivated & the hybrid flower formation looks the same at the first glance. But if you look closely it differs from one another. It looks as if so many different parts from different flowers are put together to form an unusual master piece. Human globalization is happening now but this species seems to be far ahead of us. The flowers usually have pleasant smell (at least the ones which are known to me).

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The amazing thing is that the uniquely beautiful flower & the vine is linked to scriptures & believes in different religion. The name passion flower was given by the 15th century Spanish Christian missionaries who thought that the flower depicted the crucifixion (passion) of Christ (Crown of Thorns (corona), & other parts as the instrument – 3-nails, 5-wounds, sponge of Gall & vinegar, Pillar of scourging, sacrificing blood, Centurion’s spear (leaf), lashing (tendrils) & the fruit (as globe). Some people also link it to sexual passion, after all a man sees in the world what he/her carries in his/her heart….

In India it is called both as Krishna Kamala (particularly the large purple one) & Paanch Paandav (Mahabharata). The unique formation of the perennial flower is supposed to symbolize or represent: The waxy-white Petals (5) alternating with sepals (5) with their green hook (awn) at the tip for ten Avtars of Vishnu, five 5 filaments with anther in the center for five well-armed Pandavas, the single ovary (bulb in the center) for Pandava queen Draupadi & the three styles with stigma for the holy trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. And the corona filaments are the Sudarshana-chakra of Lord Krishna. I was told that the filaments are hundred in number representing the Kauravas. I had to hire a pro-bono investigator to count the number… & luckily my husband’s niece who also has a degree in criminology fitted the bill & she reported back with a picture: I counted the filaments with a tweezers and there are exactly one hundred!!

To top it, the 3-lobed leaves which are alternately arranged along the stems & borne on stalks, shaped in trident (Lord Shiva’s weapon) form. Whatever one may perceive it as, one thing is certain that it is amazingly beautiful. Don’t believe me take a break & look in the neighborhood you might find one or go to a botanical garden!!

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I am sure besides being beautiful, there is something special about this flower as thousands of miles apart two different believers associated their belief in it!! After all the life spark/energy in me is the life spark/energy everywhere & everything comes from God almighty. If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – Faith lies in the very being itself. When you are in love with God you can see God everywhere & in everything. This unusually beautiful flower looks out of this world… as if someone stole her from the heavenly garden & brought her to earth or perhaps she was so proud of herself & her significance, the weight of the pride brought her down to earth!!

The vine can be reproduced by seeds easily but it’s a very slow process. So commonly it is propagated by mature cuttings. This hardy long lasting vine loves sun but not scorching though & water, & unless groomed can grow uncontrollable yielding plenty of fruits under healthy conditions. So you have to provide a strong support. I vaguely remember seeing large bees & humming bird buzzing around. All the unopened buds from different species are light green in colour. The flower looks strong but it is delicate. The petals & sepals have the same finish & can be passed as petals. But if you look closely the sepals have green hook (awn) at the tip. It is said that each & every part of the flower has specific role which they play religiously!!

Among the flowers I have seen only the wild one on the bank of the pond had bracts, which are supposed to trap insects but if as merely as defensive mechanism to protect its flowers (think it was white) & fruits or is it carnivorous (digest & gain nourishment from its catch) is not known. Leaves & stems of this particular variety is said to be poisonous. Wondering if I should eat & test it??

The whole vine has medicinal properties & is used in treating digestive problems including dyspepsia & diarrhea, an astringent & expectorant for nervous conditions & spasms. Tea from the flower is an antioxidant & used to calm the mind (depressant) as well as sleeping aid, used to contain diarrhea/dysentery, neuralgia, etc.

Why Kodavas eat pork and not beef – Part 1/2

Coming back, all said & done I am sure the land was infested with Kadu-pandi (wild boars), the ancestors of present day domesticated pigs. Boars also known as suid, sus scrofa, wild swine & Eurasian wild pig, etc., are originated in Asia but where I have no idea!! Till the arrival & settling of Chandravama & Co., the land perhaps was filled with scores of free roaming wild animals. With no one to fear except the tigers and maybe leopards, & with plenty of water bodies/swamp, greens, roots & games, the highly adaptable hogs must have ruled the land with polle-pandi (female – sow). With the arrival of the humans & their farm lands & their domesticated animals it must have been a feast for the hogs.

The boars are opportunistic omnivores with voracious appetite (hence the term eat like a hog) & will eat anything that they can lay their hand sorry mouth on. I wonder how strong their long nose & lip must be as they plough anywhere & everywhere including under the bamboo bush which is hard surface to access. They are habitual rooters along with their strong nose in a constant search for food. With snouts to the ground, they eagerly push away the soil in search of tasty morsels including mushrooms. With their acute sense of smell acting as a guide, the dig-up gaily any rooted crops like colacasia, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, etc. In the quite of the night months of work destroyed overnight. They affect agronomic crops as well as pasturelands, staying in an area long enough to devour its resources before moving on & crops like cardamom bushes are destroyed overnight. Vegetable patches, paddy fields, sugar cane plantation, you name it they attack it. They not only eat but also destroy everything beyond repair. I have seen their power of destruction with my own eyes when I was young. As a little girl I remember my father going wild-boar Bote (hunting) & it was/is considered a delicacy. Once killed it is usually shared among the hunters, neighbors & relatives, & at times dried for later use.

The boars are widest ranging mammals in the world as well as the most widely spread & their adaptability is the secret of their survival. They attack when they fancy, mostly moving in packs. Boars will mate with any sow in season, often battling for the opportunity but just does not perform any familial duties. The species lives in matriarchal societies, a sow herd consisting of young males, inter related females & their kutty (piglets – young ones). The groups known as drifts or sounder travel together as well as back each other against danger. Piglets likes to play, running around in circles & chaseing each other, barking & grunting in delight. Like most mothers sow is a superb protectoress & fearless when it comes to the protection of her young & they can form cooperative groups, & in danger they sound shrieking squeal & are smart enough to place their piglets in the center of their vicious circle of snapping, foaming jaws. However fully grown strong robust males are usually solitary outside of the breeding season. The matured ones with their powerful fangs are very ferocious & are capable of attacking humans & other mammals.

The law of jungle, the survival of the fittest & a hunger game of the yore.. Showcases the naked truth: Either you eat them or they will let you starve to death!! Or even you might become the victim… So the wise men/women seem to have come up with the indigenous idea. Instead of killing them outright why not make them the food? Against the back drop of mass killing of scores of foxes in New World by the newly arrived immigrant just because they linked the fox to witch craft back home or killing of tigers & elephants for fun.. or for that matter the recent killing spree of the over populated wild camels in Australia. But controlling the menace & making use of it is really ingenious!! Seems one of the most practical & smart idea from every angle. Everyone has to pay a price during the process of the cycle of evolution, why not make it advantageous? That’s what I would call the Art of Resource Management!!

Thus began the pork culture of Kodagu & became part & parcel of their culture. To go further they invented the perfect masala & vinegar which is laudable. I bet with you that no one can prepare pandi-curry like the Kodavas do!! The ruby red meat cooked with kartha (black) masala & kachumpuli is exceptional!! Kachumpuli also acts against the tape worms* & also reduces fat from the body. They also have chillie pork another specialty & of course the famous pandi chudukuva & the dry pork preparation. (I will post the recipe some time later). They also found a perfect combination kadambutt (round steamed rice balls) with the locally grown rice to go with it. So now it is the most famous combination not only with the Kodavas but also with the visitors, which strangely could be enjoyed any part of the day. Pandi-curry also goes well with otti (rice roti), taliyaput (cousin of idli), etc.

Kodavas made the boar hunting part of their sport activity too by organizing the group hunting trips. Annual Kailpodu (equivalent to Aayuda pooja) is the first festival of the year for Kodavas, just after they finish their transplantation work as an antidote for both the tired body as well as the pallet. Moreover they have to guard their future paddy crop & ensure the family is well fed throughout the year. So all the weapons, like guns, swords etc., resting in the Kanni Kombare (the prayer room) comes out, well cleaned & polished. Kodavas could keep the guns at home without license until a decade ago. Now we Kodavas can still keep the gun but with a license. The bravery & the necessity & of course the wise usage of gun had prompted the Britishers not to withdraw the guns from Kodavas also. Guess Kodavas were the only privileged ones in that respect in whole of India, like kukri for Ghurkas & kripan for Sikhs.

It is noteworthy that Kodavas don’t kill or eat piglings/piglet or the mothers in consideration to Mother Nature (obey the law of nature) & also to ensure both the supply as well as not to push them towards extinction. I remember my father telling me that no one on earth has the right to take the life of a (any) baby or deprive the baby of its mother. What a lesson passed on & included in our culture by our forefathers. Hats off to their forethoughts & it shows how advanced thinker they were. No wonder Kodava culture treats their children as poo-kunjis (child delicate as a flower) irrespective of the sex without gender bias.

In olden days, a day before the wedding the family used to organize boar hunting to throw banquet to their guests along with other mouthwatering delicacies. With the increasing population of people pouring into Kodagu, the boars have dwindled & hunting boar is prohibited which makes it a tradition of the past. However, the pork still stayed on as delicacy in their pallets along with scores of their dishes.

Basically boars (pigs) are clean & does not urinate of defecate in their sleeping quarters. With their thick skin, Boars are extremely heat sensitive & to cool themselves they roll in mud or wade in water. Pigs like to scratch & rub against trees, fencing & anything they deem fit. This also help them rid of parasites. It’s widely accepted fact that any animal that are allowed to roam & forage freely will be healthier & richer tasting than the farm fed as the muscle-enhancing movement generates a deeper, more flavorful meat. Logically the feral hog meat should be healthier than we give credit for as they are free roaming souls & eats loads of different roots & vegetables. It is said that hogs also eat small insects, birds & mammals if & when they can lay their mouth on.

I remember reading in many Southern parts of USA they are facing the problems with hogs especially the Texan… may be they can take lessons from our forefather’s Art of using Resources to their advantage than wiping out like the fox population… It can be used as a closed-loop system for sustainable meat: landowners can recover costs by selling their trapped pigs, & consumer can have the opportunity to eat some truly exceptional meat at a cheaper rate.

* Because of their constant contact with the soil, the boars are susceptible to tape worm infestation which could be passed on to humans unless the meat is cooked well. This is also applies to leafy vegetables grown in the infested soil so its wiser to wash the leaves especially the ones consumed raw such as coriander, lettuce, etc., in salt water. interesting winery incident on it later.

How the Kroda Desa got thier name! (Kodagu)

The confusion about the origin of name “Kodagu” itself is as colourful as the origin of the Kodavas & draws lot of curiosity… The name Kodagu is anglicized as Coorg… and I am sure the Britishers must have found it difficult to pronounce Kodagu… Between the confusion people refer to us as Coorgis… to make it clear we are not Coorgis or murgis, we are “Kodavas from Kodagu & speak Kodava takk” blessed children of our dear Mother Kaveramme.

Origin of the name Kodagu is brushed with different strokes & hues by different individuals. As the Indian culture is based on Guru-Shishya Parampara & the legends are passed orally, somewhere it must have got twisted. Many quote the reference in Kaveri Purana as the source & unfortunately my knowledge of Sanskrit is very limited. Hence I really don’t know which version is right which make me support the Kodava Culture & Legends which I am a part of. The only common thread is that Prince Chandravarma & his celestial wife were Kodava ancestors.. To quote few:

The Saga begins with the arrival of Chandravarma, the pious & brave Prince of Mastya Desha, in ancient Kodagu (supposed to be known as Brahma-Kshetra), seeking adventure & solace. After the marriage he settled down in South permanently with his queen of celestial origin. As the family grew larger the need for food grains increased & with that the requirement of cultivable land. So the brave grandchildren of Chandravarma leveled the hills for cultivation with their bare hands, like the wild boars dig up mounds for their sustenance. Hence the land came to be known as Kroda Desa (Sanskrit word Kroda means hog) & eventually Kodagu.

Some go one step further… all the grandchildren were mighty men of valour, strong of arm & foot. Their nails resembled the fangs of boars. WOW Celestial Mother & a Royal Father & children had fangs… how cool is that!! Running short of basic food supply & sleeping quarters, with the nails of their strong hands & feet, they tore up the ground & levelled the slopes of the hills with the valleys in a circumference of five-yojanas (60 miles). So much accuracy!! Then they settled themselves anew in the country, the face of which they had changed by the strength of their own arms. What a sight it must have made…

Another version … When Lord Vishnu returned to Vaikuntha (abode of Lord Vishnu) after killing Hiranyaksha in Varaha (boar) form, on the way Lord Vishnu tore out the fangs & threw it which fell in Kodagu thus getting the name Kroda-Desa.

It is also said that the word Kodagu is derived from the word Kudu, which means Hilly place but not sure in which language though!!

The most interesting aspect of my years of personal observation is that one too many people who comes to Kodagu or hears about the culture wants a piece of the pie & want to be part of the distinctive Kodava culture. And on the way they want to leave a mark & start to come up with their own version of certain things… for example Kachumpuli is the vinegar prepared from the fruit extract of Panapuli (a species of garcinia), indigenous to Western Ghats. But someone with half knowledge of Kodava culture writes Kachumpuli as the fruit. Similarly karik-muripa* (cutting the vegetables) is a part of oorukuduva ceremony but someone writes it as a first day of the wedding ceremony!

But what surprised me most was my experience in Kuwait. More than two decades ago I happened to see a booklet in Indian embassy regarding Coorg, when I went for some official work. In that there was a couple’s picture with their back towards the viewer where the bride was wearing the usual style saree & the groom was wearing white dhoti, white shirt & a Mysore style Peta (turban). I am sure a copy is available in their achieve!!

But Mrs. Amabssador (I don’t remember which year though) took the cake. One day Mrs.Rangaswamy (her husband Mr. H.V. Rangaswamy was the MD of Kuwait India Exchange in mid 90s), an acquaintance of ours called me & said if you don’t mind can I ask you something? I said go ahead.. hesitantly she asked me don’t you all wear blouses back home when you wear Kodava saree? I laughed & said what made you ask such a strange question? In fact my grandmother’s generation even wore jacket (long sleeved relatively longer bodied blouses) & even wore close collared to go with it too. These days only brides wear jacket as part of culture. For that she said she went for a fashion show at the embassy & Kodava saree was part of it. They wore the saree so awkwardly & also the so called model did not wear a blouse. It was rather poor tasted & really looked bad. Since I have seen you wearing the saree at the functions & I know how elegant it is, I asked why they wore like that? For that I was told that Mrs. Ambassador had done research & that’s what she found… Oh boy… God knows where she did her research in Timbuktu or Sahara Desert!! It was the worst case scenario.. I was angry & sorry for that half-knowledge lady at the same time. But what could I do? After all she was Mrs. Ambassador & represents our beloved country… hope she did not do any more fashion shows in other parts of the world!! In a decade or so with the help from Google-mama, future generation sadly will start believing in such quotes including the Kodava kids raised outside Kodagu.

* It is the gathering of women folks – close relatives & from the village – around round tables to assist the cooks by cutting vegetable & rolling kadumbuttu. It guarantees the quality of chopped vegetable as well as the kadambuttu. A gathering looked forward by women as it gave the chance to meet the cousins, exchange recipe & news, talk about latest fashion, & catch up on gossips, etc. sadly now everyone uses the catering services. Thanks to Kodava men, at Kodava weddings, women usually dress up well, meet everyone, be happy, look good & do not cook or chop meat. You can read more about it when I write about the Kodava wedding.