Bilmismish*….. Pigs don’t FLY

Friday July 31st 2015, 6 am it’s hot & humid. It’s been almost two weeks since I collected the previous material for writing. Passing the familiar surroundings on my way to the walk, as I neared the circle I remembered that one more day it will be Twenty Five years since Saddam Hussain occupied Kuwait. So much had happened around the world since then. Kuwait has come a long way since & physically there is no trace left. However the mental scars left behind in the mind of citizen will never be erased. We did not live in this area before the war but sometimes we came here searching for food… Amman Circle was one of the few places one could find some fruits & vegetables. I don’t even want to think of those days…

As I crossed the road under the tree saw this cat had scratched the mud & was busy relieving itself in a small temporary hole… its face was serious… reminded me of constipated face of a child.. was wondering if the cats really drink enough water? Dint want to disturb it & walked past thinking how traces of their past still hangs on… even though they don’t live in the wild, to avoid detection they still bury their poop. Old habits die hard.. Some consider this act as cleanliness…

When I walked further I was wondering there is something odd… for a change there were no papers, plastic or any kind of garbage lying around!! I thought how can it be? Am I seeing things in humidity? Did the municipality read my mind… I went further I did not see anyone washing the car but then on Fridays the watchmen don’t wash the car, it’s their unwritten Law!! But what surprised me most was the garbage… I was not sure if there was a contract change of cleaning company or did a magic carpet with garbage magnet flew over on Thursday night… whatever it is there was no trace of garbage anywhere. Wow… so cool… I was so happy. Finally over night miracle had happened…

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As I passed the old school building where the sugar sacks were lying, I was into another surprise only 5-sacks were on the other side of the pavement & many of the empty sacks were on the ground & loads of brown sugar now perhaps faded looked almost like sand, scattered all around. Then I noticed that the non-operational school building yard was being converted into football court..  So I was not sure if the sugar sacks were destroyed by those workers as it was stored illegally outside the premises or the owner himself got rid of it as it was infested with ants or some kind of insects which could withstand Fifty plus Celsius temperature. I was happy & sad at the same time. Happy because God knows what must have been the condition of the sugar & many were saved from consuming it. I was also sad because what a waste of produce… from sugar cane field to the pavement how much resources were spent & wasted including manual labour?

By then I had covered more than a kilometer plus & already sweat was dripping all over & my eyes were burning… in case someone never experienced humidity**

When I reached the garden then I saw this mess scattered all over… remembered the old saying… pigs cannot fly… The filthy groups who had hot picnic the previous night had no decency to collect their waste & dump in the dustbin which is not far away. I wondered if the cat which was pooping in the hole was better than these civilized picnickers… What a coincidence I had seen the cat in the beginning of my walk. Oh Lord… wish I had a magic wand & turn all those nincompoops into CATS!! When will these so called civilized people will really be civilized?

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The tiled path is one kilometer… its marked clearly & I started counting the dustbins… there are 20 plus 3… 20 cement bins & 3 plastic ones at the entrance. It’s pathetic where the humans are heading. Otherwise also Kuwait is a plastic country & the amount of plastic bags used in shops & supermarkets… I joke with my husband that in couple of decades Kuwait will have enough plastic to cover the entire country…

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I was upset & when I walked further I found these four unusual nests on the ground under the tree where the drip irrigation vent was… I stood there 10 minutes for at least one single owner to show up but it never happened… survival of the fittest… braving the heat these insect (wonder what it is – termites, ants??) found a way to survive in the heat & close by the grass was in full bloom with unusual pinkish shade. It occurred to me that perhaps even before humans walked on earth these insects survived & grass bloomed & even if the human species wiped out they are here to stay! When the plants & insects are busy mastering the art of survival man is busy mastering the art of destruction….

*Bil-mishmish is a Kuwaiti word which means it never happens!!

**… it’s the moisture content in the atmosphere. When you are close to ocean the high humidity makes you constantly sweat… even if you are standing still. And it’s muggy, sticky, salty… it’s very uncomfortable feel it’s like a giant natural mineral (salt) removing machine. Like how leeches can such your blood without your knowledge humidity can suck your salt without your knowledge.. It’s like being in sauna but not really present in sauna & hair is sticky with salt… from under garment to outer garment is wet & can see the white streak of salt on the cloth if you allow it to dry. Your lips are salty with sweat flowing on your face. It’s hard to describe, you have to experience it… but there is pot of gold on the other end…. Once you have bath you feel your skin is smooth & supple… beautiful.. pores are opened up without even spending a dime… how cool is that?? Also if you were waiting to eat some salty dish & was hesitating… well you can go for it for the day!! Sounds crazy but…. Hum… Compared to Kuwait places like Dubai has more humidity, guess it’s the geographical position. Even there, Dubai stands number One…  in Kuwait mostly in mid July to September but not all the days.

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.