"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)


Smoke Enlightened



Picture taken in Ooty, Tamil Nadu

A Life Of Caring

The gardener of Fort Cochin’s Carmelite Seminary


Random Harvests


After almost exactly one year from planting, the bananas are ready to harvest.

And ripening.

Each is over 12 inches (30 cm) long.

They are fine specimens and extremely tasty.

Their total weight is more than 66 lbs. (30 kg)


Our mango crop has also been harvested

– only eleven fruits –

But that’s a ten-fold increase on last year.


And the pomegranates are in flower…



Banana Benefits

My banana plant continues to flourish.

Five new plants have appeared around its base.


While above, flower scales open sequentially to reveal row after row of banana flowers.

With many more scales left to open, I am in hope of an ample harvest.

An elegant sufficiency of bananas.



The Grim Reaper

Lunch is disturbed by the sound of thuds and crashes.

The staff have kindly closed my front door but palm fronds and coconuts falling to the ground are not easily muted.

I put down my sandwich to take a look.

The toddy harvester is perched high in our coconut palm, perhaps thirty feet above the ground. He uses a single tree-branch as a ladder, to climb the first ten feet. Then, having looped a rope sling around his ankles, scampers up the rest of the trunk with kangaroo-like strides.

The coconuts are falling quickly. With them come the lower palm fronds, which had begun to droop down on to the house and garden wall.

In the past I have tried not to witness this harvest. Watching impotently, as coconuts smash violently into the shrubs, walls and gate lights, can feel as if you are trapped in some fun-fair nightmare.

He slithers effortlessly down the palm tree and chops the tops from five coconuts. We all drink the tender coconut water.

Shaji and Anu start to tidy the harvest rampage.


Harmony is restored.



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Now You See It?

You will need to look carefully:

Very carefully.

The first green shoot

Not of economic recovery in the West

But of my banana flower in the East.



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A Growth Spurt

A small banana shoot was planted in my yard a few months back.

After seven months of tropical sunshine and monsoon rains, it has grown a little:


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Fruit, I am informed, will take several more months.

But meanwhile, the leaves can be used as plates and some of the flowers, once they arrive, can be served in a masala mix.



Green Peace


“If your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you aught to seriously              re-examine your life.”     Bill Waterson.


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Monsoon Surgery



In my small yard, stands an out-house and a few trees.

Monsoon rains have damaged a large branch next to the pomegranate tree.

My man Shaji makes the initial diagnosis. Urgent tree surgery is required.

Sebastian, the carpenter, is called.

He does not bring a saw: Sebastian prefers hammer and chisel.

His surgical assistant is in attendance;

As is Shaji;

And Shaji’s wife, Dalila.


Soon the damaged branch has been neatly excised.

A post-operative audit is undertaken:

Pomegranates inspected;

The check-up completed;

Circulation to the out-house has been successfully restored.


Enjoying their Bounty

The word Kerala means “Land of the Coconut”

Coconut palms grow along our coast


The backwaters


And even cast their shadows in the city.


In the cooler climes of Europe, coconut palms have always appeared exotic:

“The Taste of Paradise”

Here in India, advertisements for coconut are instead for grooming products.

Coconuts require regular harvesting if you are to avoid head injuries.


A coconut palm grows in my front yard.

It is remarkably fecund, producing well over two hundred coconuts a year.

Through the rumblings of our May-time thunder storms, I often hear loud resonating thumps:

The sound of coconuts tumbling to the ground.

On opening the front doors yesterday Sumant, my houseboy, found several newly fallen coconuts.

A little later Dalila, the cook, arrived.

She took the coconuts through to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

Then promptly returned to announce:

“Sir, We have produced twins!”






Bearing Fruit

The front yard of my house is quite small.

But it includes a very young mango tree.

This year for the first time it has borne fruit: my first mango.

My pomegranate tree is also in fruit.

And the gardener has just put in a banana plant.

I think I feel a fruit salad coming on…