Stray dog menace is really a problem in the villages. Some five dogs are always seen here in Chathakudam East End. Two of them have chosen our terrace as their home.
Many people keep coloured water in transparent bottles in the entrance to their homes . The sight of the coloured water is said to scare these animals.



It gives a gallon of toddy every day, the local ale of Keralites, one third of whom live by extracting it  from this too familiar tree. They give it to the cooperative, that owns a network of distributories. Being the cheapest drink, all workers go direct to the “shop”, after a day of hard work, where, sometimes they spend the whole day’s earnings.

Toddy is collected by cutting the flower bunch, which the botanists call the inflorescence, and collecting the juice coming from the cut, rich in starch and vitamins,  sweet when fresh. Our tapper at home is a family friend. He gives Rs. 50 per tree per month. All this, I learned when Ravi my Bihari son-in-law whanted a “bottle” from him.

If the flowers are allowed to grow, the inflorescencs is cut and used as a boucquet, considered auspicious and a must in marriage ceremonies, when receiving the deity of god, coming home on the back of an elephant, or simly as decoration, during festivals in temples.

The hard cover of the inflorescence, with a net like inside membrane, was used to make a torch, even in my childhood!

Have you seen a whole coconut? It has a fibrous cover, to protect the nut inside, because the whole thing falls down from a height of even fifty feet. It is very, very difficult to peel it (I should enjoy a European doing it even with the sharpest knife!). In Vetekkaran pooja, 12000 nuts have to be broken in front of the deity.  A sharp thick iron bar is planted in the soil, with the sharp end pointing upwards. The fibrous nut is brought down forcefully to hit the instrumet, when a dent is made in the outer cover, without damaging the nut inside. Now they have designed an instrument which is an innovation of this method and can be wielded even by girls.

Ropes are made from the fibrous cover which we call chakiri. it is the traditional occupation of women in the coastal districts of Keralam, from Alapusha to Kollam.The fibrbre comes loose, after soaking chakiri for months in the backwaters. The Coir Board is selling an incredible variety of coir products, including door mats. Global recession has hit this cottage industry too.

Inside the fibre is the hard shell called chiratta. It is a valuable fuel, traditionally used in the heavy ironing box. It is also used as a ladle, by fixing a handle to the shell. Artists use it to carve figures of people, animals etc.

When the nut is tender, the sweet water inside the shell, is a nutritious beverage, now available in most towns. It contains pure glucose which can be given intraveinous, I read somewhere. The soft white kernel is light food.

The ripe kernal is the source of oil, commercially used for making soaps and detergents. A Keralite will not enjoy his food, if it is not laced with coconut oil. Papadam fried in other oils is unpalatable.

The leaves of the tree, resembling in shape, the wings of a peacock, are used for making nets or mats, by weaving the individual blades together. These are used for thatching the roof or making a screen for the open bath sheds, where women take bath.

The tree trunk can be sawn into beams for making furniture, roof of houses etc.

This is my own observation. People leave the root clump, after cutting off the trunk, because it is very heavy and impossible to cut into pieces. Its inside can be scooped out, by a suitable tool, leaving the outside shell which can be used as a big bharani, as we call it, for storing mango pickles etc.

Now you tell me, is there any other tree that gives all parts of its body for human beings?