‘No way, that’s spoilt,’ was my immediate reaction to a brown coconut that had a small, white something growing within. My homeowner had laboriously de-husked a coconut, which had been gifted to me by friends at the food forest (natureWORKS). Watching what is required to de-husk the large outer shell of the coconut made me reflect on how this sweet nut is a tough one to crack. The hardest metals if dropped from the crown of a coconut palm will dent, but not a coconut, adapted to float through stormy seas on long voyages till it reaches sandy shores where it can find place to sprout.
My homeowner picked on the small, white something, and popped a piece in his mouth, without hesitation. ‘Really?’ I asked, ‘Are you sure?’ ‘We had it as children,’ was his response. His expression gave me the courage to pick on it. Gosh, was it relishable. I had been buying coconut for years, cracking them for a couple, yet this was the first time I had set sight on the little, white something.
At the food forest, I mentioned the delicious discovery to M&M. They too had eaten this something, not just as children, but also in recent years. ‘It is the embryo of the coconut,’ they informed. ‘No way,’ this time I uttered in incredulity. They went on to explain: ‘The water in the coconut begins to dry and slowly the embryo forms, relying on the coconut meat for its remaining nutrition, this embryo is what sprouts and becomes a coconut tree. It’s called Moran, in Konkani (one of the languages spoken in Goa). I sat there fascinated, soaking in the information with delight. How could I grate coconut meat again without being grateful, recognising that the coconut was sustaining my life instead of its own.
Image credits: Image 1 of coconuts on the tree, coconut-fruit.com; image 2 and 3 copyleft attribution, natureWORKS, Goa
In the early hours, prior to tasting the coconut embryo or Moran and the ensuing learning about the embryo’s existence, I had to take initiative to have a difficult conversation with someone who assumed I would do them a monetary favour, without first inquiring about my convenience. The assumption was made by the spouse of the lady who helps me with home chores. This was a new relationship, I had engaged with them for a month only. The monetary favour they required was, for air travel from their hometown to Goa where we all lived, for an amount that I doubted they could repay without planning and inconvenience.
I found myself facing a dilemma—the relationship was new and the recent inconsistency in income-generating projects did not endow me with much of a disposable income, yet I was inclined to helpfulness and trust. I could say, ‘No, I don’t have the money.’ This though would not be entirely true, because I did have the money, I only chose to use it more judiciously. The hesitation, I realised, did not have to do with money, it came from lack of trust.
I decided that instead of building a fence of outright refusal or excuses, I needed to explain my reality and the present situation. However, having a personal conversation with someone we barely know is not easy, especially when it involves an inability to coalesce or unite because of incompatible realities. We may expect from a relationship what the other cannot offer, and often the one who cannot offer has to take the more generous stand of explaining their situation. Rare are relationships in which give and take recede in the presence of mutual appreciation and support.
What was to be my generous stand? Would I be nurturing a healthy relationship were I to deny recognition to the lack of trust that lurked in my mind and the practical reality that I was currently living? I chose to appreciate the truth of my reality, and I noticed that my mind was released from the tension that fences create (State borders are a palpable example of this dissonance).
I left a voice note for my house help, because its easier to speak honestly and completely when the other is listening silently, albeit at a later time. I explained about my recent choices in projects and how I was using my savings carefully to fund part of my experience at the food forest. I requested that they ask her husband’s longtime employer to fulfil their requirement, if support was not extended and they had the provision to pay me back upon their return then I would purchase the air tickets.
Next morning, I received a call from her husband to say they had booked their travel on a train and were calling to inform me about their arrival date. I was grateful that the acknowledgement of my reality and the willingness to respectfully explain it had protected both them and me, and therefore the relationship. This however may not always be the outcome, but explaining truthfully, without grudging the other for expecting, is an approach that bridges gaps in understanding. In new relationships this is required and in old relationships it is imperative.
As I sat in quiet observation and sipped my morning coffee, an act not merely of leisure but of reconnecting with my surroundings, the mind linked the recent two experiences with the coconut and with communicating respectfully. Both regeneration and communication depend on one process, the process of cohesion—where one particle joins another to form a whole. The first is natural cohesion and the second social cohesion. In both continuity is created intentionally, by design.