Counting Coconut Blessings

by Sowmya Swaminathan

If you eat lady’s fingers, you will be incredible at solving math problems. There’s obviously no scientific research to prove this because this is a juicy myth that originated in India, specifically in our southern communities that have historically valued logic and rational thought, and have fervently passed on this tasty myth across generations.

I wonder what mythical qualities our other foods have. What is a vegetable that I need to hunt down to be good at say, arts or humanities? Is it perhaps coconut, which is not even a vegetable in the first place? Wikipedia calls it a fruit but it feels wrong to box up a superfood inside a restrictive label.

Every afternoon this year, my mother has woken up to grate and grind up a coconut to extract its milk. She then adds cardamom and jaggery to it and allows the mixture to be its glorious self for a few hours. The coconut milk dissolves the hard as nails jaggery till it gives up and floats around without a fight.
I drink this liquid every evening, hoping against hope that it will be a balm for my shriveled insides. I pray that it rights whatever went abysmally wrong with my wounded gut. I pray that this white substance brings emotional moisture to my hardened spirit. I pray that it brings back my fight. I pray that it makes me hard as nails again.

It is nuts that it took a pandemic for me to put my faith back into this magical object when it has humbly and mutely been a part of my life for so long.

My mother has added grated coconut to nearly every meal she has made in my living memory. Every guest who crossed our homely threshold on a festive occasion has never gone home empty handed. We made sure it was filled to the brim with coconuts. I have smashed coconuts into the skull of a man-child who mercilessly ghosted me in my 20s. Oh, wait — that one must have happened in a dream. My father broke a coconut shell open outside a Ganesha temple on the day I became a topper in my grade 12 math exam.

It’s now time to rewrite our juicy myths.