Guineps

These fruits commonly grow in South America and Caribbean countries. They are called Guineps in Jamaica, and elsewhere they are known as quenepas, Spanish lime, honeyberry etc., in different countries. 

Guineps are seasonal fruits. When they are in season, you can find them sold on street sides by vendors. They are very inexpensive and sold in bunches. 

The fruit looks like a small size green lime. Gently bite the fruit and crack open the thin rind, and you will find fresh fruit inside.

Be careful not to bite deep into the fruit as the outer fleshy part is not very thick. Just beneath the sweet and tangy flesh is the hard-shell seed. Suck the sweet juicy pulp and discard the seed.

Guineps grow on tall trees that grow to a height of about 80 ft. The flesh of the fruit is nutritious; even the seed is said to be beneficial. The ancient people of the Caribbean region roasted these seeds and consumed the pith. It is said to be similar to a cashew nut

The pulp of the Guineps is used to make juices, jams and sauce for desserts. 

Nothing Comes Easy

‘I wish this topic was easier’, ‘why do these exams have to be this difficult’, ‘why can’t all my problems just vanish away like the fairy tales’ and so on. Every one of us has complained like this at some point in our life. We all crave a smooth road with no bumps, blind turns or speed breaks. Such a turn of events is an impossibility, yet we dream of it. We even pray for it to come true.

Imagine, if life suddenly removed all obstacles in your path and it became a smooth ride for us, would we be able to enjoy it? This very thought made me think, and I had a fun discussion with my family about this.

If life suddenly became easy, I would not trust it for quite some time. I strongly believe in the saying, ‘if everything is coming your way, you are probably in the wrong lane’. I would be suspicious of everything that happened. I cannot enjoy something that I have not worked for because I have a constant fear that it will be snatched from me.

My mother said that if it happened to her, she would enjoy life for a little while. Finally, life would be an easy path after a lifetime of difficult decisions. Eventually, she would lose her sleep if she did not have anything to worry about or any crisis to resolve.

My sister said she would grab it with both hands and run. Considering how hectic her life is, I was not surprised by her answer. She did not believe in staring a gift horse in its face. She spends her day running around her two sons, so she waits eagerly for a slow day.

When I asked dad about his reaction to such a situation, he said it is impossible to get a smooth road. He would not bother to waste a thought on it.

My niece felt that if all obstacles were eliminated, there would be no learning. Since she is young, she believed that she would miss out on the experience and the fun in dealing with tricky situations.

Based on all these reactions, I can only conclude that most of us will not really be happy if life removed all the obstacles in our path. Complaining about our problems is a fun process in itself. We just wish life would go easy on stacking up problems all at once.

Going Back to Roots

This past year has been an eye-opener for many reasons. For one thing, it has highlighted some of the problems that globalization brings. We all speak of the economic and social concerns. This time, globalization brought forth a new health and science scare. The pandemic was exacerbated due to relaxed boundaries and free and easy travel. It has also strengthened the fight against it by creating a global forum for vaccine development and distribution.

Anyway, my post is not about globalization or the problems thereof. The whole conversation started off during a fun discussion between my friends and me about how the situation felt like an Indian soap opera. The year marked the return of the rebellious kid back to his parent’s home.

If you are confused, let me explain. Mankind and his best friend Science walked out of the family home after a dramatic fight with ayurvedic medicines, herbs, sheltered living and other such traditions. Mankind, with the help of its trusty sidekick, Science set out to carve a new and better future, away from their parents Nature and Earth.

When faced with the magnitude and ferocity of the pandemic, Mankind was stunned while Science was overwhelmed. They were inundated with too many variables that were out of their control. They were forced to return to herbal and natural medicines like ginger, giloy, neem, tulsi etc., to keep up immunity till Science found a cure or a vaccine. Like a rebellious son returning home with his tail between his legs, Mankind returned back to Nature to heal its wounds.

Covid-19 posed a risk too huge and widespread for Science alone to tackle. We had to use traditional techniques of isolation, herbal teas, natural immunity boosters and such remedies till we could find the vaccine. Social media was flooded with various recipes of health foods, natural sanitisers, herbal disinfectants and such.

Nature also got a break from all the interference that Science brought. Without any road traffic, animals started coming out and visiting us. With factories on break and road pollution at an all-time low, stars seemed to twinkle brighter. This has been a big boon that the lockdown has brought for us. People also stopped and took a forced break from their busy schedule to spend time with family.

By the end, my friends and I were joking that in true soap opera style, we could hear a fast-paced tune on sitar and tabla playing in the background to indicate a happy ending.

Time Flies

During the teens, you can’t wait to spread out your wings and have a test flight.

The twenties lets you travel far and wide to explore this wonderous world and meet your match, who makes your heart flutter.

The thirties bring responsibilities; you have a nest and, “the early bird gets the worm” is your mantra.

The forties are for keeping a hawk-eye on things and saving up for the long and cold winter ahead.

In your fifties, you are tired of flying around. You want to rest a bit and crave a second chance to admire what you missed in a hurry.

The Sixties is when you want to return back to the nest.

The seventies makes you crave for your nest to be as filled and be noisy as it was during the thirties.

The eighties are like a bitterly cold winter storm that drags on and on, and you just can’t wait to get over with it.

The nineties are about silently staring at others going through the same thing that you did all along.

When you hit a century, it’s a celebration for everyone around you but you.

I Did It My Way

As a part of his vast repertoire of music, Frank Sinatra sang the song My Way. It was written by Paul Anka. I love this song of his. Though I love the song, I never really paid attention to the lyrics until the other day. Earlier I always felt the song was about a person celebrating his successful life and the journey. As I listened to it, I recognised something about it. The person is not only celebrating his success, but he is also taking full responsibility for all his decisions and actions. That part struck a chord with me. How many of us can truly take responsibility for our choices?

It is a common complaint we hear among youth that they have no control over their life. They say that all decisions are made for them, either by others or by situations. I agree that in many of the cases, it is true. We are often under obligation to choose a path, or we are forced by societal norms to be a certain way or coerced by family emotionally to adhere to rules. It would seem that we hardly had a say in the decision.

An old saying comes to mind when I think of such situations, ‘We can take a horse to the water, but we cannot make it drink the water’. Same way as we can be forced to choose a particular path, but no one can make us walk it unless we want to. So, when we walk down a road in life, we have to remember that at some point, we consciously choose this path too. We have decided on this course of action, either due to lack of a better choice or lack of will to resist. We realised the benefits of this decision. We may disagree with the decision, but we have accepted the decision.

I would like to add a disclaimer here that I am not blaming anyone here. I do not intend to put the guilt on your shoulder and absolve everyone else. My intension is to remind us that we decided to follow the path based on logic and reasoning. We have chosen to sacrifice something to gain something else. There was a rationale behind our choice. We made that choice because this option outweighed the others. As long as we remember this rationale and reasoning, we should not doubt our decisions. We should take responsibility for it.

Whether our decisions lead to failure or success or took us on an uncharted path, we can only find peace and happiness when we remember our reasoning and rationale behind that decision. As long as we blame others for influencing us and forcing their decisions on us, we can never see the beauty and adventure in our journey of life. More importantly, as long as we remember the reason for a decision, we can be proud of what we stood up for and what we sacrificed to get to this position in life.

When Mom Is Away, Pups Are At Play

As I was cleaning up my folder of photos, I stumbled upon a set of photographs from a few years back. They brought back fond memories of 2 pups in my neighbourhood. They were the most mischievous pups but had the most adorable face, as is the case with all puppies.

The pups were barely a few months old at the time when my aunt had to step out on some urgent work. These two pups had been veritable angels until then, so my aunt left them out in the yard to play while she finished her work. This decision proved to be her mistake.

My aunt took two hours to finish her work and return home. The pups utilised this window of opportunity to explore the lotus pond and redecorate the yard. This is what greeted her when she returned; two energetic pups who proudly displayed their creativity.

My aunt was shocked beyond words that her angels could come up with such mischief. She had to tie them up to the gate and use the water hose to wash away all the mud and dirt. While my aunt was fussing over how to clean them and the yard, we kids had a laugh taking pictures of the dogs and their antics.

It is a memory of a fun day that brings a smile to us all.

Otaheite Apples

When I came to Jamaica two decades ago, the Otaheite apple was one of the exotic fruits that I came across. But ever since I tasted them, I have been in love with this delicious fruit. 

Yesterday my husband brought a dozen of these apples. Otaheite apples are soft and juicy like a plum. There is a small seed inside it that can be pulled out easily. The white flesh inside the fruit is sweet and has a tangy taste. One bite of this fruit fills up your mouth with the sweet juice, as the red colour from the skin slowly seeps into the delicate white fibrous flesh. The darker the colour of the skin, the sweeter is the fruit.

It is also known as the Jamaican apple, and it grows on tall trees that generally bear a lot of fruits. It is a seasonal fruit. The previous house where I lived had a lot of space in the yard. So, I planted a seed of this Otaheite Apple, and it grew to approximately three feet tall. When I moved from that house, I left the tree there. My current residence has no space for trees.

Just like any other fruit, these apples are rich in vitamins and minerals. They work wonders for our body and prevent or cure a variety of ailments. The best part is that they taste great and are surprisingly inexpensive. 

I enjoy eating them raw however, they are used to make jams and juices. It can be stewed with brown sugar and ginger to make jam. You could even run it in the blender with water, sugar and a tiny bit of ginger to make an excellent juice. 

All this talk about Otaheite apples has worked up my appetite. Bye for now, see you all on my next blog.

We Are All Strong Until We Face The Test

They say that in the face of adversity, our true self comes forward. Some of us stand up and take the lead, while some step back and follow a leader. Some of us crumble and break down, while some of us straighten our back and weather the storm. It is hard to predict with certainty how one will turn out.

Just because we are timid and avoid conflict, it does mean that we will crumble in the face of hardships. A faint-hearted person may not stand up and fight, but they know how to survive. Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean that one cannot face disagreement. It merely means that one does not like it, they do not believe that quarrel resolves problems.

Most people judge and conclude on our strengths based on our everyday behaviour and attitude under normal circumstances. I learnt this the hard way. I believed that I was a very patient person, and counted it was my strength. The truth came out when I faced my test. Here is the whole story by which I came to the realisation.

Before joining my job, I considered myself patient because I could deal with a few difficult people in my friends’ group. While my friends would get flustered, I was able to stay calm while dealing with them patiently. When I joined work, I realised that my patience magically evaporated in front of my manager. That person was my test of patience. I realised that I got very irritated when he picked on my work, every comment he made grated on my nerves. Though I did not lash out at my manager, I took out my irritation on my colleagues.

My sister gave me a bit of wise advice, and I realised that my manager’s influence is limited, only to my work. If I say yes in that minute and keep calm, he will move away. This advice helped me replenish my reserves of patience and believe in myself again. That was until I met my niece. My niece is a bundle of curiosity and energy. She likes to play and has a short attention span. This was another test of my patience, unlike my manager, my niece did not have limited working hours. I can’t say for sure if I passed this test. I just bid my time and waited for my niece to grow up. Now that she is in school, I can recharge my reserves again.

The point is that one can never take our strengths or weaknesses for granted. Until we face a test, we cannot be sure how strong or weak we are. We can not say with a guarantee when our strengths will abandon us or our weaknesses show an alternate technique of survival. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Keep Faith And Do Your Job

I know I am being irrational,
But I can’t seem to form a rational thought
I can see that I need to be brave,
But I can’t seem to find the courage
I know the problem is small,
But I can’t help finding it insurmountable

How do I overcome this state of mind?
How can I find a way past this hurdle?
How can I see past this fear that is blocking my sight?

Subconsciously I asked God for help.
Subconsciously I chanted his name asking for guidance.
Subconsciously I heard his answer to keep the faith and do my job.

The Bondage of Debt

Recently I read a story from an old Indian children’s magazine called Chandamama. I was so impressed by it that today I want to share it with all of you.

Long time back, there was a night watchman. His job was to roam the streets of the village at night and look out for thieves. Every now and then he alerted the villagers to be on their guard. He was married for several years but was childless. When he approached a wise, old sage about his problem and asked for blessings. The sage explains:
“Runanubhanda Rupena Pashu Patni Suta Aalaya ,
Runakshaye Kshyayaanthi Tatra Parivedana.”

It means that cattle, wife, children and home (such attachments) are bondages that result from one’s previous birth. The relationship with these attachments ends once the debt is cleared. It can be settled in the form of service to these attachments. Enjoyment of these attachments ends the pain and suffering.

The watchman decided that to have a child, someone needs to be indebted to him. Thus, he made a pair of slippers and secretly left them on the roadside. He hoped that someone will accept them, and thereby a debt-bond is created. The same sage was walking down that street one day, and his feet were burning due to the heat. When he saw the slippers, he wore them. He inquired the whereabouts of the owner to pay for the slippers. But no one knew anything about it and later the sage died.

Due to this debt, the sage was reborn as the watchman’s son. He was aware of the debt, as he was a wise and holy man. The watchman was also aware of this. Out of fear of losing his son, the watchman and his wife never accepted any benefit from their son.

Several years later, the watchman fell sick one night and requested his son to do his job for that night. The son accepted it gladly. While on duty, he alerted the villagers with this verse:
Mata nasti pita nasti nasti bandhu na sahodhara
ardham Nasti gruham nasti tasmat jagrata jagrata.

This verse means, not mother, not father, not relatives, not siblings, not wealth, not house nothing lasts forever. Nothing follows you after death, these are bondages of present birth. All these relationships, wealth and property are merely worldly attachments, hence be careful.

After a few hours, he alerted the neighbourhood once again with another verse that spelt wisdom:
Kama krodascha lobhascha dehe thishtanthi taskarah
Jnana ratnopaharaya tasmat jagrata jagrata.

This means desire, anger and greed that reside inside the body are thieves that steal one’s precious knowledge. So, be careful.

Finally, in the last part of the night, he alerted the people with this verse:
Janma dukham jara dukham jaya dukham punah punaha samsara sagaram dukham tasmat jagratha jagratha.
This verse means that our birth into this world is one filled with pain suffering. Old age is torture. This entire life is an ocean of struggles. Hence be careful.

People who heard these words of wisdom were astonished by the sagacity of this simple night-watchman. They wondered how he acquired so much knowledge at such a young age. Anyhow, the young man returned home with his wage. Although the watchman refused to accept it.

One day a fire in the neighbourhood was engulfing all the houses. One after another all the houses burned, including that of the watchman. He and his family, quickly started to salvage whatever they could before the flames destroyed everything. While his wife and son brought things out of the house and handed them to him, he set them down, at a safe distance from the burning house. During that commotion, the young man handed everything to his father, and the last thing he gave is the bag of money he earned from the night shift job. The watchman grabbed it absent-mindedly and hurried. The son walked back into the house, never to return.

As realization dawned, the watchman collapsed to the ground in despair and agony over the loss of his beloved son. By the next day, the flames died down, while he stared at the ashes carried by the gentle breeze, he remembered the wise words uttered by the old sage and his son during the night shift. He understood that the debt was repaid.

This story touched my heart, I was moved by the philosophy it teaches. The Sanskrit verses in this story are taken from Vairagya Dindima by Adi Shankaracharya.
Adi Shankaracharya was the great Indian philosopher from the 8th century. His works enlighten our mind and show us the path to moksha or freedom from this cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

It’s Not Yours Unless You Take It

The first time I heard my manager say this to me, I thought he meant to encourage me to reach for my promotion. The next time he said that to me, we were discussing my team’s poor performance. The team was performing poorly due to the willful actions of a particular member of the team. This was dragging the entire team down. I felt that since I was the team leader, it was my responsibility. I tried to correct, teach, chastise even threaten that particular member, but to no avail. My manager felt that the person was a lost cause, and I should not waste time on him. In both situations, the same advice taught me to work for my ambitions, and let go of the dead weight.

Many years later, I heard the same advice from my friend when I complained about an insulting situation I had to face. She advised me that the insults were for me as long as I took them. Once I stop taking them, they are just words that hold no meaning to me. I thought that she was being just philosophical and not practical. Now I see the true meaning behind the words.

It is not yours till you take it, be it a promotion, responsibility, insult or praise. Be it happiness or sorrow, it can only affect us as long as we let it do so. A problem is ours to solve, only if we consider it as our problem. Responsibility is ours to carry only as long as we choose to fulfil it.

These words can be understood in two ways. It can be used as a way to either shirk responsibility or get rid of an unnecessary burden. To ignore good advice or to undermine praise. To brush off insults or to seek out blame. Which option we choose shows our attitude in life. When you feel burdened or stressed out in life, or if you lack direction and purpose, then maybe it is time to change your attitude.