Picking tamarind in Bangalore, India

Picking tamarind in Bangalore, India
Even before the building has stirred, I brush my teeth, pull a comb through my hair and pick up the wet waste bowl from the kitchen. 6:30 am is a great time when the morning has just broken, birds are out in the trees calling out in different melodic tones and I unlock the door to a sleeping house.

Walking down two flights of stairs I notice the security taking the lift to drop off someone’s milk packets, and I think this building has a lift for the support staff really, because all the building residents know the efficacy of climbing up and down the stairs. Infact a senior ground floor tenant climbs up and down the steps as his morning exercise.

I reach the basement and this is the only time of day when all the cars belonging to all the tenants are in their parking slot.Infact one of the cars is already being cleaned in readiness for one of the tenants who leaves rather early for work.

Walking past the cars through the basement, I reach the side garden via a flight of stairs. Half eaten Chickoos are splattered by the bats across the path leading to the wet waste pit. The women are going to grumble I think, they will have extra to clean up today, as I lift the lid of the pit to dump my wet waste in. Orange peels, tea leaves, some egg shells and some paper, not much because once the cooking is done Pushpa has to throw her collection too.
Then I rinse the bowl with the drip coming out of the garden tap and which fills a bucket through the night rather than let it go down the drain and waste.

Picking up the bucket which is brimming with clean, drinking water, I throw the contents to the new Irises my sister and I collected from a recent garden heist. They dont look too happy in the heat, but I hope once the rains come they will look happier. The rest of the water is poured to the mint growing happily under the Gulmohur and the pretty white flowered creeper which is growing in a riot on the arch.

I put the bucket back to catch the drip for the rest of the day and head for the back of the garden where the branches of the Salem Tamarind tree spread themselves into our compound. The tree was fairly young and growing along the back wall when we were kids. However we never really got any ripe tamarind fruit then as the Kerala Varma whose property abuts ours at the back had huge dogs which barked furiously when we climbed the walls. They were massive Alsatians and we stayed away from them.

The branches of the tree spreads across our back garden and either with a the wind or the bats eating their chickoos on the branches, a heap of tamarind falls every night. They fall across the back lawn and the walking path. So I am able to collect a small heap every morning of the clean, ripe and fresh tamarind. I pick them off the lawn, inbetween the poinsettias, the hedge plants and on the pathway.

I know I could be criticised for doing it, being part owner of the huge building, but I don’t care. You cannot buy the stuff for love or money. All the sauces given in the restaurants and shops as tamarind chutney is nothing like this. I make bottles of sauce and share with my tenants in the building and give the tamarind itself to other friends.

I usually take a large handful or two and soak in a glass bowl overnight. Just an inch of water above the fruit. Then I put on the medical gloves given to me by Annika and squeeze all the flesh off the seeds. I cant bear getting the stuff under my nails so the gloves save my recently manicured nails!

Then take a couple of spoons of oil and put into a stainless steel saucepan. Flick in some mustard seeds and jeera seed and quickly before they sputter and mess up your stove, put in a large tablespoon of sugar or Stevia which I use. Fold in the puree and stir till all the flavours blend and then the piece-de-resistance -- put in a teaspoon of Black salt ( kala Namak) . Leave to cool while you get the bottles ready to pour your sauce into.

The big smiles I get when I share is amazing ‘cause they know they can’t buy the stuff anywhere. However I insist they keep it in the fridge cause in a matter of a few days, cause I never use preservative and it’s completely organic.

During the day the helpers in the building get to collect their stash because they have realised if this amma can go and collect it herself everyday, it must be something special. Infact the maali Suresh snacks on them throughout the day!


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