Friday, February 26, 2021

Photo Essay - Coconut trees at home in Bengaluru - Labor of love in 2021

Most Bangaloreans would love to have a few shady trees in their house. But with the price of real-estate skyrocketing, an independent home with even a small garden or a few shrubs has turned out to be luxury that few can afford. 

After spending years globe-trotting, I returned to Bengaluru a few years ago and moved back to the house that my dad had built. The corner-property in North Bangalore also came with four coconut trees planted nearly three decades ago. 

A house in Bangalore with four coconut trees 

The trees have now grown to be over 55 feet tall with a lovely canopy shading our property

A few years ago, my mom asked if we could have the trees chopped off since it was a bit of a hassle to maintain. After all, finding specialized labor (climber) to climb the tall trees to prune, clean the leaves and harvest the nuts isn't that easy in urban Bengaluru. I disagreed and decided I would help maintain the trees. 

What a labor of love it has turned out to be.

The trees frequently shed dried leaves that can span nearly 10 feet and can weigh 10-15 kilos. They shed more in summer than in winter. 

Every 3-4 months, I call Jagdeesh, the local tree climber who services trees in our neighborhood. He generally comes early in the morning with a helper and gets to work. Jagdeesh charges about ₹ 400 per tree to climb, clean and harvest the coconuts.

My job is to make sure folks who have parked cars and vehicles near our compound remove them and to guide the flow of traffic to avoid falling leaves and coconuts. 

The stem of coconut leaves, when dried, can be bundled into brooms ! 

By morning when the leaves have been gathered, the local sweepers and corporation workers congregate to 'harvest' and reuse the leaves. The beauty of coconut tree is that all its parts can be reused, if one has the time and labor. 

After the stems of leaves are  'harvested'  by the workers, they discard the dried stem that can accumulate on the footpath. 

I then give a call to the local corporation's dry-leaf collection service; and the guys take a few days to schedule a compactor truck to come and gather the dry-waste. 

We 'harvest' about 100-150 dried coconut from the four trees that we distribute among neighbors and also save some for our use. The dried coconuts need to be de-husked 

And, did I mention the fruit of labor is that we are hardly ever out of stock when it comes to fresh coconuts?! 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Review of TiLT Red Wine in a Can from Fratelli’s - My2Cents

During a recent visit to a local wine shop in Bengaluru, I came across cans of TiLT wines stacked attractively. The shelf had a couple of varieties - Rose, Bubbly and Red laid out on the shelf. 

Not surprisingly, I hadn't heard of the brand. This being India, liquor and wine advertising is highly restricted and a few brands that are advertised are camouflaged as mineral water or the like when advertised. The colorful cans of TiLT looked appealing enough for me to do a double take, and I decided to check them out.

During the years spent in the US and Europe, I had cultivated a taste for Red wines, with a strong preference for Cabernet Sauvignon. It also happens to be the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties and is grown in major wine producing countries. Cabernet Sauvignon typically exhibits strong fruit flavors of black cherries and plum and go well with Indian snacks and savories. 

Being value-driven-budget-conscious, I would explore bottles priced under $20, of which there were a number of great brands and vintages to choose from. Although I was partial to bottled wines, I would occasionally buy single serve ones packaged in plastic bottles or tetra-pack of which there are several varieties available in American shelves. Attractively priced between $3-6 per bottle/pack, these are favored by those looking for a quick glass before dinner.

After moving back to India a couple of years ago, I gave up my passion for wines, preferring the good-old Kingfisher. Trusty and reliable brand that is easily available in local stores. I didn't prefer exploring local wines and would stock up on a few wine bottles during my trips abroad. 

COVID-19 and ensuing lockdowns put a hold on my travels and wine tasting adventures. At least until recently. 

When I spotted the attractive and colorful cans of TiLT Red Wine in that showroom, I was intrigued. Priced at about  ₹ 180 for a 250 ml can, it looked like an attractive alternative to a cans of Kingfisher that I was out there for. 

Review - Slightly fizzy and metallic taste

As the wine came in a colorful, beer-like l can, I decided to pop it open and take a sip directly from the can. After the first sip, I was underwhelmed. The wine tasted a bit carbonated and fizzy with a distinct metallic flavor. Perhaps it was the fact that I was sipping from a can and not a wine glass? 

I decided to switch tactics by pouring the contents from the can to a wine glass. Needless to say, it was the same-old wine in a new container. Even after a couple of sips, the distinct metallic flavor overpowered any lingering aroma of the red wine. After polishing off rest of the glass, the 11% alcohol gave me a slight buzz.

After this experience, I was left scratching my head over the audience for this Indian wine-in-a-can. Folks like me who have sampled other wines during their travels are likely to give it a pass. Indian youngsters looking for just an alcohol-buzz may find cheaper alternatives - a can of beer holds more fizz and alcohol per rupee.