On Coffee Blossoms…

The aroma of coffee is a much advertised one. A lovely hot cup of coffee wakes one up, energizes; one faces the day all set to make a success of it. Café Coffee Day outlets in India are tastefully decorated and offer an idyllic setting to catch up with friends or a loved one. I guess it would be the same in any other country too, with variations in the names and themes of the chain.

But I am not marketing coffee;  just sharing a memory.  I was lucky in that I grew up in a small village in Kerala. I was also lucky in that in my childhood, in the season when the few coffee bushes we cultivated were in bloom, I would wake up to the sweet scent of coffee blossoms. It would permeate my dreams- the gentle, happy and innocent childhood ones – and would slowly wake me up with its sheer sweetness. And I would run out to witness this yearly wonder.

Coffee blossoms are small and white; they bloom in the early mornings and are really not much to look at. They form in clusters on the branches of the plant. But how does one describe their perfume? Sweeter than roses or jasmines- poignant, reminiscent of long gone times.

For obvious reasons, no one picked the blooms, which later transformed into clusters of green berries and later ripened into cherry red ones. They would then be picked, dried and sold.

The coffee bushes are no more-   I am no longer the eager child who jumped out of bed and ran to them. But somewhere in a corner of my heart, the now-non-existent village, bushes and the child remain!

The weather of Kerala is highly suitable for growing spices. There was a rich trade as early as 3000 B.C in spices, which were famed in the Western world. My parents grew coconut, pepper, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg and cocoa in our land. Our lives, my entire education, were paid for by these exotic spices, which found their way to foreign lands from the Cochin port.

The Cinnamon tree, which brought forth the most wonderful pink young leaves in spring, sacrificed the most. The spice cinnamon  is not the berry, but the bark. The tree would be shorn annually and the twigs would be dried in the sun and then the bark removed carefully.

Today the demands of urbanization have transformed my village beyond recognition. Like many Indian villages, mine too continues to live only in cherished memories. Important as progress and development is, despite the strides made in the quality of living, sometimes the nostalgia for things gone by, falls over me like an old, worn and soft blanket.





11 thoughts on “On Coffee Blossoms…

  1. KS Raju says:

    Hello Sylvia,
    Congratulations for taking little time off from struggling- to- be- super woman schedule to share memories of that tiny village and villagers with unwavering constancy, and the amusing memories of that little girl who had ran to the cluster of pearl -white blooms which are sweeter than Jasmine There is beauty and originality in the expressions.But why that village got to the now-non-existent in you?
    There is certainly a writer in your wannabe writer- self to test, explore and take to heigher levels of writing.
    Believe me, I have only repeated the question which i asked me few times as to why Sylvia is not writing?Suni wd have asked this about this so many times

    I am yet to thouroughly read Malu’s poem, thoyugh glanced thru…Congrats Malu

    Keep writing..
    KS Raju

    • Thank you so much Raju!
      To answer your first question- my village exists, but it has reinvented itself beyond recognition. Gone are the rice fields and the narrow “varambu” which separated them. Gone also from our property are almost all the spice trees which I wrote about, except pepper. The former rice fields now boast of palatial houses.

      To your second question, which Sani had indeed asked me many times my answer is simple- it is difficult to write when there is dinner to be cooked and served, homework to be helped with, laundry to be done, clothes to be folded and to top it all, the day at work was not a wonderful one.

      Thank you again! Do come back to the blog when you can.

  2. Asha Thomas says:

    Hi Sylvia,
    Congratulation dear..I am soooooo happy to see your blog…
    I enjoyed your visual writing very much…simple and original wrting..beautifully compose like a poem..
    Yes you are right to achieve “super woman’s” title,we women always turn away from our hobbies and can’t do the things which gives joy and happiness to our heart and soul…
    I am glad that you overcome that …keep it up…I will enjoy your visual journey more whenever time permits…

    Keep writing your visual journey..

    Asha Thomas

    • Ashachechy,
      Don’t know if I deserve such high praise; but thank you so much. You are so right that we neglect to do things that nourish our souls- awareness means we are halfway there.
      While always dreaming about writing, never had the courage to actually do it till now. Words which reflect our innermost thoughts are precious like our children; one hesitates to let them out into the world. Writing makes me feel whole and complete.

      Do continue to visit when you can spare the time.

      You are also one of my fond memories of Ahmedabad!
      Take care.

  3. Jayalakshmi says:

    Dear Sylvia
    It was wonderful and nostalgic reading .Though we are together during office hours I was introduced to a different Sylvia the little girl who I think still lives on in you. Don’t let go of that Sylvia keep her alive however mundane the chores and life get.
    Keep writing .Looking forward to more

    • Dear Jayalakshmi,
      Thank you for taking the time out to read.
      Your words are really encouraging- my feeling is that all of us have so many stories and memories, not to mention the lessons life has taught us that we are atriculate enough to share.
      I personally feel that you too have many such stories to tell and hope to read them one day!

  4. Purabi Dutta Chowdhury says:

    Hi Sylvia,

    To me you are indeed a super woman as you seem to do so much so effortlessly while I keep struggling and always inspire me to put in more effort. It is a genuine compliment and I expect you to accept it without fuss.

    I liked your writing style so much. Your prose is so beautiful and lyrical. I always knew you are a good writer (remember we participated in an essay writing competition?) and it was really a delight to read your blog. I am sure you will keep continuing the good work.

    Good luck.


    • Purabi,
      Thank you so much (for everything- but mostly for being a wonderful friend; I badly miss our days at Ahmedabad). I try to write as honestly as I can and this is my way of sharing some insights and experiences life has taught over the past two decades. Regarding the Agartala blog, I was tired of hearing people speak dismissively of this tiny state and city and wanted to sort of put across a different viewpoint.
      There is beauty all around us; we just need to look.
      You too have it in you to write convincingly and honestly. (I do remember our essay competition!). Please take some time out and make a start. If not now, when?
      Take care.

  5. Manoj KC says:

    Hi Sylvia,
    Felt good reading your musings…
    A special like (pardon the FB language) for the one on history… rang a bell somewhere especially in times when patriotism is overwritten by jingoism… as is said, history is written by victors… so what we read may not be history!
    Overall very nice… good variety and keep going…
    Remembering our old miss beckette who translated “waiting for godot” from malayalam to
    english 🙂
    Manoj KC

    • Hi Manoj,

      Thank you for visiting. It was really nice to meet you after such a long time. Good friends are always special, old ones more so!

      Regarding the Khudiram Bose blog, it was written from the heart; Till the day I saw the statue up close, I had never heard of this boy- not a mention of his name. He is remembered and honoured in West Bengal and Tripura, both Bengali majority states. Such a sacrifice for the country at so young an age; and we have forgotten him so fast.

      Even Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is unknown to today’s kids- Gandhiji, yes, in a very nice old man sort of way; sanitised. Speaking of Ramakrishna, I was fortunate to visit Dakshineshwar. The room he lived in is preserved in its original state; the atmosphere is really special- one really feels the peace and the mind calms.

      My son studied Greek & Roman history last year at school (not that I have anything against them) but what about his own? (He is peeping over my shoulder and correcting- this year he is studying about the Delhi Sultanate).

      Swathi’s poetry is really good; I have left a comment for her.

      (Miss Beckett really did some translation? Think I’m going senile; I remember the play being staged (who could forget?) but not the translation part).

      Keep visiting when you can. Bye.


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