He was a thin man of around fifty with a stock of white hair and weather beaten face. He dumped the coconut leaves, ropes and grinned at me showing his tobacco stained teeth and asked who I was. I despised the man at first sight. He was late by a couple of hours and in the scorching heat, I was in no mood to exchange pleasantries.
I cursed my brother-in-law for the n-th time and concluded it as all his mistake; After all it was his decision to conduct the marriage of his daughter in the month of April in “Palacode” –a dusty little town of less than 500 families in Tamil Nadu – where you cannot even get an English newspaper. The heat was killing me but I was entrusted with quite a few odd jobs; one of them was getting a “Chappara” erected in front of the house.
I looked at the old man and virtually shouted at him while asking why he was late. In answer, he simply showed the coconut leaves and said he had go get them from the farm, afar.
Enough was enough; I asked him to get on with the job but he said that it was not possible even to stand in this heat, let alone work! I lost my cool and told him that he wouldn’t be paid if does not start the work immediately. He looked at my tired and irritated face with disdain and god knows what happened, he folded is lungi and started digging without another word.
I encountered Andi – later I learned that is what his name was – many times and he appeared to be everywhere; from buying vegetables to welcoming the bridegroom, it was Andi all the way!. I tried avoiding Andi, but he kept bumping in to me.
The blistering heat had made me very thirsty and I longed for a tender coconut. Strangely, not a single coconut vendor was visible in the village – that is what I prefer to call this dusty city – despite hundreds of swaying coconut trees.
Expectedly, it was Andi who volunteered to take me to the farm but I refused. Not the one to budge, he forced me to get on his bike and rode to the farm. I almost sensed what has to come; without bothering to ask any one, Andi climbed the nearest tree. I was scared of being chased from the form, but Andi insisted that I drink at least two coconuts. Reluctantly, I gulped down without savouring the sweet taste and scampered with Andi on his bike back to my abode.
I wanted to caution my co-brother about Andi but couldn’t find an opportune time. While everyone was relaxing after the hectic activities, I told my co-brother about Andi. He burst out laughing and my face reddened with embarrassment.
Controlling his laughter, he told me that Andi owned the coconut farm and was a very wealthy man. Later, I also learned that many things needed for the marriage was also supplied by Andi, free of cost. Ashamed of my rude behaviour, I desperately searched for Andi to apologize but couldn’t find him.
Just as I was leaving the town, Andi came rushing and insisted that I go to his farm. Reason? He did not want me to leave his town without enjoying the coconut of is farm! I had no words to apologise to Andi but promised him that one day I would write about him.
People like Andi are very much like the coconut they grow; harder outside, sweet and soft inside. May their tribe increase!