There’s a whole new world waiting for me as soon as this virus reveals itself. I long for the salty air of Goa or Mangalore. I’d give my hand for Otto’s fog, my foot for the steak stroganoff in the Grill House. But last week I realized something special. I would give my soul to walk among the cashews of my hometown again and have a lively discussion with my grandfather.
I call him Appu, short for appuppa, which means Malalam’s grandfather. Our first debate was about whether or not there is air on the moon. On the seventh level, I was already in love with science, and I once told Appoo that he couldn’t hear a word I said to him on the moon. Sound can’t be transported there, I explained. Because there’s no air on the moon. Crispy, dry cashew leaves under our feet, we saw a column of red ants running uninterruptedly through our unnecessary chirping.
Author Manu Bhattatatiri
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My grandfather pulled out a juicy blade of grass and started chewing on it. Is the moon turning?
Of course you did. Like the earth, like the sun. It’s spinning fast.
Well, imagine something spinning so fast, he says. It’s going to create a lot of wind. Where there’s movement, there’s wind. And wind means air. It’s a matter of common sense.
That’s how I discovered the enthusiasm for the sport. I told him that the moon attracts much stronger objects than the earth and therefore cannot hold its atmosphere. But he wasn’t paying attention. Look at the fan, he told me. As soon as it starts to turn, the wind increases. I said this was only possible here on Earth. In fact, the moon was so densely cratered that it had no air to withstand the falling meteorites.
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They admit that the moon moves fast, Appu finally said. How can there be no wind? He told me to watch what was going on around me and not to trust my books blindly.
See, Appu doesn’t accept anything that goes against common sense. Fortunately, he gave up the ground around him, but denied that the stars would shine because of our atmosphere. Nonsense, he cried. Everything is made of fire clouds. It has nothing to do with the Earth’s atmosphere.
Every time I learned something new – something contrary to the obvious conclusions of my observations about the coalition – I ran to my grandfather. We walked in the shade, smelled ripe cashew nuts, dusty red ants on our feet and talked endlessly. As he grew up, I made him understand that everything that falls out of an airplane, be it a spring or an iron ball, hits the ground at the same time when there is no air to cushion his fall. I told him that light has a speed, that although it seems to be everywhere at once, it actually has to move at its own speed, just like other objects. I’ve been telling him for hours that the body doesn’t lighten up when a person dies and his soul leaves him – science has done enough experiments to prove that this is not the case.
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My grandfather laughed sadly and said I was a classic example of how modern education moistened the brain of a bright boy.
Throughout my youth, I have perfected my ability to meet him. I was quoting scientists, drawing comparisons with branches in the mud, knowing he couldn’t understand them. I showed him some books that proved me right. I found it a secret pleasure to expose his ignorance, to despise his stupid opinions and to clearly express his disgust at the way he constantly defends his opinion. And he insisted. Appu never gave in to what I used to say when I was a kid.
When I first found out during this isolation that many of my friends are struggling with mental problems, I was stunned. Luckily, I’ve never been worried, never been depressed. When the news channels gave me reason to think about our gloomy future, I simply said to myself Evolution often said one species to another. Right now, mankind is against the virus. That’s nothing new. It’ll pass.
However, I have to admit that in the end I didn’t study science. I was a writer, publicist, journalist. And yet I was arguing like a scientist, even though I was just arguing with myself! In me, cold logic overcame the mood of the day. That’s when I realized it was years ago that I had crushed those cashew nuts under my feet. When I was visiting my grandparents and grandmother as an adult, I would usually stay at home and point my finger at my mobile phone or look at my laptop screen. Even if this is not the case, resting means enjoying the salty air of the sea or the fog of the mountains. In the last three decades it has never occurred to me to go back to Appu and argue about anything. That’s how much my life has locked me up, you can imagine!
I hope – as soon as the virus is released – to run to my hometown and revive a lively debate among the cashew nuts. It’s another thing that Appu died almost nine years ago. I’m sure if he hears those leaves cracking, he’ll come to me anyway. There’s a lot of things I disagree with.
Manu Bhattatiri is the author of the special play and other stories about Savitri and the city that made people laugh. His new novel will be published by Aleph Book later this year.cashew family trees,cashew, chromosome number,anacardiaceae,cashew family allergy,who has introduced the cashew nut in india,origin of cashew nut,cashew scientific name,sumac family