30 April 2015

Let’s celebrate the nelli and ‘nelliness’

This is the twenty eighth article in a series I am writing for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The series is for children. Adults consider yourselves warned...you might re-discover a child within you! Scroll down for other articles in this series. 

‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is a Welsh saying that’s quoted often.  In fact apples are often among the top healthy foods in the world.  Some even believe that it is the No 1 Healthy Food in the world.  The truth is that apples would never be considered No 1 by anyone who has heard of Nelli. 

Nelli is a Sinhala and Tamil name for what botanists in the West call ‘Indian Gooseberry’.  If you were to look up (say on Google) the medicinal uses and nutritional worth of the nelli you will quickly conclude that there’s some sense in describing the apple as a glorified vegetable.   If Vitamin C content is important, consider this: Nelli is the richest source of natural vitamin C!

Nelli is rich in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin C and riboflavin.  It promotes longevity, helps digestion, strengthens the heart, is good for your eyes and is used in all kinds of medicinal concoctions for the treatment of all kinds of ailments. 

But this is not about how healthy the nelli is.  It is not about insulting apples and apple-lovers, although the next time you see a shiny apple (coated with wax, most likely) you might ask yourself whether it’s worth the money.  And the next time you see nelli you might tell yourself, ‘we are so rich and we don’t know it!’  This is about flavors (yes, there are more flavors in that tiny fruit than in an apple, in case you were wondering!).

The nelli has six different flavors:  sour, sweet, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent.  Now that has to be rich, wouldn’t you agree?  And that richness is what we are talking about. 

The world is made of people who come in all kinds of flavors.  Some are sour.  Some are sweet.  Some are bitter.  We meet such people all the time.  And it’s not that people can be defined in terms of such flavors.  The thing with people is that they change.  Like the nelli.  Take a bite and you’ll immediately identify sourness, a tinge of bitterness and even saltiness. Chew on it a while and you’ll detect sweetness. 

Just like people. Someone who is sour at one moment might be the sweetest person you’ve ever met at another time, in another situation.  Very few people are sweet all the time.  Very few people can be bitter all day long, and day after day and into weeks, months and years.  It’s like the weather in some parts of the world.  If you don’t like it, all you need to do is to wait patiently – it will change into something you like.

So you might say that the world is made of nelli-people.  It’s not hard to observe.  What might make it even easier to observe and understand is the fact that we ourselves are like the nelli.  We are made of different flavors.  Call them mood if you like.  If you think about the moods that have visited you over the last 24 hours, if you were over that period of time minute by minute or say half an hour by half an hour, you’ll realize that it has been uneven.  Some nice moments, some not-so-nice moments.  You must have smiled, but might have also frowned. 

The wonderful thing about this nelli-business is that the moment you realize that you are like the nelli, it’s easier to deal with the ‘nelliness’ around you.

The nelli will keep a lot of doctors away (specialists that is).  Understanding ‘nelliness’  will help clear your mind from a lot of impurities. 


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