The mercurial coconut oil has leisurely started to relax and to melt in the arms of early summer, announcing our island’s season change. Soon it would have left its white garment of firmness in the wardrobe of winter to sweat in the tropical heat of summer.
The other day I got a visit from an awful migraine. Upon seeing my agony, Nani pitilessly bawled at me, ‘Put some oil koko on this head la! When talk you don’t listen. Your koko dry. Put oil la you see, your head will drink all oil la! Your hair too will grow….’* I had to surrender to Nani’s offer to massage my head with the thick cold oil. She started by resolutely tapping the liquid on my head as though she was tapping senses into it. She then furiously scrubbed my hair on my scalp as though rubbing some dirty clothes on her washing stone. My head moved about frantically like a hypnotised snake under the allure of its lunatic snake charmer as the excess oil glided down upon my neck to provide me with uncanny sensory pleasures.
The other day I needed to grasp some fresh air, away from the maddening crowd I retired. I wended my way outdoor with a brown rattan chair and hunted down for a shaded spot under the tall coconut tree so as to have a seat and contemplate over my futile existence. While daydreaming I heard Nana bellowing from the house, ‘You want the coconut to fall on your koko? Go put your chair another place. You don’t know coconut has eyes? They can see you kouyon. It will fall only on your head!’ Obviously, the coconuts had better senses than me.
The other day I was quenching my thirst with coconut water and consuming its flesh as advised by Nani to get rid of the inflammation that I was suffering from when I felt a severe toothache. I told Nana about my need to urgently go see a dentist for the removal of tartars and to fix the cause of the pain. ‘Sa bez sa. The youth today’s day nothing doesn’t know. When you wake up first thing in the morning, take oil Koko and gargle and spit, goulougoulougoulou. Your teeth will become white! Me never I don’t go see dentist. Ask your Nani, she will tell you.’
The other day I was wandering down the avenue where I live. At the crossroad where one street led to the peaceful cemetery, I discovered under a longan tree: some Mauritian cents, a coconut, red chilis, a bottle of rum and limes. Just enough of free ingredients for me to brew a Pina Colada to quench my summer thirst! Or maybe grind a tropical chutney on Nani’s ros-kari! Either or, I would still have needed to go buy that bunch of mint leaves or pineapple from Tonton Zorz. The irresistible smell of roasted coconut that I could still reminisce over weighted more towards a possibility for the chutney! But I ultimately decided to prepare both for I was going to head to Tonton Zorz anyway! Why have one when I could have both?
The other day I caught Nani heating a spoon of coconut oil over her charcoal stove while the day was massaging one month old Amna with coconut oil to strengthen her bones. ‘Nani, what are you up to?’ I asked. Annoyed by my obvious stupidity, Nani sighed and explained, ‘I am making kajal to put with Amna around her eyes. I shall put a mole on her cheek too. Can’t you see? Will remove heat from her eyes and she won’t get evil eyes. That too you don’t know? Otherwise got to remove evil eyes with Amna.’ For a while I got confused with so many eyes: the coconut’s eyes, Amna’s eyes, my ineffective eyes and the eyes of the evil. All in all, I hoped that Nani would spare Amna’s eyes and not extract them.
The other day Indamawsi came to my place after having offered her prayer with a tray on which were: few burning sandal sticks, a husked coconut and other sweetnesses. Nani was busy polishing her red flooring with half a coconut husk, so I had gone to attend on Indamawsi by myself. The latter had come to offer us some gato koko. In return Nani asked me to give her some desiccated coconut with sugar and dates that we too had prepared to share after our prayer. We had thus both exchanged our sirni and parsadi, while hearing Ahsen shouting in a far away distance whilst stressing on some of his syllables, ‘Makatia kokooooo…. Makatia so soooooo.’
* Author’s Note : The dialogues in this text have purposefully been presented in a colloquial form to retain the local colours of the Mauritian context.