30 Jul 2016 18:59 IST

When reality is fiction

And you discover that heaven’s not up there somewhere

This story gets you truly up close and personal, but it simply has to be shared. Its deliciousness lies in the telling and the tasting — quite literally.

It’s a story about a story, about a story, actually. The story about which it is a story, I discovered in a brilliant little book shop in Bengaluru, called Lightroom. Tucked away in a quiet street in Cooke Town with a barely visible sign indicating its existence, it’s a treasure chest of bullion that went down with a ship in a storm off the coast of South America. It is the gold and jewels worth a trillion dollars hidden in a vault in Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram. It is the daily hundi collection of crores at the Balaji temple in Tirumala. It is the sweetness of the nectar of immortality at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. It is the chaadar of devotion offered at Ajmer Sharif, the dargah of Moinuddin Chishti, in Rajasthan… it’s a children’s bookshop of unmatched joy. The collection is vast, unique and serendipitous. More, the promise of what’s to come is further enchanting.

Avocado Baby


Like many before me who have been here, I surrendered, got down on my haunches and knees and flopped on heaven on earth, and scrambled like a crazed creature through the stacks and racks of books. That’s when I stumbled upon Avocado Baby, a picture book by John Burningham.

Now John Burningham, he’s one of the dadas of children’s picture books. Among others, there’s Granpa, a story about the relationship between a girl and her grandfather; there’s Borka, the story of a goose born without feathers; there’s Aldo, about a girl and her imaginary friend; and there’s Avocado Baby.

Now, everyone knows what an avocado is, right? Also called alligator pear, it’s basically a big berry with a large seed. Originally from south-central Mexico, it found its way to India sometime during Tipu Sultan’s reign in Mysore — it appears it was first grown in his gardens. That’s sometime in the 18th century. It’s called vennaipazham in Tamil and makkhanphal in Hindi, and is cultivated in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Sikkim and Maharashtra.

The avocado is believed to be incredibly nutritious, and has more potassium than bananas and contains monounsaturated fatty acids which are good for the heart. It has plenty of fibre and it is also said that eating avocados can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There’s plenty more on the benefits of eating avocado.


Now, at the time in which the story about the story, about the story actually, is set, I didn’t know anything about the avocado except the name which had popped up in various books, and had inspired an insatiable curiosity about it. This was about the time I was pregnant, and as the first trimester gave way to the second, and then to the third, I was obsessed. I wanted to eat an avocado.

My father, particularly, was so amused by my avocado mania that he began referring to the baby as ‘Avocado’. When people asked what we were going to name the baby, we automatically replied: “Avocado!” — which, in hindsight, was a nice, unisex name. So you see, when I found Avocado Baby in Lightroom, firstly, I couldn’t believe it. And then it hit me: John Burningham had written about my Avocado baby. How cool is that!

Burningham’s avocado baby is very fussy fellow who refuses to eat anything and is weak, until finally he is persuaded to eat avocado, which he does and loves. He grows strong, so strong that he can even tackle robbers all on his own! This book now sits proudly on my shelf. Thank you, John Burningham and Lightroom.


I did manage to taste avocado before my baby was born, again, thanks to my dad. But at that time, I was ill-advised on what to do with the pulp. Now I know better. When you mash it up, it gets this lovely buttery texture, and all you need to do is add spices, herbs, sweet, salty, or sour, to suit your taste buds, and spoon the mixture down on its own, or with rotis, puris, whatever.

Guacamole is typically an avocado dish: mash together the pulp of avocado, add lime juice and salt. Fold in chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic, coriander, chilli powder. Eat. Else, you can flavour the smooth pulp with honey and a little milk. Either way, it’s yummy and very healthy. The only thing is that it’s to be consumed fresh.

All in all, what a wonderful coincy-doincy, don’t you think?

A small clarification, by the way. My friend gently told me that the phrase ‘coincy-doincy’ should actually be attributed to her brother when he was little, and not some young friend of hers, as I wrote some weeks ago. Sorry about that, friend, and friend’s brother. Guess it’s all good now.

By the way, when is a bookshop really a bookshop? When it gets you the book you want, even if it’s not available in the store. And when it makes you stumble upon a book that you didn’t even know, existed, but which belongs to you and only you; which was waiting to be found by you.

Is that what stories do? Wait to be found by the right person?


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