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narkel gach

Coconut trees are salt resistant and maybe even salt-loving! In fact, when you plant a coconut tree away from the coast, you need to pour salt near the stem of the growing sapling. In the Sundarbans they are prized for their hardiness against cyclones. Other trees may collapse but not the coconut tree. There are countless stories of people climbing up coconut trees to save themselves from tidal waves during a tsunami, from attacks by tigers and crocodiles, or from very strong winds. People tie themselves to one of them to be sure not to be blown away.

Narkel or coconut is sometimes the pseudonym used for someone’s head/life! Once, Ma Kali appeared in a dream-vision to a Sundarbans islander woman. The woman used to often fish in a canal or khal which was considered to be her resting place. In exchange for all the fish she provided, Ma Kali told the woman that she required “jora narkel” or “two young lives”! In a few days, the terrified woman left her home and settled elsewhere where she did not have to pay the price of those ‘coconuts’.

Another time, a young islander who had got lost from his team and boat found himself feeling terribly thirsty. So he climbed a coconut tree and chopped down a couple of fruits to quench this thirst with the sweet coconut water. He said it tasted like ‘zamzam’ water – he had never tasted anything so lovely. Fruits and trees in the forest are special, they are a lot more nourishing than those found inland.