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Graduate in Maths, Postgraduate in English literature. Worked as a medical transcriptionist, also as a teacher.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Alpam 'chirava puranam' (A short story about coconut scraper)

This post has been contributed by my dad, S. Muthukrishna Iyer,(a retired ISRO engineer) who himself is an expert cook and handles all the kitchen items ( like coconut scraper, kitchen knives, wet grinder) effortlessly, even though, he is in his sixties.

Hi friends,
                  Coconut and chirava (coconut scraper) are inseparable as coconut and malayali. For Keralites,  a curry or a delicacy is not complete without coconut being part of it in one form or other.
                                         The above photo is the one my daughter sent.

                                                 Another photo sent by my daughter...

                                       The above photo is borrowed from travelblog.org
                     The chirava of yesteryear's used to be made by integrating a large block of shaped wood and the 'chiravanaakku' (the teeth of the coconut scraper) made of toughened steel. The comfort with which one sits on the bar of the scrapper with the bent knees and scraps out the 'parippu' (coconut) from the hard shell within a minute is beyond words. Added attraction is that, sitting on the chirava with bent knees provides valuable exercise and keeps the knees flexibe. (It is seems to be a  fashion nowadays to separate exercise and kitchen work which compels one to find time for both).
     As joint families gave way to nuclear families, the chirava also underwent changes in its appearance as well as the manner in which it did the scraping action. Nowadays, the popular version seems to be the one fitted to the granite top of the kitchen platform and scraping operation is carried out using a group of blades provided on the virtual surface of a sphere, the blades act on the parippu when it is pressed towards it and rotated .
                                            This photo is borrowed from  Mahanandi weblog  

Decades ago cars breaking down on the roads were a common sight, and mostly it happened due to the battery powering its self starter not providing enough power. When it happens the driver used to pull out a starting lever from his tool kit and rotated the engine shaft with great effort. Whenever I happened to see the above platform mounted chirava; this memory comes in, since the scraping tool also rotated in the same manner. Platform mounted scraper has gained popularity since  the use of the floor scraper is considered as not in tune with modernity (this is author’s personal view).

      That apart, the reason for writing this chirava puranam (story about the scraper) was the difficulty I faced in the recent past in obtaining  a floor version of the scraper in the Thiruvananthapuram market. About a decade ago, my daughter, then  living in Hyderabad. asked me to buy one for her and I bought one from Thiruvananthapuram without difficulty. Around five years ago, I again bought another one for my younger daughter and to date, she is happy with it.

     I was in Thiruvananthapuram market again to buy one in 2009 for self; the one in use for decades was lost in transit while shifting to our new residence.  However, its inaugural scraping convinced me that I did land into trouble; while scraping the scrapings were flying all around instead of falling on the plated kept below the 'chirava nakku'( scraper teeth) for collection. Then only, it dawned to me that the simple looking chirava is not a simple tool. I went for one more. However, the second one was also  not up to the mark. Months passed by; we managed to do the coconut scraping for our cooking using the chirava of our kind hearted neighbor.

  Then one day, we landed in my FIL’s house in Besant Nagar, Chennai. There is an age old saying; “kurukkante kannu kozhi koottilanu”(A fox's eyes always follows hen's cage). I straight away went into the kitchen and fished out the chirava (scraper) used in that house. To my surprise, I found that it was a well- designed and sleek looking one and my relatives using it were happy with it. This  one was bought from Murugan stores, Adayar, Chennai. On our way back, we also bought one from the same shop and solved our chirava riddle.

 The irony of this incident is that, we not only  lost our position as the prime coconut grower to our neighbouring state of Tamil nadu, but also our expertise in making a good chirava (coconut scraper).  

S Muthukrishna Iyer.

Thanks to my dad, Shri S. Muthukrishna Iyer for contributing this article on the humble coconut scraper.  
Deepa Nagaraj.