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By Harshmeet Singh
“No man should die who can afford cinnamon” – A common saying in the 15th century, this perfectly depicted the rewarding spice trade between India and the rest of the world.
The fragrance and aroma coming out of an Indian kitchen are unparallel. If India has seen a flood a multinational food chains opening in the past three decades, the Indian cuisine has made sure that the progress takes place both ways! Known to be spicy and exotic, ‘Indian food’ is in vogue in many first world nations. But what makes our food so irresistible? How are cardamom, tamarind, pepper and other spices melted so perfectly that they enhance the taste of the food manifold? The answer, it seems, is hidden in the small round shaped spice box – an irreplaceable commodity of any Indian kitchen!
India’s spice monopoly
Spices were, perhaps, one of the first commodities to be imported from India in significant numbers. Kerala was known as the hotbed of many exotic spices around 3000 BC. At first, spice trade was carried out through land routes, and thus, remained confined to a few close nations. But with the starting to maritime trade, the spice business took off exponentially. While black pepper was indigenous to Kerala, Cinnamon was grown extensively in Sri Lanka. Cloves, on the other hand, came from the Spice Islands, a part of Indonesia.
Indian Spice trade has always been connected with one of the strongest empires of that time. Arabs were the first to exert control over Kerala bound spice trade in 600 BC. Huge quantities of cinnamon, pepper and oils were taken to Arabia via Persian Gulf. The Arab traders sold these spices at sky high rates by keeping its origins as a mystery and making up stories about the winged creatures and poisonous snakes that they had to fight off in order to reach the hills where these spices were grown. Pepper was a symbol of the riches and luxury. There have been multiple recorded instances in the ancient history where Kings have demands bags filled with pepper as toll for sparing a city. Tonnes of pepper were demanded as a dowry in royal weddings.
Pepper was called ‘Black Gold’ in the 4th century BC and exported in large quantities from Cochin in Kerala to the mighty Greek empire. With the rise of power in the Greek empire, the royal households became much more adventurous and flamboyant, thus increasing the demand for Indian spices. It is said that close to 120 ships every year were sent by the Romans at the peak of spice trade to import huge quantities of pepper from India.
Fun fact – Many Roman soldiers were paid their salaries in Salt! This gave birth to the term ‘salary’. The phrase ‘worth his salt’ was also derived from the same context.
And thus came the Europeans
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that India’s flourishing spice trade shaped the future of the world for the coming centuries. After silently witnessing India’s booming spice trade and Arab’s monopoly for many centuries, the European countries set out to search for a sea route to India. The colonisation of India and Americas was a result of such expeditions undertaken by different European nations. Americas were discovered while Columbus was searching for East Indies (India) through the Atlantic sea route. It is weird to imagine now that the world’s strongest nation was mistakenly discovered when the original destination was India and its spices! These expeditions, where the ships reached distant lands and didn’t fall off from the edge of the earth, forced the Europeans to believe what the ancient Hindus knew for centuries – that the Earth is round and not flat!
Famously, when Vasco Da Gama reached the Indian shores, his men, while getting off the ship, shouted, “for Christ and spices!”
The first European power to resort to colonization on the name of ‘trade’ was Portugal who captured Indonesian Spice Islands and Sri Lanka. They were later overthrown by the Dutch. The driving reason behind the formation of the British East India Company in 1600 was to compete with the Dutch spice trade in India. And this later on transformed into the grand British Empire in India. After the British entered the scene, an agreement was reached according to which India and Sri Lanka were to be ruled by the British while the Dutch would control Spice Islands.
Not just taste, but health too!
In ancient times, illness was treated with spices such as turmeric and ginger, and herbs. Many ancient inscriptions found in Europe and Egypt indicate that spices were preferred as medicines in many scenarios. The ancient medicinal art of Ayurveda also prescribed many spices for the well-being of the human body and mind.
Foreigners’ infatuation with Indian culinary and spices goes back many centuries. Indian spices, it seems, are taking the country’s name far beyond our imagination and borders.
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021