The story is set as a comic strip style. It is about a family of four members, who are having a conversation over a meal. Mani is a small boy who's family lived in a village near Senji in Villupuram district. Mani addressed his parents as "Amma", "Appa" as known in the regional language Tamil. He also has a younger sister named Selvi. Therefore the characters in this story are Mani, his father (Appa), his mother (Amma), and his sister (Selvi).
Mani,Amma, Appa and Selvi.
Mani did not like all vegetables. He preferred only potatoes and ladies finger. One day when his mom served him potato curry, he stopped her. He declared that he wouldn't eat potatoes because they were foreign vegetables, meaning that it belonged to some other country. His small sister Selvi told him that it was not foreign and that amma had bought the potatoes from the vegetable shop near the bus stop.
Potatoes, Mani's favourite!
Mani did not reply to his sister, and he said to his Appa that Selvi was too young to understand that potatoes were not originally from India. His Appa did not understand the point Mani was trying to make. He asked what if potatoes were from foreign countries. Mani explained that his teacher told them that they should buy and eat food crops that were grown locally in our neighbouring cities. Selvi became curious and asked what else his teacher told him. Mani said that his teacher asked them to use things made in India.
Hearing all this, Mani's Amma chipped in, and she said Mani could not eat popcorn in the theatre the next time they went to watch a movie. His Appa added that Mani could not order tomato soup or even pineapple juice.
Popcorn, pineapple juice, soup - all are from foreign places!
Selvi took the opportunity to say that Mani cannot order anything hereafter. But Mani was confused, and he asked hesitatingly why he could not order his favourite items.
Mani's amma replied that corn, tomatoes and even his favourite ladies finger all had come from other countries. Selvi asked innocently whether the vegetables boarded an aeroplane and came to their country. Appa replied that some people who make business trade brought them to India many years back by ship.
Some merchants brought the vegetables here long ago by the sea!
Mani asked why they brought vegetables to India. Selvi also added that they could have brought some sweets but why didn't they bring. Amma and Appa laughed at their comments.
Amma replied that people came to India as they were searching for spices like black pepper. She said that a person from Portugal named Vasco da Gama came by ship to Kerala.
*Vasco da Gama - the Portuguese sailor!
They sailed from Portugal to India in search of our black pepper. Amma said they reached Kozhikode and finally found black pepper. They were so happy that they took a lot of black pepper from our country to theirs. Selvi said they took spices from India.
People came to India in search of spices, especially black pepper!
Mani replied yes to his sister and asked his appa who brought the vegetables to India, as his question was not answered yet. Appa replied that the Portuguese brought them to India and that potato was one such vegetable.
Mani and Selvi looked at the potato curry on their plates. They began to eat it quickly.
Mani was astonished that their potato had travelled so far. Just then amma said jokingly to Selvi not to upset their foreign visitor. Selvi was pulling out a long green chilli out of her curry, and Selvi did not understand whom her mother meant. She asked amma if she meant her. Mani, who understood the joke, told her that Amma was talking about the foreign fruit, chilli.
The foreign visitor, chilli!
Appa explained that chillies were popular in South America, but nobody else knew about this chilli outside their area. Appa started explaining about a sailor named Christopher Columbus who sailed to South America. Amma added that Columbus was actually travelling to India because he also wanted black pepper, but he sailed to South America by mistake. Due to his incorrect landing, he found the spice called chilli. Amma continued and said that he packed the chilli and took it to his country.
**Columbus landed by mistake in South America, but found chillies!
Mani asked how chilli came to India. His appa replied that amongst all other things brought by Portuguese, chilli was also one. Amma explained that chillies first reached Goa and the local people learnt to use the new spice in their cooking.
Selvi and Mani looked at chilli on their plates were astonished at the fact that those chillies had travelled so far to make their food delicious. In their excitement, they decided it would be wrong to waste it, they took a bite of the chilli and realized it was too hot and spicy!
Chillies are indeed hot and spicy, do not bite it!
*Image courtesy - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_da_Gama#/media/File:Vasco_da_Gama_-_1838.png
**Image courtesy - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christopher_Columbus.PNG