An aging woman wets the cinnamon sticks
Peals the outer bark, pulverizes the inner bark
With a brass block, makes
Two parallel slits with a carved knife,
A Kokatha, and strips off the bark
In one clean swipe. The strips of bark are then packed against
Each other and rolled into
Cigar like quills, and left inside jute wrappings
To be cured to a golden brown hue
And dried in the sun.
But the beauty of cinnamon
Lies not in the plant, but in the peeler
Who learns the art form of pummeling
Incising and stripping the inner bark
To sculpt little aromatic quills.
An age-old tradition passed from
Generation to generation. Peelers who have never seen an apple pie
A muffin, a donut or a cinnamon bagel
Or had cinnamon sprinkled over a hot beverage
Tirelessly working morning till eve
For a few hundred rupees folding in their palms.
A breed of women whose palms hold carved knifes
That knows no butchery just surgical
Operations on cinnamon bark
With precision and skill that surgeons would envy.
And these breadwinners
Collect their breadcrumb earnings oblivious
That oceans apart, men and women
Savor a little stick known for its trueness
A little spice that was once the skin of a plant
Which now macerates the tongue
In sheer indulgence. A story of peel and peeler
Of a symbiosis of value-addition and wage
Destined to be forgotten to the sheer amnesia
Of the laurel of taste.