Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Incomparable One

There's a small store in Windsor Terrace called The Krupa Grocery, and I always assumed that Krupa was a Polish or Russian family name, because that's what it sounded like to me, and wondered how the store happened to be run by a family that was clearly Indian, clearly Hindu. As usual, I had it all wrong. I found out from the owners that Krupa means bliss.

I wasn't planning on stopping in there when I went to visit the cel phone doctor, but after leaving stopping by Krupa to ask about Tulsi seemed like a tremendously good idea.

I coveted Tulsi, Hindu Sacred Basil, since I learned about it on ze veb last week. I asked an Indian person at work where I might get some, she had no idea. Isn't it just regular basil she asked. I felt presumptuous for asking.

I don't think it's ordinary basil. The incomparable one, as it is called, has been worshipped as a Goddess in India for 5,000 years, so it comes with many amazing stories. She was believed to have been a Gopi, one of 108 cow herd girls who devoted themselves to Krishna. I learned the following anecdotes from Wikipedia, naturally....

According to one story, Tulasi was a gopi who fell in love with Krishna and so had a curse laid on her by His consort Radha. She is very dear to Vishnu. Tulsi is also mentioned in the stories of Mira and Radha immortalised in Jayadeva's Gita Govinda. One story has it that when Krishna was weighed in gold, not even all the ornaments of His consort Satyabhama could outweigh Him. But a single tulsi leaf placed on one side by his consort Rukmini tilted the scale"

And then there's the medicinal component. The web is strewn with lists of its medicinal properties, to the extent that to summarize without using a bulleted list would be folly. So here's a list. And what a list it is. I'm just surprised the list doesn't end with "grants immortality."

•repels insects
•treats diabetes
•reduces cholesterol
•protects from radiation poisoning
•protects from cataracts
•adaptogen, reduces stress
•reduces fever
•reduces symptoms of viral hepatitis
•mobilizes mucus in bronchitis
•relieves cold and flu
•increases antibody production
•cures leprosy
•dissolves kidney stones
•reduces ear pain and nose problems
•treats eczema and ringworm
•increases potency in men
•protects from smallpox, malaria and dengue fever
•cures jaundice
•cures hemmoiroids
•cures stomachaches
•cures stomach worms
•cures acid stomachs
•relieves sore throats
•improves cardiac function
•treats ulcers of the mouth
•curative for insect bites and stings.
•improves dental health

All that being said, devout vaishnavites refuse to use it for its medicinal values in respect for Vishnu. They wouldn't harm a hair on it's little hairy stem.

I don't know if the Krupas are vaishnavites, but they have a tulsi plant growing in their store window. To think, I've been walking by it all summer never noticing.

Mr. Krupa, who is really called Raj, says the character of the plant transplanted to Brooklyn varies from the specimens you find in India. Growing here, the plant has diminished pungency. I don't suppose that would surprise anyone, where does pungency reside if not in India? As far as Brooklyn goes, it seems Coney Island might have greater pungency than other spots. Maybe tulsi would thrive there.

Mr. Krupa also says that like tulsi, he's changed since becoming a Brooklynian 24 years ago, when he and his wife arrived with 8 dollars in their pockets. He can't take as much sun as he used to, and when he goes home, he can't drink the water. But what fine water we have here. Ain't it the truth?


annulla said...

Never heard of tulsi. Did they give you a clipping?

Blather From Brooklyn

amarilla said...

no, they offered to give me some seeds, but they're having trouble finding them.