Today’s post is inspired by Anne’s There’s Something about Trees. I agree, there IS something about trees. And if you must know, there is something about Anne’s posts too, which is why I love them and hop over often to check it out. You should too.
Those who have been around long enough here know how much I love trees. But this declaration of love and the interest in them is of recent origin. During childhood, I hardly paid them any attention even though they were an integral part of my life. I have already written about the mulberry tree. But the one I remember the most is the giant – or so it seemed to my younger version – jackfruit tree in the backyard our ancestral home.
The major part of our summer and other holidays were spent at our grandparents’ home. The jack-fruit tree stood on the southwest corner of the house. Come holidays, we children spent pleasant mornings and as many afternoons beneath its cool shade. Don’t let that give you the impression that it was all play and no work. Not if our disciplinarian of a grandfather could help it. Grandfather was one for catching ’em young. We had chores to do and could go out to play only after they were done. That did not mean he could not pull us out of a game any time for new chores. He could, and he did.
But I digress. We were talking of the jack-fruit tree.
Underneath the tree we children spent time making batches of mud pies with coconut shells as moulds. Coconut leaves were used to make ‘snakes’ and hats. The sturdy stem of the coconut leaf and the leaves themselves became useful to make a wigwam like structure for us to crawl into. We played other games too, even fought, sang songs, polished our acting skills and more. Sometimes we’d sit beneath the shade and eat fresh green mangoes sliced and sprinkled with salt, chilly powder and a dash of coconut oil. Did your mouth water? Mine just did remembering.
The jack-fruit tree had multiple roles to play, not just provide shade. Grandfather had a swing hung on the tree for us during the season of Onam and sometimes at other holidays too if we begged and he was in a generous mood. The ‘swing’ was just a rope tied to a rather high branch – a farmhand would come to climb up the tree and tie it for us. The broad end of the hard coconut leaf stem was suitably trimmed and became the seat. We took turns sailing high, almost reaching the high branches. Not me though. I wanted to alright, but was too scared to swing that high. My cousins were the experts.
The raw fruit of the tree was made into a variety of dishes, but the succulent ripe fruit used to be my favorite. The leaves of the jack-fruit tree doubled up as spoons while having kanji aka rice gruel. The green leaf was folded at its tip and pinned in place with a small, thin piece of coconut leaf rib. When you scooped up the kanji with the leaf-spoon, the fresh smell of the folded leaf gave the kanji a unique flavor. I can still smell it decades later.
Well, look what I have done. I wanted to write on all the trees in the ancestral home, a few lines about each. Instead I have ended up going on and on about the jack-fruit tree alone. But then there are other days and more posts to write.
© Shail Mohan 2020