Fruit for all

Fruit for all

Right in the middle

I had returned home after quite a while. I decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood park. I strolled on the footpath at my own pace. The fully-grown trees around made me nostalgic about how the park had grown from its formative years.

It was April, the two mulberry (shahtoot) trees were still laden with fruit. Below one tree, on the ground, were green worm-like shahtoot and at the other end of the footpath, were purple shahtoot. I had noticed this fruit scattered below the trees, where they were being cru­shed under the feet of the passers-by.

I walked on, lost in my own thought. As I finished my fifth round, I saw a bevy of waifs enter the park armed with long branches and plastic bags. Their arms and feet were thin and stalk-like and their hair was dull, discoloured, which spoke of malnutrition.

In my next round, I watched them intently. Some were bent forward, others looking skyward at the mulberry trees. Each time the limbs of the tree were shaken, there would be a shower of the fruit. The little ones would scream delightedly and take to the job at hand. One little girl was picking the fruit from the ground with her agile fingers, the action perfected through practice. Soon, the children left the park.

I completed my walk and headed home. A little ahead, I saw all of them trying to pluck pomegranates from the tree planted outside a house. The pomegranates were small, red and round. The same little girl had cut open the thick, smooth flesh of one pomegranate and was enjoying the juice of the seeds dribbling down her chin.

I pondered how these children couldn’t afford two square meals, let alone buy fruit. We should bear in mind that the wholesome food that is available in plenty to us is actually a precious commodity for the teeming millions. One possible solution to this problem would be to convert public parks into orchards. They would be able to provide fresh succulent fruit to the children granting them with the necessary nutrition.

With so many children dying due to malnutrition, these orchards could help feed the hungry children and their families. Once the trees start bearing fruit, they shall become benefactors for long, maybe, even for generations. For example, some mulberry trees live for up to 75 years while others are known to bear fruit for hundreds of years. This will also serve multiple purposes. The environment will be protected, while the fruits will meet the food needs of families.

Guava, lemon, amla, mulberry, mango, pomegranate, ber and jamun trees can be grown in abundance. All the vital nutrients and vitamins from the fruit will ensure that children acquire immunity against various infections, and are rid of diseases such as night blindness, anaemia and beri-beri. One hopes that future greening projects will include fruit trees in good measure along with a sprinkling of ornamental plants in parks.
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