Jackfruit and nostalgia

Representative Image (DH Image)

A pleasant scene it was, for us daughters-in-law as soon as we entered the first time! That hoary motherly tree bulging with the alluring smell of the fruits of all sizes! Who doesn’t like that delicious fruit that has travelled all over India?

For us, jackfruit was always there —be it when we needed breakfast, or when we entertained guests. How we would love it—right from plucking the ripest one to the painstaking task of cutting the thick prickly skin to separating the pith and seeds from the ‘Halasina tole’ as the tasty segments were called!

It required a lot of patience and skill since the interior portion was slippery and sticky. Hence, little oil would be kept nearby, as smearing the hands with it would facilitate smooth progress. Deftly would the seeds be separated, to be dried-peeled, cut into small pieces for tasty gravy, and the inner pithy yellow segments arranged artistically with honey splashed over it if need be, for an added taste. Mouth simply waters as I sit recollecting those munching gatherings. Alas, they seem to have vanished, along with the jackfruit trees seen rarely nowadays.

In our time, there used to be one or two trees in almost all houses, along with coconut trees. There were thrilling moments also when at night we could hear prowlers climbing the tree stealthily, followed by sounds of our fruits falling down. “They had knives in their hands”— the children would exclaim to their friends the next morning!

Women, mostly lonely widows, squatted by the tree knitting the green leaves into dinner plates, with the help of tiny broomsticks, and made their living by selling them. Their life stories would be food for imaginative writers like me.

Jackfruit trees can also be called ‘Kalpavruksha’, for everything about it is useful in its own way. Unripe grated jackfruits make palatable dishes, twigs can be the fuel for heating bathwater, and the trunk is used in making musical instruments. The skin-peel-pith etc would be diligently fed to the cows!

To sum up, our elders were really wise in planting and maintaining such treasures in our backyard. Now, with the backyard gone, lifts and balconies taking place, the old type of garden is also becoming something like modern paintings.

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