Barking up the wrong tree

Barking up the wrong tree

The sharp showers previous night had turned into a loud downpour before coming to a grudging halt. Potholes on the roads in our suburban housing colony had vanished as if by magic as the whole road was covered by a thick and even layer of muddy water.

The footpaths on both sides of the arterial road, though, rose slightly above this bubbly sheet. They seemed to be decorated with modern art of a crazy painter in love with purple colour. The designs on the wet ground were in myriad shapes — round, elliptical, flat and spread-eagled.

The range of colours adorning the ground extended from light to very dark shades of purple, violet and magenta. These colours had been splashed by the fruits that had fallen ignominiously from their safe havens up in the branches of the tall jamun (java plum, black plum or jambolana) trees that stand in a row along the main road of our colony.

The impact of their fall had been gory. The downpour that caused their unceremonious fall had been unable to destroy the evidence of its murderous assault. The battered fruits lying on the footpaths were not inviting enough to be picked up and savoured by passersby. Children walking in school uniforms towards their school bus pickup point could be heard complaining about the heavy showers stopping just before the school time and nipping in the bud the chances of a ‘rainy day’ declaration by the school.

But surely, another opportunity for fun had presented itself as they excitedly jostled with each other in reaching and picking up the odd jamun that had survived a nasty fall from the branch above. Some children were trying to jump up in the air to catch low branches and shake down ripe fruits that might yet be hanging from them. The shorter ones were craning their necks up in the hope of locating an easy catch and leading their taller friends to the bounty.

Returning from my morning walk, I watched them with amused interest. I was taken decades back to my childhood when I, too, enjoyed gathering black plums after a downpour from the tall trees near our house. But the pleasant images were interrupted by the unhappy memory of falling from a jamun tree and breaking my elbow when the branch on which I was perched snapped without warning.

I remembered how our elders always warned us against climbing jamun tress as their weak branches gave away easily. I gasped with the memory of that fall and decided to alert the children against climbing the trees. But when I started warning them, an elderly gentleman said, “You are barking up the wrong tree. Nowadays, children do not climb trees as we did in our childhood. They pick up the fallen fruits from the ground and when even that is too much of an effort, they order them on the net.”