Jamuns on my desk

Jamuns on my desk

There are two types of people in the world – those who are fruit people and those who aren’t. 

I am the latter.

That’s not to say I didn’t sneak into the school grounds to pick bers and amlas like every self-respecting young person but that was more for the thrill than the fruit itself. And I like mangoes but those are more dessert than fruit, right?

The Husband on the other hand is a complete fruitarian.

(I have to stop here for a moment to marvel at the way God up in heaven gets his laughs bringing together people with entirely different likes and dislikes and then sitting down to watch the fun.)

But I digress.

So the other day we were passing a street-vendor with a handcart laden with jamuns. Obviously then, the husband had to stop the car. We hadn’t had them in decades. They show up for such a short while each year and then have to compete with mangoes. They really don’t stand a chance.

Back home, as they lay washed and dried in the colander, H came by and chucked one in his mouth. (Fact: H cannot pass by anything that looks remotely edible without sampling it).

‘Akhch!’ he exclaimed, ‘These aren’t grapes. There’s a seed!’ 

‘These are jamuns’, I told him.

‘I like grapes better, one doesn’t have to spit out seeds,’ he said settling at his gaming desk, shooting the seed with unerring aim right into the dustbin.

I caught hold of N and got her to try one too (Fact: N has to be waylaid/wrestled/bribed before anything at all, specially a fruit, passes her lips).

She ate it, wrinkled her nose scratched at her tongue with her teeth and ran to the mirror to look at it saying, ‘I can’t feel my tongue.’

What kind of children are these, I wondered, who could not accept a jamun for what it is — a delicious, juicy fruit, the daddy of their favourite kala khatta and one that came with the added advantage of giving a technicolour tongue?

When we were young, summer would bring with it special offerings, jamuns being one of them. It also brought a bunch of cousins who stayed for one whole long glorious month.

Our grandfather babuji/nanaji (as applicable) occupied the bahar wala kamara (the room on the outside) of our house that opened right onto a busy street where vendors plied their wares.

We’d know it was jamun season when we’d hear the cry of:
‘Kale kale hain, bagiya wale hain’ 

(Loosely translated: They’re black, they’re straight from the orchards)

As soon as we’d hear that we’d rush out to our grandfather’s room who would have already hailed the man.

The vendor would make a cone of jamun leaves, put a handful of fruit in it and sprinkle on it his secret spice. He’d then cover it with another leaf-cone and shake it all together. 

We’d watch with ill-concealed impatience, saliva surging already. That wait was interminable.

Finally, the cone was handed to us with the rich ripe berries bursting out of their skins coated with the delicious masala and they were gone in minutes.

At school, we had a tall jamun tree by our throwball court. The fruit would drip down onto the court making it an accident-prone spot. A careless step would find one slipping and sprawling on the plump fleshy seeds. One would then have to spend the day with ones sky blue skirt stained a stubborn bright purple.

When we shifted to our house in the University Campus we found the bungalow rich with a variety of rare fruits. The Campus stood on the grounds that were once an orchard of the Nawabs (even our address read Badshah Bagh). Kadamb and kamarakh spread out their thick branches among the mangoes and of course large lanky jamun trees .

While my grandmother who was diabetic, would collect the seeds, wash and powder them, saying they had medicinal value, we simply enjoyed the fruit. We even had a resident snake that lived high up in the tree. I don’t quite remember ever spotting him but we all knew he was there.

Once I moved out of home I lost touch with most seasonal fruits, including jamuns. Also, the strawberries and blueberries, avocados and dragon fruit elbowed it right out of my memory. 

But here it is, after all these years, delicious as ever with the added sweetness of nostalgia.

5 Replies to “Jamuns on my desk”

  1. Your post made me recall the lovely jamuns we enjoyed from the trees in my maternal grandparents’ place. I’m crazy about fruit and try to make sure I get all the seasonal fruit I can.
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  2. I loved your jamun tales. Made my mouth water. I have a bowl of washed jamuns on the dining table just now. I have loved jamuns since childhood. Have the same memory of the vendor selling plump jamuns in leaves topped with sendha namak. So delicious. After marriage, I introduced the husband to jamun. He knows how much I love the fruit. Now the kids love them too. Anytime anywhere jamun is spotted on thelas or in market, it has to be bought for me. So I have continued to have my fill every summer. It’s another tale that it is so expensive now. Jamun and litchis are my favourite among with shehtoot and phalse. The latter I can never find.

  3. Wow! This is like a story from my childhood, Tulika! Every summer, when my dadi came to our place from Jabalpur, she would place in our hands a cone made from jamun leaves, full of those berries that not just colored my tongue but made it itchy and numb! How I hated those fruits, still do. My husband loves them and so do my bird babies. There was a bowl of jamun on my table for the past week and it only reminded me of my childhood and of my dadi, and of how often I would wish she got something better for me than those berries that left a bad taste in my mouth. 🙂
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On my other blog: Beat About The Book

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