The family affair
N J Ravi Chander
Bengaluru was once the ‘Garden City’, ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’, and ‘No Fan Station’, a moniker earned because of the many parks, gardens and pleasant climate. There was a garden in every house and trees on every street. Passengers arrived in steam trains, and you could hail a horse jutka if you liked. Life indeed moved at a snail’s pace before it made way for the IT boom and the concrete jungle.
I count myself lucky to be born in an era when the city was densely wooded and dotted with gabled colonial cottages. Our ancestral home in Fraser Town was not short of vegetation either, filled with fruit trees and flowering herbs. But the real stars were the two colossal guava trees that rose from either side of the small monkey-top bungalow.
They guarded us against the elements and provided cool shade during the summer months. We frolicked on the sturdy branches during the holidays, devoured the fruits and took in the views from our lofty perch. It was on these trees that we honed our climbing skills.
My father, M N Jayaraman, was a champion climber himself and would scamper up to the far reaches of the trees in no time. Such was his skill that he would swing through the trees with the ease of a gymnast and could have possibly given even the comic strip hero Tarzan a good run for his money. My four siblings and I did try our best to steal a march over him but could only finish second best.
Harvesting the fruits was a family affair, and it required a reasonable team effort. While my father would scamper up first with a cloth bag in tow, my younger brother and I would follow him. We would take up vantage positions on the tree, and after the bag got filled to the brim with fruits, it got relayed down to the waiting arms of my other younger siblings. Then, the bag emptied of its contents would travel up again, and the exercise would resume.
A bamboo pole fitted with a metal hook would come in handy to knock down the luscious, ripe fruits that were out of reach. My siblings would hold a bedsheet underneath to ensure that the guavas had a soft landing. A loud cheer would go up every time the fruits were pouched.
My mother, Padmakumari, watched from the sidelines, ready to collect the bounty and deposit them inside the kitchen. Next, the fruit bounty got distributed to friends and relatives. A few street urchins who gathered on the street to watch the harvest exercise would also be rewarded with fruits. Finally, my mother would wash the guavas, pass the cut fruits through a fine-mesh sieve, collect the pulp and turn them into delicious jams and jellies for the breakfast table.
The climbing sessions on the guava trees were rewarding and made us sturdy and energetic. Moreover, they instilled in us a sense of fearlessness to take on the world. Our green friends were our companions for close to five decades and witnessed many festivities and family get-togethers.
They provided unalloyed joy, but all enjoyable experiences cannot last forever! Father time caught up with them, and they withered away, leaving us gloomy. It was excruciating to see our beloved trees go after years of bonding, but it soon dawned on us that nothing in life is permanent.
(The author is a former banker who has taken to writing as a past time. He contributes to many National and regional publications including ‘Kashmir Vision’)