Fruity Bonanza

As a child I remember reading the story of an old man who was seen planting a mango stone on the roadside. When asked, he had unhesitatingly replied that he hoped the seed would one day sprout plant that would eventually grow into a tree to provide shade to weary road travellers and bear fruit to eat. The intrigued onlooker couldn't help express the sheer foolishness and futility of a person of advanced age indulging in such a useless and unfruitful an exercise, for the mere reason that there was no hope of this seed blossoming into a fruit bearing tree in the old man's own lifetime. The grey-haired one was quick to point out that all his life he had enjoyed the fruits from trees planted by others who had already departed to the nether world. Had they not been thoughtful enough to plant seeds in their own lifetime, the current generations would never have enjoyed what there was now to enjoy. The moral of the story was not lost on us.

I have never stopped quoting this story again and again to our present day youth who unfortunately are brain stormed by management gurus only to think of the present, of immediate gains for quick returns, to enable them outwit all others with innovative measures that'd ensure advancement and self progress in a totally selfish and materialistic approach. But while preaching so, I have never been able though to shake off that tiny feeling of regret still gnawing at my insides, remembering pater who never really could in his own life time reap the fruits of his own toils. Especially in the matter of his passion for planting fruit trees.

Blessed with green fingers, all his life pater planted and planted. As a child and in his youth before flying his parents' nest, he planted in the family gardens in Bajpe. And then at Sukh Sagar in Mangalore, the dream home he constructed for the family he raised. I recall, my early days were spent in this house with a large compound full of trees - many yielding, and many others not yet. Guava, Chickoo, Karmbalan, Papaya, Binda, Banana to Pamelo, - there even was a sour Ambada, a Fig and a Badaam - not forgetting the Mango overlooking our house-hugging well, and the twin sentinels in front of the house - the Jackfruit and Pal-ponnus the wild-jack, with their annual delicious fare. And the compound was laden with numerous and inevitable tall coconut and areca palms on which I honed my tree climbing skills. We left all this behind for someone else to enjoy, when father bought his coffee estates and moved to the ghats in search of greener pastures.

At the estate it was total pioneering work once again. While coffee it was he grew for bread and butter, his passion for planting fruit trees never abated till his end. And he filled the bungalow block - as we called that portion in the immediate vicinity of our estate house, with fruit plants of every conceivable type. Grafted mangoes of more than a dozen variety were laid in neatly demarcated pits around the coffee drying yards, amidst the already existing orange inherited on the estate. In the inherited-on-the-estate category, I can close my eyes and still inhale the aromatic perfumed whiff of the delicious rose-apple even as I now write about it. The also existing stray and scattered pine-apple cacti, he had them replanted in neat rows to form an exclusive garden, around which he imported banana of every size and shape, colour and hue. The tiny deballin to saldati, to the bigger green-jacketed and the large cooking-vegetable types, experimenting with the giant nendarkais of Malabar from which plantain chips are made and the exotic and bulbous red-skinned delicious that never stopped fascinating me. He experimented even with grapes, plum, cherry and apple, that needed colder climes, and was satisfied each year when one of his estate papayas, pine-apples, or other fruit invariably bagged the first prize at the annual horticultural show.

Retiring to Bangalore in his twilight years, he once again filled our garden in Palmgrove Road with coconut palms, jack, badaam, papaya and grapes. After he departed to claim his just heavenly reward, the developers pulled down our old mansion to make way for modern flats. I insisted though, that they save the trees my pater planted. The jackfruit and the abundance of coconut yield from the trees that shield our Ligoury Court from the dusty noisy road below, are still a reminder of dad's green fingers that spell out the largeness of his heart and his role as a provider even from heaven.

Today when I pay astronomical prices for fruit to feed my children, I cannot but help look back with nostalgia and regret on those times when we appreciated not father's endeavour. The abundance of fruit on the farm, especially the orange, Jack, guava, pineapple, rose-apple and banana, had then saturated our tiny pallets to an extent as to shun the sight of fruit. Much to our regret today, when we long for the very sights we once shunned in disgust and contempt. With all his children scattered in different corners of the world and disappointed in their not wanting to build on parental endeavour on lands that were nourished by the sweat of his brow, father disposed off all his estates one by one. Leaving behind the fruits of his life time's toils for others to enjoy. Only the sweet fruity memories of those days linger in our minds amidst the many fascinating facets and attributes of our pater, still around to remember him by.

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