The jackfruit sapling, that Dada and I discovered quite accidentally during one of our evening hide-and-seek sessions, is now in her prime. Laden with luscious fruit.
We had dragged Grandma, reading her ancient Ramayana with its yellow mothballed pages and a red hardbound cover, to come and check. What is this plant Grandma ? And where did this come from ? We had quizzed.
Grandma was an encyclopaedia on trees, she knew them all, when they flowered, when they bore fruit, how to preserve seeds, anything and everything. And nurtured them as her children. That’s a jackfruit tree, Grandma told us in her matter-of-fact tone, but who planted it ?
Manik kaka was called for. While he did verify with a sagacious nod that it was a jackfruit sapling, he too had no clue where it had come from.
Nevertheless, the sapling was watered every day and tended to lovingly. Dada and I waited with bated breath for the first fruit to appear.
And in the meantime, Grandma regaled us with stories of her childhood, of black bear, intoxicated after a sinful feast on mahua, foraying into backyards to gorge on ripe jackfruit. We would be dead scared. And discover tufts of black fur all over the garden the next morning, she would declare almost theatrically. Bear love jackfruit. And mahua of course.
For quite a while, Dada and I were too intimidated to venture out after sunset into the garden, lest an adventurous black bear, addicted to jackfruit, come visiting by.
Of course there were no bears in our village. But the children in us were blissful in our ignorance.
And it suited Maa and Grandma just perfectly to ensure we were indoors by sunset, something that was otherwise an arduous struggle, at least with Dada.
And it’s these fleeting images that play in my mind as I shape my enchor cutlet this afternoon. Nostalgia. Sweet nostalgia.
Enchor cutlet. Green jackfruit and cholar dal cooked with ginger. Peanuts for the crunch. Chilies for the heat. Roasted cumin for that earthy perfume. Dipped in batter and deep fried.
Pure sin !!!!
Enjoy as grey winter ebbs away and we move into jackfruit season !!!