Thursday, June 12, 2008
in memory of "aanjili"
There is no spelling error there, friend. I am not talking of Anjali; who ever she is. It is aanjili, or the wild jack tree not really well known by the scientific name Artocarpus hirsutus Lam.
I take a trip down memory lane here...
In our back yard there were these towering trees that were easily taller than a 4 or 5 storeyed building. The base was atleast a metre thick. During summer, they bore apple-sized fruits we called "anjilikkai".
The fruits were sweet and had a flavor unlike any other fruit. They has this thin spiky outer skin; and small fruits inside; very much a small version of the jack fruit.
Getting them was the toughest part. The tree is really tall. Plus, they are always covered by weaver ants that could discourage any ambitious tree climber with their biting and formic acid sprays.
How ever there were some teenage guys around who would dare anything to get at the fruit. They would climb half-way and use a long stick with a hook & sack combo to gather the fruits. We children would wait impatiently below with our necks aching from looking up, for the goods to come down. A few would come down the way they shouldn't because the ripe fruit has a slender stalk. But once the aanjilikkai hits the floor; nothing much remains of the small fruit to be salvaged. The climbers were greeted with wild cheering when tey came down after the harvest! Then we shared the fruits. The tiny seeds could be sun dried and fried. Were a tasty snack!
There is now a single aanjili tree left in the back yard. She is also tall and bears fruit every year. No one goes harvesting these years. There are no more tree-climbing teens around. The others; no aptitude.
Last summer I saw the dried remains of the fruits lying all over. Very soon there would be no more such trees. It is very much in demand as a cheaper alternative for Teak wood. Soon the only way to see an anjilikaai would be to refer an encyclopedia. Or may be not at all. Even wikipedia didn't have a picture of it.
Aanjilikkai represented those years when we could climb trees, fall and climb again. Those times when we could splash around in the muddy water in the temporary ponds created by the monsoon in some of the low-lying areas around our house. We chased squirells, loved lost puppies, collected match-box labels and did a lot of silly meaning less stuff. Those days are gone. So would aanjili.
My daughter would be lucky to see one. There is still one left at home. But for many others, that wouldnt be the case. A tree that commanded respect from us kids, is soon to be extinct. So would its aanjilikkai.
I have decided to do one thing during my summer holidays back at home. Plant an aanjili. May be afew. For old times sake.
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