Monday, June 15, 2009

Jack for all trades

“Ah! You’ve inherited my Number One”, said granny when we moved into our new home in her backyard. What she alluding to was yellow, strong smelling and exactly what you were thinking of: A small innocuous variety of Jackfruit that she’d planted in the corner of her garden, now the driveway to our home.

In the twelve years that we’ve been here, Number One has faithfully yielded smallish yet absolutely delicious crops of crisp, non-fibrous fruit- the best I’ve ever tasted. This year however, it’s gone crazy. Over 30 huge fruit dangle obscenely from various parts of its long spindly trunk. We think the extraordinary yield is because it’s finally managed to pierce through the crown of the heavy mango tree that had been shading it all these years.

The produce from Number two, a much heavier yielding though marginally less crisp variety in our backyard, has always been reserved for friends, visitors and colleagues. This year, the thought of dealing with the bumper crop from both the trees is enough to make us all ignore them steadfastly, rather than deal with the sticky mess of cutting them down and processing them.

At work, this time of year has always been eagerly anticipated. All my chakka*-starved mallu colleagues at work would wait eagerly for the season, so I could bring and dump some yellow goodness on them. “In my nayteew, we used to get like this oLLy. My andy used to make jaam with jayckfruit, yinnow, chakkavaratti?” They’d say. “Blurgh yes. Notte quiteh my favouriteh”, I’d think.

The Tam gumbal would pipe up from random corners of the office “Bunrotti palaa* you have eatena? Supera irukkum”, they’d say. “What on earth possessed anyone to name a village Bun-rotti?” I’d think.

“Aiyo maraya namma oorinalli idral yenth-enthadhella maadthaare gotha? Happala, huli, pallya, chipsu.. Ohh halasina hannu* illadhe jeevanave nadiyuvudilla(I use it as a facial scrub daily. It's great for my skin), my Mangalorean friends would go. “Slurrp, ngn”, I’d go.

“In Vizianagaram, jeshtu oui are getting beshtu panasa* andi”, the Telugu bunchu would remarku. “Yes, commaan, let us vizit-the-nagaram”, I’d thinku.

“Kamaal hai yaar”, my northie frands would add. “Yahaan pe averybody is eating ripe? Hamare yahaan kathal* ki subzee banti hai.” (In Norththth na, we use iskin of jeckfruit in geography class as relief map of himalayas yaar.) “What next? Bhindi ka halwa?” I’d think. Wouldn’t put it past my Madras paati though.

“Plaa-mushu* na yenna nu theriyumo?” She’d begin sagely. “Yen maamiyaar aathulai adhukku nanna kadugu thaalichu thoenga, gueenga ellaam pottu masichu shaapuduvaa. Bhaama maamiyaar aathulai athai rendu eeda vadhakki….” (Lost me at plaa-mushu) At which point I’d go “Mushu mushu haashi deo malai lai.”

Last year, an oldish gentleman walked in from the road and helped himself to a fruit off Number One. He was making slow progress down the road thanks to the weight and prickliness of the fruit. “But, aunty gave it to me”, he said with a practiced expression of goggle-eyed innocence when we caught up with him. Aunty (my mother), who under normal circumstances would have paid him to get the fruit off her hands, quickly snatched it back from him. She did not take kindly to people her age calling her aunty.

As for this year, I don’t think we can pull off ignoring the bumper crop any more. The trees are groaning with the weight and the squirrels are making rude noises at us while they tunnel through the ripening fruit. We’ve already commenced negotiations with Numbers One and Two in an attempt to convince them not to ripen too quickly (or ever). I’m also making a Tibetan-style endless-loop CD with the words “Must deal with jackfruit”, set to a tinkly contemplative tune to play while the family sleeps.

If all the above doesn’t work, we’ll need some help. Any volunteers? Be fair warned that you will have to deal with the cutting and scooping yourself. We’re too posh for all that soht of thing dahling.


Chakka, panasa, pala, kathal, halasina hannu = Jackfruit
Pala mushu = baby jackfruit (cooked as a vegetable, looks suspiciously like mutton!)