2007/09/17

Hullabaloo with one mango tree( with apologies to Kiran Desai)

Sara's blog is the quintessential English blog . In her latest post she talks of blackberry picking at a local farm and mentions blackberry and apple crumble with lashings of fresh cream - delicious as all things forbidden to me are (sigh ).
Reminded me of mangoes in summer - In Jamshedpur we had a huge mango tree along one wall of the garden- it was huge and home to innumerable birds that flew in and out in all seasons and exotic insects that frequented the bungalow all the year around.
Every alternate year it yielded a rich haul of fruit which Ma dutifully shared with her neighbours including with the dog loving assassin next door - the Frenchman Saupin and his Burmese wife .
Saupin had three bulldogs who raised Cain when people came to their house and to other houses too and often jumped the wall and sat , tongue lolling maniacally, on our verandah steps to terrorise my sister and I . He also fished for mangoes with his fishing rod if my sister is to be believed . ( She is known to exaggerate heavily and in doing so often strays from the facts at hand).
In my in laws house at Kolkata the mango tree at the end of the garden just next to the green door , and alongside the rear wall ( "in the backside of the house"- so to say ) used to start flowering in mid spring - dusty golden green flowers - their smell mixed with that of the dhobi's coal ,wood ,cowdung fire smoke and emissions from cars ( Euro II being a recent phenomenon) used to travel back to the house and one had to filter through the layers - to get the distinctive sharp perfume .In retrospect it was quite a bountiful tree because it fed all the local little hooligans and there was quite a bit left over for BRG's friends and family .
As summer set in ,the street urchins used to hover in droves around the back wall and mark the tiny grub like fruit - as the fruit grew, so did BRG's tensions - the urchins , the rickshaw pullers , the little devils and the larger ones too from the bustee way down the road would all lay siege at various times of day , armed with slings , pebbles and other miscellaneous weapons .
Afternoons would be the best times because then BRG would retire for her siesta ( rest of the morning she would hang around the rear window and let loose a volley of invectives at the little bastards .
Things got pretty bad one year - in the middle of a kaal boishakhi -( the beautiful norwesters that strike suddenly in early summer and herald the advent of boishakh or the first month of the Bengali calendar with heavy ominous dark cluds , thunder , lightning and winds - particularly beautiful in Santiniketan) which shook and rattled the tree , our girl Friday at that time , Manju , locked up two kids in the servants' bathroom .
Another afternoon , Tupu then around 12 , grabbed one boy larger than her and forced him to drop the cache of mangoes which he had bundled up in his tee shirt - I've never seen her so fierce - shaking that boy like he was a sack of potatoes and yelling her guts out , till he dropped his bundle and ran for the wall leaving a slipper behind. He came back the next day for the slipper , saw Tupu and ran like the devil was at his heels .
Another time a gang of mango thieves from the local school for the underprivileged , bolted the door from outside and had a lovely time looting the tree . It was as good as a gang of monkeys marauding a fruit orchard .
All in all , with the first gust of the southern breeze ( dakhin hawa in Bengali immortalised by Tagore in his songs ) BRG's bp ususally low would start rising till it would reach a fever pitch with the ripening of the fruit . It would seem that not only man , but nature also conspired against her - the one green fruit cunningly hidden by a swathe of green leaves ,from sharp eyes turned a ripe yellow.
That week Tarapada the rascal extended his leave by a couple of days as was his wont and the birds ate the ripe mango - bit by delicious bit while ours ears ached with BRG's rants . That was it . No amount of sniping or sermonising about share and share alike worked on her . She pruned the branches after denuding the tree of all fruit .
Seven years ago just as the buds were blossoming , the tree was struck by lightining , in a kaal boishakhi , and shrivelled up . It stayed that way for some time but eventually had to be cut down . Now only the roots remain , long and arching and brown attached to a bit of trunk .
At first it seemed the sunlight was blinding - and the entire North wall looked kind of naked with no shade - now however we are used to it. Looking back I think BRG used to enjoy the tensions and strife that went alongwith the mango tree and even misses some of the excitement that the long summer would bring for her . I've suggested planting a sapling but she wont have it .

10 comments:

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Lovely. Nostalgia is your forte (I say again).

Now I'm a full-fledged fan.

J.A.P.

T said...

Haha, what about the time these kids locked us into the house and stripped the tree? That was toofunny. I didnt realise it's been seven years. SIGH.

Suki said...

Tagged. :)

Lahari Chatterji said...

Your mango tree had been an old friend of mine as it was just outside the window of my room.
I can feel your sighs at its loss.

Babluda said...

Ruma, which Saupin is this? When we were at the boarding in St.Xavier's School Hazaribag in the mid-60s, there was a Frenchman Mr.Saupin next door. He was intelligent, sightly built, dark enough to pass off as a Bengali, in his forties at the time with thinning hair, and pretty youthful. I remember he often wore a 'Beatle suit' in winter, which was quite 'in' at the time. Some of us were jealous of this as we were restricted to the school uniform. But there was more to arouse our jealousy - his wife was not Burmese but looked a Caucasian headhead. A dream 'older woman', she was a soft, petite attractive lady, usually in western clothes. She often came to our school with her husband at our Saturday evening movie shows. You can well imagine the effect this had on us teenaged boarding school boys - little kids tipsy with the very aroma of matured wine!
They were a very decent couple, probably childless, and occasionally invited some of us to their bungalow and treated us starving wretches to some lovely food and and their fine record collection. Though Saupin had a slight accent, madame spoke perfectly clear English and some said she was Anglo-Indian. Whatever her origins, she was a very lovely, graceful and kind lady and some of us still have vivid momories of her.
Their house is no longer there as can be seen in Wikimapia and I don't know if Monsieur Saupin settled in Jamshedpur later or married a second time or whether your Saupin was a brother or relative.
I am glad Taj advised me visit your latest blog and now I am flooded with memories of my schooldays.
Plant the mango and other saplings by all means and keep a big rotweiller!

Babluda said...

Forgot to mention that the Saupins of Hazaribagh also had dogs - I seem to recall dobermans at that point. They were pretty fierce too but some of us animal lovers were able to make friends and play with them from time to time. After all, there were big fierce dogs in our school as well and also at home - also cats.

iz said...

That's a pretty post!

eve's lungs said...

JAP - As always you are too kind. I guess it has something to do with old age- nostalgia I mean
T- Yes I did mention it
Suki- will do your tag
Taj - I guess so wasnt it lovely ?
Babluda - There couldnt be 2 such Saupins goatee, too many wives, dogs,guns and the Chhotanagpur Plateau.
Iz - Thanks girl, I love mango trees

Babluda said...

A friend says it could be the same Saupin but we can't remember any goatee at the time and don't know about the guns. The dogs may have been boxers, which resemble bulldogs. But others in Hazaribagh and Chhotonagpur had goatee, guns, dogs, fishing rods, different wives, the whole works!

NICUMD said...

Hi Babluda:

HOXA is having its reunion this Jan ....see details at hoxa50years.org

Tom