The Colour Purple

Its August, and jamun season. Or maybe jamun season comes twice and the first time passed by unnoticed? I’ve always been a city ditz about seasons, and I always sleepwalk through a particular season and panic-edly relish it the next time it rolls around. I’ve done that for monsoons, bhutta season and jamuns. 

So, oh, yes. To begin again – its August, and jamun season. The cracks in Delhi’s badly-made streets are filled with crushed green seeds and wrinkly purple skins. In Lutyen’s Delhi, where the faraway benevolent overlord planted fruit trees along the boulevards, the overhanging green canopy rains fruits. Their black bodies bounce onto and roll along the pavements. So many that I wish the municipal corporation strung up nets to catch them before they got smashed under tires and feet. I could eat this one, and this one and this one, I think, as I carefully step around them, like a child avoiding the joins in the paving. I wonder what makes them so damn tempting. It could be the simple rightness of fruit on trees. The fact that I can see them hanging there, magically appearing almost overnight; a reminder that fruits don’t come from carts or industrial freezers. Yet I don’t have the courage to bend down and pick up the fruit everyone else appears to disdain. I allow myself to be restrained by unspoken social propriety in not jumping at the shortest branches. This is the hardest to do in North Campus – peer pressure is strongest, naturally, when surrounded by one’s peers.

The smell of jamuns, unlike that of neem fruits, is more an undercurrent than an assault. One part is slightly sweet; only just enough. The rest is a watery, sticky sort of smell. I love it. The reason for this bias, I think, is that I used to pluck the meager harvest from the jamun trees that lined my school’s playground. From the time I hit puberty and began gaining height, till the time that everyone else shot up while I remained a 5’2″, I realised I could reach the lowhanging branches, or maybe climb up a small gnarled knot, and know the pleasure of eating fruit I had picked with my own hands. There were a few incidents of other girls pointing out that my underpants were showing in my singleminded quest for jamuns, and a few incidents of said jamuns staining the monogrammed breastpocket of my school shirt a deep, permanent purple. I remember putting to good use a tall boy who had a misguided crush on me. (A small selfishness, I believe – I did offer him half the pickings).

Last year I bought jamuns – the large, market variety, not the small, berry-sized rain from the roadside trees – thrice. I regret not buying them every day; I’m a terribly lazy fruit-buyer. I can’t even be bothered to cater to my own tastes. While this has caused me to lose interest in mangoes and litchis, my regret is the strongest when I fail to consume adequate quantities of jamuns. So if you’re planning to see me this season, bring me a packet (without the salt, please). You shall be refunded, of course. And you shall have my thanks.

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