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A summer flavour

There was a time when the arrival of the palm fruit vendor was eagerly awaited in Bengaluru.

After circling around the park six times with brisk steps, I decided to call it a day, feeling fit and fine. Dusk had crept in and a mild breeze ruffled my wavy hair. I barely turned into the leafy Clarke Road when I spotted this bearded, middle-aged man standing with his cycle, a big basket sitting on the rear seat, selling something temptingly familiar.

I stopped in my tracks. In the twilight, I eyed the stuff in the basket. Did my mouth water or was there a tear of happiness in my eye? It didn’t matter. Instantly, I sauntered down memory street — to the summer of the 1960s and 1970s of good old Bangalore.

After nightfall, the loud shouts of “Taatiningo, Taatiningo” was enough for children to scurry out of their homes and urge the vendor (with a basket on his cycle, the palm fruit spread over leaves) to stop as mothers followed with a bowl to haggle and select the best ones.

Call it Thaati Nungu, ice apple, fruit of the sugar palm tree or whatever, this watery summer fruit was so much part of the growing up years of most Bangaloreans when it was a quiet, sleepy city with independent houses and plenty of time on one’s hands.

The palm fruits used to arrive from outside Bangalore by trains — the Madras-Bangalore Express or the Cochin Express. The vendors waited outside the East or Cantonment railway stations to collect the fruits, load up the baskets on to their cycles and do some brisk business on the streets.

Summer holidays were upon us, household chores were done, and the evening stretched itself lazily with nothing much to do. Sometimes we buried ourselves in books or we sang together or simply chatted. There was no television, no Internet, thankfully.

So, the cries of “Taatiningo, Taatiningo” signalled an outing, not to some picnic spot or a friend or relative’s house. It was from inside our home to the outdoors (our compound) for the daily treat. We carried our own chairs or stools, some sat on the steps at the entrance. As the branches of the trees gently swayed and leaves rustled in the cool, summer breeze, we savoured this lovely, seasonal fruit, amid much chatter and laughter until the season ended.

“Oh my god,” a sudden cry would be heard as the jelly-like fruit slipped out of someone’s hand and fell on the ground. It would be picked up, washed well and eaten. Such occurrences were common if you were eating the fruit carelessly.

For it required patience. The light brown skin of the fruit had to be peeled neatly before one could make a tiny opening on the jelly-like flatish round kernel to first sip the juice and then munch it deliciously akin to tender coconut. Of course, it is a tad sweeter than tender coconut.

“Saar yeshtu beku (Sir, how many do you want?),” the vendor asked in Kannada, shaking me out of my reverie. I asked for six, paid him what seemed like a fortune compared with what we paid in the past and walked home happily. This time, though, we sat indoors around the dining table in our apartment and enjoyed the treat!

stanleycarvalho@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 10:41:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-summer-flavour/article31431692.ece

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