THE house where we live has an abundant green cover — the African tulip, beech, rain tree, eucalyptus and mango. Various birds, insects and palm squirrels frolic on the branches, live in their hollows and gorge on the fruits, flowers and worms on offer. But while each tree has got its peculiar charm, the mango tree stands out.
One is unsure about the tree’s age, but it has been around for as long as one can remember. The rich green leaves sparkle, and my significant other is in awe of the fragrance. The tree’s large leaves are in great demand on festive occasions when the entrance to homes get dressed up with bunting made of marigold and fresh mango leaves. Laden with golden mangoes in summer, our ‘tall green friend’ is a sight to behold.
Butterflies flit beside the leaves and flowers, the ravens and other small birds land on the branches for a brief stopover, and squirrels skip and scamper along its wide arms. Our friend also acts as a barrier to ward off the sun’s harsh rays, and the creaking noise it makes is music to the ears.
An elderly neighbour, Kamlesh Dholakia, who suddenly succumbed to Covid, was an ardent fan of the tree. He would wake up to the sight of the green beauty every morning — the tree stood bang opposite his bedroom window. He spent hours marvelling at it and savouring the luscious fruits during the season. He had harvested the fruits for the past five years and extolled the ‘king of fruits’, besides reeling off the names of countless other mango varieties he fancied. The scent of ripe mangoes always fascinated him.
One of his pet peeves was discovering fruits missing from a branch. Harvest time would see us knocking off the ripe fruits, counting them and distributing the bounty to the neighbours. He would also squirrel away raw mangoes felled by gusty winds and turn them into perfectly cooked spuds using jaggery.
Last November, we lopped off some of the tree’s arms that extended onto the roadside to prevent the fruits and deadwood from falling on the cars parked below. But soon, the tree sprouted fresh foliage and followed it by flowering profusely, which gladdened our hearts. The tree stood in glorious splendour as the leaves transformed from an orange-pink hue to glossy red, finally turning into dark green.
As the fruiting season approached and the tree displayed a profusion of flowers, another bumper harvest appeared imminent. But, sadly, Kamlesh was not around to witness it. Inexplicably then, weeks later, the tree dropped buds and flowers. For one that always produced basket-loads of fruits, this was unbelievable. To everybody’s dismay, the tree finally ended up bearing only a couple of fruits, left for the squirrels to feast on. One was left puzzled on whether the tree was grieving the loss of its ardent admirer or just ran out of steam? The answer to this question remains elusive!
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