The Jack Fruit Tree

Don’t really know when I was born but I definitely know who planted me & gave me food ‘n water &… more importantly, a life. A life, protected from mostly the lost cattle or the wandering goats. Hi… I’m the jack fruit tree & my owner; let’s just call him, the sarpanch… the village head. It’s been more than 20 yrs since he passed away & here I am, still standing tall at roughly around 85 yrs assuming that my sarpanch planted me when he was around 25. Oh, the sarpanch was 92 when he breathed his last. I can still recollect his last few moments that he spent under my shade… on the same bench that he himself had laid there. Those countless days that he spent the hot afternoons under me, those countless panchayat judgements he passed sitting on the same bench… still feels like all these happened only a few years ago. *sigh*

I remember the sarpanch’s house… a full house… there was never a day when this house had not seen a guest. Almost everybody has tasted me, I mean… my fruits. Mind you, I’m still very capable of bearing the sweetest fruits. Kids used to pelt stones hoping they would get a prize catch, but believe me… never have I complained in these many years of existence. I’m not one of those too tall or too huge varieties. Maybe that’s why they often say… nice things come in small packages!

Of all who have spent some time with me or around me, it’s the sarpanch’s youngest grandson who loves me the most (at least, that is what I would like to believe). I’ve seen him play with the sarpanch sitting on the bench & at the end of it, he would make away with 4 annas from his granddad to buy colourful candies or small wooden toys. I’ve even seen him imitate his granddad lying on the bench, with his feet crossed & hands behind his head looking at me. Those were the good old days when there was just this one house he used to visit. Now, it’s a very different story. Families have split… people have moved on, some to the cities and others, to places from where they’ll never come back. Bah! I don’t believe in re-births… though, I’d like to believe that the sarpanch will come back again. I remember distinctly & begin to wither when I think of that dreadful day when the sarpanch’s lifeless body was kept under me. That has to be the saddest day of my life with scores of people pouring in to pay their last homage to this man who had fought relentlessly for one reason or the other… right from his younger days where he fought against the British rule to his last days where he had to fight to keep the family together.

I’ve seen so many new lives springing up in this household & thankfully, not that many people kicking the bucket (if I may say that… sorry, but all my emotions have dried up). But somewhere in the corner of my… well, I don’t have a mind, so, somewhere in the corner of my heart, I yearn for that broken stone bench to be fixed & I want the sarpanch’s last grandson to be the one to do it. I’ve heard him talk to his dad and uncles about this. I’m hoping that he really does something about it. No matter how much ever the landscape around me has changed with all those lush green paddy fields turned into residential plots, bullock carts making way for today’s motorized vehicles & all that crap, I’d still want that bench back & SOON!

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