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FORBIDDEN FRUIT

I remember the trees groaning under the weight of those ripened fruits so prized by my father. There were rows and rows of those trees lining a plot of land near our residence inside our estate Kiran Bhawan. Father had imported those saplings from the Middle East and managed to grow them - to us at the time a strange fruit uncommon to our palate. We grew up amidst plum and peach trees dotting our orchard. Mangoes used to come to us from several sources but chiefly from a mango grove in Thulitar in Sindhu Palchowk district of Nepal inherited by us under the birta system. We also had persimmon growing in our garden, a fruit not indigenous to Nepal but first imported from Japan by Maharajah Dev Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana at the turn of the twentieth century. We Nepalese call it 'haluwabed' alluding no doubt to its sweetness. Dev was impressed by the Meiji Restoration and the ascendancy of Japan as a great power and had sent Nepalese students to study science and agriculture, I suppose one of his liberal acts that ultimately proved his own undoing. What my father imported is fig called 'anjeer' in Nepali, my father's favourite fruit.


Fig
After he took retirement from the army my father General Kiran was always emphasizing to anyone who would listen that he was retired but not tired. Perhaps it was because he retired at a relatively young age of 40 from the post of army Commander-in-Chief. He started the golf club, the first Rotary Club and the International Club in the compound of the venerated Hotel Royal in the bungalow that is known today as the 1905 Restaurant. He dug a Olympics size pond behind our residence and bred carps for angling. But I suspect his triumphant moment came when the figs started to grow from the saplings he had planted with his own loving hands. Every evening he would visit the trees and make sure all was right. I was mighty curious how the fruits would look like and taste.

Figs were one of the first fruits humans cultivated in western Asia dating back to 4,000 B.C. Sub-fossils have been found dating back to even earlier times circa 9,000 B.C. in the Jordan Valley. They come in a wide variety of trees bearing edible fruits and I remember that the ones grown at home were green to light brown outside with red nectarine pulp inside when fully ripened. I remember when the fruits were plucked a white sap ran out of the stem. The fruits were carefully washed in water colored light purple by potassium permanganate to cleanse them of germs and then it was ready for the table. My father would personally distribute them to us for eating.

There was one particular fruit that was growing larger than average and my father was waiting patiently for it to ripen. I remember him remarking on its colour and texture and wondering why it was larger than most. One day I returned home from school and my father was agitated. He asked me if I had plucked his prize fruit. I vowed my innocence but I think I must have blushed more by the thought that father would suspect me of eating his prized fruit than because of actual guilt. I will never know whether he believed me or not.

I don't come across fresh fig fruits anymore in Nepal. Whenever I fly past the middle eastern air hubs, I always make it a point to buy some dried and sweetened figs. I will always remember them as the forbidden fruit grown by my father once upon a time in Kiran Bhawan.


Comments

  1. Very informative post. Thank you for keeping this site.

    ReplyDelete
  2. great story about the fig tree. And how nice that it brings back memories for you when you go to the Middle East. But did your dad ever find out who stole the fruit?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, it remained a mystery as to who ate that fruit.

      Delete

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