I loved visiting my grandparents during summers. They lived in a sprawling bungalow surrounded by mango trees and a litchi orchard in a quiet town that went to bed by eight.
Unlike the blistering heat of today , the days were warm and one could happily spread a mat under the mango canopy and laze about in the summer sun. Climbing trees was dangerous (I was the overweight and clumsy kid) and therefore thrilling. It had to be done when no one was looking .
Ah! Makes me want to break out into the John Denver song, ‘Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy’.
Come to think of it, then we did not use the fans much. The minute its setting was turned to the maximum, the heavens would open. The air would be once again cool, buzzing with bees, swarming around the fruit ripe for picking.
Sure enough, as kids we were right there to pluck the luscious litchis straight off the low lying branches. Of course we had to be careful not to do so from the trees that had been contracted to be sold; grandparents and gardeners can be tricky people when angry but we were young and rebellious.
While the rest of the household snoozed, we were out picking the juiciest, pulling its soft reddish green skin delicately with our fingernail to uncover the white pulp wrapped tightly around its hard brown seed. The sticky juice would run down our fingers, its sweet and sour taste sharply hitting the tongue and the ground would be littered with discarded peels and seeds within no time.
We ate till it was late or even better, not caught.
The adults had their hands full for we were not the only ones the fruit needed protecting from.
Bats! The same bats from Batman stories and Dracula legends. These litchi loving winged creatures made quite a formidable opponent. Even today, the evidence is all over the floor in the morning and in the visibly stripped branches.
Hmm… so who do we call for help?
The friendly Spider-Man has been in the neighbourhood. I guess his gigantic webs are saving more than the scarecrow propped among the branches.
Also nothing can quite replace the protective zeal displayed by personal supervision. The gardener’s son has set camp underneath the trees to keep watch. I believe he keeps the handy dandy catapult close to deter the foolhardy.
Beware, humans and nonhumans!
Thou shall not touch the fruit.
So you can see, saving litchis is a pretty deadly affair.
I wonder whether will we ever be equally serious about saving the trees .