Thursday, October 13, 2005

A fruity trip down the memory lane

I mentioned being in Islamabad yesterday. Most people know of Pakistan being a nation hostile to India and off course about their cricket rivalry. But, am sure most expat Indians would vouch for having a pleasant experience on meeting expat Pakistanis. I can do so again and again. I’ve met Pakistanis abroad too many times and am always reminded of a common history and a common culture, but never the rivalry. I guess its true that citizens of a country don't hold the same issues close to their hearts as their politicians.
Am not a political person, so, will not discuss that any more. And this blog is anyways about memories, pleasant memories of places I’ve been to.
Of course, I don't remember a lot of our stay at Pakistan, as I happened to be 3 yrs old when we went there. What I do remember however , are all the different plants or trees we had in our garden, or, ppl around us, had, in theirs. Islamabad happens to be a very fertile place and you don't have to be a green thumb for things to take root and yield their bounty. My parents took full advantage of this fact and planted seasonal vegetables in the rows around the garden. In one corner was the Papaya tree. To this day, I don't like papaya, but have fond memories of climbing up on the boundary wall and shaking down a papaya each time any one wanted one. Off course, the day my parents had planted the papayas, something interesting had happened. My bro, whom, some people also know as smartass, had just heard about the money plant. He had then seen mom and dad, put papaya plants in the soil. He put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5. So when mom and dad took a nap, bro dear put his plan in action. Out come the papaya saplings and in go the rupee notes. When mom and dad woke up, he rushed to tell em of his brilliant strategy for getting rich. Dad off course dug the notes out and replaced em with newer saplings. To this day , one of the notes survives in his file. Mom says that that's the shagun my bro’s future wife is getting. That, I must say, is a kickass introduction to the insanity that runs in my family.
So, back to the flora. One of our neighbors had a loquat tree in their garden. Man am I glad mom was friends with that lady. Most afternoons after school found us in her garden, me jumping around like a monkey, trying to get at the fruits, which were at that time green and tangy. I’ve always had a taste for sour things and I just loved the green loquats. Off course the ripe fruits are better and those are the ones that are commonly seen. I am saying commonly seen, but outside of Islamabad, Japan is the second place I’ve seen them growing like I remember from Islamabad. Japan happens to be the biggest producer of loquat, or Biwa, as they are known here.
While I was at New York, I saw loquats, once, at a hole in the wall store owned by an elderly Chinese gentleman. The moment he saw me make a beeline for loquats, I think we connected on some level. He could see I had just renewed contacts with a childhood acquaintance.
If I am writing about a fruit, can a recipe for it, be far behind? This time, however, the recipe isn’t mine, nor is the preparation. Lemme introduce you to Obachan. She is an amazing lady, I’ve met on the WWW and she makes these amazing things in her kitchen. Here are her experiments with loquats from her parents’ orchard. Do you see what I mean by memories here?
We have a loquat tree growing in campus here and I’ve taken pictures of it. It does not do justice to the picture I have in my mind of that loquat tree in a corner of a garden in Islamabad, but then, no picture does that.
When loquats were in season, here in Japan, I hogged those, as I am well aware, that once I leave this country, I may not see these again. What I also did is something out of my trust for nature. I am not a green thumb, but I took the loquat seeds and put them in the soil in a pot. Thankfully they took root and I now have three saplings. We would soon be leaving this accommodation. So mom and I took those saplings out of the pot and have put them in the soil in the backyard. I am hoping that a few yrs down the line some Indian kid can have the memories I have and cherish them for years. If some yrs down the line, I come across a blog like mine, I’ll know, my loquat tree is doing fine. Or is that too much of leap into the future?


Salonii said...

Lovely, lovely blog bilbo! I loved it! Have heard mom talk about loquats and for some reason, though i never ate them when i was a kid, i associate them with my childhood as well.

Saw some here the other day - ma would've been thrilled.

Oh! and yes, did I ever tell you that I am very jealous that you got to live in Pakistan and I didn't? ;D

SeaSwallowMe said...

that was a nice rewind, bilb. hilarious stuff about your brother's antics (and your parents saving the evidence !)

Fizo said...

wonderful read. The pics make the blog so appealing! I have always wanted you to blog about life in Pakistan...would love to read more..!!

FunnyCide said...

very nice. though I dont think I know even now what loquats are, I enjoyed reading the childhood memories. One smartass brother you have. :))

it must have been fun moving between countries in your childhood. That is one thing I would have changed about my childhood, cos now I will never know how it would have been. [but oh! well, I have the other kind of memories, same neighborhood, same aunties, same uncles and neighborhood kids I grew up with!!]

bottled-imp said...

like funny, i have no clue about what this fruit is all about. that apart, good to see this 'blog-flow' from you.

and funny you should write about your childhood (was that in Seethamadhara?) and btw are you a Timpot? (folks, Timpany school specialised in nurturing nose-in-the-air kind of kids in Vizag)

Reshmi said...

hmm.... have no clue what a loquat is! but lovely blog.
maybe u shud leave a note in this apt for the future tenant to update u of its progress :)

my only claim to green-thumbry is a pumpkin patch one season in high school. it prospered :D

Priyamvada_K said...

I too don't know what a loquat is (thanks for the reference), and have never seen one.

But nice walk down memory lane. True, expat Indians and Pakistanis share warm vibes. But would that make me bold enough to walk in Islamabad, dressed in a saree, casually wearing my bindi? I think not :(. Hope such a day comes, though.


cheti said...


lovely blog !! nice nostalgic ramble !!! big gardens ...plants and trees in the backyard ... wow .. makes me nostalgic now !

bilbo said...

thanks guys for all the nice comments.
sal, am glad u like the loquats too. they are among my favouite fruits.
dooba hua,
I seriosly think that there should be a statute of limitation on these childhood stories.
I'd love to write more abt Pakistan too. but, I was too young to remember and mom wont co operate :(
the grass is indeed greener on the other side. I don't resent the life I've had. It definitely has its ups , but I do , sometimes find myself rootless. oh well all the better to fly with :)
imp resh priya, loquats are available for a short period in delhi . They aren't as good as islamabad or here but they are there. I know for a fact that they can grow in CA and I've seen em in NYC. So there you go. Once you taste em , you'll know what I am talkin abt.
Priya, you prolly can not walk in islamabad as you described, but then , do u walk like that in the states on a regular basis? I think not :) Indians do not dress the same as before these days. I wear chudidaars only for very formal dinners and that too only when i really have to go.

topkapi said...

Bilbs - lovely blog - though add me to the list of non loquat eaters/see-ers!
Blog on about all the other places you have lived in during your nomadic childhood. (recipes and food photos optional) :)

p.s. - you can't imagine how many permutations of username and password i had to try out before posting this comment.... :((

SeaSwallowMe said...

i'm astonished !!

you guys haven't eaten loquats ?? ... a friend has a couple of loquat trees in his backyard over here. and i see them in farmer's markets all the time.

bilb - "statute of limitations" ?? .. no way, not for childhood nostalgia !

Neets said...

dude, what ever your name is, there is one thing i found common here... a massive , unrealistic attachment to our past. those last lines... "I am hoping ...Indian kid ...doing fine. " it sounds like the wacko hopes i have. nice blog man! will come back.