THE headline ‘Chocolate made from jackfruit seeds can end world’s cocoa crisis’ made me comment alongside the item on my social media page, ‘A bonanza for coffee estates?’ Memories came flooding in from a childhood in Saklespur, where I witnessed this fruit going waste in coffee estates all over the Western Ghats!
My romance with ‘jack’ or ponos, as we call it in Konkani, started with the twin sentinels in the courtyard of our home in Karngalpady, Mangalore — the twins being the ponos and pal-ponnos (wildjack). The trees, with their massive trunks, provided the front facade outside our portico. Kapo ponos gave us the sugary-sweet, slightly hard pods of deep-yellow inner flesh when ripe; while palponos, with its smaller orangy-red pods, compensated the absence of rossall ponos, with its almost-dissolving-in-the-mouth flesh needed for patholli — the delightful dumpling steamed inside large teak (sagwani) leaves that coated it in a reddish-purple hue.
And then dad acquired coffee estates in Saklespur with an abundance of jackfruit midst other shade trees that provided a canopy for coffee plants against the scorching sun. Each tree bore 100-200 fruits, almost all the rosall type, which when overripe just dropped and rotted. As a little boy, I couldn’t digest the rotting fruit spreading filth and going waste, as neither was there a market for it nor demand, despite its glorious aroma comparable to a combination of apple, pineapple, mango and banana.
The ‘no demand’ is not actually true. The wild boar loved this sweet and slushy fare, attracted by the tangy fragrance that wafted for miles. In herds they visited the tree sites in the dead of night. And so, there was this time when we went wild-boar baiting. We remained awake atop a tree, waiting for the herd to arrive. It was early hours when they came, led by a huge male with curled tuskers; their grunts betraying their presence. We switched on our piercing headlights on our hunters’ helmet and viewed the scene.
Before dad could decide on his first prey, I slipped from the perch, my horrified father watching the king boar scratch the earth in readiness to charge. Unable to get the game between the eyes, and knowing a hit elsewhere would only scratch and bounce to enrage it more, pater jumped into the boar’s path. From my supine position amid rotten filth, I watched him fire. The shot got the beast, but did not slow its charge. The rhino-sized boar knocked down my father, who now had the rifle by the barrel using it like a club to clobber it down.
I feared the worst, and closed my eyes, affixed in a trance and unable to move. And opened them only when I heard dad’s voice calling me to help extricate him from under the hairy mass of bristled black leathery dead meat over him. The rifle’s butt was broken in two. It took a dozen strong shoulders to transport the beast from the jungle to the bungalow.
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