The kul (Indian plum) tree in our courtyard was the envy of our neighbors. This time of the year the tree used to be loaded with the sweetest kul I have ever tasted. As students in Bengal, it was forbidden to eat the fruit before Saraswati Puja (the Goddess of Education). The puja is usually held in the first week of Feb. Kul is a trademark offering to Goddess Saraswati. Our elders used to warn us that eating kul before the puja is sacrilege. Goddess Saraswati punishes such students by failing them in exams. This was probably a technique to save the fruits for the pujas and save the children from overeating.
I must admit I never followed this dictum. Every afternoon I used to creep out of bed and tiptoe out of the room. I used to climb up a shaky and rusted waterpipe caring little for life, and get on to the terrace. This was paradise on the roof..the branches of the kul tree had spread themselves on the roof and were laden low with ripe, yellow, juicy kuls. This was my time and space. None, except the langurs can bother me here. Ah the langurs, about whom I’ll tell you another day. I used to have my fill and carry more for later, carefully hiding them in my pockets. There was a bigger kul tree in our neighbour’s courtyard. While our kul was round and sweet with a small kernel, their kul was long with a big and sharp kernel. Their variety was called ‘narkel’ (coconut) kul as the fruit tasted of coconut. Another striking difference was the neighbour’s variety had a lot of worm infestation. Our’s had very less or none. The word about the kul tree had spread and had made our house popular in the neighbourhood. Errant students on their way back from school or college used to raid our house, throwing stones at the tree. It was my job to rush out with a pole shouting ‘Ke re?'(who is there?). On most occasions it worked, except once when the invaders were twice my age and size.
I do not know whether the tree is still there. We left the house in 1990. The tree has a special place in my heart. I am planning a visit to my favourite kul tree the next time I visit my hometown Durgapur!