Custard Apples

August 11, 2010


Come rainy season and it would be custard apple downpour.

The hitherto unnoticed and not much cared for custard apple trees would become the most important part of my routine for the coming two-three months. No sooner than the back yard was free of stagnant rain water, the custard apple – Sitafal – trees would start budding with pastel green bloom. I would then start spending more time with these trees than with friends. We had a line of about ten custard apple trees, in addition to those that had grown wild along the compound.

Most of the buds would be eaten away when tender and pale white, but once they turned deep green, they would taste unpleasant. Not only I, my Grandma was also famous for her early morning tour of the back yard, which, in this season would last anywhere between fifteen minute to two hours and she would let everybody wait for brunch. My rounds would be in the afternoon after the school, when I had to ward off my friends and parrots who would be incessantly planning a bud party. While returning back from school the friends would try their hand at nipping the buds, eating those or pinch tender fruits to gauge if they could be used as marbles.

Towards their way to ripening, the fruits would start showing their pink partitions. The daily chore would then multiply many fold because I would be counting and writing down – how many buds, how many tender fruits, how many near ripening and opened up, how many near plucking and what not. The empty pages of the earlier year’s exercise books would be filled with this data. Grandma and I would take out the brass and tin containers and the emergency gunny bags for storing the fruits until they were ready to eat.


That year, the yield was tremendous. People would gather just to see the trees, their flourish and comment that they had gone berserk. We had already filled all the storage containers with fruits, also the gunny bags and even borrowed a few boxes from neighbors. Every room was full of fruits lying here and there. Still, the trees were overflowing with the fruits. Every evening I would wonder as to where I could keep those that I would pluck the next day.

Then the whooping-cough epidemic struck. All the children in the school started making ghong… ghong…coughing noise while trying to speak or run. Every child in the town was promptly banned from eating custard apples. According to Ayurved and the home remedy experts in every house, custard apples were the worst and would aggravate the cough.

Every day I would watch elders savoring the custard apples by hundreds, my dwindling stock and curse the ghong – ghong cough. It would not go. The digestion had gone awry because of the medicines and I was loosing weight fast. I waited and waited, took injection a day, cough syrups by bottles and powdered tablets by tens, which otherwise would have been near impossible for parents and doctors to administer.

Only a few of the custard apples now remained.

Then grandpa Dada arrived on the scene. He had come back from his tour of his farm land and took me to the veranda at the front of house. Yearly routine! We sat next to each other, he told me to just listen, don’t speak ghong-ghong and started telling tales about his trip. Grandma brought the best of the best fruits for him. It was her custom that the very best would be saved for him.

He offered one to me. He knew how I was fanatic about them. I took it, looked at the inviting sight, devoured the smell and returned it since Grandma was standing guard.  He asked Grandma why I was not eating.

“It’s the epidemic,” She said and explained in detail about the medicines I was taking and how I was being kept away from custard apples.

“When shall he be well? We shall eat together after he is well. I can wait.”

“Don’t know. The medicines are not working.”

“Do you know the principle? Severe the illness, stronger the dose?”

“Injections are also on. See how pathetic he has become. He is not eating anything.”

“Custard apple promotes cough? Let us try it as a medicine.”

Then he told me to eat as many as I wanted. “I take the full responsibility,” he said.

Although Grandma was persuading us not to eat, we finished whatever custard apples were in front of us…and those skinny ones left over on the trees….and those not so ripe…then those that would be ready tomorrow….and those that would be ready a week after.

Satisfied, I gave a big hug to Dada. Grandma was angry and worried and I could see her fear about what will happen to my health.

To everybody’s surprise, the cough went away in a couple of days. Doctor Grandpa said, this was because of his medicines. Dada laughed thunderously. Nonplussed; Doctor Grandpa said that I was possibly cured because my stomach was full and medicines were now working properly. Now Dada laughed roaringly.

“Dada’s remedy worked for me! Not medicines!” I said.

“But don’t run advertising that custard apples cure whooping-cough,” Doctor Grandpa said; shaking his head vigorously in disbelief and at our ignorance.

But I advertised. I advertise even now. However, I do not guarantee it.


(Images curtsey – Google Images)


9 Responses to “Custard Apples”

  1. Good one 🙂 I wonder if the cough germs quit (in disappointment) due to the sheer quantity of custard apples you ate! Good that it worked for you though. As you so fond of custard apples even today?

  2. PeACEMAKER Says:

    Nikhil, Thanks.
    There must have been no place left for the germs, at least in the tummy.
    Yes. I am fond of them, so is Ranjeet, and we get some from our local farm.We have plantd a few trees there.

    • Oh is it! Those trees must be looking good come the monsoon season. Should visit the place once for the view (though I personally don’t fancy the fruit too much.. for various reasons). I guess you must be taking care of their produce just like in your childhood days! 🙂

    • The pictures on the post aren’t visible since yesterday.. is it just me?

  3. PeACEMAKER Says:

    You can visit any time. Let us know when. I also can not see the pictures any more.

  4. Lua Says:

    Your writing and story reminded me of the ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.
    I also agree- I think it was Dada’s remedy that worked and good for you for advertising it 😉

  5. Hema P. Says:

    Custard apples are my favorite kind of fruit, and I miss them terribly where I live. There used to be a row of those trees in my backyard when I was a child, too. Ah, those memories! Haven’t thought about those times in a while, busy as we get with the day-to-day details of life. Thanks for bringing them to my mind again, Rajeev!

  6. PeACEMAKER Says:

    Some people, fragrances and tastes remain etched in our mind. Only way to calm those memories and repay their debt is to write about them. Thanks for the encouragement.

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