I spent a great deal of my childhood days, at the place of my grandmother and in the company of my elder sister, Romila. My sister was a plump, docile and very girlish child. She was my buddy when my best chum, my brother, Jan, was not around.
My grandmother, Nani, was a rich widow. She lived in a big wooden and shingle roofed house in the City of Curepipe. Nani’s house was nestled in the heart of a large property covered with exotic fruit trees.
A tomboy, a relentless adventurer and explorer, I loved to climb trees and hide in their leaves, playing at imaginative games. I was simply and purely fascinated by trees.
I was particularly impressed by a majestic Bell Fruit tree (also called Jamalac or Jeanbosse tree in Mauritius or Jamrul tree in India) that stood in the midst of the vast terrain. It was always laden with big, juicy and tantalizing Jamalacs. The fruits were milky white in colour whereas other fruits of the same family were comparatively smaller and either pink or red. Unfortunately, we, children were not allowed to go near this tree and were strictly forbidden from eating the milky white fruits.
‘It is possessed by a spirit’ Nani told us.
‘Leave this tree and its fruits alone!’ She severely cautioned us.
However, one fateful day when Nani was absent from home, I made up my mind to climb the Bell fruit tree and to taste the forbidden fruit. Romila was playing quietly with her dolls, in a corner of the room which we shared with our grandmother. I summoned her and asked her to join me. At first she refused and reminded me of the spirit. I insisted with dominant persuasion. She finally gave in and meekly followed me. She revered me as a leader in audacious games and dreadful adventures.
We slipped out of the house noiselessly and headed for the coveted tree. Once in close proximity, I could not help feeling an eerie atmosphere around the tree. It made my heart pound with excitement, mischievous delight and awe. Ripe, luscious jamalacs were hanging from the over laded branches. Even more so, the fruits were practically sweeping the ground that was covered with dry leaves. I looked up and my eyes caught sight of a beautiful, shiny jamalac at the top of the tree.
In no time, I frayed my way through the tangled branches and started to climb the tree with astounding agility, like a monkey. Romila yelled out at me to stop and to come back. I did not pay heed to her. My mind was set on reaching for the forbidden fruit.
I arrived at the top in a flash and, I hurriedly reached out for the fruit. All of a sudden, a branch of the tree hit me violently like a big slap in the face. I shut my eyes. Behind my closed eye lids, I saw the sun and the blue sky in an aperture between the rich green leaves.
The next thing, I knew, was that I was lying in bed, surrounded by my parents and other family members. My mother was sobbing.
To cut a long story short, Romila ran for rescue when I fell from the tree, like a bag of potatoes. I was carried unconscious to Nani’s house. When later she arrived, she phoned my mom and dad. Most importantly, she called for a local healer cum psychic, a ‘hoja’. He brought me out of what he ably qualified as a ‘trance’. I had fallen from a height of 15 feet unscathed. I had no bruise, no injury and no broken bone.
One of the worst rabble-rousers in the family, I had become a ‘miracle child’ thanks to the forbidden fruit!
In the illustration picture is my granddaughter. She has taken after me in tree- climbing.