In October 2007, I caught a red blur out of the corner of my right eye that made me stop and look. My exact location at the time was the north face of Shivaji Park a few hundred metres from Scouts Pavilion on the left and Barista on the right. I stopped on the very first round of my two-round daily morning walk around Shivaji Park. Stopping in the middle of your walk, if it's a health habit rather than a pastime, is a bad idea. But I stopped, and looked, and found that the red blur came from a tree that was hung with fruit the colour of a parrot's beak.
As I stood staring, other walkers stopped to stare. None of us had noticed the tree before though it looked many years old and must have been around for years. It was tall and handsome and didn't look like the sort that shed its leaves any time of the year. But it wasn't the kind that would catch your attention in a line of trees either. But that red fruit was something else.
Eager to know what it was called, I called up my botanist major (40 years ago, First Class, University of Bombay) niece. It's a tall, well-built tree with of long, deep green leaves hanging in clusters of six and fat fruit as large as tennis balls hanging behind the clusters, I told her and waited for her to throw a Latin name at me. My niece hummed and hawed and then said, "Oh?"
I drew a similar blank on Google. Perhaps I didn't know the key words that would get me the information I was looking for--namely the name of the tree, its origins, it's...Anyway what I was looking forward to now was future developments. I watched the red fruit grow black, then split, while still hanging on the tree. At some point the fruit must have fallen off; because one morning it wasn't there.
A new year dawned and now I waited to see the flowers. A rough calculation based on the mango suggested that there would be roughly three months between flowering and fruiting. So if I had seen the fruit in October, the early buds must have appeared in March or April. They didn't, not in March or April 2008, nor any of the months that followed. Then suddenly in September 2008, I spotted small green fruit hanging on the tree. I reported this to my niece. She observed, cryptically, "The fruit must be the flower." It was my turn to say "Oh"?
So okay, that's Nature's way, I told myself; but why chase a miracle for information? The idea was to wait for the magic of that red to happen again. I waited and looked and waited and looked. People asked me what I was looking at. I told them, "You see the green fruit on that tree? It'll soon turn as red as a parrot's beak."
I'm not sure if they were impressed by the prospect. But through October, November and December they kept inquiring kindly after the colour of the fruit. It had remained obdurately green. It is green even now as January ends. I'm not going to ask my niece why. I now believe the fruit will stay green for 12 years and burst suddenly into colour one fine morning. October 2007 was the last time it happened. October 2017 will be the next. I will wait.