In the old old times, itinerant mattress makers used to travel from village to village offering their services. They will come to a village, camp on the outskirts, and go to the houses which had silk cotton trees growing in their compound. If the family wanted a mattress made, they will take the accumulated cotton pods, usually stored in huge gunny sacks, and make the mattress for them. They will extract the cotton from the pods, clean out the seeds and other impurities, beat it in the sun till fluffy, and stitch the mattress with a cloth cover. Often with a striped pattern. Have you ever slept on a freshly made cotton mattress? Lovely indeed!
So, just like that, one evening a group of three mattress makers came to this village too. They had to cross a river to get to the village. It was dusk by the time they arrived at the river. And lo and behold, the river was in spate. It was getting dark fast and they had to reach shelter before nightfall. Without many options, they decided to brave the fury of the river. After all, weren’t they all good swimmers?
Alas! As they got the towards the middle of the river, the swirls and eddies started pulling them down. However valiantly they fought, the men kept sinking towards the bottom of the river. And lost consciousness…
Till they woke up, lying on a lovely green meadow… alive with birdsong and a gentle breeze. Just like in a fairy tale. They looked at each other in amazement… is this a dream? Did they all die and get to some alien place? However the pangs of hunger scratching their stomachs assured them that they were very much alive. And they started looking around the deserted place.
Walking along, they saw a group of people far away, sitting around and eating something. As they got closer, they got the strong smell of ripe jackfruit. And there was enough water in their mouths to steer a boat…
The three men approached the group and asked them for some of the jackfruit. The group was reluctant to share any of it. But hunger prompted the mattress makers to keep begging, and finally the group’s leader spoke up, “This is a celestial variety of jackfruit, not seen on human earth. If we give you some, you have to promise not to take any of it with you.” The mattress makers willingly promised and were given some of the fruit.
When they tasted the fruit, there was no doubt about the veracity of the group leader’s statement. They had eaten many a jackfruit, but nothing anywhere near this. This was pure nectar, absolute ambrosia. And there rose in the mind of the youngest among them, the insatiable desire to take a seed of the jackfruit back home. How to manage that with so many eyes keeping watch? On the pretext of scratching himself, he turned around and managed to quickly secret a seed in his underwear. With beating heart, he finished eating his jackfruit.
Once all the jackfruit was eaten, the group leader collected all the seeds – except of course, the one secreted away by our man – and led the mattress makers away, to the side of a small stream. He told them to close their eyes and wade into the stream. They did so and when they opened their eyes, they were walking on to banks of the familiar river! There was no end to their joy when they realised that they were back on earth safe and sound.
The jackfruit tree that grew out of that smuggled seed was a giant of a tree indeed! The fruits that it produced in abundance were so sweet and tasty that the tree’s fame spread throughout the region. Legend has it that when the ruler of the local kingdom was passing through the village, he sent one of his servants to fetch one of the famed jackfruits.
Eventually, my paternal great great grandfather bought the land on which stood the jackfruit tree. (I would like to believe that the presence of the tree had influenced his decision!) The jackfruit tree continues to thrive to this day with fruits hanging top to bottom during the early summer.
All of us children in the family have heard this story growing up. And I swear, I do believe each and every word of it too! 😉
03 Mar 2014