Goodies from the gutters

The tech city, whose children pick up packets of wafers and cookies off supermarket shelves, also offered treats on its streets, parks and household gardens to little boys. It was once c

Published: 17th January 2012 03:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:15 PM   |  A+A-

The tech city, whose children pick up packets of wafers and cookies off supermarket shelves, also offered treats on its streets, parks and household gardens to little boys.

It was once common for boys heading back home from school to take detours to forage for berries and fruits from not only hedges of boulevards and parks but also from weeds in gutters.

The sight of the dull black berries of the bush lantana would send the boys scrambling for the fruit, which would be polished off in no time.

A red berry would disappear off the thorny weed just as quickly.

The green clove shaped leaves called “huli soppu” are chewed for their sour taste.

With much of the extensions still being developed, vacant sites, parks and footpaths always boasted a rich harvest of weeds, unlike today, where much of the foot paths have either given way to wider roads or have been covered by uneven cobble stones or broken slabs.

In places where there are still vacant sites, the parthenium has outgrown all other shrubs.

It was not just the shrubs and weeds that the children scoured for, but the giant gulmuhrs, rain trees, tamarind and mango trees were regularly raided by the roving brats.

While the long, brown, juicy, sweet smelling fruit of the rain tree was pounded to make instant “cork” balls used for their cricket games, the gulmuhur fruit was smashed open for its sweet pod.

Children seldom spared trees in houses on their way back home.

With a handful of stones, they target the fruits from the overhanging branches of the gooseberry, mango or guava trees.

If the trees are deep inside the compound, a couple of boys would scale the compound walls and scramble up the trees while a couple more keep the pet dog engaged near the gate.

The boys then proceed to the next target after sharing the spoils.

Back home, they pick the hibiscus flowers and buds and suck the nectar out of it.

The vacant sites and gutters are also a rich source of entertainment for the boys.

For, these are a storehouse of cigarette packs and match boxes, which the boys collect, grasshoppers that they catch and hide in the match boxes to harass the little girls in class, and the touch-me-nots, which they take turns in touching.

And after a sharp shower, the gutters turn into little muddy streams, into which the boys jump and splash the water, shouting with glee and tearing out pages from their school books to make paper boats and let them float in the gutters, chasing them as they sail under the slabs and cheer as they emerge from the other side.

— vijaysimha@newindianexpress.com

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