City Guest – Lychees in Delhi
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They stay here for two months.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Even as Chinese goods have become a year-round sight in Delhi, one Chinese-origin product still makes its guest appearance only for two months in a year — May and June. I am not talking about switches and watches, but the sweet, round lychees. Trust Delhiites not to let go of this annual event, even though at the time of writing this piece, lychees are yet not that visible save on a thela or two.
In early May, 2009, I went to fruit stalls in Daryaganj and spotted no lychees there. The fruits don’t need an Indian visa any more; they are now grown in Dehradun (Uttaranchal) and Bihar. “They will come anytime now,” said Mr Farhan Akhtar, a young fruit seller.
A few weeks later the consignments arrived. There is evidence — on the afternoon of May 20, Mr Chandra Shekhar Duggal in Noida’s Sector 25 bought the season’s first lychees for his family from Moti Nagar Market. His son, Sudeep, an engineering student, tried them a day later. “They were so fresh, juicy,” swoons Sudeep, “and the flesh easily came off the seed.”
Mrs Pushpa Singh, a homemaker in Vasundhra, Ghaziabad, prefers lychees that are well-travelled. “I like the ones that come from Muzaffarpur in Bihar,” she says. “Those from Dehradun are usually too small or too sour.”
Even foreigners have grown fond of Indian lychees, region notwithstanding. Mr Erik Kurzweil, a German diplomat and a resident of Malcha Marg, was never a big fan before arriving in Delhi around three years ago. “I started liking the fruit once I tasted them here,” says Mr Kurzweil. He shops for fruits from the INA Market, a mandi popular among the expats. Elsewhere, they are robbed blind.
Take Ms Vasantha Angamuthu, an expat from South Africa. She got her season’s first lychees from the tony GK-I and paid Rs 90 a kg! That is nothing short of scalping considering the same stuff costs Rs 40 a kg or less in Connaught Place footpaths. “But then, people in GK must pay a higher price,” she says with a shrug. Obviously, some are more equal than others, even among lychees.