City Landmark – Jamun Tree, Connaught Place
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The ground looks like a fresh battlefield, splattered with blood stains, slippery with hundreds of used bullets. The blood isn’t red, but purple. And the bullets are actually jamuns. They have fallen from the tree above.
It’s jamun season in Delhi. The lanes teem with vendors selling these berries. Their straw baskets are piled up with mounds of these soury treats. Posh fruit shops sell the exact same fruit, but neatly stacked inside transparent plastic boxes. Parts of Delhi are full of jamun trees. One evening in Deer Park, a group of folks were spotted shaking its trunk, making the jamuns fall from the branches like a sudden shower, before picking them up.
There might be a jamun tree around your house too. But even then you should make a pilgrimage to the aforementioned tree, so generously weighted with its yield. The tree is situated in the commercial heart of Connaught Place, in N Block. It’s so gigantic that its dense foliage makes a virtual roof over the staircase emerging out of the subway. This afternoon, the whole ground under it is covered with jamuns. They all are squashed, probably after being trampled by the feet of busy pedestrians. On looking up, one is blindsided at first by the thousands of green leaves, and wonders where the jamuns are falling from, unable to see them. Gradually, the eyes adjust to notice big clumps of jamuns nestled across the foliage. They look like purple daubs in a green canvas.
One wonders how long this tree has been standing here. Can it be older than the colonial-era shopping district it inhabits? After all, Connaught Place was formerly a forest of babool trees. In any case, this jamun must have seen so much change over the years. Its leafy branches are within a jamun’s throw from what used to be Wimpy—the popular hangout of yesteryears that served lamb burgers for 16 rupees. Today, that building lies closed, and the tree faces a small hip cafe that came up not so long ago.
Meanwhile, a long row of ants is climbing up the trunk. A broken statue of Goddess Lakshmi is lying at its feet—probably left here because it is not considered a good omen to keep a damaged idol.
Some steps away, a woman is selling jamuns. “I get them from Azadpur (wholesale fruit market),” she says, her back turned towards the great jamun tree.
Jamun of Connaught Place