City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town

City Food – Jamun Berries, Around Town

City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town

Joys of jamun.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Scene 1: He is carrying them in a straw basket, which is perched on his head.

Scene 2: He is hauling them on a cart.

Scene 3: She has filled them in a plastic bucket and is sitting by the road.

This is peak mango season, but the three citizens are not hawking the sweet aam. Their offering is slightly sour and a bit “kasaila.” It is the jamun.

Delhi has many jamun trees, and right now they are loaded with their little spherical offerings. The berry tends to detach itself from the branch, hitting the earth with a soft thud, the purple juice sometimes squirting out in a jerky shot.

On a Sewa Nagar pave, a street hawker’s cart is heaped up with jamuns, topped with chunks of ice. Vendor Virender Shah gets the jamuns from a nearby subzi mandi, which gets its supply from Azadpur wholesale market, where the jamuns come from Punjab, he says.

The mound of jamuns that Gudiya Devi is hawking this afternoon near the India Gate circle are likely to be Delhi natives. These days, she claims, she gathers jamuns from the vicinity’s avenue trees, and sells them to complement the earnings of her husband, an eatery cook.

On a Mathura Road bus shelter, the waiting commuters include an elderly woman sitting on the bench, a watery trickle of purple slowly streaming out of her lower lip. The culprit has to be the jamun. A small green polythene bag on her lap must be filled with the berries.

Sitting in front of an air-cooler inside Ghalib Academy’s second-floor library, poetry critic Aqil Ahmad isn’t a fan of the jamun. He confesses a preference for the mango, but is barred from enjoying it—“because I have sugar problem… actually jamuns are advised for people in my condition.” 30 years ago, the scholar completed a PhD on poet Josh Malihabadi, whose oeuvre, he says, contains a reference to the jamun. After browsing through a handful of old books, aided by librarian Bushra Begum, he fishes out the couplet from Malihabadi’s 1925 poem Jamun Waliyan:

Hai yeh bikhri hui zulfein ye kaale jamun hain
Hai yeh gulshan yeh sawan ki ghata chhayi hui
[These scattered hair are black jamun
Like the rain clouds upon the orchard.]

PS: Librarian Bushra Begum insists that the best way to consume jamuns is to stuff them into an earthen kulhar, sprinkle over a bit of black salt, cover the top with a jamun leaf and vigorously shake the kulhar for a few moments. “The jamuns then become double softer and double tasty,” she promises.

Jamun scenes

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City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town

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City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town

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City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town

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IMG_7City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town153

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City Food - Jamun Berries, Around Town