City Food – Jamun, Around Town
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Go no further. Here’s the season’s talk of the town. They are everywhere. With vendor Sant Ram in south Delhi’s Jangpura, and with vendor Kailash at the deserted bus stop in Gurgaon’s Carterpuri, and with vendor Prakash, elsewhere in Carterpuri. These are found in Ghaziabad as well—on returning from a shopping expedition with her husband, at the weekly subzi mandi in Sector 6, Vasundhara, Pushpa Singh exclaims that jamuns are selling for 100 rupees a kg. She purchased half that amount, praising the “khat madra (sour-sweet)” flavour of the berries.
Jamuns arrive with the rains, and will go away in about a month, says seller Bharat Singh. He is hawking them in Gurgaon’s Sector 15 for 130 rupees a kg. The dark blue berries are piled up on his cart like sand dunes in a desert. A dhoop batti is lit up “to keep off the flies.” Sweating profusely in the humid afternoon, the hawker says that just week back he was selling coconut slices. “These jamuns are from Agra, I get them from the mandi… in 2-3 days I will have jamuns from Punjab, which are juicer.”
It is good to patronise the jamun hawkers, but you may also pick up the jamuns for free. These days, many Delhi pathways look like blood-splattered battlefields with the tiny pulpy fruit fallen from trees, their innards and purple juices squashed out by the pedestrians’ feet. This is especially true of the tree heavy central Delhi paves—the pathway on Subramaniya Bharati Marg for instance, especially the stretch running along Rabindra Nagar. In Connaught Place, a tree outside the N block subway is loaded with a multitude of jamuns. On Dr Rajendra Prasad Road, a hawker has been sighted sitting with a basket of jamuns (perched on an empty soft drink crate) right under a jamun tree.
One recent afternoon, the otherwise lifeless park in a posh ‘hood was filled with men. They held a blue tarpaulin under a jamun tree, as one of the crowd members started to beat the branches with a long steel rod. The jamuns fell like a hail storm.
Curiously, Delhi’s great mango-loving poet Mirza Ghalib has stayed silent on jamuns. Sitting in his office, the Ghalib Academy secretary Aqil Ahmad instead reads out a few couplets by Josh Malihabadi (about whom he wrote his thesis) dedicated to the jamun. Here’s one:
Hai yeh bikhri hui zulfein ye kaale jamun hain
Hai yeh gulshan yeh sawan ki ghata chhayi hui
[These dispersed hair are black jamun
Like the rain clouds spread upon the orchard.]