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It was just few weeks since Kavin was born. And, in one of those rare occasions when I get some time, I was gorging myself on a particularly sweet papaya, which Raja had bought for me. At that moment, I had a split-second thought; will I be able to grow a full tree out of this seed? I almost shooed that thought away with, it’s just a seed now and it’s gonna take forever to become a tree and even longer to give you fruits! But, Kavin’s cooing jolted me; Kavin was also just the size of a peanut within me and I had nurtured him into a little man, who had very clear demands and brought so much meaning, beauty, and joy into our lives. So, without any more delay, I gathered some of the seeds and set them to dry on the window sill in the kitchen. In three days time, they were ready for sowing, and I sowed them, half expecting them to sprout. In a week’s time, there were 3 pretty infants smiling gaily at me. Confirming with my garden friend, Kanna anna, that these were indeed papaya infants, I transplanted them to the backyard, where a banana sapling was taking root (of course how the lone banana plant created a banana orchard will be another post!). Only one of them survived the journey. I bid the two adieu and hoped this lone one will grow into a beautiful girl (note the gender preference; in the plant kingdom, we have illusions about who among the sexes is more productive and worthy of investment!).
After a few months, the plant grew into a tree; I still remember the first big leaf and how it fell to be followed by bigger leaves. In all this time, the stump kept getting stockier and stockier and the ground around the tree suddenly became devoid of any grass. Was it a year later? I really don’t remember when the first buds started coming and much to my disappointment, they were male buds! Aah! I let out of a deep sigh, “let’s just chop him, ma” Kanna anna said. I couldn’t make up mind and so kept quiet. He continued, “there’s no use for these male papaya tree, let’s get rid of him.” I told him, “I’ll tell you na, if we ‘ll do away with him.” It was quite a night for me wondering if I should simply chop this little guy; I mean, yes, he wouldn’t fruit, but, he’s still a tree. By morning, I had made my decision to keep him. So, next morning, I told Kanna anna my decision to keep the tree. I started hoping to see all the beautiful floral hangings that are part of male papaya trees. But, I was in for a huge surprise when the next set of buds turned out female! And, that’s when I realized papayas could be hermaphrodites too! The rest of course is history! We harvested loads and loads of sweet, if not very sweet, papayas that we had and gave away to near and dear ones.
It has been 2 years since the first flowers. And, it was time for it to go and even as I was getting mentally ready to let s/he go, it broke! Yes, an accident happened couple of weeks ago and it broke. I hugged the tree close and finally bid a teary goodbye. However, the tree refused to bid me adieu! In a week’s time, there were new leaves in that broken stump.
We may perhaps not be around in this house to see it bloom this time, but I do hope it happens and there’s someone to care for my dear papaya.