Jack-fruit , A sweet summer snack.

As a kid summers meant vacationing at my grandparents’ house, spending endless hours playing “house house” or making mud-pies in their huge backyard. Summers also meant eating traditional South-Indian meals prepared by my grandma and gorging on fruits like Mango and Jack-fruit. On sunny afternoons in the US, I longed to be back in India, in Kundapur, inside the cool interiors of my grandparents’ house, with the ladies of my family and the fruity aroma of a Jackfruit pervading the whole house.

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A Jack-fruit is chopped from a tree when it ripens (But, sometimes it is chopped even before it ripens. The raw fruit offers its own uses); a huge knife is used to cut the shell open; a few well-oiled ( because it gets sticky!) hands are needed to pluck the edible parts from the shell of a single fruit.

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The edible part of a Jack-fruit, the flesh surrounding a seed, is hard and not-sweet-enough if the fruit hasn’t reached the peak of its ripeness but it is richly yellow, delicate and sugary when it has. I missed devouring them when we lived in Arizona. But now that we are back in India, not a single summer day goes by without the blessing of a Jackfruit.

Sometimes we eat the ones that grow in our own garden; At other times we buy already-plucked flesh that’s sold by roadside vendors (We clean them before we eat, of course); A Jack-fruit has traveled to us by a bus (when relatives sent us a big parcel wrapped in a Sand Bag); One traveled by a train with a bunch of relatives visiting us; Another lucky Jack-fruit came airborne via an airplane with my in-laws who brought it from Udupi to satiate our appetite for its juicy, succulent flesh.

I gobble a few pieces everyday after my meals. When my taste buds hanker for some kind of dessert I go for this fruit instead. I can’t imagine the days without Mango or Jack-fruit. Scorching summers are so bearable because of the bountiful presence of such fruits.

A Jack-fruit’s flesh can be eaten as it is or can be used to prepare desserts like mulka ( a deep-fried delicacy) or gatti (a healthier, steamed variety) whose recipes I’ll learn and post eventually. Even an unripe fruit (whose shell is removed) can be hacked and used (flesh, seeds and the innards included) to prepare a curry that is meaty in texture. What a versatile fruit! Is that why it is called a Jack-fruit? A Jack-of-all-fruits?

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Moving back home

We just relocated to India from the United States. After a couple of years honeymooning and a few more years spent juggling parenthood in Tucson, we are back home. It was a big move that took years to plan and later execute. When one of us was sure of going back the other wasn’t ready. And then there was the issue of citizenship. We were on the verge of getting our Green cards and weren’t sure whether to wait for it or not.

We were pushed to action when our house got flooded due to a pipe leak when we were out vacationing in St. Louis. The walls and shelves had to be ripped apart; the flooring was removed. Most of our stuff was ruined due to water damage. We had to get the whole house repaired and renovated. Thank God our house was insured. Liberty Mutual, the insurance company covered all the cost of repair and loss. In no time our house was restored; in fact it looked even better than before with painted walls, granite countertops and brand new kitchen cabinets.

Now the question was whether to move back into our beautifully-restored home or to have it sold to execute a much-thought-of move to India. The easier thing to do would have been to quietly move back into our home and enter into a routine. But we hankered for more. For a change. Our house was market-worthy without us spending a dime. If we wished to sell, it was the right time to. We found a buyer immediately after we put the house on market.

Handing the ownership of the house where we had begun our journey as parents was tough. But we got through it. Even more difficult for me was bidding farewell to my dear friends. Faraway from home our friends had become our family too. The thought that I wouldn’t be seeing most of them again weighed me down. I got through that as well. It was time to pack our bags (and that was no less a headache!) and make another journey. To India.

I will always remember the US and the fond memories we created as a family there. It taught me so much about the world. It taught me so much more about myself. For that I will remain eternally grateful to that country and some of its people.

We are settling down in Hyderabad now. I’m enjoying the help that’s easily available. The kids are enjoying their grandparents’ attention. I feel we did the right thing by relocating to India ’cause there’s no place like home….