Sitting under the sweeping Bargad tree, I looked up at the little red round fruit hanging from its branches. Tempting these might seem to others, but I’ve tasted the fruit as a kid and know that the outer shell is sour and the inside full of poppy like seeds and fuzz. But it brings back memories of a particular day when mother would worship the banyan tree. It was called ‘Bargadahi’ and the offerings consisted of sweet puris and gulgulas – made of jaggery and flour that looked just like the bargad fruit, only so delicious that whole thalifulls disappeared in minutes.
For years, a distant cousin of mother would get her a branch of the banyan tree on Bargadahi and she would perform her puja. If he got late in sending it, mother would scold him lightly and he would proceed to tell his tale of difficulties. It was recounted to each member of the family.
It so happened that one Bargadahi neither Mamaji turned up nor was the branch sent. Mother was piqued but wouldn’t say so. She instructed Bai, the maid, to get a branch from somewhere and went on to do her puja.
A few months later, Mamaji arrived for rakhi. Mother was still sour and at the appropriate moment commented how little ‘Diddi’ mattered to him as he did not even remember her on Bargadahi and how she had to wait till it was almost noon and then send the servant to get a branch and how her puja and everything else got delayed because of it. Mamaji was aghast. He took us out and pointing to her potted Rubber plant said he thought mother had a bargad growing right there in the porch. The whole afternoon was spent in hearing his defense.
Mother rushes to conclusions easily. She decided that it was pointless to depend on Mamaji or for that matter, on anyone and so a banyan sapling was bought and planted just outside the backyard. From then on, every year on Bargadahi, the tree wore a festive look with roli (vermillion) smeared on it and moli (the red thread) tied around its trunk. A small diya also stayed lit a few hours after the puja.
Now, visiting the house 20 years later, I walked around to the backyard as the house was locked and saw the sprawling bargad majestically standing, its aerial roots touching the ground. Wonder if anyone still remembers to worship it on Bargadahi? Do kids still wait for the puja to get over to pounce upon gulgulas?