But in the few independent houses that survive, there are trees. Large, shady trees that provide the green to the colony.
It is that time of the year when fruit-bearing trees look lovely to the seeking eye.
And mango trees are full and ladden with fruit now. A scene you may observe if you walk down the inner streets of Alwarpet or R. A. Puram.
This mango season, we stepped into a few houses this past April week, houses whose owners care for their mango trees to find out how people manage the trees that grow in their compounds and how they manage to harvest the fruit and what they do with it in these times when labour is scarce and making pickles and jams is a thing of the past.
Selvi and Sakthivel, residents of Warren Road are proud of their large mango which they say are at least 45 years old.
“Since we have two, we get two distinct fruits. One is used for making pickles and used in the kozhambu while the other mango variety is best served to eat or make juice or jam.
This household allows local hawkers to harvest the fruit when it is just right. The men get paid a rupee for evey fruit that is picked.
“We get about a thousand fruits a year,” says Selvi. “It is sad that a lot of them go waste as squirrels and crows tend to eat a part and leave the rest. We have absolutely no problems here. We love the tree and treat it as one of us.”
The Mangalam household on C.P. Ramaswami Street owns one mango tree in its backyard.
The mangoes are sour in nature; Mangalam gives us a slice of the fruit to taste.
“We use it only for pickles,”she says. The tree is big but does not bear fruit every year.
“Sometimes, we have a drought,” says Mangalam.
Since they have a large number of coconut trees too, the coconut picker offers to pluck the coconuts as well as the mangos.
This year, the harvest here yielded about 300 mangoes. “Pests are often a problem. The local boys can also trouble us for they use a catapult to bring down the fruit,” says Mangalam, when asked of the challenges they face for nurturing fruit trees.
Lalitha Xavier lives on St. Mary’s Road and the mango tree in her backyard is young and at the “budding stage now”.
About 200 mangoes have already grown.
Lalitha says a local contractor comes here every year to harvest the mangoes. He charges about Rs.100. While some are distributed among neighbours and friends, some are made into pickles.
– Reported by Sanjana Ganesh / Student Intern
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If you are proud of mango trees in your backyard, share your experiences of how you care for them, and what you make of the fruits this season. Mail to – email@example.com