On a cloudy morning traveling an overcrowded Dehradoon Express (Fare Rs 49 – from Delhi to Mombai), I’d landed at Mumbai Central (then Bombay Central) in early nineteen seventy. It took me a few days to find a suitable job and a month to get my first PAGAR (salary). The first book I purchased then from Flora Fountain roadside book vendor was ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.’ It’s a 1943 novel written by Betty Smith and the story focuses on an impoverished but aspirational second-generation Irish-American adolescent girl and her family in Williamburg, Brooklyn, New York City, during the first two decades of the 20th century. The book was an immense success. The main metaphor of the book is the hardy tree common in the vacant lots of New York City. The book addresses many different issues—poverty, alcoholism, lying and its main theme, the determination to rise above difficult circumstances.There is an over emphasis on flowers, a sort of intoxication.
Like the Tree of Heaven, the metaphor of novel, the Brooklyn’s inhabitants fight for the sun and air necessary for their survival. The book had some similarities to my own life as it revises traditional notions of right and wrong. It tells us that extreme poverty changes the criteria on which such notions, and those who embrace them, should be judged. The book was adapted into a 1945 film directed by Elia Kazan and won a Special Academy Award.I purchased the book because the title appealed and there was a reason for that. There is a pomegranate tree that still grows in my own courtyard. It had seen several grooms entering the house with all paraphernalia and the parting coffins of elderly and young who were put on call by heavens. It had seen the children playing, growing and becoming elders. It has seen the erupting crises that every family faces; it had witnessed the wiser councils which prevailed to resolve the looming darker clouds.
This tree had been the silent chronicle of all the ups and downs, the fluctuation in financial and emotional dynamics of family and it had never stopped the harvest of its fruits. I thought the novel would remind something of my own courtyard tree that I always love to remember about.Nowadays, when the Siberian and other migratory birds grace our small orchard with their presence at different seasons and the local bulbul sings unseen inside its branches and the common birds are engaged in their eternal feuds of possessing branches, it is more a reminder that time stands still at least in our house. When the troop of monkeys storm the house and pluck the buds and fruits, throw down recklessly the flowerpots and destroy the greenery, we rush with the bamboo sticks to shoo them off. Those are the exciting times. We know it is a real brave fight for the possession of this planet between animals and human.
Whenever, I observe a dog sitting in the middle of street, uncaring about the traffic that might hurt it, I know He is asserting his rights. I respect the protest of monkeys.Many of our guests stop under the pomegranate tree for the photo-ops. This tree bears the historical buds. Their very name conjures up the greatest romance of Indian history – Anarkali of ‘Moughl-e-Azam.’
I’m not a privy to any of family romance under this tree other than a torrential disruption of my own softer life in my salad days and the scars which are still carried on my memory screen. It is a singular and rare tree, the remnant of the old generation of trees that used to provide shades, covers, swings and bird songs in the times rolled by.The fiercer kind of sound that wind used to make in the noon while rustling through its branches had special childhood memory effects. The concrete jungle that has now grown around in my mohalla had seen the ruthless chopping of mammoth banyan, pilkhen, neem and jamun trees and now there is no greenery left to cool your eyes in the vicinity when we look around. The multistory buildings have replaced the open houses where there is no proper ventilation, no sunlight and no sky. This tree is our last hope of living sanity.
The say that the very act of going to Himalya and witnessing its pristine glory or the humbling and soothing effect that we receive as we stand near the mighty oceans is an act of reminding ourselves that there is a bigger and mightier nature that is watching us. Flora and fauna are the reminders of that power. Flowers remind us to find happiness. Our pomegranate tree reminds us to celebrate the bounties of nature. It tells us to host a festival of flowers. It reminds us that as we destroy the bounties of nature we are obliterating the reasons and resources of our existence. It reminds that the snow-capped mountains, no very far off where we live, the pine and deodar trees that are reaching the skies, the clear streams meandering through with unhurried elegance, the twittering of birds, the golden sunset and even the waft of breeze will soon become the thing of past and luxury that no amount of money will be able to buy.
I thought the book would talk about the tree that had the cooler shades. Unfortunately, it was only the name of the book and I was disappointed. However, the book is literary masterpiece
And the tree of ANAR KALEE is always like a living member of our family. We don’t allow anyone to spit at the earth which surrounds its roots. We love our friend, our benefactor and its towering presence.
To wind up this article I would love to share the benefit of the heavenly fruit. The Holy Book refers it as ‘Rooman.’
The pomegranate is a fruit that contains hundreds of edible seeds called arils. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds, but they also contain some sugar. One cup of fruits arils contains Fiber: 7 grams, Protein: 3 grams. Vitamin C: 30% of the RDA, Vitamin K: 36% of the RDA, Folate: 16% of the RDA, Potassium: 12% of the RDA.
The pomegranate arils (seeds) are also very sweet, with one cup containing 24 grams of sugar, and 144 calories.
There are two unique substances in pomegranates that are responsible for most of their health benefits.
1. Punicalagins – these are extremely powerful antioxidants found in the juice and peel of a pomegranate. They are so powerful that pomegranate juice has been found to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea. Pomegranate extract and powder is typically made from the peel, due to its high antioxidant and punicalagin content.
2. Punicic acid, it also known as pomegranate seed oil, is the main fatty acid in the arils. It is a type of conjugated linoleic acid with potent biological effects.
Laboratory studies have shown that pomegranate extract can slow down cancer cell reproduction, and even induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
By Naim Naqvi
Images are author’s self-contribution