Litchi trees are not seen in Maharashtra. Obviously it is not their natural habitat. Litchi is my favourite fruit, and the only complaint I have is that it is rather expensive. Litchis taste very different and delicious if you eat them in Kolkata. I have not had the opportunity to taste it in Bihar. Mumbai gets its quota of litchis, but the fruit loses something essential on the way from Bihar to Mumbai.
I was always very curious about litchis. Amita Maheshwari told me that there were Litchi trees in the backyard of her parent’s home in Bihar. A deal was struck then to go there during the Litchi season. But the visit never happened.
My first sighting of a Litchi tree was memorable. I noticed a tree in the Pagoda [Dhamma Giri] at Igatpuri where I had gone for Vipassana meditation. Vipassana meditation involves ten days of ‘maun’ [silence, no speaking or communication whatsoever] to be observed. You can only kill the free time by observing clouds and trees. This Litchi tree was close to my room. For a few days I mistook that tree for a mango tree. Then suddenly I noticed a bunch of Litchis on the tree! I was excited!! [Maun prevented me from sharing this joy with anybody, Oh, what a torture!]. I had found the tree I wanted to meet. And I felt ashamed of my capacity to make accurate observation – you can’t offer any excuse for not noticing the litchis for three days. That was in 1996.
Twenty years later, that is to say, two days ago I met a Litchi tree – nah, a few trees in a farm near Dahanu. I identified it correctly when asked by the Farm owner – on this occasion I had not mistaken it for mango tree.
Out came my camera. I took some photographs of Litchi flowers, I was feeling so excited to meet this tree unexpectedly. The tree would bear litchis later. This was like meeting an old friend after a long time but who did not have enough time to sit down and chat with you over a coffee. Yet you feel the warmth of the friendship.
Litchis will taste sweeter this summer.
Vivek S Patwardhan