One fine afternoon I had draped myself on an easy-chair with a cushion for added comfort and my legs propped on a very conveniently placed small boulder in our garden under a huge Neem tree.
Afternoon’s gentle breeze and occasional chirping birds’ set a relaxed atmosphere. My hands got busy with turning pages of a thriller and also picking sweet, seedless succulent, green grapes and punctiliously reaching it to my waiting mouth. That time, I was one with the world of crime and suspense and also indulging in satisfying my taste buds with evenly oval, small green grapes pregnant with sweetness and juicy flesh.
Every single one, as it meets my lips, its cool outer skin, soft and yet hard, taunts its way inside my mouth. The waiting incisors greedily bites into it and there, a dam breaks, a swell of juice gushes out to meet the lapping tongue and the soft jelly like flesh hits the upper palate and sides, making the mouth a ground of melee and revelry. The juicy flesh, the sweet tangy taste and the saliva getting mixed , gradually settles the taste tempo on my tongue. From the sudden burst of concentrated sweetness to a sweet salty blend(with saliva), each chewing moment hypnotises my taste buds and even after each one disappears down the throat, my hand seem to readily supply with another one.
The revelry continues and my mouth and tongue are caught up with the happy moment, gloried in the presentation of such a treat. With my brain assuring an incessant supply of such a sweet fare for a while, a sure complacence has taken over me.
Suddenly a 100,000 volts of bitterness coursed through my mouth and my body and brain started to scream” what the hell!”. Disregarding my discomfort, a gooey syrup laced my inner palate and smeared my tongue with heavy dose of bitterness and “tuck”, a quick unthinking bite of seed by my right molar released a gravelly seed inners, even more bitter, grating on to my inner tongue. My oh so efficient mouth- the tongue, the teeth and the palate- has done the damage by acting simultaneously in processing that one Neem fruit-green, unripe, very similar to size and shape of the most enjoyable grape fruit.
The bitter neem fruit
I dropped my book down uncaring, jumped off my chair jerking the stainless steel bowl of remaining few grapes on to the ground. In the meantime my tongue has twisted and turned to collect all the bitterness, the gooey liquid and the grainy seed particles, the shards of skin sticking to my upper palate along with a good amount of my spit. They are now rolled into one disgusting mass and have reached my tongue tip and then “spat”, I spit it all on the base of the same Neem tree. With practiced approach I gather all the saliva from my throat to forcefully collect the clinging bitterness and the sticking seed particles to be thrown out in another spit.
Notwithstanding the adamant taste, I rushed into the home, dashing straight for the wash basin to take aid of the water. Even after half a dozen gurgle, a thin film of the bitterness still laced my tongue making me relive those earlier moments and my body shivered with revolt.
I had to then, put my right forefinger deep into my mouth in a defiant act of scraping the tongue base, akin to vomiting, to force out all residue.
After a couple of more rinsing my mouth started to recover from the assault and I heaved back to normalcy and my mind, paralysed until then, started to analyse the perchance of that one odd piece in my bowl full of sweet globes.
As I walked back into the living room, a very innocent looking brother enquired of my distress and as I was explaining, there, a sparkle in his eyes gave him away. I suddenly remembered his benevolent act of replenishing my bowl fifteen minutes before with grapes. Grapes were they? Yes indeed, but he had made sure one special Neem fruit also found its place along with the sweet succulent grapes in my bowl.