TROPICAL TREES AND TARZAN
The ward of Arrarim was my main stomping ground. My friends and I roamed its winding lanes and jumped many a stone fence to take short cuts. In so doing, we learned about a variety of tropical trees including those that were known to produce the sweetest mangoes, guavas, custard apples and other tropical fruit.
I was always polite and respectful to the owners of the fruit trees, and they showed their appreciation by letting me help myself whenever the fruit ripened. Since homeowners were generous with fruit that grew on their property, I never had to resort to stealing. But there were two exceptions.
The first was with regards to the cashews that grew on the unfenced properties on the hills along the southern border of the ward. Although the land must have been communal or private property, the wide-open spaces made it seem like wilderness to me …and I indulged in its delicious cashews without the slightest twinge of guilt.
The other exception was the bamboo plant. Twice a year, we’d cut down about six mature stalks from the many clusters of bamboo that grew on private land at the foot of the hills. These poles would be used for erecting outdoor bandstands during the annual chapel and church celebrations. We felt that these stolen items were for a good cause, and I’m sure that the owners themselves turned a blind eye to our petty theft, if for no reason other than the fact that they would have done the same in their youth as part of a village tradition.
Then there was the sprawling banyan tree, an evergreen of the fig family. This tree grows to about 100 ft., and spreads laterally by dropping aerial roots from its branches that establish themselves in the ground to become a new tree trunk which, in turn, develops its own branches and aerial roots.
The banyan tree always conjured images of my childhood hero, Tarzan, swinging from the vines. Among the few banyan trees in Saligão was one across the road from Mater Dei, my school. Whenever time permitted, I’d go to the banyan tree and take a couple of swings on the aerial roots before heading to class.
Closer to home, there was another banyan tree in the back yard of a house that was unoccupied during the monsoon season. We’d hang out in the balcony waiting for other kids to show up for a game of godd’de or take shelter there in the event of a sudden downpour.
Well, one day my friend Cyril and I decided to check out the back yard. And we discovered that the tree branched out over an open storm water sewer, approximately 8’ wide x 6’ deep, that was part of the storm water drainage system. At this point in time the open drain was bone dry with the bottom strewn with boulders and rocks of various sizes.
Anyway, when we saw the aerial roots of the banyan tree, it brought out the Tarzan in us. We decided that I would swing from the vine like Tarzan and Cyril would grab me around the waist like Cheetah. Well, well, well, .I grabbed a vine and we took a running leap. As soon as we were off the ground, I realized that I wasn’t as strong as Tarzan. The weight of Cyril’s body pulling down on me made me feel like my arms were going to come out of their shoulder sockets. But the thought of letting go and landing on the rocks below made me hang on for dear life until we made it to the other side.
The potential consequences of this episode haunted me for the rest of my school days. But it also taught me to avoid any ‘monkey busi- ness’, literally and figuratively, and just leave such activities to the likes of the Tarzans and cheetahs of this world.