There is in Jaffna a lovely little guesthouse called Manattrii. In the garden of this enchanting, refurbished 19th Century abode are two large jam fruit trees, their branches spreading out over its neat little garden.
Their velvety leaves rustle whenever a breeze rises and bees take turns at visiting their white flowers throughout the day. The first thing you notice about Manattrii (after the signboard) is one of those trees. It stands near the gate. Taller people have to negotiate past its low branches and foliage to reach the entrance to the guesthouse.
I love jam fruit trees. They take me to my childhood. For me, jam fruit trees are associated with happy memories; of straining my neck staring at its branches while my taller friend, Upekha, hunts for ripe fruit; of begging adults to interrupt some other, bland, errand to pick a few; of hanging on its branches which are ideal for climbing; of listening to the birds that gorge on its delights; and of whiling away the hours seated in its soothing, fragrant shade.
Jam fruit trees demand limitless patience. Their fruit are small and scattered everywhere. They are not easy to find but it is a delight to search for them… and an even greater thrill to stumble upon the ripe ones. They have a distinctive taste and are just the right size to keep you wanting more. A short burst of sweetness and it’s gone.
It isn’t only the red fruit that is tasty. The ripening ones are just as good. Whenever you think you’ve plucked the last one, the leaves shift and you discover, to your delight, yet another red hued jewel. That’s the magic of the jam fruit tree; a magic I rediscovered in Jaffna this weekend.
For in Colombo, I don’t have time to squander under jam fruit trees. In Colombo, there is always somewhere to rush to, always something else to do.
Jam Fruit

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