My in-laws had a large house in Chennai till about 2003. with 7 mango trees, 11 coconut trees, 2 of sapota, 3 jackfruit, 2 guava, 1 badam, 1 lime and a host of flower plants and creepers. It was a garden which was always blooming with or producing something or the other everyday.
Each tree would be of a different variety. Like the 7 mango trees bore 7 different varieties of mangoes. Each would have a different seasonal flowering pattern. So there would be mangoes from one tree or the other through the year at home. Some would bear fruits in 1000s and some very rarely and that too only under a dozen like the Malgoa variety – 1 mango almost weighing 750gm to 1Kg at times.
Since our backyard was always evergreen with fruits, raw and ripe, all round the year, there were visitors like the squirrels, crows, insects, birds – all of them getting to taste them first! At first I would wonder when was the best time to harvest the fruits straight from the trees instead of picking dropped ones. It was difficult to guess as the outer color of the skin would have barely changed. It could as well be raw inside and not yet ripe! But my husband would know. He told me to observe. What I found was whenever the fruits were ripe enough, squirrels and crows would start pecking at them. At times there would be a gang of monkeys. They would never touch a raw mango, jackfruit or guava. When they pecked at it a few times, the stem would give way and it would fall down. Then we knew it was time to harvest the lot from that tree. And then there would be tresspassers who would just jump over to pluck whatever was in sight and within hand’s reach. Humans never waited like the birds and bees did. They would tear down even very small ones without a thought.
There was a man who supplied us milk from a distant village. He would cycle all the way each day before dawn. He also had a lot of wisdom about these things since he came from a rural area called Kelambakkam, way beyond Chennai in those days. (Now Kelambakkam is more urban than Chennai! It is the new destination for the hundreds of IT companies and Engineering colleges dotting the Old Mahabalipuram Road – OMR, aka Rajiv Gandhi Salai).
What the milkman said made such a lot of sense to me. He said in the villages, any produce is mentally divided into 3 portions or parts. The farmer or owner would know he would get only a third of the produce. The other 2 portions had to be written off for human trespassers and the birds/animals. I liked his philosophy. It makes the acceptance of such things so much more easier on the mind, instead of worrying who stole our fruits and how to get back at them when we chance to spy them in the act of stealing. Its simply not worth the trouble at all to lose sleep over. The Law of Nature is at work.