In the Shade of my Elders

Summer holidays in my childhood, meant a month-long stay at my father’s village on the Konkan coast. The days would be long, hot and dusty, and we kids would be left to our own devices. So with no TV, Internet or smartphone (most thankfully) to divert us, we enjoyed a normal childhood – just our imaginations and the great outdoors!

Most typically, I’d be barefooted, in short urchin pants and a singlet, a trademark stick in hand and jaunty cap on head! I would spend my mornings wandering through vegetable fields, climbing trees and discovering the pure delights of stolen fruit. Afternoons would find me dreaming up stories of high adventure, while perched precariously on a cashew tree. The touch and texture of earth and bark, the smell of sap, the taste of fruit fresh from the tree, these sensations formed the substance of my enchanted years.

The trees of my childhood that shaded my dreams, and others like them, still hold sway over me. I may be traveling – deep in thought, engaged in conversation, or even embroiled in argument – but the sight of a beautiful, balanced, bountiful tree always stops me in my tracks 🙂

And so, it had to happen. I had to take to the trees again – this time, on my terrace, in my urban farm. Here’s a peek at some of the beauties growing in the sun!

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Avocado (left) the first in my collection, a gift from a friend (thanks, Shabnam!), brought in as a foot-high baby, so lush and deep now – and the ethereal Moringa/Drumstick (right) tree!

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My sturdy amla tree, and its sour, savory fruit hiding within

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Growing and going bananas – frail sapling to a full-leafed youthful tree in 2 months

(Photo Courtesy: Rhea)

I must be actually going bananas because I can’t seem to stop! There are more – sapodilla/chickoo, love apple and custard apple/sitaphal trees growing in containers on my terrace, and a tall neem watching benevolently over the entire farm. All of this, and yet I go visit Pune this weekend and return with starfruit, guava, orange, lime, tangerine, papaya and two of my favorite varieties of mango – Kesar and Alphonso 🙂

With a bit of luck, I’ll outwit the monkeys, parrots and other sneaky rivals, and get to eat some of my own fruit. But for now, I’m hoping for shade from a tyrannical summer sun, remembrances of an enchanted childhood, and good karma that comes (trust me) from growing trees!

Wishing you too, the opportunity of growing trees – and the shade of your elders – this hot summer in Mumbai! Until we meet again….

9 thoughts on “In the Shade of my Elders

  1. Bernadette Dease

    How wonderful! But won’t growing such large trees on the terrace damage the building?
    I live in a very old building… 77years old…and my husband worries that if I grow plants on the balcony, it will come down! 😦


    1. Mandy Post author

      Thanks for writing in! I grow my trees in plastic containers on the terrace, ensuring that the weight is evenly spaced out and on load-bearing pillars and walls. I also ensure that there is clear space for water runoff from the terrace floor. This precaution is critical, as waterlogged or perennially damp concrete floors, even if well-waterproofed, run the risk of leakages with time. Other than that, our building is relatively new and so is structurally sound. So I guess you’d need to take a call on how you can hoist your containers to ensure water run-off (as the rain runs off) and check that your terrace floors can bear the weight of containers and/or alter your plans to use lighter containers with smaller plants/trees 🙂


  2. navneet

    It is quite amazing to hear of a neem tree growing on a terrace in a pot..i wish I could come visit your terrace garden …it is just so inspiring !
    and now I want some help ….with spider mites ! My curry leaf plant is getting attacked by sand coloured mites repeatedly …what do i do ? The curry leaf plant has bugs on the underside of leaves and the lemon plant leaves are also speckled with dots which I believe are also bugs . I have tried neem oil , turmeric water …but the bugs come back ….may be i am not doing this often enough …what else can i do ?
    A post on common bugs with pictures to identify the bugs with organic remedies will be super welcome 🙂


    1. Mandy Post author

      Hi Navneet, thanks for writing in! Spider mites tend to occur and propagate faster during hot and dry conditions, and when your plants are stressed for water. Ensure that you are watering frequently, continue the neem oil + detergent treatment and most likely this problem will be controlled with the onset of the monsoons. Spider mites tend to be encouraged with the use of chemical fertilizers as their natural enemies get decimated. So if that is the case, try to switch to natural remedies and continue treatment, as spider mite infestations thrive through their egg colonies – that propagate almost invisibly, even if you kill off the adult spider mites..


    1. Mandy Post author

      I use the largest size container – I’m thinking it’s probably a 20 liter one – for most of my fruiting/larger trees. This works well enough. If one focuses on quality soil ingredients, then larger sizes are better but not critical.



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