The Melancholy Melon!


It was extremely hot and dry, in the peak of the pre-monsoon summer. Stay-home was mandatory as it was also the peak of the national lockdown. The ceiling fans didn’t do much help except for circulating the hot air more liberally. All those fortunate people who could afford the ACs made it more unbearable for the have-nots, as the relentlessly whirring machines outside their homes emitted still more hot airs. Going out for the essentials like fruits, vegetables and grocery was a must, and it was never a good idea to go marketing in the hot sun and carrying heavy loaded bags back. More importantly, we needed the dehydration-preventive fruits like the water melons very badly. But sadly, that fruit was scarce in our locality and it required quite a long walk which was further accentuated by the normally heavyweight fruit. Therefore, going for the watery fruit was not exactly a nice thirst-quenching idea. Not to speak of the accumulation of sweat inside doubly-secure masks in the process.

 

At that time the online stores were just starting home deliveries of the essentials only and they were mostly inaccessible due to the heavy rush of customers. I failed to get a delivery slot in the online store we usually ordered grocery or vegetables or fruits from for days. So, I kept on trying other online sites, and found the attractively luring mouth-moistening red chunks of the fruits ready for delivery on one of them. I ordered instantly even though I had feeling that this store normally didn’t deliver fresh fruits or vegetables. Nonetheless, I declared to my wife with pride that we were going to get it the next day itself without the sticky labor.

 

The phone call came from the delivery boy dot on time the next morning informing me that he was waiting outside. The iron-grilled main entrance to the four-story building we lived in always remained locked and keys to the lock were provided by the landlord to every tenant. Carrying the key was a must-do to go out or let someone in. Tenants living on the upper floors had ingenious ways: they used to securely fix the key to one end of a plastic rope and whenever they needed to let someone in they used to drop the rope down from the balcony and haul it up once the job was done.

 

Sensing that the delivery package would naturally be a large one I took the key and went out to the common passage. The boy was standing outside the grilled door; I noticed that he was not carrying any box or large package on his hands. Anyway, I hurriedly came forward to open the grilled entrance.

“No Sir! It’s not necessary,” the boy said to me and before I could react with my most valid expression he dipped his right hand into his side trouser pocket, took out a small square paper packet and pushed it through the grill openings.

“What’s this?” I couldn’t check my reaction coming out loud now even as I had to accept the packet.

“The item you ordered, Sir!” and he walked away briskly as was the usual way of the busy delivery boys. No good blaming them, the educated hardworking boys earning a living. I entered my house despondently. What on earth that little packet could possibly have inside?

 

I sat down heavily on the chair by the dining table, in a great hurry to open it.

“Has the water melon been delivered?” my wife called out from the bedroom.

“Yes, just checking. Wait a minute!” I managed to answer, the gloom before the storm almost overpowering me.

 

I opened it and found a neatly packed plastic sachet of nice little seeds. ‘Oh yes! They’ve given me the embryos of the melons!’ I mused, thunderstruck. “Come darling! Look what we’ve got!” I called back to my wife, failing to know what would’ve been the best response to make under the uniquely interesting circumstances.

 

She came in and saw the brimming seeds on my right palm. She took some time to fully understand the situation, and then burst out laughing.

“Good for you, my absent-minded husband! Serves you best! How many times did I tell you to check and read the descriptions fully before ordering? But you never learn! Now, go, sow and reap the benefits!”

Trying to evade the usual topic of discussion or rather arguments I asked her instead, “Okay, okay, my fault! But think what exactly we’re going to do with this?”

“Maybe give to someone else who likes gardening…. why...we can give it to our landlord’s mother who is so fond of growing vegetables!”

“But what are you going to tell her how the hell we came into possessing such precious assets!”

“No issue that! Just will tell her somebody gifted us or sent to us by mistake!” she was still enjoying the moment.

 

A rush of melancholy engulfed me even as the problem had been settled in an amicable way. Yes, now the long walk under the blazing sun had become absolutely necessary. ‘Quench my thirst, deary fruit!’ I scoffed.

 

The hangover or rather the legacy continued though. The lovable nursery that sent me those precious seeds never left me alone in the months afterward. I used to get a nice email every week without fail about the more precious seeds they had for me to go on my farming spree.

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