We had a pomegranate tree in the garden. My grandmother would water it every day when the sun went down, drawing a bucket of water from the well and carrying it to the front of the house. The front yard was spread with white river sand and in a corner stood the pomegranate tree. It was a gnarled and harsh tree, growing in an arid land. But it had tiny leaves like jewels of gold. I remember the colours, yellow through to orange and red and green. We would jump around the tree waiting at first for the fruits to show themselves and then for them to grow big and ripen. We were forbidden to touch the fruits. Only grandmother could pick them when they were ripe.
They were such slow times. In the afternoon the women would spread grass mats on the sand and settle down to their nap, all the while talking. And we children would play around the small Pomegranate tree. Life stopped still. Sometimes the Liptons man would come down the lane carrying his tea. Then there was all excitement, the women stirring themselves off the mats. The man would take a metal boiler full of hot water off his turbaned head and set it down. Then he would re-light the fire and brew us all tea. The tea was free. Liptons were educating people in the interior to drink tea. The tea was so sweet. We stood around drinking out of metal cups. Sometimes the saree man would come along down the lane carrying his multi-coloured cloths. The women then would really be in a flurry. Long yards of cloth were spread about on the sand. I had to restrain myself from jumping in and wrapping myself in all the green, blue, red, and orange with borders of gold.
All the while the pomegranate tree continued to put out flowers and then tiny fruits and we watched the fruits grow big very slowly. Once in a while one would get bigger than all the rest. We would get excited and every morning troop out to see how it was doing. The fruit got pink and slowly developed a red blush around its skin. “When is it going to ripe, Grandma?” “Wait, not yet”, she would say and there were more days of waiting. Then one day Grandmother would look up at the sky, hitch her cloth at the waist and head towards the pomegranate tree with a sense of purpose. This was the moment we had been waiting for. Grandmother would get hold of the ripe fruit and slowly twist it off the tree. She would then squat down and smash it against a hard rock. With her strong hands she would prize it open and we saw the little ruby seeds spill out. We all had a handful each of the magic seeds to carry around giggling.
Now I live in a big house bristling with electronic gadgets and books and a fridge full of food. I can on any day go to the supermarket and buy a basket load of pomegranates if I wanted to. My sons asked me what I would really really want if I had the money. Last night I looked up the price of a Jensen Interceptor. Ever since the seventies I have been dreaming of owning one some day. I saw advertised, an old bare metaled wreck which needed doing up on sale for £15,000. The seller helpfully pointed out the car could be made roadworthy if a similar amount was spent on it. Would that make me happy?
Sometimes I pine for the pomegranate tree. I wish I was playing underneath it still. The world is a deceitful place. You have to wait a long time growing up to discover that. And now the pomegranate tree is no more and I know of no one who still remembers it. I have searched the world’s art museums for my pomegranate tree and have found only cheap imitations.
Hold on to your dreams. Reality is never a good substitute.