Jackfruit that are pieces of India’s living history

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

Tezpur (Assam) : These are no ordinary jackfruit that are served to patients and staff at the 155 Army Base Hospital here. But living products of history grown on the ashes of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

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Lt. Col. Rajesh Kalia, spokesperson of the army in Guwahati, Assam, said: “It was our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s desire that his ashes be spread across the country.” Nehru died May 27, 1964.

“Accordingly, a packet of his ashes was brought here May 31, 1964, to the army’s 4 Corps headquarters and buried at the base hospital’s old location, in the refugee market,” Kalia told IANS.

Lt. Col. S.N. Wanchoo, who was the commandant of the hospital at that time, decided that since jackfruit was a commonly found fruit, a sapling of the same be planted on the site where the ashes were buried.

“The sapling was planted with full military honours on May 9, 1965, about a year after the ashes were brought here,” Kalia said.

According to Kalia, the base hospital shifted its location a year later and along with the rest of the things, the ‘Nehru Memorial Tree’ was also relocated.

“The hospital shifted base three kilometres away from its then location. Our records show that great care was taken while shifting the tree. The soil was dug deep so that along with the roots, a portion of the soil on which it grew was also relocated,” he said.

The 45-year-old tree’s fruits are now served to the hospital’s patients, its staff, army personnel and their families every summer.

“This tree is of immense historical importance, therefore the beautification work around it is given due importance by the army’s 4 Corps. There is a concrete platform constructed at its base with a plaque which bears its testimony,” Kalia said.

No wonder then that it is of great privilege for an army man to eat a fruit of the tree.

“There are records that say that portions of Pandit Nehru’s ashes were sprayed over the Himalayas by a helicopter. And among other places, a portion was brought to Arunachal Pradesh too. But this tree is unique because it’s a piece of living history,” Kalia said.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at [email protected])