My previous post was on "Gaygulu", a tasty tuber of the Palmyra Palm tree. I mentioned in that article that the availability of "Gaygulu" has become very scarce in the Twin Cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Having written of this, I remembered another childhood favourite of mine – Cheema Chintakayalu also called as Seema Chintakayalu, which have become extinct in our city and perhaps in all urban areas. My children have not tasted it so far! Cheema Chinta Chettu is the name of a tree and Cheema Chintakaya or kayalu are the fruits of this tree. The fruit is actually a pod; that contains white sweetish edible pulp over black seeds. The pulp has a very distinct and nice taste, which I am missing since very long. At the top of this article you can see pictures of Cheema Chintakaya trees and of raw and ripe Cheema Chintakaya pods.
Cheema Chintakaya trees are huge thorny trees. The trees grow up to a height of 15 metres and their scientific name is Pithecellobium dulce. Several years ago in my childhood we had three Cheema Chintakaya Chetlu (trees) in the large compound of the Company Bungalow allotted to my father, at Kothagudem. But after few years we got the trees felled as packs of monkeys were causing a lot of nuisance on the trees and in our compound and there was a constant visitation by urchins who pelted stones at the trees to pluck the pods and sneaked into our compound to collect them and even climbed the trees to pluck them. This was not easy to prevent as a Watchman was posted to our house only for night watch.
In English the trees are referred as Madras Thorn and Manila Tamarind and the fruits as Monkey Pod and Black Bead Sweet. And in Hindi the fruits are known as Jalebi Imli or Ganga Imli and as Tetul in Bengali, Kodukkappuli in Tamil, Vilayati Chinch in Marathi and as Seeme Hunase in Kannada.
As these are wild trees, I am sure people in villages still get to enjoy Cheema Chintakayalu. But here in the cities we have to live with old memories. This is happening with a number of other wild fruits, vegetables and greens. All tasty and nutritious but in the name of modernity or lack of knowledge the demand is gradually falling and they are vanishing from the cities.