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Celebrating Jack and Joao

Miguel Braganza

Goa celebrates the arrival of the monsoons and the ripening of the jackfruits in one go: the Sao Joao festival. According to the Bible, Elizabeth was six months pregnant with a child who was to be named John, Johannus or Joao – depending on the language in which Zechariah carved it on the ‘tablet’ then made of clay rather than a microchip. God saved the couple from the embarrassment of people doubting the pregnancy of an old woman by striking her husband mute till the child was born and named. Today many expectant wives wish that their husbands were similarly blessed, while others wish that their sons grow up to be teetotallers like St John the Baptist. Exactly the opposite is the case at the celebration that takes place six months before Christmas. A jackfruit, symbolising a multitude of children and a bottle of choice feni is offered to the revellers who jump in the well, with or without the new son-in-law of the house.

Jackfruits come in all shapes and sizes, but mostly extra-large. In Goa, a well-rounded personality is often referred to as a ponnos, a comment that is sure to make everyone smile! This year, the alcohol-free ‘Ponnsachem Fest’ organised by the Socorro Socio-Art and Cultural Association (SSACA) was held on June 22 so that those who imbibe the spirit on June 24 can also enjoy the free-alcohol festivities elsewhere and sing ‘San Juanv, San Juanv, gunvta mure, vatt kaim disona” in a tune that would put C Alvares to shame. The jungle juice may give one a hangover that lasts a day but the memories of the festival last a lifetime. And the high sugar levels in the ripe jackfruit takes the combo pack of feni-ani-ponnos one level higher. The Botanical Society of Goa gave the initial push to jackfruit processing by making it the ‘focal fruit’ of the Konkan Fruit Fest at BPS Club, Margao in May 2013. Subject matter specialist in home science at KVK, North Goa, Sunetra Talaulikar demonstrated the jackfruit chips making methodology to the participants at the venue. She conducted a demonstration at the only agriculture college in Goa.  This year she demonstrated more products made using ripe jackfruits at the ‘Ponnsachem Fest’ in Socorro to add to the jams and squash demonstrated by Sneha Govekar of the Directorate of Agriculture last year. Last year’s participants turned demonstrators this year. Learning from beginners is easier because the possible mistakes are fresh in their minds. It was a joy to seen ten and twelve-year-old students of the local school take interest in the demonstrations. Perhaps, the twenty-something fresh graduates and students doing the demonstrations were less intimidating than seasoned professionals.  

The jackfruit is the fruit of the future. It is seen in a multitude of products including vegan meat and gluten-free flour. Come, be a part of the movement.

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