‘Can you tell me where I can see some lychee orchards?’ I ask a bystander as soon as I get off the bus from Patna. Muzzaffarpur is famous for lychees and I thought it be nice for a change not to see monuments or museums.
The guy points me to some trees a little distance away, ‘ Those are lychee trees.’ He also names another place where I am told I can find lots of lychee trees.
I tell this to a rickshaw wallah but he tends to disagree, ‘There is not much there. Where do you want to go?’
‘Any place where I can see lots of lychee trees,’ I tell him. It is not often that he gets a request like this.
He names a place. We agree on the price and we are off towards the flyover. There is a jam on the flyover. The rickshaw weaves its way past trucks and lorries spewing out their dirty fumes into what must have once been clean Muzzaffarpur.
In fact, I had imagined this to be a nice little market town with decent number of houses and some grand merchant houses. I had imagined such a town to be surrounded by acres of lychee orchards stretching to the horizons. The city is actually much bigger than I had imagined.
‘It is quite big. There is one SG, one IG and 4 DSPs in Muzzaffarpur,’ tells me an intelligence officer I met on the bus from Patna.
We get out of the jam, wheel down the other side of the flyover and turn right into a road in a terrible state before the first orchards begin to appear. I pay the guy and walk right into one of these orchards. It is a scene of filtered light and flickering shades. The ground is sandy and it’s nice to walk under the trees.
It is that time of the year when these orchards are not that interesting. Flowers are just beginning to appear in some of the trees. New leaves are starting to appear. Their tender green leaves droop down against a backdrop of hardy and thick green leaves that have been around for at least a year. The trunk branches off early, just a few feet from ground level. Trees are usually not more than 25 feet high. There are about 200 trees in this orchard. There are taller trees of mango, amla and simhad with its five petalled bright red flowers in bloom.
‘This was built in 1920,’ tells me a ninth standard boy who spots me walking through the orchard. I am standing before an old colonial building set within the orchard. A nice walkway with flower beds on either side leads up to it.
‘This used to be nice a couple of years ago – full of nice colourful flowers,’ he points to the flower beds.
He then points to many other trees and plants in the garden – tomato, mustard, guava, simhad, lime. People have been cultivating potatoes as well in the ground where the lychees have been planted.
Lychee flowers that are just appearing will take about 2 months to mature. The orchard will be quite a sight in season. Fruits will begin to appear in the market mid-April.