I am an Assamese and I have grown up on elongated lemons specific to Assam. This variety of lemons are simply known as Assam lemons. In Assamese we call them ‘nemu tenga‘. While growing up, I had never thought that one day I would yearn for these lemons as the dry earth yearns for rain. Quite dramatic huh!
While the drier parts of India are more acquainted with the small and round Acid Lime, we Assamese bask in the lemony scent of the larger elongated lemons which can be cultivated only in heavy rainfall humid regions. Hot and humid summers back home are so much more bearable with these juicy stuff. Everyday in the summer, as we rushed back home from school, chilled glasses of fresh lemonade (nemu sorpot) would await us in the refrigerator. In Assam, whenever guests arrived, someone would head to the kitchen to squeeze a juicy lemon to prepare nemu sorpot. Sour curries, a regular feature in Assamese cuisine, seasoned with lemon juice give us respite on hot days. A slice of lemon with lunch or dinner is routine. I have friends who even munch away the lemon peels after consuming the juice from the slice. While suffering from fever we have lemon juice prepared in warm water. And when anyone feels like puking, they are made to smell crushed lemon leaves. Whole ripened yellow lemons would be pickled in salt and is consumed in a small amount while suffering from an upset stomach.
When my sister and I were in Kolkata for a few years for studies, Assam lemons constituted the major portion of our heavy bags while heading to Kolkata from home every semester break. Now we both sisters are in Delhi and long for the precious lemons. Whenever our parents come here or we go there, lemons are an essential item in our cargo.
|A assamese farmer with a lemon tree|
Recently I went home (my home state Assam) for almost a month and I chose to travel by railways only because I wanted to bring back lots of lemons among other things. After I reached Delhi, I gave my sister her share. I keep a close eye on my share of lemons in the fridge and use only one lemon a day to make a jug of sweet and salty lemonade. The other day I found a half used lemon in the fridge and I got busy to find out who the culprit was! Then someone used another to make lemonade for guests. After that I have told everyone in the house that my coveted lemons are only meant for the family and that too they are to be used only as a drink. Well, I have become quite possessive. And a little insane too I guess. Everyday, I take a peek at them and say, “My precioussss…”. While they last I shall have a feeling of being home and this hot noth Indian summer would be bearable.