Chapter in a Nutshell

Ruskin Bond through this story narrates the tale of a man revisiting his childhood home and reliving some parts of those golden years, this time with a new friend he makes. The story slowly but surely wins one over and highlights the importance of one’s carefree youth. 

A Blessed Abode

The story begins with a man standing on the side of the road, looking at an old house. It was still the same but now there was a new outhouse and fewer trees. He was glad that the jackfruit tree remained. His grandmother always said, “A blessing rests on the house where the shadow of a tree falls”. The new family too must be receiving the tree’s blessing he assumed. Where he was stood, there was a turnstile in the old days. As a child, he would swing on it until he felt dizzy. 

A New Friend

The man engrossed in watching the house did not realise he too was being watched until a voice spoke. It was a little girl, around 12 years old. They spoke and he found out it was her family living here now and that her father was a colonel. He told her about himself and his childhood days. The little girl invited him inside. The man instead of going through the gate, decided to climb the wall. Although he said he was feeling young, a simple climb to the top of the wall left him breathless and he realised a lot had changed. 

The Jackfruit Tree

Instead of going inside the house, the man sat outside on a bench under a mango tree. It was the same bench his grandmother often rested on. The man shows the girl a jackfruit tree and tells her that it was his favorite spot to hide his boyish treasures. He would collect all sorts of bright things and hide them in the hollow part of the branch. This reminded him of an Iron Cross his British grandfather received from a German soldier during the First World War. Years ago, as a young boy he had hid the Iron Cross in the hollow. The girl excitedly asks him if he still has it to which he replies that he forgot it in the spot. 

The girl urges him to go look for it again but he was too tired to climb. She takes matters into her own hands and goes to look for it. Soon, the little comes running with the Iron Cross, even after 25 years it was still there. The man rewards her with it and asks her to keep it.

The man lastly reveals that it was not the Iron Cross he came for but his youth. He simply wanted a glimpse of his old life, the happy days. He leaves and the passing summer breeze with the scent of mangoes momentarily makes him forget the present. It makes him forget the sad reality that he cannot climb trees anymore as he is growing old and losing stamina. 

Conclusion

The man came looking not for any worldly treasure but for the memories of his youth, the only treasure that matters. Reliving those days gave him a break from the harsh realities of life, of ageing. He only wanted to smell the scent of his childhood. It broke his heart to come to terms with the fact that now he has grown and he is losing his strength. He can no longer effortlessly climb walls and trees.