[Seasons is a new feature on The Literary Shack showcasing some of my favourite aspects of the season running. I hope you will enjoy this one and extend your support as you have always done 🙂 ]
The summer heat is decidedly on here in my part of the world. Whatever it is doing to people I couldn’t care for I wake up each morning hoping to spot a cart of fresh, ripe, juicy, sensuous mangoes in the market. But alas the showers have been sparse and I’m sure we didn’t even have mango showers this year. So it would be lame to yearn for mangoes before May but there you have it: I am a mango maniac.
An interesting fact is that I am not one of those sophisticated mango lovers. By which I hope to remember you to those clan of people who drool over mango mousses, mango flavoured ice-creams, mango puddings, souffles, mango tarts, mango pizzas (if that’s possible) and all other unimaginable such recipes with mango. So sophisticated I am not. But purist I am. I love the fruit as a whole, as a creation of Nature.
I love their sweet smell. Sometimes it’s not even sweet. It’s that half-ripe-half-unripe wavering aroma that teases the nostrils. The skin and form are an artwork in their own right. It’s a beautiful mishmash of dark green, yellow and even blue sometimes stretched all over in absolutely admirable patterns. We have to give credit the Maker for such safe, artistic packaging that is nonpareil.
Skinning and slicing is a pure pleasure job that has to be done in absolute tranquillity while you take in the various stages of unveiling of its inner beauty. After a certain age, when I was allowed to clutch a knife and peeler, I almost felt like I was vested with great powers and immediately set to its application during summer breaks. I would hurriedly empty my cleverly filled plate (consisting of only those essential food stuff I needed to get through the day as a human being) and run to the mango basket. And I still remember how cross I was with the flies that had outdone my speed in reaching the place.
And yes washing was a ritual I performed with less enthusiasm for it was later on included in my rule book after a thorough beating when mother discovered me hogging loads of unwashed mangoes. So the final mouthing of the pieces is by far the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever had. I would eat on and on, not sparing the little scrapes of mango left on the huge seed which is pure fun chewing on. Sometimes I’ve had people losing their mango appetite eating along with me. But I am none the decent eater even now. When it comes to gorging on mangoes, it is messy business. And I completely love it as I am proud of my style.
And I really get friendly with other mango lovers. That includes who people love eating mangoes and most importantly that grow them. I had once wanted to belong to the latter category and later dropped the plan on learning that it would take at least a decade for the mangoes to spring. I was seven or eight then. I haven’t changed much since then too.
There is one other group of people who I worship- writers who write to glorify my favourite fruit. I came upon this poem sometime back penned by one of my favourite contemporary poetess Aditi Rao on the poetry journal, Muse India. Ms. Aditi Rao did such an excellent job of it that after reading it I was actually cross! Cross that it wasn’t time for mangoes yet and the mango seeker in me had been aroused before time. I’m so happy to share it with you here:
The International Mango Festival
is a real festival, an annual two day extravaganza,
the only ritual my grandfather, a good Marxist,
allowed himself. Each year, he drove his white Contessa
(five/ nine/ eleven year old me chattering in the backseat),
led me through human throngs and sweet mango smells.
The heat did not matter. The crowds did not matter.
There were magic shows, mango slogan writing
competitions, and mango eating contests for women.
But we simply walked from stall to stall, cradling the fruits
in our palms, sniffing for flavor, touching tentatively,
feeling their pulse. Sometimes, I would rub my thumb
in little circles on the mango’s skin, carry its scent home with me.
I never believed the watermelon sized mangoes, and I refused
to take the plum sized ones seriously. Still, there was joy
in watching those first encounters, shy unveilings
of brides to worlds they had been sheltered from. The Sindoori,
with its blush, greeting the Safeda’s pale grandeur. The syrupy Alfonso
in its first meeting with a spicy pickle. The shock on a mango’s face
at this other, this who-is-this-other, this other-I-didn’t-know-existed.
While tourists flocked to the special events, my grandfather and I
pressed our ears to the mangoes and listened. We learned their secrets.
I have two words for you Ms. Aditi: Thank you! And now I hope I have fired up the mango lover in you for it is summer after all!