Monsoon of Memories: Mango Season: The Indian Manna!
My maternal grandparents’ home had a mango tree. As a child, I heard many stories from my naani under the shadow of its green and yellow umbrella of leaves. As a teenager, I enjoyed swing rides on the makeshift swing that my naana put upon its strongest branches. As a young adult, I joyously overconsumed juices, pickles, chutneys, marmalades and more, all of which came from the fruit of that old tree that overpowered the veranda of that home.
Growing up, surrounded by mangoes and mango fanatics, I learned, quite early on, that while the rest of the world has four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter, we Indians have five: the mango season, being the fifth.
We’re now in the mango season.
Away from the home country, the whiff has reached me, from the supermarkets in the neighborhood which too have declared that it’s the ‘Mango Mania’ time. Amidst the dominant Alphonso, also stand out other varieties such as Totapuri, Rajapuri, Badami and Kesar. After all, “What’s in a name?” That which we call a mango by any other name would smell as sweet.
As I pick my share of this luscious fruit, I find myself back in the veranda where I learnt how to eat a mango, under the able supervision of naani and the company of my cousins. She’d say, “You should always enjoy a mango, not just eat it.” And just like that, I learnt how to hold the mango in my then tiny hands, squeeze firmly, and then knead it to relish the yummy gooeyness inside! The scene of tufts of mango stuck in between our teeth with our hands messy and sticky is still fresh in my mind. So is the aroma of all things sweet and even aam panna, the sweet-sour drink that was made out of raw mangoes and stored in glass jars on shelves.
I spent many summers in different parts of the country, relishing what is aptly called, the king of fruits, in its varied forms—from a panna cotta to a curry.
Then there was the competition with friends in the neighbourhood to see who could wipe cleanest the guthli (pit) of the mango. The measure of success was that the pit had to be so thoroughly sucked that even a cow wouldn’t bother smelling it after you are done.
What was it about the fruit that turned every meal into an occasion? The child whose birthday party had a mango cake, instead of the regular vanilla or chocolate, was the star. Not to mention the famous golden yellow milk moustache that we boasted after having gulped down a rather tall glass of mango shake.
To date, the excitement over the season’s first mango is palpable, albeit it now comes from a box, not plucked from a tree. Married to a mango fanatic, who claims he can identify the variety, rawness and taste of the fruit by just looking at it, I can vouch for the passion of the spouse in this department.
We all have a mango story, don’t we? Irrespective of where we live, we carry the taste of aam ka aachar (mango pickle) and mango lassi (mango buttermilk) with us.
What’s for dinner tonight? Mangoes, of course! For, it’s a complete meal, which makes every diner happy. Oh, and did I mention aam ras (mango pulp) with poori (fried flatbread)? Manna!
Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this article, please write to email@example.com.
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