Thursday, September 06, 2007

Monsoon of Mangoes

Longing is a terrible, terrible thing. A longing that can be satisfied only ten months later is enough to drive a sane woman mad in her fingers. On a rainy evening, by not wanting pizza, it began like this.

On the way to and from some pretty brilliant Goan curries is a little market. It spreads in a clumsy diagonal cross that seems to spill from a round main square into small squiggly lanes. It's a fascinating place because in the evenings, under naked bulbs shaded by waterproof paper plates sit more than one fruit and vegetable seller. The wonky circles of light from under the shiny plate always make the produce look so appealing. Add small beads of rain and there's a beautiful shot.

Knowing that I was going to get out of the cold, out of the rain, and go home to a warm and incredibly delicious meal made me want dessert. And in that moment, the only thing that seemed enticing and desirable, far above even a bar of Galaxy chocolate, was a fruit that wasn't even there — a mango. And with that one thought, I was utterly lost... and still am!

You see, mangoes are nearly a religion in my home, especially with my mother and I. As far as we see it, the only conceivable riches of summer are carton upon carton of mangoes, dozen after dozen of lush aphus and juicy pairee. Each season starts with the usual discussions of how odiously expensive they are, what unconscionable thieves the mango sellers are, and how it will still be a while until we can have the first lot home.

Among my earliest childhood memories is sneaking into the kitchen well past my bedtime to raid the mangoes. It is an achievement beyond most five year-olds, I'll have you know, to be able to identify a single ripe mango from a great, ugly carton of them by smell alone. That in the darkness I could leave the mess of ripped skin and seed in one corner, clean my hands on a towel, leave it lying around, and waltz back to bed qualifies me for prodigy-hood. In fact, it's the only story my mum still tells about me — with pride too!

Many seasons later in Hyderabad, I discovered benishaan, himayat, and rasaal on the crowded streets of Mehdipatnam while scrambling for the 216/217 that took me back to campus. Back in dingy hostel rooms, crowded around the mango-cutter designate, I learned something of the useless arrogance of Alphonso. I learned the new shapes, colours, and textures of an old beloved and fell in love all over again.

Indeed, something about the taste and texture and even the colour of a mango infallibly evokes a sense of well-being. The intermingling fragrance of the fruit and the hay in the carton always speaks of summer holidays and childhood. There is also something so guiltless about a mango. Yes, yes, I know it's got the calories of the world and it makes you break out. But the guilt attached to a chocolate rum mousse cannot begin to compare to the lightness, the simplicity of one, two, or even five mangoes — at a single sitting!

Sigh... only for the mangoes, I tell you. Summer, anyone?

9 comments:

Nocturne said...

a luscious mouthwatering post, you mango thief!

Parth said...

I loved the aam ras I used to have in Ahmedabad and Surat in my summer vacations (the Gujarati summer :-)) and nothing pleases the stomach more than cold ras for lunch on a hot day and then a siesta. Heaven.

Extempore said...

@Nocturne: Thank ye, thank ye.

@Parth: Aam ras in A'bad a couple of years ago was not such a nice experience... there's milk and soonth in it! Gawd but I was appalled.

p.s Where you from? A'bad or Surat?

Nocturne said...

tsk, and he passes himself off as a mumbaikar! *cheeky grin*

Plain Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Plain Jane said...

Much as this was wll writen I had the distinct feeling it was a page torn from a text of Indian Litt in English - not sure how I react to that, considering how often these days it presents India from the POV of the firang someitmes...not a critique though, just an observation! This one had strange echoes of that gere...

Didn't have enough mangoes this year, what with all of us being more concerned with getting possession of the flat than in appeasing our mango-taste buds! Sigh...
PC LOL at yours and Nocturne's reactions to Parth!

Extempore said...

@Plain Jane: Hmm, that's interesting because when I wrote this, I was only lamenting the lack of mangoes and why we don't get them all year round. I would have "worked" on this some more except that would have delayed the posting. There are a couple of connections I think I failed to make with this post. But ye gads... to sound like one of those Indian authors in English!? Mental note to do better next time. :-D

Anonymous said...

who eats mangoes other than aphus?? no self respecting gujju would, i can assur you of that, my dear girl!

kunal.

Kate said...

...and now in the middle of Africa u've got me craving for mangoes ... i knew i shouldn't have read a post that said anything mangoes :p