Mango Unchained

Grub

Mango Unchained

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

A

s kids, how do you know that summer is here? You are too young to crib about the heat and too carefree to care about acne. But one fine day, you come home from school and find mangoes on the table.

Mangoes!

Advertisement

Mangoes, the shiny yellow beacons, signal the end of the season of entropy. In winter, trees greet you with their barrenness and the cold lulls you into a deep sleep. You dream of running toward the everlasting embrace of summer. The eyes slowly accustom themselves to the myriad colours that spring upon you. The chirpiness seeps from the air into your soul. The birds sing songs that resonate with the lightness of being. And juicy, luscious mangoes appear and announce the best season of your childhood.

Summer holidays are now within reach. Only the final exams stand between you and the promised land of fun and frolic. In those few days, you try to find God. In classrooms heavy with the air of uncertainty, the whir of the fans and the flipping of papers provide respite from the deathly silence. What will become of you, if you don’t do well in the exams? Will life fall apart at the very seams?

You swat bullets one by one. Days are a blur of lost sleep, mindless formulae and equations that just don’t seem to add up. Worried faces await your arrival at home, your expression is the barometer of your performance.

Then it all ends.

Everything you prayed, hoped, and wished for so fervently is at your doorstep. An endless summer has arrived and with it has come an unlimited supply of mangoes.

The first few days are a haze. Unable to fathom the freedom afforded to you, you dig into more mangoes than you can digest. Play begins at the crack of dawn and doesn’t end until twilight. There’s no homework to be completed, no nerves to be soothed.

April inches toward May. Summer is in bloom. Mangoes have been turned into aam paana, aam ras, and aam puri.

Life soon settles into a rhythm. Play. Play. Play. Play. Sleep. But the mangoes are always around, they are the flavour of the season. And they come from all over. As you grow older, you learn to distinguish between the Banganapalle, Malgova, Raspuri, and Badami varieties – each have their own distinct flavour, some are sweeter than the others.

And often the sweet meets the sour. Up north, pickles now explode in a profusion of taste with bits of raw mango dunked into heavenly mustard oil; down south, mango thokku is prepared and stored in bottles, to be consumed long after summer has been relegated to the cozy confines of memory and the odd photograph.

April inches toward May. Summer is in bloom. Mangoes have been turned into aam panna, aam ras, and aam puri. The hours of endless play are interrupted only by the lure of mangoes. But in spite of all the variations, pure decadence lies in devouring a full mango with all its wholesome juiciness.

Eating a mango is also about etiquette and there’s a method to be followed: First remove the peel in one seamless motion. Suck the pulp off the peel and take care not to bite into it. Then sink your teeth into the fruit wholeheartedly. If done right, the seed and the peel left behind are almost bare. Much like sucking the marrow out of life. That’s what summers are for – sucking the marrow out of each day before the environs of school return to imprison you.

The pre-rains come without warning, a respite from the unforgiving heat. You get soaked to the bone, desperate for every raindrop to fall on you. And then the rains go into hiding again. Time seems to fly in May. The countdown begins. The last few days of summer are like the first few days of summer – hurried, hazy, and thwarted by a sense of urgency. It’s similar to the feeling you experience when you grow up and just don’t want Sunday to end. But there are only so many Sundays in a lifetime. And unfortunately, summer holidays too have a finite number of days.

The rains now come more regularly and the first day of school dawns like an apocalypse. The mangoes make their way into your lunchbox. Whatever is left of them, anyway. With a heavy heart, you set forth, already counting the days until the next vacation.

How would you know that summer had ended?

One day, you come home from school and there are no mangoes on the table.

Comments