In Mango Country, A Love Letter to the Humble Litchi


In Mango Country, A Love Letter to the Humble Litchi

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


n the most hilarious bit from his Netflix comedy special, Warn Your Relatives, comedian and creator of The Problem With Apu, Hari Kondabulu, talks about Indians and our inexplicable obsession with mangoes. He reveals to his hysterical American audience how Indians take to passing countless balmy mornings and bored evenings sitting in a circle, surrounded by family and friends, wordlessly eating mangoes. The part that had me guffawing was when he equated mangoes to religion. “When we don’t have mangoes available, we sit around in a circle and share stories of favourite mangoes we’ve eaten in the past.” He’d hit the undeniable sweet spot.

This one-minute ode to the mango’s greatness was aggressively shared and re-shared by Indians on social media. Kondabulu’s “mango set” ended with him declaring his lifelong dream of hosting a podcast called Mango Talk and effectively entering the ranks of think pieces and relatable content spun around luscious mangoes every May. But these growing love letters are evidence of Indians’ apathy… of how the mango always overshadows the real summer MVP: the humble litchi.

When I was growing up in the Calcutta of the ’90s, the arrival of carefree summers were heralded as much by the availability of this spiky red-pink fruit as by shiny yellow mangoes. My vacation morning routine would comprise waking up my sister, urgently gulping down a glass of milk, and obediently following baba to the market. Half an hour later, the three of us would troop back with groceries and the odd Kit-Kat. But for me, the star of our loot would always be the litchi (or lichus for us Bengalis).