(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Mango Mania

Climb up the stairs every morning and evening to arrive on the open terrace, meet friends from the neighbouring apartments as they moved to their terraces too, and pluck unripe mangoes from the tree that had its branches reaching out to our terrace area--this was among my favourite summer vacation activites when I was in junior school.

After we had collected a bunch of small-sized unripe mangoes, we would peel them off with a knife, cut them into small pieces and smear them with salt and red chilly powder for a terrace feast. The extreme sourness of the mangoes added that extra punch we needed for summertime goofing off.

Mangoes then, are one of my earliest images of the summer season. I never remember plucking a ripe mango on the terrace though. The ripe ones, we bought from the market. Back then, we had no fridge and the mangoes would be soaked in a bucket of water. You could take one out peel it nicely and savour it with a fork, or, as we were more prone to do, you just picked one out of the bucket, used your nails to take off the skin, and just bit into the juicy flesh. Mmm...pure joy, dripping from the fruit and into your mouth. Once I had finished relishing almost the entire fruit and came to the hard seed part, I would suck vigorously, until the last bit of juice was drained off it. My sessions with the fruit rarely stopped at one mango, back in my younger days...

It's not just me though. Come summer, the whole of India is gripped by a severe mango fever. The country produces more than 30 different types of the fruit--all with a distinct flavour and smell. In fact even the word Mango comes for the Tamil (one of India's earliest languages) word "Man Kay".

The types we grew up on are Dussheri, Langda, Safeda and Chausa, all produced mostly in northern India. It's really tough for me to pick a favourite amongst these. For if Dussheri allures with its sweetness, Langda entices with its refreshing smell and tangy flavour. Over the years though, I have veered towards the Chausa, for it's unfailing deliciousness. I share with you a few slices of the same here.

The best compliment I have heard for this king of fruits comes from the legendary Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib. It is said once when the poet was enjoying mangoes in the company of his friens, a donkey came by them. After sniffing around a bit, the animal just walked away. So the only person in the group who didn't eat mangoes remarked that even donkeys don't eat mangoes.

"Yes," replied Ghalib. "Only donkeys don't eat mangoes." Expectedly, there was an uproar of laughter.

No offence to donkeys, by the way ;)

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