The most ubiquitous topic of discussion a Bengali cannot afford to evade during the summer would be that about mangoes, whether you like yourself to be participating in it or not ( I know the emoticon here would go like :o, coz to most-the latter population doesn’t exist).
For some strange reason (might be disclosed later), I had to delve in a tad deeper into this banality I had ignored this long. For now better be curious about only the gist of it, just as the adage goes:
“Aam khaney se matlab, pedh ginne se nehi”.
People, who don’t really find the fruit to be edible enough, find this particular period May-July the most “…..”(Unutterable). Didn’t mean an expletive, but mango-haters and carefully ‘ignorant’ ones (for those who couldn’t quite come out with the hatred part in the open, which the club of formers totally empathizes of, for you know-hatred being a strong word.) -if the shoe fits: fill them in! (rather-bring them on!).
Psst: there aren’t any such pathetic clubs either. It’s totally fictitious!
Earlier, my mind would go just blah at the discussion of it.
The story typically starts back home. But not much of a difference or a surprise there, because your skipping some or any form of food- will be counted as just another replay of your mom’s tireless, never-ending complaints: “kuch nehi khaati hai”. Or as your relative’s pity mixed concern at your refusal of the fruit and its related platters.
“ohh! Of course beta ,must be into this latest fad of ‘dietin-Shietin’, as if we elders know nothing” adds my neighbor.
The same old story, the same old excuses. And clearly one doesn’t enjoy sitting with a dead-pan’ish face every time one broaches the topic- be it in a metro during one of those light, rushed-journey topics with familiar co-passengers. In those like-dislike-knowing each-other type addas with friends, or worse-in your perchance summer first dates!
“Whaaaat! You don’t like eating mangoes?”
And its immediate sentence being “I’m hearing it for the first time may be. How come one not like eating mangoes?”
Behind your vacuous expressions, you might be wondering about the possible crime you have committed or about the oddity of your outlandish behavior upon their asking about your favorite variety of mango. After summers of those pondering and vague answers later either you learn to ignore the question, or even better come up with a uniform excuse. One of the reasons I’m thinking about this, is to find my concrete ‘alibi’ for the innocent crime.
Now now, coming back to “Which one among the varieties do you like the most”?
Mind it; this is not an easy question for one to answer impromptu. It does require preparation to answer your exact and yes it does depend upon your social situation or upon the person asking. As my friend Paromita puts it : “silly, this ain’t no conundrum but does have a simple formula! Truth is- people often try to interpret your social status from evaluating your choice among varieties. So, if you need an upwardly impression go for the costliest variety and along with mention 3/ 4 names of other royal and rare export ones. But among friends and relatives, better come up with your honest choice, coz you can’t risk it at places you frequent the most! So, every time you hit those places during summer, you are served accordingly, and to your own gastro-delight”!
This kind of explains the reason behind Dada’s sarcastic smirking at my refusal of having those alphonso delicacies at guest dinners or the mango desserts on special occasions. He might have presumed that my nouveau intellectual, rebel-self must have dramatically revolted against being presented with Rs. 120 a fruit that are available at a mere Rs. 8 rate, but in another popular variety.
10th June,sunday , as usual began at its laziest. You can compare the morning that had started at 11a.m, with that of young Ishaan Awasti’s still on bed sluggish stretching scene in this TZP song:
“Yahaan alaag andaz hai, jaise chhilka koi saaz hai-
Har kaam ko tala karte hai, hum sapne paala karte hai.”
I can hear my mom shouting my name 2 rooms apart- MommoooooooooM.
Couple of repetitions later I had to rush in to the drawing-room to save the clouds from being torn apart and also in sympathy for my father’s tympanums.
“Mommom, you have to go shop for mangoes now, freshen up fast.”
“But Maa…where’s Baba or Dada-tell them na. Besides, y’kno I know nothing when it comes to mangoes leave alone other fruits or vegetables. I will bring the wrong ones at a higher price; will that be okay with you?”
“I wouldn’t have asked you had they been around. Baba and dada have gone to the airport to receive your aunt. They will be back soon and I want to greet Neeta with her favorite mango pudding.”
“Ok ok I’m going. But you so can’t ‘Miss last minute’ me anymore.”
Morning had started showing the day.
I was trying hard to concentrate on selecting the good ones from the collection, following mom’s instructions on its smell, size, texture, hardness etc, despite the scorching sun and a long 15 minutes’ walk from home.
Yes, you are right!
All I actually did was ask him which ones are the best and bought 3 kilo of whatever he packed in. Although, I did mention-“if there is anything wrong with the promised quality, you’ll have to return me the money, else ma would certainly hunt you down by the smell of your rotten mangoes”. Saved some face, eh!
Perhaps not, as I Think back now!
Then came the protagonist of Aama-Sutraa 1. A tall, muscly, curly haired, tanned black, grim-looking man in his mid 30’s, parked his vehicle- a rickshaw and came slowly towards the shop. It was 12:15 and all the shop boasted were either the highest priced best varieties or the rejected ones typically sold at reduced prices along with the ‘not so good’ ones. I cannot elaborate much coz I can hardly make out the difference.
“Here he comes, the same day-end drill, the same tiresome dialogues, Bhagoban!” The shop owner’s loud sigh and audible murmuring led my attention towards this rickshawallah. His vacant gaze looked lost yet calm and was not flickering between fruits unlike a normal customer’s. I looked away as our eyes met and rushed the shop-owner for my change. The man hunched a little; looking at his feet- may be he thought I was judging him.
“How much for these mangoes?” he pointed at some.
“Himsagar-Rs. 60 a kg. Those are Rs. 30 a kg” the shop-owner directed him to a separate large basket on the floor. The half-empty basket had mangoes too but clearly they weren’t as much voluptuous and had hints of green and brown patches on few places. Most of them even had crease marks and shrinks on their skin.
His gaze lingered at them for a while but returned fixed on the ones he’d select, the ones at the front row. You know those that look like the ‘M for Mango’ pictures you have seen/known as real mangoes, so long. I could sense the millions of calculations that were going on in his head that didn’t allow him to shift his gaze from being momentarily transfixed. May be a minute or two later he came up with-“give me 4 of these”
He did choose 4 guavas instead, but not with any of the precision I expected him to select them with, although it did cost him 10 bucks. I finally got my pack with the changes and hurried past the shop. For a moment I thought even the shop-owner felt sorry while packing the guavas.
I wouldn’t know if the rickshawallah wanted the mango for his lunch, for his family waiting back home or to satisfy his own once in a while allowed luxury longings, but the scene kept on flashing all through the day. Specially, when the dessert was served and the contentment maa got off the family reactions fetched by the pudding.
A Stark contrast. Albeit, the taste buds coupled with the olfactory sensations did remind me of my distaste towards you-MANGO, all the more.
AAMA-SUTRA 2/3 kept up with the day’s momentum, but on a surprising note! I hope the ‘samajdars’ r watching! Keep a tab on the blogroll.