Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Of Mangoes and Memories

Today's travel section in the NY Times has a story on the explosion of mango mania in Mumbai during the summer months. The story transported me to the hot summer days of my childhood and adolescence in Lahore and to the memories of feasting on the rich variety of mangoes, my mother chastising me for eating too many and chasing them down with glasses of ice cold "lassi". For Lahoris, the appearance of particular varieties of mangoes were the markers of different phases of the long, drawn out and brutally hot summer. Large, deep yellow Sindhri mangoes were the first to appear in May but the much prized varieties arrived later; Langra, Chaunsa, Saharni, Dusehri, Anwar Ratol. These distinctive names evoke stories of their provenance no longer remembered or half-forgotten places of their origin.

After coming to America in the late 80's, the new world overwhelmed the memory of mangoes along with much else. Imagine my disappointment when after spotting a mango in a supermarket in Pennsylvania and convincing myself that paying an arm and a leg was worth experiencing that little flavor of home, I tasted the insipidness of a fruit that bore no resemblance to the real thing. I gave up on mangoes in America that day but with the expected arrival of mangoes from the sub-continent, perhaps I will get to taste again a quintessential experience of my youth.

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