My weather app showed a 44oC as I stood at the barren bus stop waiting for my bus to roll down. Exams were over and that was a relief-yes! But at this moment, with the sun shining full throttle on me and the dust blowing in my face, waiting for the ever-never on time DTC bus, I was almost willing to GO back to the exam hall for an extra exam if only it meant getting me out of this furnace. Well, what can a girl do but escape into some sheer summer-fantasy at a time like this, just to sustain herself?
My perfect fantasy? A summer long back in time, spent lazily in the city of joy- taal pata fans, taal saansh gluttony, cool ganga-river breeze in the evening, short trips in motor-launches, Tagore’s birthday- a completely bong package. But what stands out from that particular summer is the all-out mango fiesta. For some reason- perhaps it was a particularly good year of mango harvest- every turn and every occasion involving food somehow ended up being about those fat yellow, sometimes green, bites of heaven. In the 5 day stay, the first day, the moment we stepped in, my uncle waited for us with a green refresher. Aam panna, my VERY first time! At first I flinched at the thought- unripe mango roasted and liquefied, served in a glass? Two sips into it, however, I was all over my mother’s case- how could she have kept this summer delight from me? I sighed- to think I had spent years on “Frooti”- drowning myself in artificial colour, preservatives and what not.
This was only the beginning. On one summer evening in the next few days, I remember driving down to an aunt’s place in the Lake Town. The m-word was tossed around during the trip and I made a declaration- they’ll probably have the same fruit won’t they? Not that I would mind. My brother wagered- probably not. We’re the only people crazed enough to actually live on it. Turns out we were both wrong- they did have mangoes- we were not the only people crazed enough. However, it wasn’t so much as fruit as a dish- aamer ambol. Kind of like chutney, it’s an absolutely delicious preparation that goes well with rice or simply on its own. And the distinct bong flavour just adds to its taste. I was falling deeper and deeper in love with this multi-talented fruit, was there a realm that it had not infiltrated? And to think- so close to my culture.
Most of the days we’d end up enjoying nicely diced pieces of juicy mangoes and I had started to think I’d made all the fruit-related discoveries that I could. Boy was I wrong! On our last day in town, while packing, my uncle walked in and after handing out a bunch of gifts to all of us, we also got a big pot of rosogollas and something that looked like a box of sweets. Well. I laughed. At least it’s not mangoes huh? My uncle smirked- don’t be so sure. And sure enough- aam sondesh! Not fruits and yet mangoes. Poetic, eh?
My favorite out of all these? Well next to the fruit itself, it’s something else- something I have grown up on. What bong would not know about those thin layers of aam sottos? Candied mangoes, perfect to snack on- whether you’re being a slob at home or are on the move.
The golden (or yellow?) moments from the past could only help me for so long- the dusty Delhi heat brought me back to reality. I saw my bus roll down. Hurriedly I grabbed my bag and hopped on- the a.c was a shower of ambrosia. As the automatic doors shut tight behind me I saw a kid buying a “Mango Zap” ice-cream from trolley vendor. The kid will probably remember “Kwality Walls” as his life-saver in this dreaded heat- but he’ll have the mango to thank for it. Without even realizing it, perhaps.
Contributed by Ateendriya