Posted by: supriyaparulekar | April 26, 2015

When Summers meant Mangoes and more …

Our two storeyed house in Dahisar, Mumbai which was once a sleepy little town but now a rapidly developed city, and marks the end of Mumbai, is surrounded by dense mango trees (the density has lessened with time). As children, me and my flock of cousins, all girls (am so proud) would await for that fresh blossom (mohar) which will soon turn into kairis (raw mango). The sight of the tiny green fruit would set butterflies flying in our stomach. Patiently, we waited for the fruit to grow.

Our grandmother, a feisty woman, would arrange for the mangoes to be plucked by hands. This plucking mangoes ‘by hand’ was strictly followed as a ritual until we ran out of lean, able, adventurous and needy young boys to climb trees. Humans evolve and so do our technics. My dad and uncle built a ‘mango plucking device’. It was by no means an engineering feat but a conventional device. A long wooden stick at the end of which was tied a basket made out of cloth for the mangoes to fall into gently. Now we needed something sharp to separate the mangoes from the branches. For this, a sharp sickle was placed vertically, strategically across the cloth basket.

The process was simple. We had to hold the stick at its end and push it under the bunch of mangoes hanging from the tree and give it a tug. The sickle cut the branches swiftly and mangoes safely landed in our basket. Now we pulled the stick towards us and lo behold! It was a wonderful sight to see the basket fill up with mangoes. Then my aaji would segregate the mangoes in two bunch – raw and ripe mangoes.

Ripe mangoes were set aside for us to be savoured later, throughout the hot, summer day. A treat we looked forward to our every summer holidays. The heavenly nectar would dribble down our lips, chin and run down our hands as we slurped at the sweet, juicy mango. It was a feat to catch the sweet liquid before it trickled down our elbow. What a waste otherwise, it was considered.

The raw mangoes were used for making aam-panna and spicy and sour pickle. One of my uncle makes lovely pickle, to this day. The kairi is diced in to tiny cubes. Chilli powder and turmeric powder is added along with salt and a pinch of sugar. For that sizzling taste, he tempers hot oil with mustard seeds. A lip smacking pickle would be ready in minutes to be had with plain dal and steaming rice.

The reason for writing this cool, summery memoir from my childhood is, I made aam-panna last evening. I am not very fond of cooking. My cousin sis whom I grew up with sent me raw mangoes from her farmhouse and said, “Didi, make aam-panna.” I was suddenly overtaken by this strong urge to give it a try. I pretty well pulled it off too. Proud of myself.

The cold, chilled glass of lip-smacking aam-panna reminded me of my childhood days. Once again I was this little girl, emptying glass after glass of this wholesome drink with my sisters, laughing, chasing the hot summers away! I miss my aaji terribly but had the satisfaction of reliving my childhood as the panna reached its finale. Though, Aam-panna tasted the same, it’s now more than a decade later! I raise a toast to my sisters for being a part of my life.

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