Summer is not my favourite season of the year, but I still look forward to it to have the mangoes. My childhood summer vacations were spent at my grandmother’s place in the hills. She had about 15-20 mango trees. The mangoes from these trees came in all sizes, shapes and flavour. I would reach grandmother’s place by the end of May and stay over till the end of June. My vacation could be divided into three main phases or as I like to call it-the three mango eras.
First phase or the green mango era-
By the time the vacations started the mangoes on the trees would be green and small in size. Grandmother would ask us to collect only the ones that had fallen down. These were used to make chutney by mixing them with salt, green chillies, some jaggery and onions. Sometimes she would pickle them in different flavours or would cut them into thin strips and put them out to dry in the sun. Once completely dry, the strips would be stored in air tight boxes. To make amchoor she would ask yours truly to powder them by pounding them in a stone mortar- it used to be strenuous work!!. I remember this one time when I got carried away and had quite a few raw mangoes with black salt and pepper. My teeth became so sore and sensitive that I couldn’t eat anything for the next two days except for boiled yellow dal and rice- eww!
Second phase or semi ripe green/ yellow era-
By the middle of June the mangoes grew in size and became pulpy having a distinct sweet-and-sour taste. With dust storms or andheri, the mangoes would fall down some hitting the roof. The roof had a tin cover over the traditional slate tiles for extra protection. Every time the mangoes hit the roof, a small ‘thud’ sound would come. During the daytime I would run to collect the fallen mangoes every few hours. At night if a storm came I would stay up and count the number of thuds. In the morning while collecting the mangoes, I would see if I had got the count of the thuds correct. Grandmother would make ambua by mixing the pulp of the mangoes with salt and green chillis. This was had with rice and daal. Some of the pulp was also dried in layers on a big piece of slate. A fresh layer of the pulp was put after the previous one had dried to make aam papad or dried mango cake. It was not unusual for grandmother to find a few finger marks on the slate – I always blamed the wild monkeys for being too fond of her aam papad!
Third phase or ripe mango era-
By the end of June the mangoes would have a lovely yellow orange hue and be sweet enough to be had as it is. Some would be smooth like pebbles and so small that only 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice would come out of them; some had a classic paisley shape and some were just oval with no distinct shape. A particular variety d as my grandmothers described it- had a saunfiya or fennel like taste. These mangoes would be made into a milkshake or lassi and even ice cream. Sometimes we would have so many mangoes that I would carry them in a big basket and share it with the children in the neighbourhood.
One summer, my cousins decided to have a mango eating competition. There were seven of us ranging from the age of 6 to 11years. We started eating the mangoes and even though I was feeling sick and wanted to throw up; some crazy mango demon had come over me and wouldn’t let me stop. I had in all about 15 to 16 mangoes. I won but at a heavy price. After a few hours I had the worst case of diarrhoea. Much to my chagrin, grandmother kept telling everyone I had loosies or “tattiyan lag gayin’”. After seven or eight motions when I couldn’t feel my legs- grandmother said- ‘lattan sathdoh gayin’.
That night a storm came, counting the thud sounds, I wondered if I would be able to pick up the mangoes in the morning ….