In my sixteen years in the United States, I have very seldom bought mangoes. They just don’t cut it, when I compare them with the ones I grew up eating.
My family owns mango groves in a small village just at the outskirts of Calcutta, called Bishtupur, in Rajarhat. My grandfather was a connoisseur, and developed many species of mangoes that were products of his own experiments, and even named one of them, a miniature version, after an ancestor.
The harbinger of the mango season, usually, were splendid norwestor storms. The sky would get pitch dark, and a welcome thunder shower would arrive to soothe us from the terrible heat that preceeded. At the end of the storm, we would run downstairs, to collect the not-yet-ripe-but-still-delicious green mangoes, that would have fallen from the two trees on the property.
My earliest memories of summer vacation go back to the mid seventies, when an old bullock-cart driver would bring huge baskets of mangoes from the village, to our Elgin Road homestead in the heart of Calcutta. They traveled all night, and arrived at the stroke of dawn. Eager with anticipation, I would wake up and run downstairs, to have a look. I would then spend the afternoon chatting with the driver, sitting on his cart. The oppressive tropical sun made it impossible to travel during the day, so he would normally travel at night.
Upstairs, all the women of the house – my grandmother, my mother, my aunts – were busy sorting and cleaning the mangoes, and sending some over to each of the relatives’ houses.
During those days, we ate mangoes all day. Mango sorbet, mango juice, creme mango, sliced mango, diced mango … Oh, how we indulged … The entire household.
My cousin, Ronti, during those afternoons, also, swallowed about 20 lichees a day.
Now that President Bush is going to allow Indian mangoes to be imported into the US, I must say, I feel both delighted and nostalgic for that time and the taste that I have missed sorely.