Bachpan ke din bhula na dena!

25 04 2006

Mango! The word makes my mouth drip with lust for this red-yellow fruit. I am literally licking my lips at the sight of mangoes. As well as the sweet taste, it brings back some of the best memories I have of my childhood. Though I never even attempted to climb that tall mango tree of my then house’s backyard, still I reaped fruits from it for many years.My late grandfather had laid the seeds of this mango tree in the late 70s. Even the earliest memory I have of the mango tree is that of a tall tree whose lowest branch was at least 7 feet above the ground level. It provided us with shade we needed to laze around in the backyard. We had a small backyard at that time and almost everyone in the neighbourhood had a mango tree in their backyards. I remember, there were at least 4 mango trees within 50 metres of each other in a neighbourhood consisting of 8 families. Times have changed since then, and I have moved to an apartment now, having no scope of rearing even a kitchen-garden!

Being the youngest of the kids at that time in the neighbourhood, I was always the most pampered one. Well okay, the pampering in the 80s and the early 90s were in no way comparable to the things kids of today do but still, I had the privilege of doing things at will. The summers were fun in a way. There were 3 mango trees in very close vicinity and my immediate neighbour was a south Indian with two really studious boys. Me and my brother being the mischievous types, we were always at loggerheads with them and left no chance to trouble them. We used to play cricket in the backyard and deliberately hit the ball into their garden (yes, they had a beautiful garden, the envy of the neighbourhood) then call them to throw the ball back to us. Sometimes when they didn’t respond, we would try to sneak into their garden to fetch the ball only to get caught by them. It was fun dealing with them nerdy ones.

The mango! Ah! I love the mango. I don’t quite know the variety of mango that we got from that tree but it certainly was not the dassehri or langda that are famous in this part of the country. It must have been some other desi variety that never turned yellow when ripe. Instead it always kept green and it became quite difficult for us to know which mango was ripe and which wasn’t. The only distinction was a faint smell that could differentiate between them. Some of the older boys of the neighbourhood did attempt to climb up the tree to fetch the mangoes but on other occasions we never allowed anyone to get near it. We used to get the mangoes that fell from the tree by themselves. They were delicious. We had the privilege of having our own fruit at no extra cost!

I am a big mango lover. I love the small green-yellowish soft and small dassehri mango. It is deliciously sweet and yummy. Next on my list is the juicy langda. It is a somewhat bigger in size than dassehri and more yellow in colour. I think it is this variety of mango that my grandmother eats without cutting into small pieces. The chausa is another one that is popular in this part of the country. I personally prefer these varieties against the ones that are more popular like the hafoos and alphonsos. I remember having an alphonso in Goa little less than 3 years back and I didn’t really like it. It didn’t leave a long lasting taste in my mouth as langa and dassehri do. For me, dassehri rulez!

Coming back to the mango tree, in 1995 we had a bumper crop from it. I remember I ate at least one mango everyday in my summer vacations (I was in grade 9 that year). Even that was not enough! So much so that I even took some mangoes to school and distributed it among some of my friends. A Bengali friend even demanded more from me but by then the rains had started and the mangoes that were left in the tree got destroyed.

In fact a strange incident happened that year. We had some unusual growth of bushes and plants in our backyard. And among them we saw a new small mango plant growing up to nearly 2 feet high. I inquired my mom about it and she said she had no knowledge of it. Later my brother and dad too said that they had no idea how that plant started growing there. Even the gardener was clueless. Then mom said that since that new mango plant started growing by itself it was an indication that time is coming soon for us to move from there. Weird theory, I had thought then as it had no explanation. Mom being mom, she refused to listen to our arguments and stuck to her theory that if a mango tree starts growing by itself then it suggests that the owner of the house has to move out soon. Incredibly, her theory was to be proved right as in September of that year we moved to a new house. We lost that mango tree forever. However we kept on visiting the new tenant of that house for some time and he revealed that the tree had stopped giving fruit ever since he had moved there.

I have lots of memories associated with that small house and especially that mango tree. Never will I forget the fruits that I got from it. Every time I go past that house, I can’t help but stop for a while to look at the tall tree in the backyard and remember those good old days of my life. I spent my childhood playing cricket under that tree. God I wish there should be some way of getting those good old days back.