When the magnificent Amaltas tress blossom iridescent yellow on Delhi's Shantipath and street vendors dole out irresistible KalaKhattas to harrowed pedestrians like there's no tomorrow, I know it's time to prepare for the king's arrival. The doorbell of my Chanakyapuri flat rings and I rush through the verandah to receive a sticky wooden carton sent by my grandfather. As the parched delivery boy gulps down down his glass of nimboo pani, his eyes smile with amusement as he notices me levitating in the sweet, aphrodisiacal smell of the parcel's contents. Tearing apart the lid with rabid power and fervour, I dig deep into the box to retrieve my prized treasure, the ruler of the Indian kitchen, the succulent and regal mango.
The postman's deliberate coughing distracts me and I look up to see him drooling slobber over my ripe possessions. I fling a few over to him and then usher him out the gate urgently. He sneers at my wasitline discreetly as if indicating the impending expansion and then scuttles away, happy with his day's loot. As soon as the main door is closed, I rip open the mouth of a juicy Malda and sink my teeth into it with my eyes closed in a manner that would put to shame Katrina Kaif's sensuous Aamsutra ad.
Mango love is not unheard of in India. In fact, it is devoured enthusiastically by people belonging to all castes, creeds and communities in the country.Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, the wealthy and the downtrodden, the illiterate and the learned, the peasant and the powerful, all glorify the mango with equal fervour. Even the great Indian poet Mirza Ghalib, was entraced by the nectar of the decadent fruit. It is believed that he had tasted almost 4000 varieties of mangoes while composing his couplets under shadowing groves during the sweltering summers of his lifetime. His dedication to the tempting fruit can be summed up in his sensous lines, "mujhse poochho, tumheñ khabar kya hai aam ke aage neyshakar kya hai..."
Spoilt for choice when it comes to the different varieties of the fruit, Indian households are often divided when it comes to crowning the best kind of mango available in the country. While the Mumbaikers swear by the international bestseller and creamy Alphonso, folks from Uttar Pradesh can debate till eons that their syrupy Dasheri is a fruit fit for angels. The Gujjus love their aromatic Kesari that announce their presence to the salivating neighbour's nostrils while the Benarasi babus remain loyal to the fibrous Langra. After years of exhaustive tasting and accumulating mango pounds around my belly, I can safely declare that my favourite has to be the deceptive and speckled Dudhiya Malda. This variety from Bihar makes up in taste for what it lacks in appearance. However, the fruit is not meant for the sophisticated eater. The perfect size of a fist, Malda needs to be pierced open from the top and then sucked into seductively with all your senses, till the pulp melts in your mouth and the juice oozes out from the corners of your lips, trickling down the to the crevices of your wrist.
However, devouring the fruit as it is is never enough for us Indians. Since the seasonal mango graces us only for a few fortunate months of the year, we try our best to incorporate the fruit in each and every drink, dessert and dish in the kitchen - from the tangy Aampanna to the world famous Mango Lassi, the necessary Aam ka achaar, the silky Aamrakhand and the luxurious Mango ice cream. We love it all.
But we aren't the only ones in love with the mango. Our Pakistani brothers across the border never fail to indulge in some healthy diplomacy over the coveted produce. Contesting their love for their national fruit, they believe that their Sindhris and Anwar Ratols can make our Alphonsos and Bainganpallis blush in embarrassment. However, I am confident that no referendum is needed to conclude this debate. For one, they are sorely outnumbered in terms of quality as well as quantity of mangoes. India is known to have more than 1200 supreme varieties of the fruit whereas Pakistan can claim to produce only 450 different types of mangoes. If they send their exotic Kajris and Fajri Kalans for an intense food battle, we have our exquisite Mughal force of Noor Jahans and Jahangiris ready to claim victory. In fact, we have a brand new commander-in-chief of our mango army. Charming and substantial like our rockstar Prime Minister, say hello to the hybrid NaMo Aam produced by renowned horticulturist Haji Kalimullah Khan aka the 'Mango Man of India'. We'll talk when our dear neighbour can beat that.
So as the residual summer months wait for the moody monsoon rains to arrive, let's make mango shake while the sun shines. It's not too late to raid your local Mother Dairy and demand for every single type of mango produced on our soil. Rip open the skin, dig your fangs into the flesh of the royal fruit and enjoy. Let the nectar drip from your chin and feed your soul. A word to the wise - don't wear white. Not unless you're really Katrina Kaif from the Aamsutra ad.
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