Summer mangoes


Summer in the tropics is synonymous with heat, humidity and aggravation. However, summer time is also ‘mango time’.

Every market stocks multiple varieties of mangoes. The golden beauties are piled in pyramids in wide, cane baskets.

You can smell them before you see them. Alphonso, Banganapalli, Neelam, Thothapuri, Malgova, Raspuri…so many, many varieties.

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When we were kids, my dad would stock up on mangoes every Sunday.  School vacation afternoons were spent with my sisters, in the backyard, eating whole, juicy mangoes with our hands. Squeezing the pulp and scraping every bit of juice and fiber from each mango.

We had yellow, sticky mustaches and palms to show for our efforts.

Tender baby mangoes were pickled, and we had these everyday with curd rice.

We could never ever have enough of this delicious fruit.  After marriage, I discovered that my husband’s family were mango lovers too!  So the saga continues.

Mangoes are one of the greatest joys of an Indian summer, especially eating them with your hands!

The Viewing Point


When I was about seven, our home was on the top of a hill, part of a long row of houses.

About 150 metres from our house was a green slope, that had a vantage view of our little town. During our school summer holidays, we often went to this place, and sat down to take in the view of the town. All the buildings looked like matchboxes, and the people like scurrying ants.  The sky was a lovely blue with cotton puff clouds floating lazily. Sweet little birds flew across the sky, going about their busy day.

We usually carried a small bag with pear, peaches and potato wafers.  We spent many hours letting imagination take over, playing games, discussing so many, many things.

Our viewing point gave us two special treats – one was a clear, uninterrupted view of the local Race Course; the other was a view of the huge circus tent that was usually put up in summer in one of the local grounds.

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Image courtesy – http://www.en.wikipedia.org

We watched horses being walked by their trainers, we watched them streak past in races, small black and brown streaks from where we watched, white jockeys on their backs. The wind sometimes carried the voices of the commentators to us; sounds that came to us in waves and bursts.

We predicted wins from afar as we munched into golden peaches.

The circus tent was open at the top to allow space for the trapeze artists to swing from end to end. From where we sat, we could see their heads coming up for a fleeting second, as they reached the top and then went down again to amaze the audience below.

Before we went to the circus, we speculated excitedly about the lions, elephants and clowns that we would see, as we crunched into salted wafers!

After watching the circus, we dissected the whole show, minute by minute.The glitter inside the circus tent, was so exciting.

Our days under the sun from our viewing point, were even better. Lazy summer holidays, lying under the sun, coming home rosy cheeked.

Inside the house, it was always cool; and we splashed our faces with cold water. 

Days of pure bliss!

Grandparents


The kids have their summer vacation, and are spending a couple of weeks with their paternal grandparents, in their ancestral home.

We do this every summer. They love all the nooks and crannies in this house. The car garage, which is now used for storage,  is their play space as they play hopscotch or practice ‘rangoli’ (artistic designs that are drawn outside the home every morning).

My daughter has been given the entire garage to draw these rangolis. Dropping rice flour gradually on the floor, with uniformity, is an art, and with each passing day, she gets better.

My son finds great pleasure in playing with clothes pegs (the plastic ones which come in vibrant colours), and the measuring tape, which has spring action. He measures all kinds of things in the house.

Living in an apartment as we do, they are thrilled with the concept of an independent house with a yard and a garden, and a nice big terrace.

They run up to the terrace to dry clothes or red chillies and other things that need to be aired or sun-dried.

They read old-yellowed books that formed my husband’s childhood reading.

They sniff appreciatively when they smell their grandma’s cooking. Their grandparents spoil them, and some. They eat almonds and pistachios. They are treated to honey cakes and butter biscuits. They binge on yummy golden yellow mangoes and jackfruit.

They are very excited each time they hear street hawkers shouting out what they are selling.  In a few days, they know which vendor comes when. They watch as their grandmother picks and chooses vegetables and greens, fruits and flowers. They watch how the hawker pushes his mobile cart down the street and how he weighs the vegetables using a simple balance.

They go around the yard and see the old washing stone, used to wash clothes. They watch clothes fluttering on the clothesline and play hide and seek there.

They see the yard filled with dried leaves and fallen flowers every morning and participate enthusiastically in sweeping the yard.

They watch as the ‘Isthriwallah’ (the iron man), brings back neatly arranged piles of fresh, ironed clothes. They bury their noses to feel the warmth.

They seem to have expandable stomachs and are able to eat through the day. They accompany their grandparents on small walks to the local shops to buy odds and ends, and come back with treats.

It is nice to see them unwind and enjoy the simple joys and pure love that they can only get at their grandparents’!

Ice-cream in a Thermos


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Image courtesy – Shutterstock

It is a dehydrating, hot day. Drops of water that fall on the pavement from my water bottle, disappear instantly. It’s one of those days when you ache to jump into the pool or sit in a cool airconditioned room with the blinds drawn. Merely seeing the Sun’s brilliance from indoors is also exhausting. Phew! I can do with an ice-cream (the crushed ice variety) that comes on a stick. Mango, lemon and orange.

My thoughts run back to my childhood. Where we lived, it was cold for most of the year. Sunny days in summer were lived and enjoyed to the fullest.

The summer sun was piercing in its intensity. We spent those lazy holidays with our friends, eating sugarcane, raw mangoes and water-melons.

Ice-cream shops were in a town 5 kms away, so our only chance to eat ice-creams was when the ice-cream vendor visited our small community; a rare occurence in our lives.

But the days he visited us were red-letter days. He arrived, with a square wooden box that was mounted on a bicycle. We would run home to pester our parents. Most adults also wanted to eat so we had a win-win there!

The ice-cream man parked on a small hillock, about 150 metres from our street.

To ensure that the ice creams did not melt before they were brought home, we carried one of those big thermos flasks with us.

With mouths watering, we would thrust the money into his hands and carefully put the ice creams into the flask. These were the stick variety and his specialty was a milk-ice cream, which truly tasted like a slice of heaven.

I still remember the yellow coloured thermos; we would sling it across our shoulders and run home.

Both adults and children devoured these ice creams, till the sticks were licked clean – our hearts happy and spirits cooled!

I come back to the here and now. I take matters into my hands; I walk down to the supermarket, pick up a lemon-vanilla stick ice-cream lolly and relive those days all over again.