BENGALURU: As an optimist, I have chosen to look at the lockdown as a forced, extended summer vacation. A summer vacation without any fun and games. A Ramzan without biryani and haleem. A vacation that could end my life if I did not play by the rules. When I saw the heart-breaking images of migrant labourers walking towards their homes, I wonder if the government also looks at the lockdown similarly, going by the seriousness of their response towards the crisis.
As a child, when I read stories by authors like Chekhov and O Henry, I wondered why they spoke so negatively about winter. Winter was the season when misery befell the characters in every story. What did they have against the wonderful months of winter, when one could play outside all day? I wondered why they never spoke of summer. It took me a few years to understand that we were divided by hemispheres and tropical climates.
Like the cricket in Aesop’s Fables, I usually spend my summers in fun and frolic. And in pursuing my summer addiction – buttermilk. If the government tomorrow declares buttermilk illegal, you will find me in a rehabilitation centre. On my best days, I consume 8-10 packets of buttermilk a day. Thanks to the salt prevalent in buttermilk, drinking one makes you thirsty for another, until you’re trapped in a loop that goes on for two months.
But there is no summer addiction like the mango! When I learnt that the brinjal was elected the king of vegetables, I remember experiencing extreme displeasure. The brinjal – with its many names – wasn’t even loved by children. How could it have been elected the ruler? But I had no problem with the mango being made the king of fruits! Honestly, is there a more regal looking fruit on planet Earth? A fruit that looks wonderful irrespective of being raw or ripe.
A fruit that has equal use in all stages of its life. A raw mango is the first sign of oncoming summer. It is cut up and eaten with salt and chilli powder – to conjure up a tangy taste that could shut down global chips-manufacturing companies. The raw mango is also dried on the terrace and pickled for the coming year. The mango has no problem sacrificing its youth, trapped in a jar, just to add some spice to bland meals.
As a ripe fruit, the mango is a great leveller. There is no posh way to eat a mango. You have to bite into the pulp and scrape out the pulp with your teeth. You have to allow the drops to trickle down your hand; you have to get your hands dirty. Unlike the apple or the guava, the mango does not judge you on the basis of your dental hygiene or age. You could enjoy a mango with all your 32 teeth intact – or if you have only two members of your army still standing!
And when its life comes to an end, the mango abides by Adi Shankara’s adage of Punarapi Jananam, Punarapi maranam (the cycle of birth and death!). The mango is among the easiest plants to grow. It requires no special care and instructions. You can throw your seed into some wet soil, and in a few years, you can have a mango tree of your own! The mango spends its entire life providing joy to human beings. It sacrifices its entire life so we can savour a few moments when life gets bland. The mango is more than the king of fruits – it is the Prime Minister of fruits!