Summers begin with
raw mango curries,
jackfruit, cashew kernels,
and ice apples
but it isn’t until I’ve had
a bite of the Alphonso
that the nostalgia takes hold
transporting me to the veranda
with the whitewashed walls.
To the farm kilometers away
where the mangoes are still out of reach
the lone cashew, once a jump away
Has grown like an unruly teenager,
drooping at the shoulders
There is no Manda to climb the trees,
while we position ourselves below
with jute bags, running left and right
to catch the mangoes and make piles
Twenty, fifty, sixty…
How long did we play? Who won?
All I remember is lying on the grass
All of us, cousins, tired and spent
till the call for lunch came:
Dried shrimp and bhakris
the pickle, grandmom made last week
red chutney, freshly ground on the stone
A simple lunch, always the same
had over much talk and laughter
Till the elders fell asleep
And we claimed the veranda
of the only school in this tiny village,
Playing our games, mouthing
off poems, alphabets, quotes,
off the walls,
running around the trees,
stealing cashews and
wild berries along the way
before finding our way back
to Manda and the mangoes.
Bags and bags of which
we took home each summer.
Three, four, six –
how many did we have each day then?
Neatly cut for all meals,
across all the houses you
could pop into
It wasn’t like we didn’t have our share
and more, but it was something else
to have it wild, bite into the
pulp, the juice dripping
off the hands, or a nice raiwal.
Even more fun squishing them
with full permission
as they all ripened at once
and it was time to make aam papad,
So you may debate which is the
sweetest of them all –
the mankurad, langda, kesar
It’s really the memory you crave,
The heady sunshine
that, for me, means Alphonso.

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