If I could capture the entirety of summer in a small glass vial, I would use a fragrance. It would be that of a Langra Aam. (How do we not have a Langra Aam perfume yet by the way? A summer special by the likes of Alia Bhatt or some such? That’s just the advertiser in me talking. Hush, you.)
I’ve been away from the northern parts of my country for the last six years and I made it a point to steer clear from the summer months. Needless to say, I didn’t have access to this delicious, gem of a fruit all this while. I’m experiencing Indian summer in all its dry, dusty glory after so long, I didn’t realise what I was missing out on. Oh, Langra Aam. Why must you tempt me so?
A few weeks ago as I was ordering vegetables, (because I’m a mature, responsible adult) I decided to order some Langra mangoes as well. They arrived fresh and green and ripe. I held one and sniffed. I felt weak in the knees. I kept them in the fridge and impatiently allowed them to chill.
Once I was done separating the phaankein (the two halves) from the gutli (the seed), I sat down to eat. And oh man, did I eat. No, I didn’t just eat. I wolfed them down like a vampire who just got a fresh kill after years of surviving on tofu. I let my fangs sink into the cold, plentiful flesh of the mango that had evaded me for a large chunk of my adult life. I let the treacly juice trickle down my fingers and let some of it fall on my shorts. I unwrapped the leftover peel from the gutli and invaded every bit of pulp in every corner. I ate till I could feel the fine filaments firmly lodged between my teeth. No matter what someone tells you, no matter how good your cutlery is, that’s the only way to eat a mango. Yes, I just said that. I’m primitive and barbaric, and I love it.
When I was younger, my family favoured all types of mangoes equally. Yes, there was the sweet and pulpy Dussehri, the sticky and juicy Chausa, even the once-in-a-while Alphonso. But no, I was firecely dedicated to my Langra. It was never too sweet and never too sour. It was, and will always be, Goldilocks’ dream fruit. You could never go wrong with it. After lunch, Baba would place chopped pieces of orange and yellow mangoes, and I’d always jump at the yellow ones. I claimed the biggest ones as mine before anyone else could steal them. Sometimes we had feasts at home, and Baba Dadi always, always made fruit cream. Which was basically loads and loads of mangoes dunked in thick, sugary cream. It’s still the yummiest dessert I’ve ever had.
Towards the end of summer, Baba would ask us to bid farewell to mangoes until the next year. “Karo aam ko salaam”, he’d say. That always broke my heart a little bit. A whole year for my Langra aam to come back? How cruel was that. I guess it was our version of waiting for the next season of our favourite Netflix show.
Every time I saw dad come home with freshly bought mangoes wrapped in newspaper, I’d ask him with unbridled anticipation, “Papa, is it langra? Is it langra?” Later, as we’d all sit on the floor in front of the TV, swatting mosquitoes and peeling mangoes, I’d lose myself in the sticky goodness of the brightest, happiest fruit of my childhood. The cooler would start doing its trick, and amidst the smell of wet khus and the low hum of the ceiling fan, the world would just make sense.
Over the years, many, many things have changed beyond recognition. My grandparents have grown old and weak, their memories now fuzzy and out of reach. Both my parents have retired and are suddenly “senior citizens.” Most of us have moved out of the house and are learning what it’s like to be functional humans in the world of today. We don’t have as much free time, or as much energy, or as much freedom. But in all of this, I’ve just realised that the taste of my favourite mango still hasn’t changed. Not one bit. And this thought makes me inexplicably, immensely, incredibly happy.