April is for mangoes and I can never have enough of them. The best mangoes are not the Davidar’s blue mangoes or the overhyped Alphonso. The best were the ones growing on a tree in Fort Cochin. Guarded by the Indian Navy.
The “last working day” of the month meant half day at my school. Central School privilege. The bell at 12:30 p.m. told all at school to go home. Two ten- year- old–tree-climbing -tom-boys did not go home.
Twenty minutes later.
Do you think everyone went?
Climb? I asked
With that we climbed the third tree in a row of mango trees. While she and I climbs, allow me to describe the school (click it! its the up in the air view of the place!). The school is a part of the Southern Naval Command campus replete with guards, gunnery, missiles. Yes missiles. Just beyond my class room was the Arabian Sea and a beautiful, big stretch of beach. (No beach left now :( ...no school there either :(... rising sea levels!)
At some point of Portuguese India history, the place was a fort that guarded the harbor and port of Cochin. Parts of the ancieny gunnery and the fort still stand with an unfortunate stencil stating “for demolition”. Those structures made dare you climbs, eerie hideouts and weaved into our fantastic games. While other kids in other schools imagined castles and canons and sea monsters we actually had them. Right there in the school. Maybe not the sea monsters…
Back to the tree top conversation.
“That one looks ripe. Get that. Yes there.”
I stretched … I cant reach it.
“Aiyooo … stand up… grab that branch on top …yes … walk towards the mango.... Don’t look DOWN, idiot, look at the MANGO…”
Down was 25 feet below, mango was shaky creaky inches away. “Kittee (got it)”, I dropped them into a plastic bag that dangled from my left wrist. Under her expert guidance we had our pick of the best mangoes on the tree. She grew up to become a suicide squad instructor.
We climbed down to saner, safer branch and perched there with our mangoes.
The sign of a good mango is
1. Absence of conversation.
2. Gross pulp squishing, lip smacking, squelching sounds emitted as you try to tease out the last bit of oozing yellow heaven trapped between the skin and the seed.
2.5 Suspension of mental faculties.
3 The mark of a truly awesome mango is that under its influence you carry out bone breakably stupid feats.
1, 2, 2.5 that’s when we saw him. The cane-wielding-dreaded math’s teacher. 3
THUD. The mango made her jump. 12 feet right into the field of vision of the taken-by- surprise- terrorist teacher. He motioned her to come meet his cane.
My mango must have been awesomer than the one she had had. Not only did I jump, I jumped bad. My skirt got caught in the branch and I dangled very inelegantly from the tree… with a bag of mangoes dangling inelegantly from my hand. I frantically swam and kicked the air and that’s when the branch gave away. Cracckkkk…. Crashhhh. The branch, I and the mangoes fell from the sky in a messy heap.
“YOU,Come here”, he thundered. I ran stumbling towards him. She and I stood breathless, braced for the scolding and caning.
Give it to me, he said. I handed over the bag.
That was the first time and last time I saw him smile. “Go home”, he said. We ran.
I now order mangoes online and get them home delivered. They come with individual protective casing. Nothing compares to the mangoes in Fort Cochin, guarded by the Indian navy.
Wishing you a mangolicious summer ahead!