A Mango Love Affair
As a child, I can remember my mother’s delight when she could finally sink her teeth into a succulent Indian mango. Naturally, she would have to wait for months before she could travel home to India and find the real mangoes that she felt deprived of in America. For years I refused to try her mangoes because I had tasted some back home and was not enamored by them. Honestly, I thought they were disgusting; I hated their oddly stringy texture and the horrible bitter/sweet juices that made everything I touched unbearably sticky. I assumed that all fruit was fruit; every mango I saw looked pretty similar, so I just assumed that my mother’s everyday craziness and her sentimental nostalgia were creating the mango-crazed monster I tried hard to avoid. One day, as my mother sat in my grandmother’s living room armed with a spoon and a mango, I, absent-mindedly lounging in the summer heat, allowed her to shove a bite into my mouth. After the rich flavors had worked their way around my taste buds, I turned around and asked my mother what I had just tasted. Her lips turned into a triumphant smile, as she announced her accomplishment of feeding me a mango.
After that day, I have not been able to eat any mango other than the ones my grandmother lovingly collects for us. Whenever I see my friends so much as reaching for a piece of mango from any other country, I can’t help but make some snarky remark about the inadequacy of the non-Indian impersonators. I never realized how easily I had been lured into India’s historical love affair with mangoes or that my mother’s behavior was representative of economic, social and class complexities that extended far deeper than the simple pleasure of eating good fruit. However, as I think about all that the mango stands for, I don’t see India’s infatuation with the fruit as an aspect of the country I seek to change. I believe that the mangoes show the vibrant colors of my culture and the immense passion of my people. Let the nouveaux riche continue to court their beloved delicacy and the throngs of people barter on the streets for the best crate they can find. We should delight in the bickering between regions about which breed of the fruit is the best. In the end, the mango demonstrates the Indian pride that we should value and cherish so that we can continue to share the wonders of our beloved fruit as we have done for thousands of years.