A Slice Of Nostalgia: How Mangoes Have Come To Culturally Define Indian Summers

A Slice Of Nostalgia: How Mangoes Have Come To Culturally Define Indian Summers

We had the best mango tree in our neighbourhood. It wasn't the only tree around but it was most certainly chosen as the people's champion. Every summer, the anticipation of the mangoes would bleed into the conversations and daily routines of our locality. Like other shared rituals of summer; music/art camps, going to the swimming pool, seven stones tournaments in the scorching sun and evening walks, exchanging mangoes was a communal affair. From shooing kids away that wanted to steal baby mangoes before they were ripe, to finally harvesting them on his day off, my father and I had a common mission that lasted all of summer.

The plucked mangoes would then be washed, semi-riped ones go in the sack of rice to mature and the riped ones would all be packaged for each our neighbours, every parcel curated with different number of mangoes, depending on how much my father liked them that year.

We eventually moved to another house and left behind our mango tree that to this day graces the memory of our old friends. Not unlike our own, mangoes have ingrained themselves into the stories of almost every Indian and become synonymous with summer. The long lazy afternoons, hours of playtime, the musky smell of coolers and the sticky fingers after sampling a fresh batch are all interwoven with mangoes anchoring the nostalgia of summers.

It is our national fruit for a reason. Mangoes are a symbol of our identity, our heritage, and our culture. In mythology and literature, mangoes are associated with love, abundance, and good fortune, and are even used in common vedic puja rituals in Hindu culture. They embody prosperity, richness, and the spirit of abundance that defines our land.

During the sun-drenched days of summer in India, mangoes take center stage in the gastronomy that defines the season for many — from Andhra Pradesh, where Mamidikaya pappu or mango dal brings a burst of tangy-sweet flavour to traditional meals, to Maharashtra and Gujarat, where aamras is savored like liquid gold. Spicy snacks made from sliced raw mango coated in chilli powder and gelatinous aam papads can be seen spread out to dry on the terraces. A chilled mango milkshake, Kairi panna, or homemade mango icecream after a long day of shenanigans in the sun is every kid's salvation. No time in the day or night is too early or late to slice up a mango and bite into its golden nectarous mush of pure joy.

In every slice of mango, there's a story waiting to be told; of family gatherings, childhood adventures, and shared moments of joy. It's not just a fruit; it's a connection to our roots; a reminder of the simple pleasures that make life truly delightful. As we savour the luscious flesh of a ripe mango, we're not just indulging in a fruit; we're reliving memories, celebrating tradition, and embracing the essence of summer in every juicy bite.