Summer is a season when a woman, or a man, goes where there are mangoes. An ‘ambear-piko’ is a windfall that not only makes one happy, but also salivate like a pregnant woman at the mention of ‘imli’ or tamarind.
The ‘chhepnnechem tor’ or ‘amli’ can also do the same for those who have been privileged to eat it during their childhood. The privilege and pleasure of eating a tree-ripened Malcurada or Mankurad mango befalls a select few. Once hooked on it, one looks forward to it every summer, like a forlorn lover for the return of his or her loved one.
I firmly subscribe to Jay Dubhashi’s statement published decades ago, “There are only two kinds of people: those who love mangoes and those who are slightly touched.” Whether it was the Moghul Emperors, Indian Maharajas or the European Kings, they all loved mangoes. The wily Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj was well aware of this and used a large empty basket of mangoes to escape along with his son, Sambhaji, from ‘house arrest’ by Emperor Aurangzeb, in Agra, during the summer of 1666 AD. If not for mangoes, Shivaji Bhosale might have been exiled to Khandahar in Afghanistan at age 36 years, instead of being crowned Chhatrapati at age 44 years. Just imagine the value of mangoes to the history of India!
There is a wealth of information easily available to persons interested in mangoes. The book ‘Mangoes Of Goan Origin’ (1997) by P A Mathew, Scientist-Horticulture (with D G Dhandar and S Subramaniam) published by ICAR-Goa Research Centre, Old Goa, with descriptions and coloured photographs of mangoes, is still available for just Rs 50 a copy.
Limited copies of ‘As Mangas De Goa/Mangoes Of Goa’ (2018) a bilingual edition by Fernando do Rego (former Deputy Director of Agriculture) published by Fundacao Oriente, Lisbon, are also available in Goa. Dr K C Naik, later the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, published the first authoritative book entitled ‘Classification and Nomenclature of South Indian Mangoes’ in 1950, along with Dr S R Gangolly. More recently, Vivek Menezes explored the history of mango through the ages and, last week, Arati Das wrote about the seedling mangoes.
Mango trees that produce small, insipid, sour or very fibrous fruits are generally reserved for making all kinds of pickles, in brine or in masala or sweetened pickle, known as chutney, made from mature or semi-ripe mango fruits. Some of the small mangoes are cooked into curries or made into a sweet-sour sansvell, or sasav, with mustard seeds popped in hot oil.
Avenues of huge seedling mango trees existed on the two major roads to the North of Mapusa town at Carrasco vaddo, that is now permanently morphed beyond recognition into Karaswada. These road stretches were simply named as ‘Ambeamni’, meaning amid mango trees.
World renowned fashion designer, Wendell Rodricks, lost the campaign to protect the seedling mango trees on the road to Colvale, which was being widened to convert the 4-lane NH-17 to the 8-lane NH-66. He left this world soon thereafter. We were luckier in getting the road re-aligned on SH-1 by converting the ‘Ambeamni’ stretch into a road median. Win some, lose some. That is life.