Maska Maarke with Kunal Vijayakar: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s not just hot, it’s torrid. The room is warm and muggy, and her face glistens with flushed longing. Sweat drips in little rivulets down the spine, as her lips surround the plump tip in a moist viscous exploration of mouth and tongue. She had been waiting nearly for a year for his arrival, and now that he’s here, their union is about to explode and erupt into the most seismic frenzy of golden, luscious, sweetness. Her lips engulf the taut, juicy fruit. She’s finally bitten into her first mango of the season.
Waiting for the mango season to arrive has been a ritual of anticipation way before Katrina Kaif seduced us with her unique and voluptuous handling of the fruit. In Mumbai, by February, people usually start discussing how much the first mango is expected to cost.
No one is talking dozens at that time, just one fruit. By February end, the big fruit shops unwrap their boxes, unfold the tissue paper and prominently display small quantities of the fruit. You will never see the shop full of mangoes. There will be only a box or two and the phalwallah charging a premium.
It’s end February or March and about 600 dozen Alphonso mangoes arrive from Ratnagiri and Deogad. Street value of Rs 175 a piece or Rs 1,900 a dozen. I’ve been to Devgad. Their economy is mangoes and the fruit straight off the tree is pure nectar.
There is a mad rush to the shops and like most things that are in demand in India, the King of Fruit too is rationed out.
It’s now that psychology kicks in. Our brains are genetically wired to seek social status, and this desire triggers activity in the reward network of the brain. “I must have it first, before everyone else, whatever be the price. So that I can put up pictures on social media and serve freshly cut fruit at the next party I host.”
I have a little more patience. For me, mango season starts when the Gujju thali joints in Kalbadevi add amras-poori to their menus and when Natural announces that their Fresh Mango Ice-Cream is ready.
I’m no longer a big fan of Natural, I find their ice-creams a bit powdery and watery now. But their Fresh Mango is a goopy fantasy. Hand-churned, creamy, and glorious. Every spoonful scoops up chunks of real mango, not just pulp.
Bachelorr’s at Chowpatty and Haji Ali Juice Centre suddenly get more crowded, with street side waiters whooshing aluminum trays from car to car, balancing mugs of Fresh Mango Milk Shake and oversized bowls of Fresh Mangoes with Cream.
Then it’s amras-poori time. It’s actually an odd combination. Chilled sweet fruit pulp eaten with hot, deep-fried savoury pooris? But someone back in the day decided it was an auspicious kinship, and it works.
My advice, go to either Thacker’s at Chowpatty or Shree Thaker Bhojanalay and order the thali. Skip the bhakras, phulkas, puran polis, rice, khichdi and all other forms of carbohydrates. Just let them fill your platter with the farsaan, vegetables, daals and pooris. At least half a dozen pooris to start with. One big katori of amras and then dip the poori in amras and hit your high notes.
Restaurants and patisseries too will start their mango extravaganzas. Mango Gateaux, Mango Mousse, Mango Panna Cotta, Fresh Mango Tarts, Mango Samosas, Mango Cupcakes, Mango Cheesecakes, Mango Brûlée, Mille Feuille Mango… Mango… Mango… Mango…
For me, I’m going to indulge in one thali with aamras, and then head straight to The Blue in Bandra. There I will have a bowl of fiery Thai Green Curry with Prawns on Jasmine Rice, and then settle down to slowly savour their Sticky Rice with Mango.