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100 days of mangoes

How would you know that summer had begun?

One day you would come home from school and find mangoes on the table.

Winter is the season of entropy. Trees greet you with their barrenness and the cold lulls you into a deep sleep, wherein you dream of running toward the everlasting embrace of summer. And the accompanying mangoes.Winter thaws into spring. The eyes slowly accustom themselves to the myriad colours that are sprung upon you. The chirpiness seeps from the air into your very soul. The birds sing songs that resonate with the lightness of being.

Before you can grasp it, hold it, feel it and touch it with all your senses, spring slips out of your hands. It's almost closing time at school. The summer holidays are within reach. But the final exams stand between you and the promised land. And mangoes.

In those few days you try to find god. In classrooms, heavy with the air of uncertainty, the whir of the fans and the flipping of papers are the only respite from the deathly silence. What will become of you if you don't do well in the exams? Will life come apart at the very seams?

You swat bullets one by one. Days are a blur of lost sleep, mindless formulae and equations that just don't seem to add up. Worried faces await your arrival at home, your expression the barometer of your performance.

Then it ends.

Everything you prayed, hoped and wished for so reverently is at your doorstep.

An endless summer and unlimited mangoes.

The first few days are a haze. Unable to fathom the freedom afforded to you, you ingest more mangoes than you can handle. Play begins at the crack of dawn and doesn't end at the crack of twilight. Holidays are like a tap that someone turned on and forgot to turn off. There is no homework to be completed, no nerves to be soothed.

Life soon settles into a rhythm. Play. Play. Play. Play. Sleep. But the mangoes are always there. They come from all over. Everywhere you look, mango is the flavor of the season. As you grow older, you will learn to distinguish the flavors between banganapalle, malgova, raspuri and badami, each with its own distinct flavour, some sweeter than the others.

If mangoes are around, can mango pickle be far off? Raw mangoes are chopped and seasoned. An excuse to have that extra serving of curd rice. Mango thokku, another variation, is prepared and stored in bottles, to be consumed long after summer has been relegated to the cozy confines of memory and the odd photograph.

April inches toward May. Summer is in bloom. Mangoes are everywhere. The hours of endless play are interrupted only by the lure of mangoes.

Eating a mango has its own etiquette. First remove the peel in one seamless motion. Suck the pulp off the peel, taking care not to bite into it. Then sink your teeth into the pulp wholeheartedly. If done right, the seed and the peel that remain are almost bare. Much like sucking the marrow out of life. That's what summer was for. Sucking the marrow out of everyday before the environs of school imprisoned you.

The first rains come without warning, a respite from the unforgiving heat. You get soaked to the bone, wanting every raindrop to fall on you.

Time seems to pass by quicker in May. Now you're counting the days. The last few days of summer are like the first few days of summer - hurried, hazy and thwarted by a sense of urgency. It's similar to the feeling you experience when you grow up and just don't want Sunday to end. But there are only so many Sundays in a lifetime. And unfortunately, summer holidays too have a finite number of days.

The rains now come everyday. The first day of school dawns like an apocalypse. But the mangoes are still there. Whatever is left of them, anyway. With a heavy heart, you set forth, already counting the days till the next vacation.

How would you know that summer had ended?

One day you would come home from school and there would be no mangoes on the table.


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