Summer in the South Asian subcontinent is a thrilling time. Diets are forgotten, hardcore keto addicts take cheat weeks and the search for the perfect mango begins.
If you are Pakistani, you will most likely have grown up with an ingrained reverence or intense craving for the king of all fruits: the mango. Beginning in June, we anxiously await the ripening of Multani mangos. Still, it isn’t until after the monsoon rains hit that the sweetest mangoes make an appearance and the real hunt begins. Overseas Pakistanis will scour neighborhood grocery stores while those at home chase after their local fruit sellers.
Wrapped in netted foam, each orange gem is carefully tucked into place, ready to be devoured. For just a moment, you can forget your burdens and woes, and indulge in a mango. It acts as a reminder; a little piece of home delivered right to your doorstep.
There’s the Chaunsa, known for its exceptionally sweet richness. One must be quick not to judge this book by its cover since Chaunsas tend to have a fairly pale yellow exterior. My earliest memories revolve around summertime mango season: my grandparents would arrive with suitcases filled to the brim with Chaunsas. Soon, every room in the house would be infused with its fruity aroma.
People approach mangos the same way they approach life. Take the Sindri for example – a long, oval-shaped delight, and my personal favorite. Eating this mango with my family members is an anticipated yearly ritual. The simple act of cutting fruit is a love language in itself. My mother takes care to sharply slice each side and scoop out the mango with a spoon. She is swift and methodical, taking care to avoid any mess. My grandmother, on the other hand, is more chaotic. She will violently squeeze the mango, cut a small hole at the top and suck the juice until every last drop has been drawn. I learned to appreciate the nuances of each approach — most of all when I found my own. Each Sindri molds itself to suit one’s emotional needs — a space where creation and tradition can thrive alongside one another.
Then comes the long-reigning Anwar Ratols. With their delicate flavor, these pocket-sized prized possessions are a fan favorite. One bite into an Anwar Ratol and I am transported back to a hot summer afternoon playing cricket in the streets with my cousins. With piercing rays of sun and beads of sweat on each and every child’s forehead, our egos fuel our urge to carry on. After a while, we would run inside and lose ourselves in an ice-cold mango lassi: a work hard, play hard kind of lifestyle.
Langras are travelers. They are exported to Saudi Arabia, Europe and everywhere in between. As major players in the mango diplomacy between India and Pakistan, Langras also act as a bridge connecting borders. These two countries, which are at odds when it comes to political disputes and sports tournaments, are strangely bound together by this cultural phenomenon.
There is something beautiful about this shared experience — the ability of a single fruit to shape traditions, cultivate palates and revive childhood memories. While most fruits in Western countries are available all year round, Pakistanis are held captive by the changing of seasons. Bound by the natural cycle of fruits that come and go each year, we savor our moment in the sun. The temporality of our time together makes each bite just that little bit more special. Then, when October comes around, we are forced to reconcile this bittersweet sense of loss, and the clock begins ticking in wait for next June.
MiC Columnist Nuraiya Malik can be reached at email@example.com.