All I did, this evening, was stand in a corner, fixing a radio. In minutes, I was drenched in sweat like I had bathed in the stuff. That hot. Look out, it must be May.
Not that the May heat comes without compensations. In this city, the main one, maybe the only one, is mangoes. They're already on sale everywhere, luscious yellow fruit bursting with succulent flesh and sweet juice. Though you know your true Mumbaiwallah by the way he dismisses all but the exquisitely-shaped hapus. Of every other variety of the fruit, he'll say derisively: "That's no mango!"
We paid way too much for a box of the real thing. But when I reach in and my hand closes around one of those firm round ... er, fruit -- fruit that are warm like the skin of a dearly beloved, money is ... hmmm, now what was I saying again?
Oh yes, mangoes. So in May, I think: so what if it's hot as hell and I'm always sweaty? There are mangoes to eat! All month long, I know, my fingers and face will be sticky. Memories from when I was -- oh, about this small, stripped to shorts and gobbling gobbling, juice everywhere, happy smiles. Memories renewed when I watch my 3- and 7-year olds do the same. Not me, not any of the big folks around. Why are we so restrained as adults?
Then comes June, and I'll think: so what if it's twelve whole months till the next crop of mangoes? The rains are here! In a flash, they have washed away May's sweat and stickiness.
Which is why mangoes are invariably the bridge between summer heat and the pounding glory of the monsoon. In his scrumptious "Chasing The Monsoon", Alexander Frater writes of watching the monsoon break on Kovalam beach in Kerala. "Everyone shrieked and grabbed at each other," Frater says. For him, that was the dark-eyed beauty to his right, and this is how he describes the moment:
- Her streaming pink sari left her smooth brown tummy bare. We held hands much more tightly than was necessary and, for a fleeting moment, I understood why Indians traditionally regard the monsoon as a period of torrid sexuality.
A momentary romance, the wisp of mystery, that quick flash of magic -- this is the stuff of the monsoon, this May-June season. And from its shape to its smoothness, from how it fits in your hand to how it feels in your mouth: no fruit in the world captures that utterly sensual mood like the mango does.
Now if you'll excuse me, I feel the urge to reach into that box again, feel that life-giving warmth again. Look out, it must be love.
"Admit it: when you eat your May mangoes, you're thinking of moments like that to come."
No, when I eat mangoes, I think of Alphanso (Ratnagiri?) mangoes which I may never be able to eat again.
I always wondered why we (of Indian origin) are so fond of the early monsoon season. My theory is that it is the brief moments of relief from the heat. Not very romantic.
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