Mango Memories of a Malayali

The many memories of a Mango vacation.

Mangoes are gentle fruits. They are called as maavin kaai in Karnataka while in Tamil Nadu and Kerala they are known as mampazham. I call them maanga informally. Let me share with you some of my sweetest mango memories.

Although I don’t know what their Kannada names are, Muthikkudiyan, Chandrakkaaran, Komaanga, Priyur, Moovandan are all mangoes that we grow in our kochu kunnamkulam during summer season. I have so much to tell you but I still don’t know where to begin.

My ammachi stayed in Kottayam. After schools closed for vacation- amma, my elder brother and I would board the Parashuram express or Venad to Kottayam. It’d take us three hours to get to Kottayam from Thrissur. After we’d get down at Kottayam, we’d take the KSRTC bus to Kaitheppaalam SNDP Mandiram. By then I’d have collapsed in amma’s hands.

Not even the trumpeting of hundred elephants would wake me up if I fell asleep. Only the sweetest smell of freshly cut moovandan maanga — neither too ripe nor too green had the power to bring me back alive.

Another thing that I used to love was ammachi’s mango pickles. Ammachi owned lots of porcelain bharanis (jars) which were in those days, almost as tall as I was. These bharanis were placed in the musty store room. Old kitchen utensils, rat-traps, old gas cylinders, huge vessels, broomsticks, mops, my cousin’s baby cycle, sacks of rice from the field and more rat-traps were also placed in the same storeroom. There was a huge spider fellow that’d sit in a top corner of the room. He was scary. That guy was the only one who restricted me from entering the room.

I would stare at him through the hands of bananas that hung from the ceiling and he’d look back creepily at me. He never moved or changed places. He just sat there.

Inside these porcelain bharanis were salted muthikkudiyan maangaas. Like genies that awaited their turn to finally pop out of lamps, these mangoes patiently awaited their turn to finally come out without realizing the fact that they were chumma jumping from jar mouth to human mouth.

Ammachi made a lot of mango dishes starting from the very basic maanga chammanthi or maanga achar to the more complex mampazha pulishery or morum mangayum.

Picture by Abhijit Shylanath via flickr
Picture by Abhijit Shylanath via flickr

The problem with muthikkudiyan mangoes is that they are least bothered about people standing underneath when they fall. They fall like it rains, thud over the roof and thud onto the terrace above the car porch. These fellows have fallen over my head many times and hence nowadays I wear my uncle’s helmet when I go out to collect them (because when they fall it almost feels like they only target my head).

The taste of these awesome mangoes is totally worth the knock on the head and so we’d avenge any harm caused by devouring the little rascals. When it rained, on an average you would get almost two sacks full of mangoes by the end of the day. Since there are no compound walls to ammachi’s place, collecting mangoes before our greedy neighbours get their hands on them is a tedious procedure. Babu and his family live on the right side of my ammachi’s house.

Behind ammachi’s house lives Rajan. Both Rajan and Babu have their eyes fixed under ammachi’s mango trees. Babu and his wife Shantha are so devoted to these mangoes that they sneak into our compound at two in the morning and finish their job before dawn. That leaves us with just a couple or two mangoes. Chandran gets to work in the evening. He leaves at the sight of my ammachi’s figure in the sit -out.

So now we just trick them. We wait outside in the sit -out holding buckets and flashlights. The moment we hear the thud anywhere we split out in teams to trace the thud and bag the damn mangoes before our enemies do.

We spend hours sucking and chewing these mangoes. Some of them are bad or half eaten. Separating the bad ones from the good ones is hard too. So my brother and I have developed a throwing game. The one who throws mangoes to the farthest distance had to fulfill three wishes the winner asked for.

My brother- that rascal always won the game. After all it was he who came up with this idea so he could make a slave out of me.

All fights were solved over mango milkshakes in the evening. Amma made them. Muthikkudiyan mangoes weren’t the best option available to prepare shakes because they were more fibrous. But we sort of adjusted to the taste of it.

Any unlucky guest who came home by chance during the mango season would have definitely cursed amma for giving him or her muthikkudiyan mango shake.

The word muthikkudiyan in Malayalam roughly translates to ‘to be sucked and drunk’. There is this particular way to eat the muthikkudiyan mango. You have to massage the mango and pet it within your fists. After that you have to bite and make a small incision on the lower end of the mango, and then start sucking on it to get the juice out.

Picture by dhyanji via flickr
Picture by dhyanji via flickr

Yet another mango delicacy is the mango chumma – bathed in coconut oil and dipped in chilli powder and salt. We usually pluck moovandan mango from the mango tree near the well and take it to Ammachi. She would do the honour of chopping it for us.

When it is time to go home, ammachi would tear up like always- holding jam bottles of maanga achaar, dried mangoes and maanga uppilittathu.

I wonder if her tears ever made those mangoes sourer and slightly saltier than usual.

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Philip Victor

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One thought on “Mango Memories of a Malayali

  • 30th June 2017 at 3:51 pm
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    Mangoes will be much sweeter when we get it from our sweet and loving grandma whom we love the most.In my childhood I always dreamt of a mango tree in front of my house. The branches dropping on the terrace bearing mangoes. I realized this dream in my home at Aloor gramam, near guruvayoor after my marriage. Such a sweet Neelam mangoes we could pluck from the terrace. My father in law was such a generous man to supply mangoes to all my brothers and sisters. He was an agriculturist who took degree in agriculture from an American university from Allahabad before independence. He had a keen interest in developing a mavinthoppe with all varieties of mangoes which he materialised but later happened to be a victim of Land reforms Act. These are my sweet memories about mangoes. My children were very much lucky to enjoy the fruits along with their cousins which their grandpa developed.

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