Tag Archives: Summer

Kaun Hai Jo Summer Mein Aaya…

mango_16x9

What makes a mango special?

I have thought about this quite a bit, and I realise there is no one single reason for it.

Take the fruit itself, for example. Fleshy, curved, juicy – something that makes you want to hold it in your hands and bite into it. Keeping my creepy analogies aside, there are a few more points that make the mango special among other fruits.

The joy of biting into a fruit is enjoyable in itself – apples, watermelons, and bananas – but the thing about a mango that I appreciate is its democratizing nature. Whether you’re a rich man or a beggar – there’s no clean, posh way to eat a mango. You have to dip your hands into the pulp, put it into your mouth, scrape out the pulp while pulling the peel out of your mouth. You will have to lick the juice flowing down your mouth, wipe it with the back of your hand. There’s simply no other way.

Then there is the fact that is available only in the summers. Unlike its ubiquitous brethren, the mango is among the few respites in a season that has nothing else going for it. When the only stroke of luck is in the form of a bad luck resulting in a sunstroke. Amidst such gloom, like Preity Zinta, the Mango floats into our lives for two months in a year and leaves us with terrible tasting soft drinks for the rest of the year. And after spending ten months of the year trying to make do with those soft drinks, when it is time for the Mango to come into our lives again, we celebrate.

And also, to an extent, that it is found in areas with tropical climate. Like God took pity on us and said, ‘You people are toiling under the sun every year. Here, take some mangoes.’ The mango is a giant orange lining in this grueling weather without any clouds.

It is surprising that with all these qualities of the mango – its saffron colour, the promises it holds, the joy it brings – the BJP has made no references to it at all. The only party with any semblance of aam in it, is the one that the party is at loggerheads with.

I have never liked giving titles to fruits and vegetables. I could never make peace with the idea of the Brinjal being the King of Vegetables, for example. The Brinjal always appeared to be a shady person with many names (Egg plant, aubergine, brinjal). Someone with an evil scheme up his evil mind.

But when someone says that the mango is the king of fruits, I can accept it.

*

The first signs of the coming summer are the mango drink ads.

When the stale ads that have been running through the year are replaced by ones that will run for another year, you know that summer is knocking on the door.

And yet, in spite of three major mango drink companies in the market, not one of them has managed to capture the imagination of the nation.

Frooti had the first mover advantage, thanks to the nostalgia associated with the Mango Frooti – Fresh and Juicy campaigns. And yet, none of their recent campaigns have registered a strong recall value.

There is Maaza, which ran a half decent campaign with Satish Shah. It helped that the man looked like he could devour a dozen mangoes just for the fun of it. He had the expressions, and the belly for it.

And finally, there is Slice. The worst of the lot. Firstly, there is the taste – synthetic, unnatural. Then there is the colour, a bright shiny orange that no mango in the world actually has. And then there is Katrina Kaif, sipping on mango juice in a series of ads that are neither creative nor titillating.

If Freud were alive, he’d sit up and take notice of the ads. Of images of a pretty woman holding a mango in her hands, closing her eyes, whispering, and licking her lips. He’d no doubt notice the fruit in her hand and leave no stone unturned as to which body part the makers of the ad are alluding to.

But since Freud is no more, there is nothing in the ad to interest me.

And yet, I think the greatest campaign for a mango drink company would be to stop this facade of pretending to make their shit from real mangoes. By now, even kids are aware of processed food and packaging, so who are we kidding?

Now that, would make a man go 'Wow!'

Now that, would make a man go ‘Wow!’

 

*

Even if the love affair with mangoes began in childhood, quite recently, me and Mango went to a nearby temple and had a second marriage of sorts. We strengthened our bond, took a new set of vows.

And all this through a random discussion online about eating mangoes after smoking pot. The benefits of mango as a push-upper were being debated, and me and Sarthak, my friend in boredom, decided to test it on ourselves.

It helped that the weed we were smoking was called Mango Weed. And so a joint was smoked, a mango was cut, and eaten. And it was in that moment, when I fell in love with mangoes all over again. The sweet, sticky taste of mango, combined with the pristine, clear feeling of having no thoughts scrambling about in your head.

I cannot scientifically assure you that it gets you higher – I wouldn’t be sitting here writing a blog if I had those capabilities. But I can assure you that it is a blissful feeling.

And this year, the European Union banned the import of mangoes to Europe. The British are still debating about the impact of the ban, and it might just be revoked.

But until then, it is good news for us. The ban might cause a surplus in mangoes in India, resulting in more mangoes at lower prices.

So go ahead, buy a few mangoes. You can spend the winter looking at Katrina Kaif’s videos in 1080p HD.

Of Summer and Its Addictions

Isn’t it amazing how every year, when summer comes on, people will point it out to you? They’ll hold their collar and shake it vigorously and say, ‘Yaar, it’s so hot, na?’

Like they’re just back from a 12 year vacation to Pluto and realised how hot it is in India in summers. It is summer, guys. It will be hot. Get over it.

 

I got over it long ago. Years ago, in my childhood, Bhubaneswar was notorious for ‘Sunstrokes’. It was the first time I had come across the word – sunstroke. I imagined that the sun would smile down warmly on a person, there would be a blinding flash of light, and the man would drop dead right there. Later, I learnt it is a heartbreakingly painful process. The person would first dehydrate, and then die as every drop of water in his body dried up, minute by painful minute.

But all of this wouldn’t affect me one bit. For I had just learnt how to ride a bicycle.

There are very few joys in the world compared to learning to ride a bicycle for the first time.

There is a sense of freedom, of joy, your bicycle being your horse, and of the world being your playground. There are no limits to your enthusiasm, your imagination, and the heat of the summer is but another obstacle – to be trampled upon and left behind.

And since I had just learnt the fine art of riding a cycle, I didn’t want to step inside the house. And so I was given a simple solution – Tie a wet cloth around your head if you want to step out.

The intention was to keep my head cool, wet and dehydrated. But what really happened was a combination of many things:

a)    Children and elders alike sniggered when I crossed them, a wet towel wrapped around my head.

b)    The cloth began to smell damp and funny after a point.

c)     The dampness around my head would result in me feeling dizzy after half an hour, and I would return to the house.

 

Again, this was a time when there was no internet, no cable television (since I was being honed to become a good citizen of the country), no cricket happening.

And all through the summer, I felt a strange thirst.For liquids. An insatiable need for liquid to run down my parched throat.

My hunt led me on to the roads in the afternoons. And the options in front of me were not very vast. And yet, I didn’t shy away from trying them all out.

 

Firstly, there was Sugarcane Juice.

Back then, it was just two rupees, and it wasn’t very difficult to flick two rupees lying around the house and run out to the shop. It was cool, sweet, and affordable.

But then, it had its problems too. You can’t have more than two glasses of it. If you did, you’d have a sticky, sweet feeling. Like your lips have been chapped together by a weak adhesive gum.

And then there were the health issues involved with sugarcane juice. Friends telling you that they’d seen a man keeping his sugarcane in a ditch to make it fresh and juicy. And another friend telling you that his cousin had died of food poisoning from sugarcane juice. Also, after two glasses, your body craved some water, or some salt, or chillies.

And so, I struck sugarcane juice out of my list.

 

Then came the Tender Coconut.

It is cool, and healthy. No one had any horrific tales to narrate about tender coconuts. They were just tender nuts that had a sweet juice inside of them. Problem is, I wasn’t the only one who had realised this truth. And this resulted in the price of tender coconuts rising not so tenderly.

It was five rupees when I was a child. And then in a few years, it was ten rupees. And then, it was fifteen rupees, and then twenty, twenty-five, and thirty. And me with my money nicked off from home, would never be able to catch up in that race.

 

Golas, I have never been fond of.

Firstly, I had only seen it in films and TVs. Of people sucking on golas and chuskis and having fun. In Orissa, we never really had golas for a long time. And when they finally arrived, what a massive colourful disappointment they turned out to be!

It was the same chapped feeling between my lips that I felt after having one. Also, it took about 20 minutes to finish one. Any quicker, and your jaws felt like a yeti had smooched you and run its tongue inside your mouth.

Golas didn’t do it for me.

 

Cool drinks, I was never fond of. Of course, I got enamored by ads and wanted to have a wonderful, bubbly, soft drink in the middle of summer – just like they showed me in those ads.

But every soft drink in the world is the same for me. I enjoy the first two sips and the rest of it seems like a punishment.

Ice creams never worked for me in any which way. Whether it was the Chocobar, or the cups, or the Cassatas, or the expensive ones. None of them did anything for me. All I felt at the end of the ice cream was sticky hands, a sticky mouth, and a sweet aftertaste in my mouth that wouldn’t go even if I ate a live chicken.

 

Which left me with the only other option. Buttermilk.

Buttermilk is one of those things in life you cannot have any complaint against. It could be made thick or thin, spicy or sweet. It is healthy, inexpensive, and easy to prepare.

Needless to say, I was addicted.

But then, I realised that the dynamics of buttermilk-making had a larger role to play. It wasn’t as simple as taking buttermilk, adding spices, chillies, coriander leaves, some ginger, some black salt, and mixing them all together.

I realised that different places have different ways of preparing buttermilk. At home, they’re always overdoing it. They make it thicker than it should be, just to pander to some idea of ‘healthy, wholesome home food’, killing the end result in the process. And like mother’s hamburgers, mothers’ buttermilk is never the real thing.

Others would add too much salt, too less chillies, or not black salt at all. Temples would keep it satwik, adding no ginger at all. There were ‘jalachhatras’ – free water/buttermilk pots that were kept in the open, as a form of social service. These guys made the buttermilk too thin, in an obvious attempt to save money while saving lives.

When I was posted at the KIIT International School in Bhubaneswar, there was a stall that gave out free water and buttermilk. Even if it was light, it was delicious. And I shamelessly hung out there, having 5-6 glasses a day.

And yet, it wasn’t perfect for me. It was a little light, and come summer, I would begin my hunting for the perfect buttermilk.

Everywhere I went, I looked for the perfect buttermilk.

And everytime, I was disappointed. Vijaya, the state-run milk company in Andhra Pradesh wasn’t very good. It was too thick, as if the state was doing its bit to prove the purity of their cows and their milk.

Omfed, the state-run milk federation in Orissa skimmed over the chilly and ginger, making for a drink that seemed hollow in its taste. And I went from this place to that, looking for the perfect buttermilk every summer.

And then, a few weeks ago, I found it.

Jersey milk.

It’s a private company that has its operations in Andhra Pradesh. Like all other milk companies, its logo has a smiling cow as its logo.

It cost 6 rupees, and when I slit the packet open, I realised that my hunt for the perfect buttermilk was over.

Inside, stirred up in the perfect way humanly possible, was buttermilk, salt, chilly, coriander leaves, and black salt. It was so perfect that I didn’t even have to shake well before use.

And that is how I spend my summers these days. Hunting for Jersey Buttermilk in every shop, store, or mall that I come across.

And summer is hot, and sticky and sweaty and all of that.

But what do I care? I am addicted, and my fix costs me 6 rupees.