Summer is here and brings with it a variety of delights. The fruits are one of the best delights The fruits which were once loyal to summer are nowadays available even in winter with the help of science and technology, but the joy of eating them in summer is unmatched. Wherever you go, the air is heavy with the heady scent of mangoes. The sweetness of Badami, the tartness of Raspuri and the sourness of Totapuri. All these scents are combined with the strong unique scent of ripe jack-fruits which can make anyone’s mouth water. As if the scent isn’t enough to tempt us, the vendors use their creativity to display the fruits in an eye-catching way. The cool watermelon doesn’t need a scent to attract us. The punishing sun helps it by making us crave for the sweet watery coolness of the watermelon. The flies too have a gala time in summer, hopping from mango to mango to jackfruit to watermelon and then finally settling on our mango stained faces.
The Mango Mela at Lalbagh is my mother’s favourite place to shop. We bring back home carton boxes full of different types of raw mangoes for the many variations of pickles, ripe ones to eat after lunch, small ones to make savoury dishes, Dussehri to make aamras and my favourite one – Totapuri! Yes, amongst the thousands of varieties of mangoes with different types of sweetness and flavours, my favourite is the sour and crunchy Totapuri – not too raw, not too ripe and gently coated with a thin layer of salt and chilly powder. I miss my school days when I used to take Rs. 2 from my father to buy two pieces of Totapuri from the vendor outside the school gates.
Summer also means that my mother and her sister join hands to cover our terrace with ‘sandige’ (fritters) of different varieties – sabakki, akki, avalakki and in different shapes. The prepping is done the previous evening and the mixture is made early in the morning so that they have time to lay it out on the terrace before the sun burns them.
The stock of pickles for the entire year is also made in summer. Raw mangoes are cut and then cured in brine, guntur and byadgi chillies are dried and powdered and finally the pickle is put together with generous amounts of oil. My job is to clean all the glass bottles and ceramic jaadis and dry them thoroughly before filling them up with the mouth-watering pickle for our friends and relatives. Every year a new pickle recipe is tried out and this year my mother was inspired by the raw jackfruit pickle she had at a friend’s place in Uttar Pradesh to make her own south-indian version of it.
Another summer delight is the evenings spent tying jasmine buds together and gossiping with aunts. The evenings on which the vendor with the push-cart of buds doesn’t turn up are spent ranting about the intolerable summer heat in Bangalore this year. Though it is a pain travelling in summer that too in the infamous traffic of our city, I’m sure no one ignores the bright red blobs of May Flower blooms that line the streets.