Monday, March 21, 2005

Last evening I was standing by the main gate of my home when I noticed a small green mango, about an inch across, fallen from the big tree in my front lawn.

It was the first of the season. I should've expected it, since the tiny creamish flowers have been dripping droplets of sap onto my bike for the past month. But it was still a kind of shock.

The ending of winter is the real end of the past year; the new mangoes are the first bounty of the new one. Soon they'll be grown enough for Mom to make spicy green pickle from the fallen ones. In two months - after the mango 'eyes' are visible - we'll get our gardener to help with picking the fresh-smelling fruit. We'll want to do this early in the morning, of course, because after 9 or so, it will be too hot to be climbing trees and catching thrown green keri. Then they'll be arranged in rows under my bed, covered with jute gunny bags , with a few onions strategically placed to help them ripen. It is a three-month long new year party, culminating in all of us sick of the taste of Aamras, yet eager for more because, hey, the mangoes are only here for a few months.

The last time the mango tree flowered was two years ago. Life was very different for me then. If I'd known of the many things that would happen before the next time - a terrifying ride through the underbelly of the Indian Justice System among them - I would have been more grateful for the sheer joy of living through days when mango-picking was the main event.
I've mentioned in a previous post the winding-up music I heard, sometime in December. At the time, I thought it was about my long leave from work. But I still hear it. It grows louder every time I pay attention. Something, somehow, is going to happen. My life is due for some kind of change - I feel it in my bones and grow restless for the change, like grass grown yellow and rustling restlessly in May, waiting for the grey clouds from the southwest.

My home is only about 10 years old. I've lived in it for only about 7 years, after I came back from college. Yet the place seems to be old now; a comfortably weathered, rambling sort of place, like your grandfathers home that you go visiting in your summer vacation. The swing on the terrace has gotten rusty and squeaks sometimes; the clotheslines have been chewed through by squirrels and re-knotted. We've buried a pet cat in the back yard; I remember my sister cried that day.

I can imagine it - if my life had been somewhat different, if, as it happens for some, I had met the girl of my dreams in college and gotten married, there would be phantom memories of a little kid toddling around the cracked tiles on the sitout, a little chipped place on the staircase where he threw his toy, a mental image of us flying a kite on the grounds behind the house. The alternate history never happened, of course, and now...

Now in my minds eye I see an image of the house abandoned; all of us moved on to other things - me in some strange part of the world; Dad taken up some interesting position in another country; my brother and sister, too, making their marks in yet another place. The house would then be sold, perhaps, or maybe locked up for one of us to come back; dry mango leaves piling up, hiding the dry withered grass of the front lawn. I would have a photo of it in my bedroom and maybe shudder as I imagine seeing my dog in the front window, the way he barked joyfully when I arrived home.

Or maybe we all will stay here for some time more; the music I hear is merely an elegy for the sad times gone by, a prelude for the glorious new year to come.

I picked up that little green mango, by the way. Smelled it. It smelled... new.

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