My (not so) “AAM” memories

Posted By HealthyBuddha on Monday 19th April 2021
Its that time of the year, exams are over and summer vacations have started. A host of memories come flooding into my mind. Out of the many lovely things we did during the holidays, one memory particularly stands out – staying at our maternal home (that my grandparents built) in Thiruvalla, Kerala. My mother’s sister, husband (my Lechi and Perappa) and their kids (my 2 cousin brothers)lived there at the timeOn vacations when Appa was still at work on the ship, we would pack our bags and be off on the very first day of holidays or even on the last day of exams. If at all, Appa was home during vacations, we would still go but it would be a one-day affair (much to our despair). So though it doesn’t sound very nice, we were kind of happy even when Appa wasn’t home during our summer vacations. Actually, he did take us everywhere – no complaints about that, but his one condition to reach home before nightfall whenever we visited family made no sense to my sister and me when we were kids. 

HB memories
Actual Image of the House

Staying at Thiruvalla was no less of an adventure. The house was a huge single-storey 5 bedroom one with all features you can imagine in an almost 40-year old house – a large well, a cow-shed which housed cows a long time ago, a long sprawling courtyard which served as our cricket/football field and the biggest attraction of all – a 1.5 acre backyard garden, which was our exploration arena. We had a live-in housekeeper cum maidSarasammchechi, a character right out of the dramatic Mallu soaps she kept watching whenever she was free. We kids drove her crazy, teased her for her English (she called the refrigerator a ‘bridge’ and the microwave oven, ‘microbe’ to name a few). Hilarious as it sounds, she asserted she was only 55 every time we asked her old she was. Come to think of it, she was 55 for around 10 years straight!!! Jokes apart, our getaway was a rejuvenation therapy with only eating, playing and sleeping (and more eating!!) on the agenda

Our summers at Thiruvalla were synonymous for one more thing – MANGOES. I can undoubtedly say that I have eaten more mangoes during my stay there than in my whole life put together. And there were added bonuses, though I didn’t think about it that way when I was a kid.
Our mangoes were 100% organic, 100% homegrown and absolutely delicious. As soon as mangoes started appearing, we would be in prep-mode. We would pick raw mangoes right off the tree, cut and relish them with salt and chilli powder in our make shift tents on the terrace (this did entail increased visits to the bathroom, which we were ok with: P). We had eight varieties of mangoes, sizes ranging from that of a chikoo to a musk melon, all different yet so sweet and yummy that our cravings never ended. Perappa was an expert in plucking mangoes off the tree with the ‘thoti’ (a long piece of wood with another small sharp piece of wood tied at the end). My cousins who were excellent fielders would catch the falling mangoes with bare hands while my sister and me made do with our skirtsMy favourite variety was a small sized one, which could be skinned off with the hand (teeth in my case), slurped dry and in the process, mango nectar would be dripping right off our elbows.

To top it all, Lechi used to prepare mango juice concentrate for us and needless to say, mango smoothiesmango milk shakes and mango ice-lollies were our favourite break-time refreshments. We constantly motivated her (sometimes even coaxed her) to make more by finishing in-house stocks as soon as we could. Frooti, slice and tropicana are nothing compared to her mango juiceWe were generous though, as we did spare some mangoes for curries as well – to be used in fish curries, in the ‘avial’ and my much loved mango pachadi (a mango dish made with jaggery).

Since moving out of Kerala, over the past few years I have had my share of mangoes that have tasted quite different, sometimes downright awful, watery and bland. I learned that this happened when mangoes could have been artificially ripened or treated with chemicals/pesticides. For people unaware of the artificial ripening, it's a process to speed up ripening of fruits that have been plucked pre-maturely using harmful chemicals such as Calcium Carbide that contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous. Consuming such fruits can cause serious health issues, can affect our neurological system and even cause cancer.  It’s only now that I truly appreciate what we had. Thankfully, now that Bangalore has multiple options for organic mangoes from different trusted sources, I am happy that my family can still experience the King of fruits in all its glory. 

As I immerse myself into nostalgic mango memories, I can’t help but wait impatiently for our trip to Kerala next month, to savour some of the Thiruvalla mangoes, which Lechi will keep aside for me for sure. She now lives in Cochin, but still manages to make her signature mango juice every year. As I wrap up this article, I thank those lovely souls who planted mango seeds on our land, which had mango trees on it when my grandparents bought it more than 60 years ago. In this lifetime, I hope to plant some seeds of my own, so that many others may get to relish the king of fruits in years to come.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Author Aiswarya Sankar. She was born and brought up in Kerala and 
after a bit of globe trotting for studies and work, she is now settled in Bangalore with her husband and 3 yr old daughter. She is an environmental engineer by profession, a planeteer at heart & an eco-sensitive person in everyday life. She loves to read, travel and a total foodie. 
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Tags: mangoes, mango season, memories, organic mangoes, my not so aam memories, aam