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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pakistani Mango Reigns Supreme


India is a great nation. A billion Indians on the most fertile patch of land on our planet know a thing or two about flavour, spice and the harvest. Unfortunately, they know nothing about the excellence of the Pakistani Mango. I feel sorry for them.

Anwar Ratol - The best mango in the world.

I grew up on mangoes. Anwar Ratol was our family favourite. Every summer, crates of Anwar Ratol mangoes were purchased almost on a weekly basis. In the sweltering heat of mid-summer Punjab, our father would get buckets of iced water and pour into it dozens and dozens of greenish, gold tinged mangoes. We helped in the ritual; picking bits of husk from the sticky resin that perfectly ripe mangoes ooze from the bud.  We would wait a little, just enough for the mangoes to get deliciously cold.

Eating Anwar Ratols is a competitive pursuit. You don’t eat them; You gulp them after mushing the pulp with your thumbs and sucking the rich, flavoursome chunky nectar from the stalk end of the fruit.  You dress for the occasion too. It must be the kurta that needs to go to the wash the same afternoon. Sleeves must be rolled up and you must be seated on the cool floor as close to the bucket as possible. You carry on until there are no more mangoes. Then you calm your stomach with a nice glass of ‘kachi lassi’ - an ounce of milk watered down to repel the heat of the greatest fruit on earth.

Then you sleep.

We were also treated with the whole range of mango varieties throughout the summer. Our kitchen and the fridge remained fragrant with mangoes for the summer holidays. Monsoons brought the best crop to the shops and a good chunk of our food budget would go to the fruit sellers.

Sindhri - A gift from the mighty Indus river


Pakistani mangoes are the greatest fruit on earth. There is no doubt about it. We prepare for our thermometer bursting, electricity deprived summers by consoling ourselves in the hope of mangoes.

I know that some Indian friends are under this illusion that Indian mangoes are better. I have no doubt that their home grown fruit is more appealing for them. Had they ever tasted the Anwar Ratol ripened in the humid, unbearable heat of southern Punjab, they would change their mind.  They have never been invited to a mango party which happens under some trees by the canal. They never tried the mango Ice-cream frozen by rolling the barrels for hours by hand on the streets and plentiful scoops of it presented with chunks of mangoes freshly sliced over it. They have never stopped in a busy night market in urban Faisalabad, ogled at the golden Dueshri and Malda bobbing among the ice-cubes in a glass tank of a roadside vendor, and ordered a few kilos to share with your friends. The vendor also presents you with the watery sweet milk remedy in the end. That is on the house, usually.


To not know the earthy fragrance of a sweet Sindhri and the irresistible, bursting with a bouquet of flavours Chaunsa is one of the greatest misfortunes akin to not visiting Lahore or disliking cricket while being an Indian.



I have nothing against Indian cultivars. They seem to be adequate for the Indian palate. I also accept the fact that Pakistan is part of the Indian subcontinent, so nothing which claims to be a product of biology can ever be inherently purely Pakistani. We are all Indians.
But with the creation of Pakistan, we had effectively firewalled a few things for our great nation. The best mangoes, fast bowlers, fried breakfasts, classical singers, pop musicians, dictatorships, good TV dramas and bad films etc etc. I can carry on.  Did I say mangoes? The humble Indian mango was allowed to thrive by our nation of talented horticulturists, and fertile sandy soil planes of Sindh and Punjab. Saplings of top quality cultivars were nurtured with love and affection. A mango farmer in Sindh cries over his flood or wind ravaged mango plants as if a beloved family member died. The harsh summer season in the planes of the mighty river Sindh has given an evolutionary edge to the Pakistani mango which is apparent in its manifold qualities. Pakistan has been an evolutionary hot spot for a few choicest things. Islamists, mystery spinners, con men, mangoes!

A mango farm in Sindh - Tando Allahyar

Compared to the Pakistani mango, the Indian mango is mediocre at best in taste and flavour. Like an Indian batsman, it only gets high scores in home conditions and is ridiculously overrated by its adoring fans. I have been forced to try the Indian mango once or twice.  Alphonso, the so-called ‘king of mangoes’ is mostly skin. Not impressed! Kesar, the other famous variety, looks good, but barely tastes like a mango. Sweetness aside, both mangoes provided ample fibres to floss ones teeth while eating them. 



Our Indian neighbours are lucky to have proper democracy, first dibs at most of our shared history, a definite sense of identity, batsmen and a booming economy. But with partition, us Pakistanis got the frail economy, a constitutional crisis In every decade, Urdu humour and the best mangoes.
Chaman's mango Ice cream. One of the best!



In addition to a robust mango based summer sub-culture, mango parties, the mango Ice-cream and millions of tons of mango produce every year from Sindh and Punjab, mangoes also helped rid us of our worst dictator. Our diplomacy, both domestic and international relies heavily on the greatness of our mango. We are a nation indebted to the mango. And we wish to share this gift with the world. That is why our mango is distributed far and wide.
 
The Indian mango has its place in the world market. That is in the canned goods isle, next to the Bombay mix and Tilde basmati rice.


King of the canned goods isle
 


It is not all lost for the Indians. After all, Anwar Ratol was a migrant from India. They can definitely have some pride in its heritage. Also, they still have the best coconuts and papaya fruit.  Why not settle on that? Leave Pakistani mangoes at their rightful place. Top of the World!

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