“Mango, mango, mango…” repeated in a loop in my head as the plane announced our arrival in Delhi. Growing up, mango was one of my favorite treats, and I eagerly waited for mango season to bite into the sweet golden fruit. Thus, my first, super important, top-priority mission in India was to eat a mango.
Unfortunately, days would pass before I would get the opportunity to do so. Catherine and I rode from the airport to the India Habitat Centre Friday night, met up with the other CASI interns Saturday morning, and traveled across Delhi over the weekend. I had seen the Lodhi Gardens, Humayun’s Tomb, Jama Masjid Mosque, and the Red Fort. I had bargained with rickshaw drivers and fabric shop owners after falling prey to a tourist schemes. I had eaten fresh paneer, Indo-Asian fusion, and dutifully swallowed my malaria pills. Still, I had yet to even hold a mango in my hand.
As the other Shahi interns and I rushed to catch our flight to Bangalore, I firmly resolved that I would eat a mango before the week had passed. On our third day in Bangalore, we risked our lives in Indian traffic and walked to the nearby mall to shop around. Inside the mall was a grocery store with an entire. row. of. mangos. We picked four mangos and went to weigh them – they were only 70 rupees! A dollar for 4 mangos…I was clearly in heaven.
After eating dinner at the mall’s dosa place, we headed back to the apartment with our purchase. Firmly holding the mango over the table, I used a plastic knife to cut it into three pieces. I used the mango’s skin as an impromptu bowl, and let the juice drip down my chin as I relished the taste of the sweet fruit. It was haphazard, sticky, and incredibly messy, but I could not have been happier.
Eating the mango brought back memories of my grandfather, who would cut the mango into lengthwise slices to avoid the large stone pit. He would carefully place them on the table in front of me as I was studying or doing homework. With one hand scrolling through my assignments, and the other holding a slice, I would try to avoid dripping the juice over the keyboard.
Just like eating mangos, everything in India feels new and familiar all at once. I’ve seen bustling streets and colorful kurtas in Jackson Heights, but even these familiar sights have a new dimension on the subcontinent. My family is mostly North Indian, but Bangalore is in Karnataka, which is a state in southern India. Most people here speak Kannada instead of Hindi, which is the language I grew up hearing. Yet I can still understand some snippets as I’m walking to work or while exploring, which always leaves a small smile on my face and a soft feeling of belonging. And even though my mom cooks different dishes at home, I still get excited seeing familiar vegetables in new flavor palates on our silver lunch tray.
Everything here is more vibrant, from the bright colors of Bangalore’s buildings and rickshaws to the street carts bursting with produce and flowers. That first mango was sweeter and more refreshing than any mango I had ever had; I could have sworn it’s flavor was artificial. Just like India’s mangos, life here is sweet – and almost unbelievable.