Agar aam badtamizi se nahi khaya toh khaya hi nahi, was how an elderly gentleman justified relishing a dussheri on a hot Sunday afternoon. Seated on a charpoy,under a tree,at Salma Public School in Rataul,he was among the 50 others who were part of a mango expedition organised by Delhi-based historian and documentary filmmaker Sohail Hashmi.
Over 50 km away from the hustle-bustle of city life,Rataul is a village known for its mango orchards and its eponymouse type of mangoes. Once in the AC buses,we plugged in our iPods,filled up our water tumblers and wore our shades in preparation for the two-hour-long journey towards a lesser-known and a rather ignored part of Uttar Pradesh began.
Our first halt in Rataul was the school,run by former Delhi University professor Zahoor Siddiqui. For most of us,urban children of the late 80s,the school was a scene from an old Hindi movie with its blue walls,large garden and pillars,which echoed old school architecture. After a few glasses of Rooh Afza,we were introduced to Zahoor saabs Noor Bagh a table that hosted a mango party. There was the shapely husn aara,the fat gulab jamun,the pointy surraiya and the voluptuous and very yellow malik pasand. In a corner,there were big buckets with mangoes soaked in chilled water,for the group to savour after lunch.
We wolfed down a simple meal of chole,poori,rice and aloo bhaji,and finally got hold of our weapon of mass destruction a knife. It was time to devour the mangoes. Our manners,that we are usually very proud of,didnt go with us on this one. While the few foreigners who accompanied the group were busy slicing it into pieces,mango regulars,like us,peeled away the top,squeezed the pulp and juice,and even licked our fingers A sense of nostalgia took over and a phone call to the parents in Delhi was warranted. After all,mango eating is a tradition in every family.
The flies and the heat were forgiven,the stressful journey to Rataul was forgotten and frequent rounds to the mango buckets began. After six,I had lost count,close-by a friend had eaten 10 while another outdid himself and ate 14.
Armed with a brief history about the school and the rataul mangoes,we began walking towards the orchards. Stomachs were full but appetites were still fresh. And it continues to remain with the five kg packets of freshly picked rataul mangoes that returned with us.