Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mango Party!

Every year around the middle of June, our grandfather would send a wooden crate of dusseri and chausa mangoes from Lucknow and every year we would throw a mango party!

It was a much awaited event in our social circle and we would have two sets of people joining in- early evening 5 pm onwards, our friends, and after 7.30 pm, their parents and more of my parents friends. When will the mangoes arrive, used to be the most frequent question June onwards. Each time someone asked, my father's chest would swell with filial pride and he would talk like a true Lucknawi about how authentic and genuine the mangoes from Lucknow are, and how the researchers were messing around with look alike hybrids etc etc. All true and very very disturbing to the generation who have inherited mango orchards (aam ke baagh) and who are selfishly aristocratic in their fetish for asli dusseri and asli chausa!

So the crate(there were no cartons or fresh fruit boxes, those days) would arrive by post and we would call up our father and wait for him to come home and pry open the wooden lid with a pair of pincers or screwdriver. The mangoes would be packed in real straw, not paper straw or moulded cases or styrene covers. The fragrance would be so heady, ripe mangoes and straw, and the entire house would start smelling! Then we would count because we had to be certain that the entire lot had reached us- there were stories about how wooden boxes with goodies could be opened en route and part contents could be taken away!It used to take at least 5-6 days for the mangoes to reach from Lucknow to Jabalpur.

The mangoes would be hot after their journey in the parcel van of the Mail train, and we would take them out with great reverence, grade them according to their extent of ripeness, and then start planning the party.

At the party, mangoes would be served with cream, and also ice cream. Our mother would cook up an entire spread of various kinds of chaat and sandwiches, chips and soft drinks would be ordered and the mango party would happen. The cutting of the mangoes was exclusively our fathers job; no one could cut fruit better than papa and he seemed to enjoy doing it.

Often, for a first time invitee, the mango party was intriguing. Every party has to have a reason- so they would think we are not telling them its someone's birthday. We would tell them that in our family, birthday parties are strictly not by invitation, but they would still come with a gift- maybe a box of chocolates! That would be our bonus, and my sister and me would keep discussing what was inside the wrapper till the party got over. My brother was too young to be involved- he used to be busy doing things like jumping from the verandah just because his girlfriend told him to (when he did this jumping, he was four and his girlfriend was seven- she promised him a rose if he jumped; and he jumped and landed on his face!)
So the mango party would happen and then we all would raise a toast to the next year- this was a party by invitation only!And an organized one at that! Right from the mangoes coming from Lucknow to the maid washing the dishes, it was all well planned and executed!
The good times!

I never had a birthday party

I never had a birthday party- never an organized one- the kind one goes for, when a friend has a birthday. Book a venue, order a cake, send out invitations!
(yes, we had that way back when I was a kid and theme parties at clubs and hotels were possible... though we did not have a Pizza Hut or a Party station with all the pizzas and the gadgetry, but we could have the themes!and the good food)

So while most of my friends in school would look forward to their birthday party and think about where and how, I used to just sit around idly, for the pleasure would never be mine.

There is a very different reason for me or my siblings never having an organized birthday party. When I say 'organized', please note it will prolly be the most important clue to understanding how we actually celebrated our birthdays!

First of all, on why we never had an organized birthday party. Our parents were well off, they had a rocking social circle, they used to host many parties, dinners, card parties, the works, but never a birthday party. They had the uncanny feeling that it would bring us bad luck, even death. As was their nature and their habit of waxing exuberant with their emotions and their money, they told me they had thrown a lavish birthday party for their son, older than all of us, and he passed away soon after. Since then, as I was born, and after me, my sister and brother, they tried to stay off everything they had done for their first son. And we lived in the hollow of their palms till we grew up and if our parents had their way, they would still be holding our hand and leading us safely. A small scrape on my knee while playing basket ball would drive them into a tizzy! When on such occasions, I used to look into my father's eyes, I could see his fear of losing his precious daughter; and now I understand why- then, I was so young and so stupid, I used to mistake it for just orthodox possessiveness, you know.

So we grew up and while we learnt to socialize and circulate, and our parents learnt to let go and have faith in God, we still could not organize a birthday party. But, on our birthday we would wake up to delicious smells of baking and Indian cooking, which our parents would be doing for our friends who would come in unannounced later in the evening and stay back for our unorganized party. Those days, we used to remember dates and phone numbers- our memories were bigger and better then, and there were no digital diaries or mobile phones to store these or send out e cards or MMS.

So our friends would remember and troop in, dressed in party clothes and then we would ask them to stay and then the cake and the food would surpass any organized effort we could have made.

Often, friends we had not met for years would just remember and come by- and there always was cake and food for them too!

While we knew they all were coming, we pretended they were not invited, and while we got ready for them, we pretended we were not ready!

So we grew up, every birthday being an unorganized party, but a rocking one!AND DID WE LOVE IT!