It takes a lot to be the national fruit of India. To be precise: 5000 years of expertise in enchanting people into having a pulp-squishing, elbow-licking and mouth-watering time.
Truth be told, the mango is no ordinary creation. From Alexander the Great to Akbar the Great, everyone has surrendered to the charm of the aam.
So Wikipedia must surely be wrong. The word ‘mango’ cannot have originated from the Portuguese word ‘manga’. It has to have sprouted from our wet earth, we call bhoomi. My own theory is ‘mango’ draws its roots from the Tamil word ‘maan kaai’ – the fruit the deer feasted upon – a coinage perhaps minted when South India was one massive canopy of trees.
Etymology aside, the thing to marvel at, is our obsession with mangoes. We consume bazillion tonnes and export a gazillion tonnes. Last I checked, 65% of the world mango production was from India.
But the sweetest news is: like Kamal Hassan, our mangoes come in 500 different avatars. From Amrapali to Zardalu, we mass produce it all, with a liberal dash of Mother Nature’s ‘maa ka pyaar’.
The Alphonso is the mega star of our line up. Named after Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese warlord who’s supposed to have imported this luscious variety into Goa, the Alphonso or the mispronounced Haphus, is the marquee product of just three districts in our country – Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Raigad.
The other cultivars are regional divas in their own right. From Andhra comes the voluptuous ‘Banganapalle’ (place of origin that literally means ‘golden village’), Varanasi has given us the delectable ‘Langda’ (a reference to the lame planter of the original tree in Malihabad), Gujarat has bestowed us with the saffron-hued ‘Kesar’ (this was long before NaMo arrived on the scene), while Tamil Nadu blessed our world with the tangy ‘Kili mooku’ (shaped like the parrot’s beak).
I was about to attribute the ‘Malgova’ to Goa, but something wasn’t adding up. I am now convinced that the milky taste of Malgova could have had a hand in the matter. In my view, Malgova probably owes ‘Malai Khoa’ (hilly milk treat) its name. Just like Palgoa came from Paal Khoa. If that sounds incredulous, may be I am barking up the wrong tree!