The curious chronology of a non resident UPite-e-aam saga

For Tisha Srivastav, aam is a million pieces of herself in flashback. The taste of summer, her mother's smile, her purani jeans aur salwar.

By Tisha Srivastav

Aam is the subcutaneous Shammi Kapoor standard of my childhood days. Only this happyahoo was more than a month long, languorous and a slide into unmentionable sounds made in public in post aam-glee.

Aam is that piece of my maternal grandfather’s easy gracious presence that I took totally for granted. When we would go to Banaras from Delhi for our summer holidays and be treated all the time, with the most indulgent patangbaazi, chaats, 4 pm family snacking, sleeping outdoors, even as subtle tensions were being voiced. With visits to nana’s village which had jackfruit and mango orchards (on nonexistent roads that we would crib about) and we would aim to sit in between the dangers of two big jackfruits which may decide to let go at the precise moment we’d chosen to consume one member of the  Lord langda family. Aam is that surprise on reaching Nigeria and finding fruit laden mango trees going untouched because the local belief was spirits reside there and this fruit is not to be eaten. As Indians, we were culturally aghast for a while. Aam is that smile on my mother’s face when she would watch me recount one of the Banaras stories to my friends in Delhi with undisguised maika pride. Aam is that jhadoo memory, my dad would ask the household helps to swing at anyone who would aim for our ripe with aam tree in our Gorakhpur railway home. The home was blessed with jhadoo bush all around so I was used to going over to relatives with both jhadoos and aam as periodic fresh maal gifts. Aam, mutton and ghazals is what I remember from this time.

"Aam is that taste of summer when I close my eyes."Aam is that taste of summer when I close my eyes and smile at the number of times we got loosies over eating them. Something about the short season of this delicacy.Aam is that provincial taste developed through deadly Dussehri and Langda and Chausa consumption in repeat mode.A regional chauvinism I carried like an idiot to Bombay where after eating haphoos, I would bluntly tell anyone, you call this aam! (Years later I smile affably when the reverse happens).

Aam is looking at people crib about summer heat today and realizing we dealt with worse loo (the UP wind) with less cribbing, no AC, lots of company and knowing that with this season comes its king. And when the heat will be deadly so will the monsoon. This included huge amounts of UP laziness, Indian fatalism and much more pragmatic connection with the seasons.

Aam is that anticipation of petis (cartons) arriving from nana’s orchards in the early years post his death. Aam is the sweet expectation when visitors used to bring things from their area with pride and not the bought-gift pressure of today.

"Aam is that dosti ke bad jokes when arriving back in school stuffed with aam-e-season."Aam is that dosti ke bad jokes when arriving back in school stuffed with aam-e-season and stupid smile on face. And friend asks kya baat hain and I would with prepared line say, Yeh toh aam baat hain! Aam is writing failed school plays with opening lines that went bamulayaza, bamusshakkat hoshiyaar, shahenshahon ke shahenshah aam padhaar rahein hain! (What to do, the holidays would end when the aam season did, so it was top of mind creative juice quality when school reopened).

Aam is that surprise on finding it in Indian shops on London streets with tonnes of others from other countries. And smirking at an unaffordable Langda there being sold as Exotic and rare. Aam is also a journalistic memory much more recent and fresh for the impact it had on me after meeting the most amazing farmers!

Aam is in effect, my purani jeans aur salwar, (sorry guitar came later!).

"Aam will always be that phone call from parents who say, ‘Aaj achcha Dussehri khaaya humne.’"Aam, like weather in India is the most natural conversation opener and a setu of micro-ages many of us carry within us and then when one finds over priced bad aam, its time to crib. As I write this for Yahoo’s mango memories special, provincial mind is plotting a visit from Bangalore where I work to the North to reclaim some mango masti, even if for a day of slurping. For aam will always be that phone call from parents who say, ‘Aaj achcha Dussehri khaaya humne.’

And that wishful slurp will become a far away gulp!

For aam is a million pieces of me in flashback and it evokes a haphazard bylane like this piece! And most of all it remains a metaphor phor taking it slow and refusing to grow up!

Summer pratap singh, here I come, time for a mangoshake holiday!