Mangoes are like cricket: a national obsession, but with a very short season. And that season is now.
I thought I’d start by describing the experience of walking into a room full of ripening mangoes, but I’m lost for words. Because it’s not just a smell, it’s a full-body experience: the aroma thwacks you, it physically throws you back. But “hot, sweet, and engulfing” is the best I could come up with and it doesn’t start to conjure up the experience.
So here are sketches from our little family farm, in mango season, sans that aroma.
When it’s mango season, every day is harvest day. With nets attached to bamboo sticks, a group of 5 to 7 pickers approaches a tree. All the mangoes look green to me, but an expert eye can spot the start of a blush, however faint, and a slight dip in the flesh where stem meets fruit. And that means the fruit is ready to be picked. A tree takes only a few minutes, but I follow this group around from tree to tree and sketch. The mangoes are neatly arranged in plastic bins and the tempo in the background takes them back to the farmhouse to be sorted and graded.
It was hot. So hot, that I felt I would melt. The mangoes love this heat.
As I spent time following the pickers around and sketching, the whole scene felt so pattern-like: a hatching of dried brown leaves on the ground, and green leaves above, the pickers moving between the trees and the dappled light overlaying it all. That feeling inspired this sketch.
Once picked, crates of mangoes make their way back to the farm house where they are graded, sorted, and packed.
Mangoes come in all shapes and forms. Look at this collection of different varieties of them from nearby farms. (The orange one at the very bottom is an Alphonso, for comparison). And that very colorful meal is my breakfast, of chapatti, dal, yogurt, and mango, eaten under the trees.
Here are previous posts in this series of sketches. Next up are sketches from the village market.