In that house of daggers, slaps and excreta
washed out on the long damp hall,
I learnt how to eat a mango.
“Bite the top and squeeeeze it into your mouth”,
the kids told me. “Like this, watch!”
The juice rolled down my chin and arms,
washing my mother’s rules of propriety
down my smooth dark skin.
I sin repeatedly.
Not all of them are soft like that. Some are firm, some need to be coaxed and cajoled into plates and bowls. They don’t all offer themselves into our hands and mouths at the first sign of desire.
Some demand an extended foreplay.
Most will fall prey to the cold edge of kitchen knives, picked by forks and toothpicks. Few will be boiled and blended out of shape for shakes n aam pannas. Some are plucked young for achaars and chutneys. Some are dried and wrinkled for posthumous enjoyment.
In our old house,
we kept the first fruit from our tree,
to show off to neighbours
“Look how pretty, how pink!”
Splashes of rose blood on the yellow skin-
it never tasted as good as it looked.
He did. He tasted just as good.
The year we ate from the same plate,
we cut mangoes into three uneven pieces.
The middle one we shared,
our saliva mixing with the juices.
We tried to keep our sticky fingers away from laptops and the TV remote
but we could never keep them away from each other.
The season of mangoes is also the season of sweat and want,
of loo winds in New Delhi and blouses sticking to wet backs in Kolkata.
It is the season we are too hot to care for the rules of appetite-
of pleasure and hunger, parched throats and the craving for softness.
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