Muthu, Bala, and Jones stood solemnly, heads bowed in prayer. The summer had just begun. They asked for success. No, not in their exams.
Small, marble-sized mangoes waited to be pickled in March. In April, they grew into tantalising, fi rm, green, sour mangoes. They beseeched Muthu to pluck them off the tree and bite into them. And Muthu and friends awaited the thrill of climbing, plucking, and finally devouring these raw sweet and sour mangoes to their heart's content.
It was an adventure- to grab the fi rst loot of the mango season. They prayed that they would not get caught. They set off on an hour-long trek into the mango orchards.They had to go downhill. And their pace was swift.
On the way, they paused only to answer nature's call and to drink some tender coconut water. Muthu loved to eat the tender coconut (malai) only if it was really soft and translucent. And Jones liked his a little thicker- more substantial and filling, he said. Bala did not mind either way as long as there was enough to drink. After each had satisfi ed himself, they made their way quickly.
Jones was really good with the catapult and got fi ve mangoes with it, while the other two stood guard. Muthu got one after what seemed like a million tries and Bala got none. But they had no problems clambering up the trees and plucking off some mangoes. They ate them with the salt and red chilly mixture that Jones had brought from home.
When Muthu fi nished his second and looked for a third mango, a tiny voice in his head, very like his mother's, reminded him, "This affi nity comes with small repercussions - eating mangoes in excess can lead to body heat and tummy upset."
Muthu set aside some larger - sized raw mangoes for his mother to make her yummy pickles. She made this with jaggery and lesser quantities of chilly. The very thought of the ceramic pickle jars in their typical cream and brown combination made Muthu's mouth water...
They were aware that the resinous sap that drips from the stem - end when mangoes are plucked could cause skin allergy. Last year, Jones had had the maximum black spots on his face to show for it.
Resisting temptation, they respectfully kept the mangoes by the pond near the mango orchard and cooled themselves with a swim. As they waited for the sun to dry them up, they threw small stones in the water to see whose would bounce the most across the surface.