| LIP-SMACKING: A girl eyes mangoes at the festival on Saturday. (PTI)
Just as every cricket lover has his or her own opinion on how the game should be played, mango aficionados from different parts of the country have decidedly different views about which is the best mango variety.
Bengalis, for instance, cannot get over their Langra fetish. They make do with “second-grade” varieties such as Himsagar and Golapkhas and then go berserk buying kilos of mangoes as the Langra hits the market.
Try telling a Bengali that the Langra is not all that special and you would get an earful in return. Says Chandana Chakraborty, a city teacher: “I haven’t tasted the Alphonso, though I’ve heard that it is supposed to be the best Indian mango. But I’m sure it can’t be better than Langra.”
That the Indian romance with the mango — designated the king of fruits by adoring admirers — continues to be as strong as ever was proved by the 15th Mango Festival in Delhi, which kicked off on Friday. People could be seen arguing passionately about which mango variety was better and why. Regional chauvinism was on shameless display — but for once nobody seemed to mind.
According to mango aficionado Jaishree Ramesh, the south Indian Begumphuli that grows in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu rules the roost. “I like it even better than Alphonso,” she says, echoing Chakraborty. The bulk of Alphonsos, from Ratnagiri on the Konkan coast, is reserved for export and the desi lovers of this delicious variety are often deprived.
More than 120 expensive varieties of Indian mangoes find their way to the UK, Middle East and other international markets.
What was evident was that the Indian relationship with mangoes is a very special one. Why, for instance, don’t we have litchi festivals and orange festivals and banana festivals — all honourable fruits in their own right' The answer is, perhaps, that Indians have an emotional relationship with the mango.
It is the only thing (with the possible exception of cricket) the entire country loves as one, and it has somehow appropriated a place as the country’s joy and pride. Every Indian feels the mango is something the world should look up to and be grateful to the country for.
The festival, jointly organised this year by the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation and the Agricultural and Processed Food products Export Development Authority, is an annual fixture on the Delhi calendar. It sees huge crowds flocking to savour the mango delicacies and varieties and going by the response on the inaugural night, this year won’t be an exception.
According to Rajiv Talwar, CEO and managing director of the corporation, the objective of the mango festival is to “showcase the king of Indian fruits, especially the north Indian varieties”. There are more than 500 varieties from different regions on display at the festival.
“We hope the mango will sweeten its way into the diplomatic community, thereby effecting an increase in the export of the fruit,” Talwar added. The government has just signed an agreement with China on mango export. The next target' Down Under.
On display were the Dussehri and the Chausa from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Langra from north Bengal, the Kesar from western India, the Suvarnarekha from the south and the Alphonso from select orchards in western and southern India.