In the Garden of Even, the mango is the fruit of bidding. Last week, the vaccine choke notwithstanding, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent crates of Haribhanga aam to President Ram Nath Kovind, PM Narendra Modi and the CMs of the north-eastern states of India with whom Bangladesh shares its borders. Tripura CM Biplab Deb expressed his gratitude with pineapples, but everyone else was showering aam. Right at the beginning of July, keeping up an olden tradition and setting aside political differences, Mamata Banerjee sent PM Modi and other political heavyweights in Delhi Bengal’s choicest Himsagar, Malda and Lakshmanbhog aam. Pakistan too sent out its Chausa aam to 32 countries. There were reports that the US and China rejected the gift, but then there were other reports that claimed that this had solely to do with quarantine regulations instead of some diplomatic disinclination.
In 1996, after Hasina won her first elections, she sent the then CM of Bengal, Jyoti Basu, hilsa or ilish. Later that year, she and the Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda signed the treaty on the sharing of the Ganges water. That Basu had played a positive role in all of it was no secret. The late Pranab Mukherjee also played a pivotal role in Indo-Bangladesh relations. When Hasina visited Mukherjee in 2017, she is said to have cooked steamed ilish for him in the Rashtrapati Bhavan kitchen. Speaking of President Mukherjee, in 2015 US President Barack Obama gifted him a facsimile of the first telegram sent by the 33rd American president, Harry S. Truman, to the first Indian Head of State, Rajendra Prasad.
When US President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, he was gifted two pandas Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing. The visit is supposed to have normalised US-China tensions. In return, the US sent China a pair of musk oxen. Recently, PM Modi was gifted a horse, Kanthaka, by Mongolia. After World War II, Japanese schoolchildren wrote to the then Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru, telling him about the two elephants they had lost in the war and requesting him for one. Nehru picked an elephant named Indira and had it sent to Japan. He called it a gift from the children of India to the children of Japan. He wrote to the children of India too about this. He said, “Grown-ups have a strange way of putting themselves in compartments and groups. They build barriers… I hope you will take a long time in growing up…”