Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Mango Pickle

In a mood to ramble ..... so please ignore the post if you are looking for anything remotely intelligent!

Mangoes played a very important role in our growing up ages. Ofcourse, the fact that we were almost always on, or under a mango tree, while playing outdoors, contributed to the love for the fruit. I have already written in depth about the magnificent mangrove that formed a part of my childhood. For those of you who missed it, read it here.

The mango season coincided with the vacations in Kerala, and various cousins from different parts of the country (and in some cases, the world) would arrive within a few days of each other. We were mostly accompanied by parents (who by then had become unimportant details for the holidays), but the heroes were those cousins who were the 'unaccompanied minors' in the giant "Tharavadu" house of my grandparents.

Each one of us had our favorite quirk. There is Rajettan (ettan = big brother in Malayalam), who loved climbing trees, or anything that looked intimidatingly tall enough. Somehow, he had no sense of risk - whether it involved in scaling tall trees, or sliding down the slanting tiled roof or jumping into the little pond in the backyard. We would stand below, shouting to him which mango we would like plucked out and thrown to us, and he would laughingly oblige. He would usually be the ring leader when we went trudging uphill to an aunt's house. He is today a dental surgeon-professor, but I know, given a chance, he would still love to be climbing those mango trees, and eat the raw mangoes with salt on them!

And closely following him would be Arunettan, who was the best person to have on your team when we played 'pitthu' (or seven tiles), since could think like a decorated general in war! Then there is Anuettan. The oldest of us all, and the one who was old enough to be 'unaccompanied' most of the times.

Reshma, and Amrutha the two most fashionable sisters, who knew the latest songs, trend, movies and were also toppers in their respective classes. Needless to say, they set the bar high for everyone in the family. Then there is Praveen, the youngest male in our generation, who would get bossed around by all of us! He and I shared a special bond - and we would discuss all and sundry while playing badminton, or when we had our evening hikes to the hillock. All problems of the world - career choices, broken hearts, scary encounters with seniors got discussed on that little hillock we all so loved.

Then there were the 'little kiddo' cousins - the ones who always got bullied into gathering the flowers for Onam, but rarely got to make the flower carpet, the ones who always waited longest for their turn at the swings, the ones who got left out whenever we had 'trade secrets' to share - Seema, Priya and Indu .... still think of you as those little kids !!

My grandmother was (for want of a stronger word) a fantastic cook. She made fabulous sambars and avials and kootu curries. But she also made amazing meen curry - inspite of being a strict vegetarian! One of her legendary pickles was nicknamed "Ammammende Achar" - which translates into Grandmom's Achar.

She would painstakingly make oodles and oodles of them for all of us. She would lovingly walk around the long dining table with a jar of the most amazing achar ever, putting precious spoonfuls of it on to our plates. By the time she reached the last person, the first person would have polished off the pickle on his plate, and Ammamma would make the next round. This would go on till a sensible older cousin realised what pigs we were, and tell Ammamma to just leave the whole darn jar on the table. Ofcourse, the jar would be empty of all contents when we finally left the table. Towards the end of the holidays, Ammamaa would declare that the current jar was the last one (however, she always kept a few jars in safe custody of the high almirah of the store rooms, which all of us carried back across the globe. These were the days when airlines were not such pain in the ***, and allowed pickle bottles on flights!) The last few pieces of achar always saw epic battles being fought, sly cousins stealing it from the plates of the less wary ones, or older cousins bribing the younger ones for it.

Ammamma would then come in to console us, letting in on a secret - she would put extra into the jars that went into our bags. After a few years, age weakened Ammamma'a eyesight, and she couldn't trust herself to make the perfect achar. She would now sit at the dining table when we had our dinner, but the achar was conspicuous by its absence. Years later, after her demise, Ammamma and her fantastic achar always crop up in our conversations. Love you Ammamma!

the enigmatic Ammamma


  1. Firstly, this post is a travesty on the word ramble, it is Awesome personified. I envy you for remembering your childhood with such vivid detail.

    My Amma-ma still gives me the honor of carrying back and enjoying her homemade pickle. Being the eldest in the monkey army, I did almost everything you've described in your post from climbing roof tops, to sliding down trees and also got away most of the time.

    You are very bad for reminding me of her pickle when I`m stranded thousands of miles away from her.

    Cheers :)

  2. another great post, meena. You look a lot like your ammamma.

  3. :(

    I miss Acchama's special homemade grape wine. And her yummy fish curry. And her kallumakai fry. And everything that is synonymous with summer holidays for me. My native place. I haven't been there in about six years, I think. Bad, bad person I am.

    Loved the post...

  4. Loved the post again :) Grandmoms are always so close to heart even after they leave us. This reminded so much about my childhood vacations too :)

  5. i never got to meet my grandparents..they passed away before i arrived.. but they were gentle people, i hear.
    this post reminds me of what I missed out on - an indulgence called mango pickle...and indulgent love.

  6. Manoges I rememebr the summers when we were collecting them so Nani could make the Achaar as you say .. all grandparents have there special recipe I guess .. they make it so nicely ..

    Beautiful post reminded me of the days when we would steal the mongoes from the park along and the mali running and threatening us .. it was so much fun ..


  7. Nothing like Acchammas pickle!! NOTHING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!! And her INJI CURRY :D
    I am glad my acchamma can still make it but I miss it when I am away from home which is like almost 10 mths in a yr.
    This was a very beautiful post :) Ur Ammamma is definitely cute enough to be mistaken as an angel. I think she really is one :)

  8. Hey Meens....Loved it :) and thanks a lot for the tag :)

  9. @Atrocious... thank you for the kind words, but this was really a lot of ranting and wishful thinking!

    @Jo.. thanks da! But I don't think I am as lucky as Seema - she is more like Ammamma!

    @Mo.. thank you so much!

    @Spaceman.. you should just grab every oppurtunity with her, coz you ar one of the lucky ones! And yes! how could I forget the Kallummakkais? yummm!

    @Roshni... thank you... yeah vacations and grand parents go hand in hand

    @Roshan... yeah. I am thankful for those memories in my life. As far as indulgent pickles are concerned, lemme know when you visit Delhi - i'll pack you some ;-)

    @Bikram... thanks..yes, we all have mangoes in our nostalgic past, don't we?

    @Red handed.. thanks.. yes, she was really beautiful, and we used to adore her to the heavens!

    @Ajay...thanks for coming by... and the tag is to get VIPS like you to read this blog! :-)