We’re into another mango season. From March to August, each year, the numerous varieties of mango trees (Mangifera Indica) display the various stages of development of the fruit — flowers, tiny green mangoes, fully-developed green mangoes, ripe mangoes. The process attracts bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and man in a continual cycle of feeding and reproduction.
The blistering, unrelenting heat of Lent brings the first flowers. As expected, the ubiquitous flowering is greeted with anticipation of the coming feast. The remembered tastes of seasons past are vivid in island minds accustomed to this tropical treat. And, nowadays, the health benefits of local fruits, including mangoes, are touted with increasing regularity by local health and other government officials, eager to promote good health and economic activity. This makes the fruit even more appealing, especially to those who once discriminated against it in favor of the imported apple and pear.
They come in different names, shapes, and sizes; tinquem, long, palwee, kalbas, mang, julie… They’re round, squat, long, small, medium-sized, exceptionally large — all with their zealous connoisseurs who swear by a particular taste or, sometimes, health benefit, which is more rooted in myth than actual science. And, they’re all on sale at the Castries and other markets, and roadside vending stalls, where the riotous colors and pungent fragrances of the fruit slow footsteps and draw the eyeballs of passersby and potential buyers.
But, something is missing! The sense of adventure is gone from the season. Vacationing school children no longer accompany their parents, or an aunt or uncle, or older sibling on one, two, three — or more — mile journeys on foot in search of favorite mangoes. The thrill of discovering or rediscovering a green, wooded place filled with the captivating sights and sounds of bees, birds, maybe a river rich with crayfish and edible fish, and the inviolate peace of unspoiled nature is no longer an eagerly-anticipated event.
Flashback: Going on a hunt for mangoes wasn’t an ordinary adventure. By eight-thirty or nine in the morning, the group was on its way. Everyone travelled light. Everyone carried a big, sturdy bag for the mangoes. And, everyone was accompanied by his or her own expectations of the trip. It was as much about learning as it was fun. The adult or adults in the group shared their knowledge of the local names of birds, insects, plants and trees, and responded to associated questions from delighted children. Everyone participated. Wading through a river or two, going up a hill or more, using the many dirt tracks to cover the distance — the chatter was non-stop, clean, and exhilarating. Then, suddenly, it seemed, they were there. Despite the sweat that ran into their eyes and down their bodies, the dust caked onto their skin, and the ever-present heat, energy levels and spirits remained high. Lunch was a breadfruit or two baked over a wood fire, or one’s fill of mangoes. Then, rest beneath the soothing shade of the green-leaved canopy of trees that blocked direct sunlight, before the pleasurable task of collecting mangoes, and preparing for the trek back to beat the sunset.
Today, technology has trumped this trip. Technology has introduced another type and level of adventure. Today, technology gives children unrestricted access to the worlds of YouTube, gaming, WhatsApp, and the latest scandal. And, while there is no denying the potential for increased learning via the current technology, it is also undeniable that many children are turning into unimaginative zombies glued to and interacting with their latest gadget while bumping into people and inanimate objects in their unquenchable quest to stay “current”.
Thankfully, one thing, at least, has not changed. A mango julie tastes just as good today as it did forty-five to fifty years ago. Bite into its ripe, reddish-green skin and feel the rich, abundant juices fill your mouth and settle on your tongue and taste buds. Luxuriate in the explosion of pleasure flooding your brain as it translates the sensation in your taste buds. Feel some of the juices escape your mouth and run down your chin to settle on your shirt front. Wipe your chin with the back of a lazy hand and bite yet again into ecstasy. Savor the flavor and aroma of magic in the mango. Take it slow. There are more mangoes waiting to be had. And there’s tomorrow. And the day after.