Varsha 2020 Issue, Stories - Prasun Roy



Raw Mango

By Prasun Roy


Many years ago, when I was in college, I went on a trip to Sri Lanka, as a member of a cultural workshop entourage. I represented my college on that fifteen-day trip. It was a splendid experience and a memorable one too, as I was travelling alone for the first time! The organizers arranged for our accommodations as home stay guests in respective households of our counterparts in Sri Lanka.


As per this arrangement, I was selected to stay in the house of Mr. Chatura Sinhala, a professor of English at the University of Colombo. Until this time, I had never really thought about the intricacies of gastronomy, as cooking had never been my forte.


Yet, I do enjoy trying different types of food and experiment with my taste buds, even though I had never bothered to look into the complexities that go into preparing such dishes. However, hardly did I know that my culinary perspective was about to change, as I arrived in Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Land!


Every evening, after returning from our workshop, Mr. Sinhala used to cook dinner for the two of us. Mr. Sinhala was single, and lived all by himself in his small yet cosy twin bedroom apartment. One evening, he invited me into the kitchen and asked me whether I knew how to cook. I made an honest confession that I was completely ignorant in the subject. He asked me whether I preferred to experiment different cuisines, and I answered with a quick “Yes”!


Mr. Sinhala smiled and said, “Don’t worry Pravin, I will teach you a simple method and you too would become a Master Chef like me! But, don’t hurry. Take your time and follow what I tell you next. It is all about the experience and how your entire body and soul accepts the method and its outcome!”


Saying the above words, Mr. Sinhala opened the refrigerator and took out a fresh green raw mango, cut out a slice from it and gave it to me. He blinked at me and asked me to take a bite while he started to teach me the basics of the art of cooking.


Like an obedient pupil, I took the bite and closed my eyes. Soon, the subtle tangy taste melted in my mouth and touched the sensors around my tongue and then passed an ethereal sense of oomph into my mind and soul! It refreshed my energies and lighted up my spirit and rejuvenated my palate. Its smell invigorated my olfactory senses and washed away all my tiredness!


As the aftertaste overwhelmed my soul, I grasped the teachings of Mr. Sinhala like a mesmerized student.


Mr. Sinhala told me, “Legend says that the raw mango is a magical fruit that can incite every one of your five senses! The taste, the smell, the touch, the vision and the sound of the fruit pulp crushing between your teeth, all together can stimulate your culinary sanities! And if all these senses become stimulated, you can also cook extraordinary dishes!”


At first I didn’t believe his words, but within five days I was again proved wrong! Every day, before starting our cooking lessons, we took a bite from a slice of raw mango and absorbed our intellects into the subtle taste of the fruit. Then my training would begin!


I started by simply tossing a few spices in the heated mustard oil and sniffing the rich odour. Then, Mr. Sinhala asked me to add one ingredient after another. He told me not to abide by the laws of a cookbook, instead taught me to experiment as per my own instincts! To him, the raw mango slice was the inspiration and the driving force that allowed him to cook unnamed delicacies, breaking all stereotypes!


He taught me to prepare extraordinary dishes. However, none of them were ever written on paper. I learnt to cook, but not any particular cuisine. I learnt to cook the cuisine that touches the heart. It is beyond all boundaries of cultures and countries. Even to this day, after so many years, I can proudly say that I love cooking!


It is something that rejuvenates my body and mind and washes away all my worries and tiredness. It purges away all my loneliness and gives me unimaginable happiness. It is a character, within my personality, that nobody can relate to my outer embodiment. It has to evolve from within. I too, never record any recipes on paper. None of the delicacies I have created are written anywhere. It is all in my mind, like my teacher Mr. Sinhala taught me. And everything gushes out from the hidden chambers of my mind, whenever I place a slice of raw mango in my mouth!


Time had passed away like a whirlwind and I am now seventy-years-old. The funny thing about growing old is nobody knows when which memory will get erased. Thus, I write it down here so that, if I ever forget about this beautiful trait of my own self, my endeavour would be to cut a slice from a fresh raw mango and take a bite!


Once the pulp melts in my mouth and I close my eyes, I would like to see whether the phoenix of the Master Chef within me gets reborn or not! If our faith is true and the fables about the magical powers of the raw mango are to be believed, I have full trust that I would be able to recover all my culinary skills and restore the prized character that defines me!


The senses and sentiments within me make me believe that raw mango can indeed do magic!




Prasun Roy from India writes stories in genres of adventure, mystery, thrill and young adult fiction. An alum of IIM Lucknow, his debut book Ringo & the Yogi, an adventure tale written for young readers, is published by Srishti Publishers & Distributors.


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