Food Stories: Mango Juice

Published Jun 09, 2017 02:41pm

I never understood why oranges harvest in the winter. Why is it that bright, sweet, delicious citrus grace our glasses during chilly days and cold nights, right?

Nature must have its reasons, but I don’t quite understand them. However, what I do understand is our need to consume chilled fruit juices, fruit punches, sorbet, yogurt and milk laced fruit drinks in the hot sub-continental summer. Yes, phul ka ras (fruit juice) is a sweet life force that keeps us nourished and hydrated during the long hot summer, and has been doing the same for our ancestors of millenniums past.

I thought I’d focus on a variety of fruit punches and drinks, but the king of fruits, none other than the mango beckoned, and I humbly caved in, content in the knowledge that most desis would forgive my folly for they are slave to the mango, much like me, and of course Mirza Ghalib.

Mirza Ghalib was passionate about mangoes, aptly scribed in the article titled, The fruit that sent Mirza Ghalib into raptures.

However dismissive one is of the opinion of others, one cannot help but take Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib seriously on this topic. Quite apart from that impressive name and his lofty standing as the Urdu poet, Ghalib has a well-deserved reputation as a mango-lover extraordinaire.

One has to go through his letters – the first instance of Urdu prose –- to realise that his passion for mangoes crosses the line into obsession. I have often gazed longingly at the names of mangoes mentioned by him in his missives to his friends, and tried to imagine what many of the unfamiliar ones would taste like.

Ghalib’s mango-philia is so strong that he is not averse to humbling himself for a chance to be gifted the fruit. In a letter addressed to the caretaker of Calcutta’s Imambargah, he wrote: 'Not only am I a slave to my stomach, I am a weak person as well. I desire that my table be adorned and that my soul be comforted. The wise ones know that both these [desires] can be satisfied by mangoes.'

Ghalib’s concern isn’t without basis, for he certainly had a voracious appetite for the fruit. As a 60-year-old, he laments in a letter that he can no longer eat 'more than ten or twelve at a sitting..... and if they are large ones, then a mere six or seven. Alas, the days of youth have come to an end, indeed, the days of life itself have come to an end.'

Altaf Hussain Hali, Ghalib’s student and biographer, relayed anecdotes about Ghalib and mangoes in his book Yaadgaar-e Ghalib. A few of these mango tango tales make for familiar and fun story telling. It is said that once Ghalib and Bahadur Shah Zafar were walking through Baagh-e Hayaat Bakhsh, a fruit orchard reserved for the nobility. Ghalib peered at the mangoes with sufficient intent for Zafar to ask what he was looking for. Ghalib replied in a calculated fashion:

I have heard the elders say:

bar sar-e har daana ba-navishta ayaañ

ka-een fulaañ ibn-e fulaañ ibn-e fulaañ

Translation: On every piece of mango one can see written quite clearly, the name of the person it belongs to.

Zafar got the message and Ghalib his case of mangoes.

On another occasion where mango was under discussion, Maulana Fazl-e Haq turned to Ghalib and asked him for his opinion on the fruit. Ghalib replied, mangoes need to satisfy only two conditions, they need to be sweet, and plentiful.

When it was time for me to indulge in mango tango I turned to the old and natural; fruit, soda, and fruit juice.

Here it is from my kitchen to yours.

Mango and Strawberry Virgin Mojito


2 mangoes, cubed

8 strawberries, halved (or any other seasonal berry)

1 large orange (sliced, or any other citrus)

1 lemon, cut 1/8

16 oz. club soda

16 oz. clear soft drink (any brand)

Crushed ice

A few mint leaves


Cut and slice fruit, add club soda, let sit in fridge for an hour, add soft drink, crushed ice and mint, serve chilled. Serves 4.

Mango Orange Punch


2 mangoes, cubed

16 oz. orange soda (soft drink)

16 oz. fruit juice

4 to 6 scoops of mango sorbet

A few mint leaves


Mix and serve, chilled. Serves 4