The Mango Cage

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It is almost mango season. From the balcony the view onto the street below is filled with the heaving wooden carts of street sellers. When the papayas and bananas are replaced by juicy dodo or apple mangoes, Ba will venture out with Indira. They will stop first in front of their favourite seller; allegiances have been built over years of haggling, but the cart with the best mangoes will provide the biggest draw. Ba’s hands, surprisingly agile despite signs of arthritis, will search out the best fruit: not too ripe, just the right size and colour. The haggling begins, both parties masters of the raised eyebrow, the curled lip, the play of outrage; Indira is particularly skilled at the derisive snort.

Once the fruit is purchased it will be placed carefully in the faded bags of woven sisal that the pair carry over their shoulders. At home, Ba will place the mangoes in her ‘panjru’ – her cage. In reality this is  just an old wooden cupboard, which has had the glass in the doors replaced by a metal grille. It is dark but not too warm, and Ba decided long ago that it offers the optimal conditions in which mangoes can be left to ripen. The mango cage has seen this family grow, witnessed the love and laughter, children and grandchildren, tragedy and struggle. As the mangoes ripen it watches its owners grow old.

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My family and other mangoes

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