Yes, I am talking about the very Alphonso Mangoes. If Mango is the King of Fruits, then Alphonso variety is definitely the Shah-en-Shah (king of kings)
Alphonso Mangoes (or Haphoos, as locally called in Mumbai by the Maharashtrians and the Gujaratis) are favourites in Mumbai.
Infact these mangoes were so popular that they nearly cost their weight in gold. In the middle class suburban Mumbai, an indication of your wealth was when could you afford a basket of mangoes for yourself.
Though the first bunch of fruit would reach the markets in March, my family would be able to afford the fruit only when it would reach an affordable amount (Rs 100 a dozen or so I remember) and thus we would have these mangoes only for 3 weeks from Mid May to first week of June. Though my dad would keep buying the other variety of mangoes (dasseri, langda, kesar, pairi) I would like nothing else apart from the original Ratnagiri Haphoos.
I do remember in the late eighties and the early nineties, the curt remarks from relatives, neighbours and other family friends (well I dont think consider them friends) about how they would have mangoes right from March to October, how my Dad's school friend had a double door refridgerator (it was a novelty in India pre-liberlization) and how he would store mangoes in the deep freezer so he could enjoy them all year.
I also remember the times when I asked my parents when I saw mangoes on the streets with vendors early in the summer (though at prohibitive costs) and my parents would brush me off, saying these were lower quality and the best ones arrived only later on the year. Once I actually saw through this white lie, I stopped asking, since I know my parents themselves winced a bit while brushing me off.
As I grew older, ever wanting to be the contrarian, I started acting as if I disliked mangoes (just like saying though I cant have it, its just cause I dont like them much)
Now that I am living in London, my mom asked me a month ago, if she should courier a dozen alphonso mangoes to me this year. Not wanting to be another mango snob like the people whom i despised as a kid, I flatly refused saying it didnt matter to me, and was not worth all the hassle for them.
But finally I found some Alphonso Mangoes in London at East Ham (nice place for South Indian food, and yes as near the West Ham soccer club for all you premiership fans). These were imported from Ratnagiri, in Maharashtra.
These were exported from India, and though they did cost quite a bit, but definitely worth it all. Brought back all the memories of having the first mangoes of the season.
I guess their scarcity makes them all the more delicious, and for those who have them 6 months in a year, sure miss out on this part of the taste. Meanwhile let me have the one I just cut, in the extreme desi fashion, using my hands, and scraping the fruit from the skins.