The Mango Season - Amulya Malladi

Before I start off :-
a) I read this book few months back.
b) I do not have the book in my possession right now.

Then what prompts me to write about the book? This is one of those special books which I would never forget, just for the sheer delight I experienced reading this book. The story isn't all that uncommon. An Indian girl, Priya, goes abroad for studies and job purposes, and finds India dirty, filthy and boring when she comes after 7 years of stay in the US of A, for a small vacation. The one thing which she looks forward to is her favourite fruit - Mango. She's used to associating mangoes and the summer season in which its widely available to HAPPINESS.

She's been summoned by her parents to hunt for a "nice Indian boy" to marry her off, but little do they know of her affair with an American (with whom she's been living for some years now). Just as she waits for an opportune moment to get out with the truth about her love-life, she finds that some of her relatives have been living the life that the elders have designed for them (Unhappily so). Priya's straight-forward talk and assertiveness, and her attitude to stand up for herself to live life the way she just wants to, slowly influences their minds as well and they come out of their shell to straighten up their families.

And finally ofcourse, Priya does manage to have her way, after a bit of high drama by her conservative family!

I would give 4/5 for this book for all the humour packed into the book. Its a fun filled, delightful read. Irrespective of one's rapport with his/her mother, one couldn't help laughing out loud at Priya's plight in the hands of her mom, though she seems to have an understanding friend in her father.

There are mouth-watering recipes at the beginning of every chapter, and there's this family get-together for preparing mango pickles with loads of raw mangoes (which Priya's mother haggles and fights with the vendors for the best bargain). This and the mention of mangoes a million times, makes it kind of compulsory to have a mango by your side while reading this book :)

I managed to read "Serving Crazy with Curry" by the same author, but didn't enjoy that book to the same extent.

Its a small world afterall!!

There is this lovely aunt of mine, who advised "College days are meant to be fun.. You'll never gain back those days.. I was all studious and know how much I've missed... tk my advice and enjoy every minute". Its almost unnecessary to say how I found this advise to be the only sane one of all the numerous lectures that my poor ears had to tolerate, and WHY I refer to her as a "lovely aunt".

So right from the very first day of college, (err.. ofcourse after all those ragging ceremonies were over) me & my friends took an oath to have fun, in every possible way. And to make it more challenging, we decided to occupy the first 2 benches, and create a racket right under the nose of all the dutiful lecturers..

Don't we enjoy a thrill in irritating people who could lose their temper given the mildedst provocation? There was this lecturer, whom we named "Ms.Finicky". She was a guest faculty and we were bad "hosts". We just loved to rub her on the wrong side to get that stare from her, followed by clenching of fists, fast breathing, red lines forming in both eyes and what not... We were SUPPOSED to behave ourselves subsequent to this display of emotions. Her classes were the ones which we looked forward to.

Time passed by and we missed her presence in the subsequent years. But God and His Angels in Heaven had different plans for me!

It was the day of my betrothal, and as every other person I was ecstatic. From among the crowd, this close friend of mine, (who was enjoying a cup of juice when I was starving in the dais), hurriedly came towards me with an angry look and asked me why I've invited Ms. Finicky to the function. I gave her a blank look, and she understood what to do next. Ms.Detective's quick enquiry revealed that she is my spouse's aunt, and that she very well recognised all of us. Such turn of events are not-so-welcome!!

With a sheepish smile, minutes after the function, I had to pose with her as with all others, for photo sessions.. We (me, my friends and Ms.fini.. err, my spouse's aunt) had a small chat about those "good old days".. She didn't seem to have taken to heart of all our pranks.. Maybe we weren't all that bad;)

Spooky, Rivetting tales

What could make a collection of short stories impactful?

A hard-hitting message in every story despite the brevity in narration, which leads the reader to not just sit and ponder about the same, but serves as a stark reminder when confronted with a similar situation and admonish the erring conscience.

The Best of Satyajit Ray is a translated version of 21 short stories from the Bengali.(8 of which translated by the author himself and remaining by Gopa Majumdar). In his Foreword, Gopa Majumdar has mentioned that even if Ray had not written the Feluda and Shonku stories, his success as a writer would not have been affected in any way, as his short stories equally captivate the reader (young and old alike) through several generations of posterity. Not having read any of his detective stories featuring the sleuth Feluda or sci-fi adventure tales of Prof Shonku, I couldn't agree more to that statement.

This book is predominantly a collection of spooky, spine chilling tales with a supernatural element or aliens from outer space (which would fascinate the reader), and few stories with a rivetting message (which would resonate the inner-conscience of the reader FOREVER). As I am used to looking out for "moral of the story" I was more impressed by the latter category mentioned. It probably takes a combination of the film-maker and writer ability in Ray to bring out the desired effect.

I was hooked onto the book after reading the very first story.If the tale about a carnivorous plant with an extraordinary and deadly appetite amazes you, there's the incredible story of a dog which bursts out laughing one fine morning. The reader is left to keep guessing till the end about how the owners of these bizarre creatures tackle with them. Incredible the characters may sound, but the reader is simply transformed into a child and led into the fantasy world.

Despite the fantasy element, the stories seem straight out of life.

In "Ratan Babu and the Man" the beast lurking within a man leading a simple life, is prompted when he confronts a stranger who is a replica of himself.(Physical and habit-wise). Afterall, it wouldn't be all that amazing to see a duplicate image of yourself for a long time.

How would a person constantly looked down by his mates, react when he chances upon an alien creature? Confidence which is shattered by fellowmen, is boosted by this alien creature, and that transforms his life in totality.This is captured in another story.

There may be some people who have confided in us, guided us, and held out a helping hand when we were in distress. That single gesture may have altered our lives for the better, but its not always that we think of the path we tread during difficult days. There might probably be a pricky feeling in our subconscious mind, that we have been ignoring the person whose been the very reason for our success today. Before it becomes too late, atleast to be truthful to our mind, atleast to face ourselves eye to eye in the mirror, atleast to ward off the guilt, we ought to express our gratitude to that mentor. Without being preachy like this, Ray has lucidly brought out the essence of being a human in a couple of stories, both of which are hard-hitting, though there is not a single mention of the word gratefulness/gratitude or any such nouns. I am AMAZED how . (I really looked for those words in a second read).

The last story in this collection, Pikoo's Diary is a heart-wrenching one. Pikoo, a young boy, is in the habit of maintaining a personal diary. His mind is disturbed by the adulterous affairs of his promiscuous mom, which in turn leads to strained relations between his mom and dad. Ray has succintly captured the mind of a child's state of mind in a chaotic household. What more, the whole story is written in the font of a child's writing, with the kind of typos that only a child could make. This gives the reader the feel that he/she is peeping into a child's diary.

Personally, I feel literature is at its best in the language it was originally written. That is one reason why I have been shunning away popular translations of literature for fear of they being simplified for ease of read. But the fact that the author himself has translated some of the stories, came as a plus. Moreover, Gopa Majumdar's style of narration seemed (to me) to be much similar to Ray's take.