Even as she pickled mangoes, grandmother
told me stories. When she was little, she stole
from the piles and piles of mangoes that were left
to dry in the courtyard of her village home. Now
embalming mangoes in mulled mustard oil, she tells me
the best of the season must live longer. So each April
she carefully preserves. Pickles in glass jar churning,
in the pungent sun turning with black cumin eyes
and red chili slivers to tickle tongues with flavours of
a season gone by. Grandfather would walk in, always
a step behind his cane and, squinting in the sun, declare
the best mangoes grew in our garden, there, back then.
I would listen to the stories, dip my finger in spiced oil,
and taste everything on the tip of my tongue. In another
city, eating out of a can I realize that I have not learnt
the exact art of pickling mangoes. I can pickled
words instead, use ink in place of oil.
Sohini Basak is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi and will soon join the creative writing course at the University of Warwick. She won the Unisun-Reliance Poetry Competition 2010-2011.