Times of India 24 Oct 2010: winning entry submission for “Signs of the Times”

Our mango tree was harvested the other day by a neighbor and two young men — one climbed 3-4 stories high in the tree, the other received the mangoes as the climber threw them, quite adeptly, like oblong baseballs pitched over the roof-top-deck wall. Only a few were dropped, falling to the ground like rocks narrowly missing the car parked below. We were given as many as we wanted, and we proceeded to pass many of them on as gifts to friends and neighbors. These are ordinary mangos (sāḍe āṃbe), not the coveted Hāpūs/Alfonso, but they are really quite tasty when ripened. Traditionally these mangos are pickled or juiced.

Ripening mangos is a rather mysterious art, one which traditionally involves straw/grass/hay and crates kept at high temperatures (above 47 deg F, we hear). We went to our local market, and after buying our produce, asked if they had any empty mango boxes with straw, which they did, and we thus created our own little ripening system. The first round took 6-7 days to ripen, but the second round will be much shorter as the remaining mangos ripened in the bag we were keeping the mother-load of them in. Less than a dozen remain, most have been given away, a few we lost to mold.

The Taj in Mumbai. Was a nice day, with nice coffee. For a moment in Colaba I forgot I was in India…

We found a bit of Datta activity in Shirdi.

Shirdi Sai Baba is said to be an incarnation of Datta, but the Datta temple inside the Sai temple complex seems to be almost an afterthought.

The Datta mandir at Upasani Baba’s ashram was more interesting. It is an ekmukhi Datta, one-faced, and was explained in an intriguing way—his face is Godavari Mataji, body is Sai Baba, and feet of Upasani Baba, connecting two of the most popular figures of the area to Datta.

Headed back to Pune tomorrow on a bus. Will be happy to get home!