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From Yummy to Yucky

Updated on May 8, 2014

Think of Mangoes


Alas! The king of Indian fruits has fallen from grace! EU has banned import of Alphonso mangoes from India which reportedly contained traces of chemical fertilizers and, horror of horrors, flies. The yummy fruit has consequently been pronounced yucky and unfit for consumption - by Europeans that is. While the Europeans can be left alone to feast themselves on homegrown strawberries and apples, the matter of immediate concern for India is, what becomes of the Indian Alphonso, grown specially for the tables of Europeans and Americans with a penchant for things Indian?

Fear not! There is always the domestic market. Every Indian is, after all, an Aam Admi (no, not the political kind!) with a sweet tooth for any shade or variety of mango, let alone Alphonso, the delectable choice of gourmet fruit eaters. Vast quantities of Alphonso mangoes grown in India used to end up in foreign markets in quest of valuable foreign exchange; when the finicky overseas customers were not looking for flies and fertilizers in their fruits, that is. With the rejection abroad, comes inundation of domestic markets. After all, Indian customers are less discerning. Consequently, any thing sells here. Is it not so? Talk about adaptability, tolerance and resilience on the part of the Indian consumers!

Accustomed to shopping for fruits and vegetables in open air markets awash with wares appreciatively chosen by swarms of flies to sit on, the hapless Indian consumer would be moved to tears at the prospects of being reunited with the long lost fruit of all fruits, seldom seen in such vast quantities in local markets, that too at unusually cheap prices. Oh joy! Now you can eat Alphonso mangoes along with, and not instead of, onions and tomatoes which keep disappearing from markets only to reappear from time to time at exorbitant prices.

See how the cosmic forces have conspired to bring the Europe-bound fruit closer home. To start with, the humble fly dutifully gives its precious life away unsung in the process of informing and congratulating the prospective buyer of his right choice. On a larger scale, the maneuvers of the great Indian fertilizer industry and the farmers' lobby to make large scale exports are brought to naught in favour of the querulous domestic consumer!

Why are the Europeans so snooty about flies, that too the dead ones? Did they expect bumble bees or dragon flies instead, or what? And organic manure in place of chemical fertilizers in this technological age from a fast developing country like India? Talk of being reasonable I say!

So what if there is an odd fly or two inside the fruit? In the first place, they are thoroughly domesticated. We call them house-flies, don't we? And then they are dead by the time they reach you; totally harmless, wouldn't you say? By the way, you were not thinking in terms of keeping them for pets, were you?

In utter contrast to their European peers, Indian shoppers, pampered silly by competing manufacturers and trading outlets with ingenious offers of freebies and add-ons, would only be appreciative of anything offered free, not excluding flies and fertilizers. Like the appendage of family of a politician you get to elect for the legislature. After all, 'Buy one and get one free' is the common refrain of any enterprising Indian trader these days.

If the fertilizer has already killed the fly, can't it be realistically expected to do the same to the germs and such like in your unsuspecting stomach, for your own good? But in the cold commercial world of international trade, you can't expect much room, not even as little as for a fly in a mango, for mawkish sentiments like gratitude for a sacrificial fly or appreciation for free samples of an unintended commodity like fertilizers. North Indians seldom eat fruits without a generous sprinkling of their ground spices and masalas. These virulent add-ons function in their own mysterious way like a great traditional antiseptic, dating back to the hoary days, and make all that is eaten delectable for a native and egregious for a foreigner at the same time. It is the spices and masala that you should learn to survive and not the foreign objects!

© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman


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