Saturday, May 5, 2007

Climbing the Mango Trees

Title: Climbing the Mango Trees
Author: Madhur Jaffrey
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 296
Edition: Hardcover

Madhur Jaffrey, a renowned cookbook author and an award-winning actress recaptures her childhood in India in this purely delightful memoir 'Climbing the Mango Trees'. After reading a wonderful review of this book by Lovely Lotus, I couldn't resist nabbing a copy of it from the local library. As Madhur (meaning "sweet as honey") walks down the memory lane recounting her early childhood days in Delhi at her grandparent's house, growing up with her siblings and cousins, convent education, weekend picnics, tiffin-box lunches, scrumptious dinners enjoyed with her family, parties and marriages and all, it brought back endless reminiscences of my childhood too. My brother and I grew up in a joint family system with about half-dozen cousins at my grandparent's place during our early childhood. While the elders in the house snored away after a delicious four or five-course meal, We would sneak into the backyard and climb the guava tree with a tiny sack of spicy mixture (salt, chilli powder and cumin) tied under the waist. Each cousin would cling onto a branch and the delicious guavas would be handed down one by one and we would make an instant guava chaat sitting on the branch. With our eyes gleaming with mischief and pleasure and our feet dangling precariously in the air, we would start devouring them with its juices running down our hands. To our dismay, the guava tree was cut down later and replaced with a water well to meet the ever growing demands of water supply. But that didn't stop us from having fun either. We used to run around the water well chasing madly with slopping buckets of water and we would shriek with laughter as we splash each other the icy-cold water. The Tricycle Rickshaw rides we used to take to school was something I looked fwd to every single day. But, my brother was deprived of this sheer fun until he was old enough to go to school. As I settled myself among hordes of other children in the Rickshaw, my brother merely 2 years old would stomp down the alley with a tiny slate tucked under his arm, wailing his heart out to join the ride. Dodging the potholes in the muddy ground, the Rickshaw wallah would pedal his way out and enchant us with songs from old movies and our tiffin-boxes clinking on one another would merrily chime in. When the lunch bell rings, we would jauntily walk past the classrooms to seek haven under the shelters of the Neem trees and sink our teeth into some of the delectable Potato Curries, Rotis and Parathas. Oh, What about those midday ice cream treats? The ice cream man would walk past our compound and would keep blaring the little green horn affixed to his bicycle until we start flying down the alley, with the heart pounding in our chests, a few coins cupped in our little hands and surround him like a swarm of bees. One of my favorite memories of my childhood was those occasional moonlit dinners. On Full moon days, my grandmother and mom would prepare mouth-watering dishes and everyone in the family would clamber up the steps of the terrace and we would all sit in a huddle. As my grandma carefully placed a dollop of food on each of our palm, she would regale us with stories of her childhood. Basking in the glow of full moon, we would sit there staring at her as if in trance, while anxiously waiting for the food to be dropped in our palm. With a smile lingering on my lips, I found myself going back to those wonderful days, as I turned every page of this book. Not only does Madhur share her good ol' days, she also gives away some of her wonderful family recipes. The beautiful black-and-white pictures from her family album interspersed throughout adds an elegant touch to the book. An absolutely enthralling read!
My Rating: 4.5/5


Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Chitts!

I so enjoyed reading your childhood reminisces, don't you just love books that help you walk down memory lane? Did you also grow up in Delhi?

Your moonlit dinners sound so wonderful...I hope you have recorded all your grandmother's stories of her childhood...unfortunately, both my grandmothers died before I could record theirs.

So glad you liked the book and thank you for a splendid review!

Radha said...

Oh this post brought a smile to my face. Sweet childhood memories. Always makes me sad to watch kids these days sitting in front of their playstations!

Nyssaneala said...

What a wonderful memory! Thank you for sharing such a tidbit from your childhood. I come from a very VERY tiny immediate and extended family, and I always love hearing stories of large-family fun.

Happy Reader said...

@lotus - Thanks :) I enjoyed writing the review as well. I loved this book esp because it makes you travel back in time. Even though I come from the South, a city near Chennai, I was surprised to find how similar lives could be no matter where you grow up in India :)
@radha - Yeah.I couldn't agree more with you. Kids these days don't know what they are missing :(
@nyssaneala - Thank you. Growing up in a large family is every bit fun and I still muse wistfully for those days long gone.

Hollydolly said...

Oh what a beautiful post. So amazing to be allowed into your childhood reminiscences,you bought taste, smells and laughter into the start of my day, thank you.
I too have bought this book after reading Lotus's review. It is still on my teetering TBR pile. Mmh, think I must move it to "next in line"
Thank you again for a beautiful post.

Happy Reader said...

@hollydolly - Thanks for your nice words :) You have a wonderful blog and I am looking fwd to reading your reviews!

Jira said...

Such a delightful piece 'C'....
Refreshed some delectable memoirs of my own growing yrs..Reminisced moments when 'J' wanted to go to school with me even when she was not old enough, and the mottai maadi 'nilaa choru' with a gang of cousins during hot summer nights..we used to have a 'nellikkaai' tree in my aunt's backyard that we ransacked!! and the guava tree story somehow reminded me of an old cartoon-song 'eka chidiya, aneka chidiyaa' with a sis and bro that used to be telecast in good old DD!!! dunno if u remember it!
Adorable post!!

Happy Reader said...

@jira ~ Thanks :) I really enjoyed reading your childhood memories! I would trade anything for a mottai maadi 'nilaa choru'. Oh, How I miss those days :(