Aam Panna ~raw mango cooler~
GHOSTS OF SUMMERS PAST
Summer afternoons in Dehradun were filled with mysterious boredom. Ghosts of colonial folks moved imperceptibly around the old bungalow and its surrounding garden making the air thick, impenetrable, and inscrutable. Sometimes you could hear the ghosts whispering through the silver oaks, sometimes when they were playful, they would startle the parrots greedily engrossed in devouring sun ripened mangoes. These mango trees belonged to these ghosts, they lived there, they had been for centuries now. Sometimes my brother and I saw our swing, hung high on a strong branch, swinging merrily by itself. We didn’t mind it, after all the garden was as much theirs as it was ours.
In the afternoons there wasn’t much to do, we were banned from entering the house, our mum was on night duty so she would be sleeping inside and we were too noisy. So the garden, the mangoes, the ghosts and us, we were banished until evening. Right outside our house, on one side there was a Gharwal Higher Secondary School or maybe it was a college, I don’t remember it now, we were at that age when everything was atleast four times larger in size and comprehension. The college was still in session and the local ice cream vendor had taken his position outside our second gate. The second gate was never used and it had a huge, rusted lock and chain around it. Decomposed leaves and dirt had already embedded the gate into the earth, so there was very little likelihood that the gate would ever be opened. The college kids liked to hang outside our second gate, maybe because it was the ice cream vendors favored location. We were always shy of the college kids and would play far into the garden hidden out of sight, but watching them from the corner of our eyes. They looked so big and fashionable. But more than that our eyes were always on the ice cream vendor who held the keys to a forbidden land. The land of cold ice creams, crunchy cones and juicy popsicles. We would greedily swallow dribble just thinking about the ice cream man’s house. But due to strict instructions regarding the perils of eating unhygienic roadside food we were practically banned from even thinking of the word I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M. But the real reason for our deprivation was that we had no money, all we needed was 2 Rupees and all we had was a big fat zero.
That’s when the mango ghosts put the idea into Raghu’s head, “Raji lets make a deal, I have a great idea!” he said to me. His ideas always put me into trouble because I could never lie. Raghu knew my weakness so he told me all I had to do was keep my trap shut, he would do everything there was to do, I just have to be an accomplice and I would get a nice milky vanilla bar for my work. The words ‘milky vanilla bar’ is all that I heard and I followed him like a lamb. Raghu stretched himself up to his full height, took a full breath, and without a single stammer made an offer to the ice cream man “you give us two ice creams and we will give you two bigggg mangoes, what do you think?” The ice cream man thought hard, and drove a hard bargain “I’ll give you two ice creams for 4 mangoes, deal or no deal?” Everything sounded fair for ice creams, Raghu ambled up the nearest tree and brought down 4 huge mangoes, they barely fitted into our tiny hands, still we managed to get it over to the gate. The ice cream man kept his word and pulled out two big vanilla pops and handed over to us.
Raghu and I settled under our favourite mango tree, the farthest from the house, from where no one could spot us, peeled away the paper from the pop and licked.
Aam Panna also called Kairi Panha (Kairi meaning raw mango) is a summer tradition at my home. Summer is incomplete without cool sips of iced mango panha. Deliciously cardamomy, sweet and tart panha usually looks pale green because of the raw mangoes in it, mine turned a little orange because the mangoes were almost ripening. Further, in addition to cardamom I also added saffron and jaggery, so orange mango panha it is – but tastes just like home!
I have to add here that my mum always peels and chops up the raw mango and its really a load of work, and that is one of the main reasons that deterred me from making panha at home. But I was recently going through a cookbook that talked about pressure cooking raw mangoes, and bingo! So truly its really easy to try this at home and do give this traditional drink a shot – I am planning to spike some panha with vodka one evening, endless possibilities, I feel giddy thinking about it
You can also make instant mango lassi with the panna sauce. Just pour a bit into a glass, and top with chilled milk and stir. The citric acid in the mango turns the combination into a thick mango lassi! double yum!
Well if the story is the whole truth or farthest from the truth is something you’ll have to keep guessing, for now this post is also my entry to Aqua’s Of Chalks and Chopsticks, now being hosted by Bong Mom.