Swimming through clouds


sweatingWith the heat and humidity in Delhi at the moment I feel like I’m constantly swimming through clouds, as I have to push the air in front of to the sides in order to get through. All skin constantly is covered with a film of sweat, and the trouser sticks to the leg. A blue sky hasn’t been seen in months.


Sometimes we firangs (foreigners) try to conquer the heat with another layer of cloth. Quite unsuccessfully though, I have to admit, and we also look very funny in the attempt.


Mango Orchards of Rataul

iced mangoes

As Summer is in Delhi full force, one could be really frustrated… if it weren’t for the mangoes! Everybody loves mangoes, and the best part is that Indians not only know one type of mango, but an infinite number.

There are Safeda from South India, Dussehri from Uttar Pradesh, Malda from Bengal, Sindoori from Kerala, Totapuri from Bihar, and so on, and so forth.

mango varieties

And Indians can tell you which one has season at which week, and, best of all, if they are eaten like they are, or squeezed and sucked, transformed into jams or purees, used for ice creams or smoothies, chutneys and curries, or even pickles, salads and salsas.

So when the cultural heritage tour guy Sohail announced that he planned to visit the mango orchards of Rataul in UP, we happily hopped onto the bus. The journey over the 50 kilometers to the village took us three hours, and often resembled more a joy ride in a rollercoaster than a trip on a street.

mango orchard

When we finally stepped out of the bus, we immediately wanted to get back in, even with the swinging and rocking and hopping, as it was 20 degrees hotter outside than inside. Where was the monsoon, which should be here already?

While sweating, we learnt that one ancestor of the current planter cataloguized more than 500 types of mangoes, and that most of the lovely fruits from Rataul don’t make it to the markets in Delhi. So we did what we had to do and buried our teeth in as much yellow and orange flesh as possible.

eating mangoes

After lunch we hoped for some climbing on the trees and plucking the “king of fruits” for ourselves while balancing on the brunches, but the main orchard was under water, and in the smaller one we only visited the tress where the mangoes weren’t ripe yet. So we just strolled around, until the heat drove us back to the farm.

There we collected five kilogram each in a plastic bag (I guess a more appropriate way for the Delhiites than dangling in trees for getting them) and then headed home. The sugar shock from the mangoes made us fall into some sort of slumber in the bus, and I guess many dreamt of the Khas ul Khas, Makhsoos, Zardaalu, Doodhiya Hakim-ud-Din, Anfas, Husnara, Himsagar, … .

mango dream

Veg jain meal or veg raw meal or hindu meal?

A fruit salad, another fruit salad, a presumably soy pancake with hot fruits and a bread bun with fruity jam was what Lufthansa presented me as the vegetarian breakfast on the flight from Delhi to Munich. Why this didn’t include eggs or milk or yogurt or butter I don’t know. Maybe they just have one option for all kind of vegetarians and vegans and people who eat kosher or halal and are lactose intolerant.

Air India, the loss-making Indian flagship carrier, does it exactly the opposite way round. When you book a flight, you can choose between a

– bland meal

– children’s meal

– diabetic meal

– fruit platter meal

– gluten intolerant meal

– hindu meal

– infant meal

– kosher meal

– low calorie meal

– low lactose meal

– low salt meal

– muslim meal

– veg hindu meal

– veg jain meal

– veg lacto-ovo meal

– veg oriental meal

– veg raw meal

– vegetarian vegan meal

If you now think it can’t get more interesting (and time-consuming) while booking a flight, surf to the webpage of IndiGo. There, after choosing your meal, you also have thea “Karma Option”, with which you can “share a pie to help children in need”. I would have guessed these children need a roof above their head or good schools or rotis and fruits, but no, pie is what they get, if the (often fat) middle-class has a heart to click.

IndiGo also has a “Clean The Air” option: “Reducing the carbon footprint by funding low-carbon initiatives in villages”. Okay, I thought, this sounds reasonable, let’s contribute something. But I wasn’t allowed to do so: Only Indian flyers can clean the air, the option is not available for foreigners.

Delhi Encounters

(Daily) News from Delhi

Experience - The Blog by Ash Bhardwaj

Culture. Travel. Physicality

India Real Time

Unique analysis and insights from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires on the daily news in the world's largest democracy

India Ink

(Daily) News from Delhi