Grandma Janaki picked up her large suitcase with some effort from the luggage carousel at the Los Angeles Airport and placed it with the carry-on suitcase on a cart. Slowly she pushed it and stopped at the agriculture officer’s table for final clearance before she could leave. (@Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #Fiction, #Literature, #DrRaghavendraRao)
Janaki wore a white cotton sari with silver border and a matching white blouse, and a thin golden chain around her neck. Even though she was 70 years, age didn’t show on her face. She attributed this to consuming lots of vegetables and fruits including mangoes.
“Mrs. Jana Key, are you bringing in any fruits or vegetables from India?” asked the agriculture officer.
“No sir. None. My name is Janaki, not Jana Key.”
“I apologize. I smell ripe mangoes here. Please open this carry-on.”
Mrs. Janaki picked up the carry-on with some help from the officer and placed it on the table.
As the officer watched her she fumbled inside her purse for a minute and finally fished out a bunch of keys. She tried a couple of them and the third one worked. She opened the suitcase and the flavor of ripe mangoes gushed out like the old faithful. Two large mangoes wrapped in layers of several blouses were at the bottom.
“Here they are.” The officer smiled.
Janaki blushed. “I didn’t know that my eldest daughter had placed them. It’s embarrassing. I’ll call and tell her not do this again.”
Janaki thought that the inspection was over and tried to pull the zipper shut.
“No, Mrs. Janaki. You can’t take the mangoes out with you. I have to throw them here.” He pointed to a dustbin.
“They are Benisha variety. Huge, sweet and succulent. You won’t get them here. My granddaughter craves mangoes. Let me take at least one for her, sir. You can have the other one.”
“Mrs. Janaki, it’s a crime to bribe an agriculture officer. You’re an elderly lady and naive so I will excuse you. Either I throw them here or you can sit on the bench there and eat them, if you wish.”
“The fruits are huge. I can’t eat both of them. I’m not Bakasura.”
“What?” The officer was irritated.
“He is a demon in our epic, Mahabharata who had an insatiable hunger.”
“Sorry, I didn’t say that you’re a demon.” The officer picked up a mango and threw it in the garbage bin.
“Please sir, wait. Don’t throw the other one. I’ll eat it here. Today is Ekasi, a fasting day but I’ll break the rule.”
Janaki put the carry-on down, took the mango, sat on the nearby bench and started to eat it. The juice dripped on her sari.
A few travelers passing by smiled at her with thumbs up. “Good job” they encouraged. A couple of them stopped and asked Janaki what kind of mango it was as it had such a sweet smell. Others wanted to know where she had bought the mango. An old gentleman shared his wisdom, “If there is a worm-bite-mark on the fruit that is the sweetest mango, because the worm knows.”
With all this drama, it was half an hour before she was done with the mango. She wiped her lips with the pallu of her sari. “Thank you, Bhagwan, I salvaged at least one,” she said. Janaki felt sorry for the other mango that was lying in the garbage. “I could have offered it to God Balaji and reaped some punya, virtue, or I could have given it to a poor man and satisfied his appetite,” she brooded. Then she looked at the garbage bin. “Poor mango. Who would have thought you will end up there?”
“Mrs. Janaki, if you’re done eating, pick up your luggage and go.”
Janaki placed her luggage on the cart and left. Her son, Abhishek, daughter-in-law, Aarathi, and her six-year-old granddaughter, Pavitra were waiting outside.
“Grandma,” Pavitra shouted and came running and hugged her. “Did you bring the sweet mangoes you promised?”
“How did you manage that, Mom? Didn’t they check the luggage?” asked Abhishek.
“Yes, they did. I had two mangoes in the carry on. A shrewd agriculture officer found them. He threw one into the garbage and I ate the other one. It was juicy.”
“That’s why your sari has yellow spots,” said Abhishek.
“Look, is it not beautiful? Anyway, I spent half an hour there and the officer probably had enough of me and let me go.”
“So, no mangoes for me, Grandma?”
“My dear Pavitra, there are six mangoes in the big suitcase. All are for you.”