Do You Want A Mango?
By Sravya Lekha
“This mango isn’t ripe yet, see? Smell it.” My mom holds the red and gold fruit up to my nose.
“I’ll eat it anyways! Nanna and I don’t mind when they’re sour,” I say.
I’ve lost track of the number of times we have had this conversation, nearly every night of every summer that I can remember. My parents brought many cultural customs with them when they emigrated from India, chiefly among them the sacred love of mangoes.
For over twenty years, I have heard my Amma and Nanna’s stories of their days at universities that now have different names. Two decades of dreaming of the food in delicious small restaurants that haven’t served anyone in nearly 30 years.
It’s almost amusing how we learn about the lives of the people who raise us. Little facts scattered through our lives - important to us, a second thought to them. My mother wields a garden hoe with an adeptness that I can’t help but be surprised by.
“Didn’t I tell you about my garden? It was on the roof,” Amma said.
“In the old house? The one that was torn down?” I asked.
“Yes, that one.”
When they returned from their recent visit to India, my parents were filled with a child-like excitement. They showed me photos of them visiting temples they had never been to before, and my mother gushed about the coconut water they drank. Who could react much differently after seeing family for the first time in years? After eating pani puri and biryani, which just aren’t the same in the U.S.?
Once the giddiness wore off, their recollections pivoted to disappointed complaints about how much the landscape and culture had changed.
I asked my parents if they consider themselves more Indian or American at this point in their lives. They laughed, synchronized by their 30 years of life together, and answered, “American, of course.” They’ve grown reliant on this country's comforts, comforts I have never known a life without.
“So, would you move back to India if you had the chance?” I asked.
Amma made a joke about being rich and having a quality of life to maintain, but their answers were the same. This is their home now, but they would give anything to see the India they remember one more time. The India filled with the houses, restaurants, grandmothers, friends, and dogs of the lives they once knew.
But it no longer exists, not in the towering skyscrapers or the skinny jeans, so here they stay.
When my dad comes home from work, I plop on the couch beside him. He turns on an old Bollywood movie and tells me tales of silver-screen stars. Nanna claps to the music, I squint at the subtitles. His smile never wavers as he tells me exactly what he did the day he had the luxury of going to the cinema and seeing that same movie. I dream of his home, the one that he can never really go back to.
As we sit there together, I know he dreams of it too.
Sravya Lekha grew up in upstate New York, where her overactive imagination filled journals upon journals with stories that will never see the light of day. When she isn’t memorizing anatomical factoids as a sleep-deprived medical student, Sravya finds the time to write a sentence or two.