It is summertime and the season of mangoes. All I can think about is a cold and creamy mango milkshake. That's because Dadi used to make them every summer.
I remember how that fruity smell could linger in the kitchen for hours. Dadi would pick up the ripest mangoes from the market. She would rinse them in hot water and pat dry them like little babies. Then she would peel them with a peeler between her pink wrinkled fingers. I would watch her cut them into tiny golden pieces on the cutting board. Chop, chop, chop. The large kitchen knife would slice the layers of golden yellow into little cubes. Drops of yellow juice dripped on the marble white cutting board. The pulpy fragrance wafted into my nostrils. I'd inhale and inhale, dreaming about swimming in an ocean of mango pulp. Dadi would laugh at my dreamy expression. "I can see you making this for your children one day."
Dadi would put all the chopped pieces into the blender and add frothy milk, ice cubes, and sugar. The blender made a noise I detested, like airplanes flying close to the ground. That whirring noise would compel me to stick my fingers in my ears and watch the shades of yellow and white swirling inside the glass blender. I was fascinated with how the two colors eventually merged into one and turned out to be an exquisite dark shade of yellow. Almost bordering on orange. Dadi would add a few drops of saffron, and I'd watch these red tendrils dancing in a pool of dark yellow. The first sip was the sweetest. That tingling sensation of the tangy taste of this foamy thick yellow liquid was a heavenly feeling. And just like that, I'd gulp the entire glass of this mango delight greedily, leaving a layer of frothy yellow above my upper lip. Dadi would gingerly wipe my mouth with her dark green sari. Dadi, with her kind wrinkled face and dark brown eyes that twinkled behind a pair of thick glasses. Dadi, with her long black hair and grey streaks tied in a bun surrounded by a string of jasmine flowers. Dadi with her diamond nose ring, and diamond earrings, that glistened in the dark. "Yellow mustaches don't look good on little girls," she smiled.
That was the last summer I tasted Dadi's exotic mango milkshake. In the following months, I witnessed hushed whispers between my parents, which stopped as soon as I entered the room. I was privy to long silences at the dining table and Dadi's changed behavior. I wasn't sure when I noticed it first. Was it the time when Dadi accidentally left her spectacles inside the refrigerator? Or that time when she lost her way home from the market? I was shocked when Dadi forgot my name one day. "Tina," I said meekly. She peered at me through her glasses and frowned slightly. I noticed her hair strands loose and the string of scented jasmine flowers missing from her bun. "Oh! Sorry, Tina, will you please get me my glasses?" I stared at her, feeling confused. I pointed to her spectacles firmly perched on her nose. She felt her glasses and laughed, saying she was being silly.
That one time when she tried to make a mango milkshake, I watched Dadi accidentally run the knife on her fingers while chopping the mangoes. I shrieked in horror, seeing red drops on the white cutting board. She washed her hand and put on a band-aid. Then she put the chopped pieces in the blender and added the ingredients. The first sip tasted bitter and salty, making me throw up. Dadi scowled, walked out of the kitchen in a huff, and did not talk to me for the rest of the day.
Dadi was gone the next day. When I came home after a play date with a friend, I was told she wouldn't return. The tears that rolled down my cheeks were saltier than her milkshake the previous day. "What happened?" I asked, only to get answers like she was in a home that would take care of her. "Isn't this her home?" I retorted, only to be shushed, saying little girls should talk less. "What about my mango milkshake?" Mother made some. It didn't taste so sweet. I spent the rest of the evening crying myself to sleep. Several summers went by without Dadi's exotic milkshake. The scent of the pulpy mangoes lingered in my memories. Sometimes I could smell it in the kitchen, where Mother would slice some mangoes for dessert.
After many years of residing abroad, I am finally home this summer. My kids are playing with my parents while my husband is napping. I am determined to try out Dadi's exotic milkshake. I wash the ripe golden mangoes gingerly and pat them dry. I peel the mangoes, slice them, and cut them into cube-like pieces. The fragrance of the pulpy smell fills the kitchen. I close my eyes and visualize that fantasy of floating in an ocean of mango pulp. Then I put the chopped pieces in the blender and add milk, ice cubes, and sugar. I watch the swirling motion of the yellow and white frothy liquid. The whirring noise still disturbs me. I sprinkle a little saffron on the creamy shake and take a sip. The sweet, tangy taste sends shivers down the spine. Just the way Dadi made it. I gulp it all down greedily and smile at the feeling of sprouting a yellow mustache. I smile at the memory of Dadi wiping my mouth with her sari, Dadi's scent of the jasmine flowers strung around her bun. The sweet taste in my mouth turns salty as I clumsily wipe my face, thinking of the loss of memory condition that caused my Dadi to degenerate into a bowl of ashes.