A Case of Exploding Mangoes
By Mohammed Hanif
1) This is one book which languorously yet confidently treads the meandering line where satire, sarcasm and humour, merge into a very satisfying read. So, I will loudly disagree with elements of Chandak Sengoopta’s writing in The Independent, and volubly (as volubly as possible while hungrily gulping down one mouthful after another) agree with Robert Macfarlane in The New York Times. This book is not about waiting for the tension to build. The tension is in each page, to be enjoyed like the bits and pieces of conversations between Cadet Shigri and the Secretary General of the sweeper's union, through the slit in the wall of their dungeon cells. The writing is effortlessly humourous and flows like the plane in the grip of a ‘phugoid’. Sometimes it is outright humour, sometimes biting sarcasm, but always accompanied by a satire on the realist trappings of military, bureaucracy and the politics of power. The pleasure is in knowing that you'll get to ride this wave, up and down, up and down, right till the end. Quite like General Zia’s response to the aerodynamics in the closing moments of the book.
2) They have never - actually - enjoyed one. The anticipation. The first look and with that, the impending loss of control as you see the texture of the skin, flushed to various hues of orange and yellow, and sometimes a tinge of red. The fight to keep the fingers slow as the outer covering is peeled off to reveal the deliciously corrugated surface within. Some strands sheepishly trying to hold on to the skin leaving them so suddenly so exposed. The mind trying to hold the hand in check, which is preoccupied with its own struggle with the fingers. Focusing on keeping them soft, slow, yet steady. The mouth already tasting the pleasure, measured by the increasing frequency of desperate swallows. In anticipation.
No, unless you have tasted it, you would not know what I am talking about.
Why 1 and 2? Because sometimes I am quite greedy. And impatient. And impulsive. For example, if you look in my wardrobe, you will find ‘two’ of my favourite tops, ‘two’ of my favourite shorts, and so on and so forth. If I can’t decide which colour I like better, I take two and maybe three. I shut my mind for that hundredth of a second when I say, “I’ll take both.” Friends who know me well, and when given a choice of a gift brought back from holidays, know that the next question to ask is “What ‘other’ colours do you have”. :-) Anyway, I divert from the issue here. The issue being that I wanted to write a few lines about a book which I finished reading a few hours ago, and thoroughly enjoyed from cover to cover. First I wanted to write in a particular way, then almost mid sentence, I went off in a tangential direction. But, I wanted them both.