After exploring the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal in her debut novel A Breath of Fresh Air, Amullya Malladi captures in her second novel the predicament of non-resident Indians who are torn between the two cultures of their native and adopted countries. The Mango Season is about Priya, a young woman visiting her hometown in India after being in the United States for seven years, first as a student then as a professional in Silicon Valley.
But that, in the minds of her deeply conservative traditional parents, was a detour to her destiny, of arranged marriage -- an alliance which they would orchestra by picking suitable families and then allowing their daughter to choose one of the prospective candidates.
Priya has other plans. She is already in love, engaged and living with an American, Nick; they even share a joint mortgage. And her views on matrimony were shaped long before she came to America:
"Even though I was raised in a society where arranged marriages was the norm, I always thought it was barbaric to expect a girl of maybe twenty-one years to marry a man she knew even less than the milkman, who, for the past decade, had been mixing water with the milk he sold the family."
These thoughts on matrimony our heroine kept to herself. On the other hand, her parents sent her to study with a few fears and the following orders:
Last on the list but most important…DO NOT FIND YOURSELF SOME FOREIGN MAN/WOMAN TO MARRY.
- "Do not eat beef (the sacred cow is your mother)
- Do not get too friendly with foreign people; you cannot trust them. Remember what the English did to us.
- Cook at home; there is no reason to eat out and waste money.
- Save money.
- Save money.
- Save money.
The trip home is a result of Priya’s resolution to tell her family about her wonderful, interesting, compassionate and smart boyfriend.
"I didn’t want to go. I had to go," says Priya, "I didn’t want to go because as soon as I got there, my family would descend on me like vultures on a fresh carcass, demanding explanations, reasons, and trying to force me into marital harmony with some 'nice Indian boy.' I had to go because I had to tell them that I was marrying a 'nice American man.'"
The one thing that she does look forward to is the fruit of her memories -- mangoes. When she was a child, summer was all about mangoes, rich, lush, ripe sweet mangoes with juice that would dribble down to her chin, hands and neck. The mango season coincides with the monsoons and the wedding season in India. They are symbolic of passion, heat, emotion and happiness and indeed, growing up, Priya and her brother Nate called mangoes HAPPINESS.
Mangoes were once considered as exotic as the countries they grew in, perhaps because their golden flesh evoked the sunny climates with the warm breeze necessary to ripen them into their juicy sweetness. Mangoes have their peak season from May to September and those ripe ones have a faintly sweet aroma and yellow skin blushed with red. But in Southern supermarkets in the United States, they are a staple.
The mangoes are just as delicious as Priya remembers, but adapting is harder after being away for seven years. The heat is more unbearable, the dirt, the grime and the noise all seem filthier and garish.
After each chapter, Malladi has enclosed recipes of South Indian delicacies, and the most popular is the mango pickle, which women in north and south India make during the summer by marinating chunks of mango in oil and spices and having them sit outside in the sun for days. Part of the book is dedicated to the ritual of the women in the family making mango pickle.
The Mango Season is an insight into the workings of Indian families and their Hindu rituals, customs and the heirachies in which the male head of the household prevails. It is also the age-old story of whether one should follow one’s heart or walk on the true and tried path of tradition.
Malladi received a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from Osmania University in India and a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Memphis. She lives in Denmark with her husband and son.