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It was one of those lovely evenings which the lord gives to man out of his infinite bounty. I had gone to malihabad the land of the famous dassehri mangoes, the land of famous poet, josh malihabad, some 20 miles from lucknow.There was a cultural programmes there, organised joinyly by the song and drama division of the government of india and the information department of the up government I was to preside over that programme.
Hide not, oh moon, hide not as long as I sing the song; let me sing this song of life to my heart contene. that was the first verse of one of the popular songs of those days in the mid fifyies. I think it was from a film called ” Man ki jeet”. The film was based on thomas hardy tess of the d’urbervilles. that song provided the background music to whatever else was arranged that evening.
Dassew mangoes used to be quite cheap. a dheri would cost just about two or three rupees. and it consisted of 33 mangoes. the top layers used to be of big ones. below them were often the smaller ones. typical of merchants who make millions in the sabji mandits of india!!
As the programmes ended, the village biradari insisted that before leaving for lucknow, we must have our dinner with the village gentry. That was not on our schedule.We had to return to lucknow.And it was getting pretty late. Along with my colleagues I tried to take leave from the village people. “nothing doing,” said their hwadmen an elderlt muslim gentlemen in typical lucknavi dress, “no one comes to malihabad as our guest and goes back from here without takinghis dinner with us. We have arranged the dinner and all those who matter in the village are going to attend it”.
Feeling embarrassed getting late I tried my level best to get leave of the people of malihabad.I failed in my efforts. The dinner was sumptuous.
“This has been the tradition of malihabad from the days of our abba-o-ajdad,” said the gracious gentlemen sitting next to me, ” that anyone who comes here must take dinner with us. Even jawaharlalnehru couldn’t say no to us when he came to malihabad on one of his tiurs during the freedom struggle”.
At the end of the dinner, as our party was leaving for lucknow , the headmen came out with another gem of generosity.”Please, for my sake,”pleaded he, ” for the sake of the people of malihabad, take these baskets of mangoes with you. These are special. The trees that have yieled them were planted here by jawaharlal and rafi sahab. They planted them a long time back with their own hands. And we have taken special care to see that nothing happens to those trees. Their mangoes are as sweet as mangoes from other trees in malihabad. But the trees from which these have come are special to us”,
We had to accept those baskets as gifts. the sentiments behind them were typical of the people of malihabad. The sentiments behind them were typical of all that is best in the culture of malihabad, and the culture of india.
Mangoes were never that sweet.



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