We’re eating mangoes from our own tree for the first time – langras, from Calcutta. They’re small, and have a slightly chemical under-tang, but they are very sweet. They are kept in a cardboard box in the kitchen, layered with newspapers. A clearly defined band of air around them is filled with their fragrance. Whenever I walk through that band, preoccupied with something or the other, I come to with a jerk, think “Oh! Mangoes!” and go on.
Agni Nakshetram, traditionally the hottest period of the year, began last week. Luckily for us it was raining, so that it hasn’t been as bad as on some previous years. Someone told me that if the weather is good on the first day of Agni Nakshetram, it will be good throughout the year. Okay, I’m ready to believe in that! (My entry on Agni Nakshetram from last year.)
I have missed many birthdays in the last couple of weeks:
In the last week of April, the birthdays of Ramanuja and Shankaracharya, among the greatest Indian philosophers were celebrated, one day apart.
May 2 was id-e-milad-un-nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
May 3 was Narasimha Jayanti, the birthday of the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu
May 4 was Buddha Poornima, the birthday of Gautama Buddha (my post from last year)
And finally, today is election day in Tamil Nadu, a holiday. The staff have already voted – Mary and Lakshmi showed me the indelible ink mark at the base of one fingernail, which indicates that they have voted, and prevents them from voting again. I asked Mary how it was: in the past, people were urged to vote in a particular way, and even bribed for their votes. This time, she said, rifle-toting police were everywhere, and no one could approach her. She showed me how easy it was to vote with the new electronic voting machine – using the buttons on the microwave oven as a visual aid.
Electronic voting machines are being used for the first time, all over this vast country. There was a newspaper picture a couple of weeks ago – because voting has been spread out over several weeks – showing an election official, with his voting machines, climbing on the back of an elephant, to go to some remote polling station in the eastern hills. One of those perfect images, like the satellite dish being transported on a bullock cart.