under the fire star is two years old today. I haven't been giving it much care and feeding lately, but it seems to be a survivor.

Three days ago we ate our first mango of the season, an undistinguished specimen which Mary bought from the fruit lady who pushes her cart past our gate every day. Yesterday I went out and bought a box of Alphonse mangoes from Maharashtra, the ultimate in mango-ness as far as this household is concerned. They're not ripe yet, but they're resting in the dark, wrapped in wood shavings, and it should be any day now.

My pattern is to gorge myself at the beginning of mango season -- mangoes in the morning, mangoes mangoes in the evening, mangoes at suppertime. After a week or so, my digestive system rebels and I can hardly look at a mango for a couple of weeks. Then, just when the season is winding down, I get panicky and feel that I've missed my chance to eat mangoes for another whole year, and I begin again. So I'm looking forward to all that.

Yesterday, the two shallow fish ponds in the atrium of our house were being cleaned, and Lakshmi called me to come and look. Chinnaraj was scooping out handfuls of black grit. Lakshmi said they were poochies, which means insects, but when I looked closely I saw that they were tiny spiralled/conical snail shells. There were thousands of them, moving sluggishly, making faint noises of foot over shell which Mary described as mulla-mulla-mulla. We drained all the water out, transferred our mud-coloured fish to the well, and left the ponds to dry out. I did some hasty Internet research, which mainly turned up aquarium snails. One site said that clarifying agents could control snails, so I sent Chinnaraj to the chemist for alum. Once in the past, when someone came around offering to clean out the well, he tied alum in a piece of cloth and threw it in to clarify the water. So let's see. In the night as we sat in the drawing-room, which opens into the atrium, we imagined an army of snails on the move out there: mulla-mulla-mulla.

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