Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Solitary Mango

When we were growing up in India, there was a mango tree in our backyard that produced one single mango per year. I have no idea how or why it did this, it just did. Around March or April, it would be nearly covered in white flowers, and it would seem like at least some of them would make the obligatory transformation into fruit. And yet, in a matter of weeks, all the flowers would disappear and by the summer, there would be just the one mango dangling bravely from a little branch somewhere. While most people would be disappointed with this dismal output from an otherwise normal-looking tree, we knew better. Experience had taught us that the single mango would be the sweetest, juiciest mango any of us had ever tasted. (Even now, all these years later, I can recreate the taste in my head).

So, from the moment the tiny fruit was first spotted, it became an annual tradition to tend to it. This involved making extra sure the tree was watered regularly, and - once it was a certain size - covering our little mango with clear plastic to make sure it was protected from birds. Finally, after watching it grow to about the size of a (small) baby's head, and turn from green to a sort of yellowish-red, we would pluck it. It was always a special moment, holding the fruit of that tree's labour, knowing it was going to be full of A-grade mangoness. And it was. Together, we savoured the flavour of that solitary mango, and waited until the following year.

What I learned from that mango tree was this- if being prolific is not your style, being a perfectionist definitely should be. Also, if people recognise what you produce is good - however small or limited it may be - they will usually help make it great.

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