corner corner Climbing the Mango Trees. A Memoir of a Childhood in India


Climbing the Mango Trees. A Memoir of a Childhood in India
by Madhur Jaffrey | Biographies & Memoirs
Registered by wingApoloniaXwing of Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin Germany on 9/4/2014
Average 8 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by em64): available

4 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by wingApoloniaXwing from Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin Germany on Thursday, September 04, 2014

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Madhur Jaffrey CBE (Hindi: मधुर जाफ़री madhur jāfrī; born 13 August 1933) is an Indian actress, active in radio, theatre, television and film as well as a food writer, authoring numerous cookbooks and television chef and entrepreneur who, alongside acclaimed performances in such films as Shakespeare Wallah, Six Degrees of Separation and Heat and Dust, introduced the Western world to the many cuisines of India.

Comes with delicious Indian recipes! Green chutney! 

Journal Entry 2 by wingApoloniaXwing at Bremen, Bremen Germany on Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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Released 3 yrs ago (9/10/2014 UTC) at Bremen, Bremen Germany


Wishlist tag travelling to kirjakko, along with some toy and poop bags.

This cat didn't quite know what to do with these weights.
Your dog might be strong enough.... 

Journal Entry 3 by wingkirjakkowing at Sipoo, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Friday, September 12, 2014

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Gosh, you are quick, ApoloniaX. After tagging I need to find the book, register it, find an envelope, find some goodies, find time to go to post office... And your book is already here! Perfect timing, because I was asked to stay overnight at my friend's and I was afraid there would not be anything to read there.
Manne is holding office at work, so have not tried her new weights yet. I don't have a digi-camera, but hopefully my friend has one. Will try to catch Manne excercising.
I don't know if you want a poop-collecting photo - well, you probably do, as you organize poop-bag RABCKs as well.
Thank you for this package of Friday Sunshine, this is a great way to begin a weekend. 

Journal Entry 4 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Friday, September 12, 2014

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First expression: My mouth is burning and stinging when reading this. Salt, pepper, red chillies and roasted cumin with sliced mango! 

Journal Entry 5 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, September 14, 2014

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This culture is so far away from ours and Madhur's stories read like a fairy-tale. Not a fairy-tale I would have wanted to live in, but something very exotic. And I'm not talking only about the various foods and spicies she mentiones. The last book I tried to read about India was a travel book by Dervla Murphy and it described what meets the eye on the streets - like those Hindus who live in the rudiments of huts and quite openly pee and poo nearby, using a can of water - if they are lucky - and their left hand afterwards. And stray dogs who wait around for the goodies that are been produced. So I kind of understood that Madhur's family was rather wealthy, when the kids had their own driver to lay them a table with fine cutlery and bring them warm food from home to their lunch break at school. I was a finicky eater as a kid and didn't like school food, but I only had sandwiches and fruits as packed lunch - perhaps Mom didn't love me?
I'm not a person who likes to keep close contact with family, not even my immidiate family, so living in the same house and tight neigbourhood with several generations and cousins once and twice removed who all could drop by without prior warning sounds like a nightmare. But as Madhur tells, it had its downsides and her parents were happiest living in Kanpur and only visiting the family basecamp in Delhi.
I've met and discussed with two Indians in Britain. The first one was a 22-year-old girl keeping her uncle's B&B in Birmingham. Her family (incuding cousins and great aunts) lived in some other big city in the UK, but as her uncle had bought a B&B in Birmingham and noticed that when it was run by an outsider, some of the profits dissappeared, a niece was picked up to superwise the venture. She didn't do the cooking or the cleaning as she was one of the owner's family, so she said they might have to sell the business as it was not very profitable. One evening I was sitting with a friend of mine in the breakfast room eating our take-away supper when she came in and asked if she could join us. She was obviously rather lonely. And very curious. She wanted to know if we had husbands and family (nope, two old spinsters) and told that she was a bit worried that she was not married yet at such ripe age. She didn't know anybody in Birmingham and all the same, it would be her parents' business to find her a husband. She trusted them completely in this matter, as being older and wiser, they would definately choose better than she herself. But what if you fell in love with somebody else? A Brit perhaps? Oh no, she would never cause such a shame to her family and marry a non-Indian. They would never hear the end of it, if she did something that outragious. It's better to take the one they chose for her. And close-knit family ties are good, if there should arise a problem with her future husband and herself, she just has to say a word to her Mom who will take it up with his Mom and then it will be solved. And this was a girl who had been born and schooled in Britain.
The other Indian was a very talkative cab-driver. He had been born in India, to a wealthy family. He was put in an international school were they were taught in English. He loved Hollywood films and idolized the Western World. When he was 14 years, they class made a trip to Germany. He, together with three other classmates, decided they would stay behind. They went into hiding in the city (I've forgotten which one it was) when it was time to return and all the teachers could do after a search was return with the rest of the kids. I said that if you didn't think what your parents felt, didn't you feel pity on those teachers who had to go back minus four kids? They were surely fired. Well, it was all a big adventure. When they were sure the others had left they went to the authorities and said they wanted to live in Germany. What amazed me was that they weren't returner (they were minors after all), but they were put to live in a Youth Hostel paid by the state and shown a school they should go to. After two weeks they called their parents, told that everything was ok and that they won't be coming back. Their parents travelled to Germany, but they went into hiding again, so they had to return empty-handed. At least they knew they were alive.
The boys fitted in to the German system well and were supported by the state until they were 18 when they bagan to work. They got friends at school and found job easily. He had put up several companies, an Indian restaurant and two import companies bringing textiles and kitchenware + spicies from India. Some years went by and he was happy, but then he thought he'd like to have a family of his own. And this is where it becomes interesting - he went back to India, to his family for the first time since he run away, and said he wanted his parents to find him a wife.
To be continued... 

Journal Entry 6 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, September 14, 2014

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His parents were overjoyed by his return and his home-coming party lasted several days. Then they started looking for a wife for him and found one rather soon. They were married and he took his Indian wife to Germany! This is the part that amazed me the most, after the fact that the boys weren't sent back home, if he thought the Western World was so great and had left his parents the way he did - howcome he thought that they should find him a wife?? Well, they were still together, so obviously the parents did something right.
I can't remember was it the fear that business would go down when Germany switched into euros or did he actually experience it, but our taxi-driver decided to move to a country which had held onto its old currency. He had lived in Britain a few years and said he misses Germany. The Brits aren't easy to get to know (well, he was still at school when he moved to Germany, getting to know people is easier for kids), he couldn't put up businesses like he did in Germany, he has to support his family driving a taxi which he thinks is below him, but it will be just a temporary arrangement. He hates the Indians living in Britain, as they do not even try to adjust to the system. The place where they all move in London is called Little India and people do not even try to learn English. They might have lived here for decades and are still unable to speak the language. He felt that because of them the Brits thought he also would be just one of the mass speaking pidgin English if any.
Interesting people, odd culture.
Back to the book, I never thought that dried cow dung could be used for heating, but they actually used it like we use wood. I wonder how it is stored, do they have poop-sheds like we have woodsheds? And those huge black garbage bags (150 l) are probably just Indian cow-poop bags.
The story about the little boy getting rabies was awful. I have been to a lecture where a human doctor told about zoonoses he has seen in his practice at the University Hospital. He was pretty tuff, describing the gory details of an alcoholic getting the dreaded dog-bite bacteria (the name escapes me now) which leads to necrosis of limbs, ears and nose in no time and very often results of death, but as he realized what it was in the nick of time, the poor man now lives without hands or legs, earlobes or nose and can't even hit the bottle anymore, as he hasn't got the hands to do it! He told several hair raising stories of this and that illness without even blinking an eye, but when he got to rabies, his style changed. It had been a year before that a Malesian sailor was brought in to the hospital, his ship being in Helsinki. He had odd neurological symptoms and pains and he had been bitten by a dog in some godforsaken harbour on-route several months ago. He was diagnosed with rabies and was put into isolation. Everybody knew what the end result would be, he could not be sent home and he had such pains that no painkiller worked. He should have been knocked unconscious, but that can be done only in the intensive care and he was in isolation, so according to hospital protocol, no can do. The doc had difficulties telling the story, his voice broke several times, he had to turn his back on us a few times and he said that he had never seen anything so utterly horrible in his career than what this man had to go through and every single person who took care of him should have had crise-councelling afterwards. I asked if euthanasia really is out of the question with a patient like that and he said that that was closest he had ever come to take the forbidden step.
Uncle Shibbudada was one mean bastard. It was a pity that he lost the love of his life (he didn't believe in horoscopes), but why not call the wedding off or cancel his vowes or whatever if he decides to hate the woman whose face is revealed to him for the first time only when he lifts up the wedding veil. Not only did he hate his wife, who miraculously gave him four children, but he acted as his children were air and pampered children of other relatives.
Our granny lived with us for seven years and Mom told me that the main reason she wanted her out was because she was so biassed. She bought candy to my brothers and when they lined up to receive it she left one out (always the same) saying: "Now how did I forget to buy you anything?" She would have done well in India, but here a daughter-in-law kicked her out.
Yes, the writer said that she didn't think any family was smaller than 30 people, but a kind of miracle was that those thirty were fitted in just two cars when they went picnicing. Three layers of small wives and slim children in the back...
The household was also an odd mixture of British and Muslim cultures thrown in with Hindu religion. And as Madhur went to a Catholic school, she was to stay mum about the on-goings at home.
I've still 90 pages to go before the recipies begin and the book is written in a way that you want to read more. I've never been into cooking, so I'll probably skip the recipes. Besides the spices she mentiones - those that I recognize - make my tongue sting when reading.

Journal Entry 7 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Thursday, September 18, 2014

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All idyllic childhoods end sometimes, but the spell was broken when Brits left the country and India was devided according to religion. Oh, those blasted -isms, little good have they done to anyone. It was depressing to read about the change of attitudes between previous friends and of course the killing was insanity.
I remembered flashes of the Gandhi film when she told about him, didn't remember salt and clothes had been issues with the Brits.
The writer had managed to create a very accurate picture of a world that does not exist anymore. A really enjoyable read. 

Journal Entry 8 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Saturday, December 13, 2014

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Released 3 yrs ago (12/14/2014 UTC) at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland


Merry Christmas, Annimanni! I hope you'll enjoy the story as much as I did. 

Journal Entry 9 by wingAnnimanniwing at Espoo, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Monday, December 29, 2014

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What a lovely Christmas surprise! Thanks very much, kirjakko! And hello, ApoloniaX :) 

Journal Entry 10 by wingAnnimanniwing at Espoo, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Friday, January 08, 2016

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This was an engaging and evocative read and, being quite a fan of Indian cuisine myself, I particularly enjoyed the way Jaffrey managed to bring the taste sensations alive. Her descriptions of family and school life were interesting, too, and I learned a great many things I didn't know before, even though I have read dozens of books set in India.

Next off to em64. 

Journal Entry 11 by em64 at Tampere, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Tuesday, March 08, 2016

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Got the book at the local meetup tonight. Thank you, Annimanni for sharing ja lukutuoli for acting as courier, much appreciated. 

Journal Entry 12 by em64 at Tampere, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Thursday, April 07, 2016

8 out of 10

An entertaining and interesting read which I enjoyed a lot. I grew up in a household of three generations on a farm but sharing a household of grandparents, parents and children, cousins, aunts and uncles is something quite different. I couldn't help wondering how the patriarch of a family is chosen: the author's grandfather was the head of the family who governed his children and grandchildren with an iron fist. I suppose when the head dies, the children can finally move out and found their own empire. A couple of weeks before reading this I happened to read a fact book about India getting independent and divided so it was actually very interesting to read about the same time from another perspective. Madhur's family was quite a mixture; they were Hindus but had also Muslim influence and the girls attended a Catholic school. Jaffrey is also known as a cook book author so it was interesting to read that she didn't know how to cook Indian food until she moved to the UK and her mother taught her by letters. 

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