4 December, 2023


Mango Wars

By Kumar David –

Prof. Kuma David

Everyone believes that the great conflict in Ceylon-Sri Lanka in modern times was ethnic, but if you peruse the comments appended to my last piece you will change your mind. Denizens of the Island are ferocious in their devotion to their favourite mango. Karutha-columban extremists slay humble Alfonso consumers with a ferocity redolent of July 1983. Fugitives from Trinco slander the glorious ambalavi as a wishy-washy gira-amba; never trust a Maoist Mango!  Maharashtra, Gujerat and Jaffna are to the mango what Bordeaux is to wine. The first syllable in mangifera indica most likely comes from the first syllable of the Tamil maamaram , maanghai or maambalam. India with 1,000 varieties cultivates 40% of the world’s crop, but China is second strenuously endeavouring to save the world from fruity imperialism.

Did you know that the Alfonso was banned in the US due to fake allegations about pests? The truth is that US mango stakeholders with operations in Latin America and US bureaucrats feared competition from India’s delectable offering. However in 2006 the US was lobbying to get Harley-Davidson motorbikes, as iconic to America as the mango is to India, imported into India and a trade deal was struck. It was cemented when President Bush, on a visit, tasted an Alphonso and beamed at Prime Minister Singh “this is a hell of a fruit!” You see the mango was to Indo-US diplomacy what ping-pong has been to Sino-American rapprochement.

The Alphonso is named after Portuguese Viceroy (1509 to 1515) Alfonso de Albuquerque who conquered Goa but far more important was his achievement in grafting mango cutttings to create a fruit suitable for serving at formal dinners. This was a century and a half before the Enlightenment usually dated 1650 to 1780. Newton (1643-1727) espied a falling apple in 1666. He was contemporaneous with Spinoza (1632-1677); the dates of death of great Enlightenmant thinkers are; Voltaire and Rousseau 1778 and Diderot 1784. Enlightenment values, crucially, are pronouncdly different from liberalismn which is identified with free market capitalism (Adam Smith 1723-1790 and David Ricardo 1772-1823) and liberal philosopy (John Stuart Mill 1806-1873). There is a parallel transition in the fruiting cosmos from the stately Alfonso to the populist karutha-columban and ambalavi, followed by the crass commercial age of apples and grapes.

It is in this fruitsalad world of interantional relations that the three powers who will decide our fate – over which we have little control – India, China and the US, are pondering what to do about our fruitcake regime. Competition among them to one side, it is in the interests of all three to unscrable this tabbouleh and avert this country’s descent into a failed-state abyss, which thankfully we have still not reached. The primary initiative has to come from the regime itself which has to work out a via media to present to the UNHRC and to the aforementioned powers as proof that it will accept its reconcilliation-accountability responsibilities and will maintain a foreign policy balance which will not discomfit any great power. If Singapore, Bangladesh and for that matter Taiwan and the Philippines can pull it off, so can we.

For this to be possible there have to be adjustments in power sharing in the regime itself. I don’t have a clue what skullduggery is going on within the Royal Rajapaksa dynasty, but now is just the right time to make visible adjustments. Forget about enacting a divisive new constitution to claw power into the grasp of the Executive; if firing military sorts already hired for top slots is infeasible at least give an undertaking that there will be no more sounding brass speaking in garbled tongues; put scientists in charge of pandemic control and win, as Biden seems to be doing; dump this squalid and reckless foreign policy team; stop manipulating the judiciary and halt assinine Presidential Commission circusus; stop pandering to extremists since this impedes a deal with the minorities. All this is doable if the executive is restructured and a multipartisan orientation is adopted. The public is persuaded that Gota failed because he is inexperienced and his inner circle is dumb; Mahinda and Basil deftly keep out of the limelight. If the government wishes to pull itself up by its bootstraps it must undertake the policy changes outlined in this para, restructure its personnel, pray much harder and offer mangoes to the deieties superintending Sri Lanka. The $64K question is whether Gota has the appetite for this healthy and fruitful menu.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    On a lighter note – Did you know that the Alfonso was banned in the US due to fake allegations about pests?
    Alfonso is still banned in the UK for the same allegations about pest.
    On a serious note – Perhaps Gota can try food diplomacy

    There are some options.
    Kottu Rotti is becoming very popular in the west
    Sri Lankan Mutton roll and maalu banis are also a mouth watering alternative.
    Can Gota spice it up for USA?

    Hoppers too is an option but Gota may be apprehensive , what if US does a My3 after a Hopper Dinner

    I heard that the Canadian Ambassador enjoyed toddy when he visited Delft Island.
    why not knock off Biden with a sweet fresh toddy …
    unfortunately The Ministry is full of Crap…and failed state is not far away

  • 6

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  • 1

    “…stop pandering to extremists since this impedes a deal with the minorities.”
    What is the deal Tamils want?
    What is the deal Muslims want?

    • 4

      “What is the deal Tamils want?
      What is the deal Muslims want?”
      Why don’t you read the article first, and pose your repetitious and asinine questions later?

  • 1

    The images of Ambalavi and Chembaattaan are inccorrect I think. The former has a defintive beak, justifying the name gira in the south. The latter has a richer colour and generally more round than other well known varieties.
    The image of KC is not quite representative of the better varieties.
    There are two Gira ambas in the south, both beaked: one is grown in Kandy and around: a dark green fruit which may develop a small patch of yellow or orange when ripe; but tastes rather like KC but a touch sharper.
    The other is the same as the Jaffna variety, but not as tasty as fruits from the North or the East. Ambalavi has less much less fibre than KC, some varieties of which can be fibrous.
    The worst insult that any respectable mango can suffer is being dumped into a fruit salad.

    • 3

      Agree that the ambalavi and chembaatan images are not perfect. But these were the best I could find on the web. Yes the karutha-columbans could sometimes be fatter.

      People are constantly insulting the mango as mentioned by SJ; maybe to teach the Tamils a lesson! Perhaps one day as the mango-wars hot-up the Tamils will make their brothers and sisters from the South sit on the duriang.

      • 1

        That is evidence that the Internet is not quite reliable.
        The Tamil claim for greatness in mango is rather hollow. Andhra will beat Tamilnadu (and SL) on any count: raw, ripe and even pickled tender mangoes.
        The Southerners have a few good varieties that have not travelled north of Vavuniya. Have you tried Malwane (famous for its rambutan and pineapple)?
        For mango suckers nothing beats Damparamba.

        • 0

          Having noted your expertise on mangoes, I do hope you are keeping your blood glucose under control. I can only admire mangoes from afar, as with young ladies.

  • 3

    “…… and avert this country’s descent into a failed-state abyss, which thankfully we have still not reached.”
    Don’t worry. NGR will putt the ball neatly, put it in the hole and remedy this shortcoming soon!

  • 4

    Prof: Kumar David.
    Dear Sir.
    You would have had a number of Amba Yaaluvo in your salad days. Karutha colomban, Ambalavi, Chembattan, Vellai Colomban etc etc but what variety did SJ belong to?

  • 2

    The Alphonso is available in the US sometimes in indian groceries but the prices are unbelievable, about 45$ a lb. but it makes no sense to pay that much as mangoes have fruit to fruit variation and you can get a very expense dud ,

    but there are many other very good mangoes here , such as manila , kent sherbet etc.

    I remember when I was working in CTC ,for their mango juice plant they selected the Alphonso as it has better juicing properties.

    Id say the average US citizen is unaware of the charms of mango , but the states with more immigrants and in the lower side there is a lot more supply and variety, California , FL etc.

  • 3

    Almost 15 months finished after Gota took power and almost 12 years after the end of war, What is happening in SRI Lanka?
    Any developments? No;
    Any improvement in rule of law? No;
    Any improvement in peace? No;
    Any improvement in reduction in corruption? No;
    They are still busy hunting for LTTE, They are busy in finding lands to erect more Buddha’s statues, They are making gazette notification to arrest political enemies, they are working for next election, they are negotiating with China to make deals to get money for land. Today they arrested five Jaffna Municipality employees wearing a dress that match to LTTE police which is also match to Colombo municipality employees dress code. They are now searching for how many Mango varieties LTTE introduced. All these days they created ISIS but now after UNHRC they recreate LTTE. I understand Dr. Laksiri is now the new advisor to find both ISIS and LTTE.
    What can I say about Sinhala people who still believe on their dramas?

  • 0

    Banana wars and oil wars of the US are all too familiar to the world. Why not mango wars? The end result of these wars of the west is the west’s most cherished product – the third world. What an achievement that was for them. They will be reaping the benefits of it for centuries to come, while we in the third world will be fighting their wars, call it whatever you want – banana wars, fruit wars, oil wars or mango wars – it all cooks down to geopolitics of imperialism and international thuggery. Nothing absolutely to do with reconciliation, accountability or human rights.

  • 0

    Have you gentlemen forgotten Welu-columban? It’s supposed to be the lighter colored counterpart of Karutha-columban.

    We grow them both back home. And Gira Amba too. All are very tasty but the tastiest for me is what we call Rata Amba in the South.

    • 1

      Does anybody call ‘Yapane amba’ (aka Rata amba) Welu-columban? (It is Vellai kolumban.) It thrives across the whole country.
      But for the colour contrast in the name there is nothing to compare or contrast with KC.
      Rata amba has sub varieties with flesh colour varying from pale yellow to orange, taste from rather insipid to sweet, but not sour at all unless unripe and texture varying in fibrousness. The sweeter fruit has thinner skin.
      Ayurvedic physicians are kinder to it than to other well known varieties.

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