Mango mazaa from Mazagon

As a May summer is always the perfect season and reason to make us mango-mad, here’s a deliciously different take on everyone’s favourite fruit. It came to me while interviewing Captain Ramesh Babu, the marine engineer authoring My Own Mazagon: The History of a Little Island in the Bombay Archipelago.   

Having served the Indian Navy – as chief engineer of INS Mumbai and first Captain Superintendent of the ship repair yard at Karwar – and Mazagon Dock for twenty-five years, he has documented evolutionary centuries of this harbour hub. Useful maps and sketches in his work rivetingly resurrect the forgotten mid-town district. Once inhabited largely by Kolis, Bhandaris and Agris, it remained of great significance under the Portuguese, earning them the highest revenue from among all the islands of Bombay. Falling to the Brits, Mazagon retained its geographical identity and importance two centuries further, with the dock, fort, churches and even a gunpowder factory. Like other islands, it too eventually merged with the Bombay mainland.

Recreation by Rizma Feros of William Hooker’s painting, The Mazagon Mango of Bombay with the Papilio Bolina or Purple-eyed Butterfly

I asked Ramesh Babu to comment on this line from his book: “The Mazagon mango, the reigning emperor of Indian fruits, was the fleshiest and sweetest, serving the palate of Mughal royals including Shah Jehan.”

Here is his response – “I chanced upon the Mazagon mango while editing a coffee table book for Mazagon Dock. I only mentioned it, as that was mainly about the history of ships built there. But the mango lingered in my mind. Though I found a tree flowering twice yearly, its fruits were no match to the majestic mango that had tickled the taste buds of Mughal emperors and British governors. My search continued revealing more Mazagon structures and stories, though the mango itself stayed elusive. That stirred me to crave more knowledge about the island. Over the years, I gathered enough material on it. So, in a way, the Mazagon mango inspired me to write this book.” 

Just the way that it inspires us to fall into a cool state of bliss on biting into this succulent fruit to beat the relentless heat with. 


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