As I sit at my desk this evening, in the dark save for two of Dr Godakumbura’s safety lamps, (those that don’t topple and cause a fire) writing this entry, I would like the reader to try andvisualize the trouble we go through to get good produce to our customers.
Sudath who is my man Friday in Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda and I went as I woke up this morning at dawn before even washing my face, to a neighbor across the river. We had to get his permission, before he left to tend to his fields, to pluck the balance of his Karthakolomban Mango. These were the Mangos the itinerant pluckers left behind as they were hard for them to reach. The owner of the trees, a small farmer who was short of cash was happy to accept some thousand rupee notes from a opportunist mango plucking team, even though the Mango was not mature. I had earlier reserved the tree for when the fruit was ‘pahila’ to pluck. The allure of money now was greater to him than later upon being mature, even though I had helped him in the past and also let him use some land this season free of charge to grow his green chillies.
The unsuspecting customer purchases the mango at an exorbitant price. They have been sprayed with carbide to ripen, and so he is disappointed with the taste, all because both the tree owner and the plucker want to make a quick buck. If they were on the tree till mature, (it is impossible to leave them till they ripen on the tree as the monkey, bat, and rock squirrel get there first) they would taste a whole lot better, and in these parts almost sickly sweet, something a Mango connoisseur would delight in. I forgot to mention, the unscrupulous middle-men pluckers, often also sell the fruit that falls, which spoil on ripening.
Sudath climbed the tree, some fifty ft in height. It is dangerous work having to stretch his arm with the plucking rod that has a pocket into which the mango falls, and is retrieved and fed into a sack that is carefully let down. I then take over and extract the fruit without damage. We then wash them thoroughly as the white milk if not washed, will result in the mango spoiling. When plucking some fruit fall to the ground damaged. One350g fruit fell about 40ft right onto my shoulder, which is sore as I write. I have the offending fruit as a souvenir and hope it ripens without spoiling (thanks to my shoulder) so I can eat it.
Just a moment after it hit me, a friend from back yonder, who lived on the same street in London’s Chelsea, around the time we both qualified as chartered accountants in the UK, called me saying he was at the CIC farm a couple of km away and would like to meet up. He and his wife, came here and saw what it was that made me give up all that and come here. There is something money just can’t buy, something magical, and we have it in abundance in this country. One just has to spend a little time searching for it.
All I could offer them today apart from mango was fresh juice from my orange trees, without sugar, and they were amazed at its taste, when compared with the orange imports that cost 5 times what I struggle to find a buyer for these. They are the traditional oranges growing wild for as long as people here can remember and are not the ‘Bibile Pani Dodang’ , which cost a lot more. The lack of sourness is due to the dry climate.