The king of fruits is back and so is the reason to give gifts. An “aam ki paitti” makes the best-gift category in the circles of landlords, politicians, elected representatives, members of civil society organisations, diplomats and bureaucrats. The practice has been going on for years and the people feel proud to either receive a carton of mangoes or send them as presents.
“We send around 25,000 to 30,000 cartons as gift to different people including politicians, former presidents and prime ministers, provincial and federal ministers, diplomats as well as kings and queens of different countries,” said Faisal Kachhelo, whose family is one of the largest mango growers in Sindh.
The Kachhelo family is considered the pioneers of commercial mango farming and exporting the fruit to Europe and the Middle East. Rafi Kachhelo, the father of Faisal, had also received a “King of Mangoes” award from Queen Elizabeth during an exhibition in London in 1970s.
“Since the 70s, we have been not only sending mangoes to Queen Elizabeth, but to the kings of all Middle Eastern countries as well,” Faisal said.
The mango expert told The Express Tribune that the list of people is updated by the orchard employees before dispatching the packages to the people in summers. “This practice has been followed since the 1950s when my grandfather started mango farming,” he said.
Faisal said that mangoes were also sent at the marriage of Prince Charles and Princes of Wales Diana, and the queen responded by writing a letter of thanks.
Districts of Tando Allahyar, Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan, Umerkot, Naushehroferoze, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Matiari, Khairpur Mirs and Sukkur are famous for mango production. Among the political heavyweights, who either grow mangoes or are famous for giving gifts, are the Jatois of Naushehroferoze, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) chief Pir Pagara, former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Khuhro, Sindh United Party’s Jalal Mehmood Shah, PML-F leader Jam Madad Ali and Imtiaz Shaikh, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Haleem Adil Shaikh and Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) MNA Nawab Yousuf Talpur and federal minister Naveed Qamar.
However, progressive mango grower Mir Amanullah Talpur says that the trend of mango gift giving is now being used to get political mileage. “You can say there is politics on mangoes or mango diplomacy,” he said.
The politicians even send mangoes to their rivals, irrespective of their political differences. PPP, PML-Q and PML-Nawaz leaders use derogatory terms for each other, but when the mango season arrives, the same people send mangoes to each other. “Earlier, the landlords having mango farms used to send their varieties as gift to other growers, but now it is being used for political coverage,” he said. “Some influential land lords even purchase the fruit from the market to send them as gifts.”
The Sindhri, Fajri, Chaunsa, Langra, Sonaro and Saroli varieties of mango are the commonest in Sindh. Sindhri is by far the most famous and is in high demand in the international market too.
Agriculture experts say the Sindhri variety was introduced in Sindh by then prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, during General Zia’s tenure. Junejo being a grower himself had brought some mango varieties from Bombay, India and cultivated them in his village named Sindhri in the Tharparkar district.
But Talpur has another story to tell. He said that the variety was brought up in 1950s by Haji Samand Kachhelo, the pioneer of Kachhelo farms, and his guardian named the mango after his daughter named Sundri, which eventually came to be known as Sindhri.
“I have been getting a carton of mangoes as gift from Jatoi family since Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was the Sindh chief minister during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,” says senior journalist Muhammad Jami. He added that he had shifted residences many times, but the Jatoi people trace down his address and always send a 10-kg mango carton.
Due to heavy monsoon rains and flooding, the production of mangoes has drastically reduced, but the practice of giving mangoes as gift is still going strong, Sindh Abadgar Board’s Mohammad Nawaz Shah said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.
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