Consider the MangoAn ode to the world’s sweetest fruit.

Consider the MangoAn ode to the world’s sweetest fruit.

  • Words Debika Ray
  • Photograph Helen Koker

In 1968, during the early days of the Cultural Revolution in China, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Mian Arshad Hussain, presented Mao Zedong with a crate of mangoes. At a moment of grave instability in his country, Mao sent them on to the factory workers he had deployed the previous week to intervene in a bloody clash between students at Tsinghua University. The move suggested he was bestowing the gift of long life onto the recipients, thus elevating the unfamiliar fruit to quasi-holy status. 

Over the next year, the recipients bowed to and caressed them, preserved them in formaldehyde or wax, or boiled them to create a sweet sauce to sip one teaspoon at a time. A poem published in People’s Daily read: “Seeing that golden mango/ Was as if seeing the great leader Chairman Mao.”...

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