mango painting copy
The Pickle Factory
by Pragya Bajpai

My grandfather owned a pickle factory
During my vacation, he took me along
That was his way of explaining the tough world

When I was six, he drove me through a trail of orchards
on the first morning of that winter to a village known for
great mango farming not far from the city
I played there by the riverside with the farmer aunty
She gifted me a pair of earrings and a bag of mangoes for my siblings
In the meantime, my grandfather made a deal
after an hour-long negotiation
then the truck was loaded with caution

He took me around the factory
Where the hall was full of huge oil drums lined up neatly
The spices were properly stacked in shelves
where the village men and women
were intently chopping raw mangoes for pickle
with the handmade iron cutter with wooden base
It wasn’t easy but he made me cut the smallest one carefully
to feel the labour involved in it
I was tired but my thrill remained intact
It was more exciting than going back
to doing mathematical calculations

PAINTING: Mango (watercolor) by Yevhen Verlen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My grandfather, an Ayurvedic expert, established a pickle factory sometime during 1970s. The factory was located in the outskirts of the city around sprawling agricultural land. My grandfather’s pickle recipe was a revolution in taste. Mango pickle is an important condiment in Indian cuisine with plenty of health benefits, and my grandfather’s product became popular and in high demand. Produced with a high level of hygiene, the product earned government certification. Pickles were made with mustard oil and spices before they were put aside for fermentation. The pickling involved various steps in the production process that required huge manpower; but, as the company progressed, high technology machines were procured to speed production. The aroma of raw mangoes and spices filled the factory so much that one could detect it from a distance. Visiting a factory, knowing the process, and understanding the whole business from the grassroots level have been a great learning experience since childhood, the memory of which keeps me grounded.

Bajpai copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pragya Bajpai, Ph.D., is a mother and a Central Government Officer serving on the faculty of English at the National Defence Academy. She is a post graduate from Lucknow University and holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Banaras Hindu University, India. Pragya published her debut book in 2021 titled A Potpourri of Proverbs, poems based on 51 English proverbs. She has co-edited four anthologies celebrating the armed forces. Her poetry has appeared in many anthologies and magazines.