I spent part of 2010 prancing about India in search of moneylenders for a research project. Or that is what I was supposed to be doing. Looking back, I spent most of my time crafting umbrella hats to protect me from monsoons and eating mangoes. I don’t regret it. The monsoons were fierce and the mangoes delicious. The mangoes were so delicious, in fact, that a couple of days before I was set to come home to Canada, I started having mango-induced panic attacks. Let me explain.
While in Kolkata, I would eat a mango (read: 8 mangoes) every day for breakfast. A nice old man sold them near the place I was staying at and charged me 8x their worth because as soon as I smelled their deliciousness, I wanted to smash my face into all of them and would pay almost anything to get my hands on one. They are that good. I really can’t properly explain how amazing these mangoes are. They taste a bit like a mixture of everything that is good in the world topped with sprinkles of Bill Cosby sweaters and joy.
NOTE: I did pick up a blood parasite whilst trampling through rice fields and was heavily medicated for most of my trip. This may have influenced my perception of mango quality.
Regardless of said disease, I loved those mangoes deeply. As my departure date approached, they were all I could think about. I couldn’t stand the thought of parting with them. Luckily I had a brilliant idea. Since all of my clothes smelled like sweat and curry, I decided to leave them in India and fill my suitcase with mangoes. The morning that I was supposed to leave, I went to the mango cart and bought several dozen mangoes. In fact, I bought so many mangoes that the seller had to wheel his cart over to my flat and wait as I carried bag after bag to my room. I put all of my mangoes in my suitcase and cleverly covered them with a couple of old shirts.
It was the perfect plan.
Fast forward 18 hours to when I arrive in Vancouver. I felt a twang of guilt as I claimed on my immigration card to be bringing no fruits or vegetables back to Canada. I knew I was risking the health of Canadian agriculture by bringing back exotic fruits, but love is a funny thing. My desire to be close to my mangoes overpowered any sensibility I had. Arriving at the airport, I bought a dozen roses and anxiously awaited my luggage’s arrival at the carousel (yes, the roses were for the mangoes). I watched as bag after bag passed me by, falling into the loving arms of their rightful owners. Like any parasite-infused mango addict, I started to get the sweats when my luggage didn’t appear.
Then I heard my name on the loudspeaker. I walked over to the luggage claim desk and they directed me toward a room where my luggage was apparently waiting for me. Drool dripping down my chin, I entered the room.
It was a trap.
Two security men stood there with my luggage open.
“Is this yours?” a bald, bulky character asked.
I hesitated. If I say it’s mine, they’ll know I smuggled mangoes. If I say it’s not mine, they’ll probably still know it’s mine because of the luggage tag.
But maybe they can’t read.
“Yyyeennnoooommaayyennnooyyeeeee” I stammered, hoping to get a sense of what to say based on baldy’s facial reaction.
“Ok. We know it’s yours. Why is it filled with mangoes?”
I gave the only explanation I could.
“You know when you mix everything that is good in the world with Bill Cosby’s sweaters? It’s like that.”
Baldy did not understand. In fact, he looked angry. All the while, his lankier counterpart was busting a gut on the floor.
“Look. You can’t bring produce back to Canada from overseas.”
“I see,” I replied, reaching for the bag, “point taken.” But baldy intervened.
“We’re going to have to dispose of these. And there is a fine for trying to bring mangoes back into Canada.”
He actually went into a much longer speech and I think I may have been arrested at some point, but I didn’t hear any of it. I just stood there, shell shocked. How could they take away the most important thing in my life? Don’t they understand? Everything that is good mixed with Cosby sweaters!! Everything that is good!
After crying for 20 minutes straight and being fingerprinted and photographed, I left the airport with my empty, mango-juice-soaked luggage in hand. I spent the remainder of the day licking out the inside of my suitcase and writing haikus about mangoes past.
And Stuart, I’ll never forget that fateful day when I both had my heart broken and made it onto Canada’s Luggage Watch List.