Saturday, July 5, 2008

Anarkali joins orchard of wonders

Padmashri Haji Kaleemullah Khan

Shailvee Sharda, The Times of India, Lucknow, June 29, 2008

Malihabad: It is called Anarkali although has no relationship with either pomegranate or bud. Instead, this variation comes staright from the heart of Padma Shri Haji Kaleem Ullah, father of mango grafting. Anarkali is the latest addition to his collection of ‘unique’mangoes.

“It appears to be a rare of the rarest specie. It is a connoisseur’s delight who swear-in to serve a perfect blend of aroma, taste and appetising sight.
Anarkali has all the three traits,” said the man who took to mango grafting way back in 1957.

Anarkali has a double skin. Haji saaheb peeled off the first green layer finely with a Chinese knife. “Orange is the colour of the first layer,” he said.
He then showed the mango to a group of anxious admirers at his orchard in the heart of Malihabad.

Dilated pupils wondered ‘what is so special about the mango’. But before anyone could give words to the doubt, he made a deeper stroke in the mango and exposed its second yellow coloured skin.

“The show does not end here,” said the man. He carefully sliced a piece from the mango and showed the deep yellow and rusty orange pulp.

What makes Anarkali ‘doubly’ interesting is its taste. “It tastes like a Chausa,” said a visitor after trying the first bite. But minutes later, she took the second slice and corrected herself. “I think it is a luscious combination of chausa and Lakhnavi dashahri,” she said.
Sharing the secret, Haji Saaheb said, “Anarkali comes from the flowers of two distinct varieties of mangoes were cross bred.”

He believes that Anarkali would surely find admirers in Americas and Europe because it is less sweeter than other mangoes.

“But before going off-shores, it will pose a threat to Dashahri,” he predicted. He, however, said it would take about 3-4 years for the commercial production of Anarkali to start.

Mango Khan peels his heart for Anarkali, Ash

Padmashri Haji Kaleemullah Khan

Avijit Ghosh, The Times of India, Lucknow, July 5, 2008

Like a poet describes his sweetheart, Kaleemullah Khan talks about mangoes. He gushes about Anarkali, a twincoloured variety with a twincoloured pulp whose subtle flavour stays even after the hands have been washed. He explains why he named one his mangoes, Aishwarya. And he talks endlessly about his love affair with Al Muqarrar, the tree that has yielded over 300 varieties turning him into a mango-grafting legend and a Padmashri winner.

‘‘Growing mango isn’t just a profession. It is a work of art and a labour of love where the aashique and the mashook (the lover and the beloved) blend into one,’’ says Khan, who has been grafting the king of fruits in Malihabad, the famous mango-growing area in Lucknow district, for over five decades now and who was in the Capital during the inauguration of the 20th Mango Festival (July 4-6) on Thursday. Grafting is a method through which new varieties of a fruit are created.

Books never enthused Khan. After he got zero in English in Class VII, the fourth in a line of 11 siblings abandoned school altogether. Growing mangoes is his family profession for the past 300 years. At a young age, he began visiting his father’s nursery where he fell in love with the fruit. ‘‘I always wanted to improve a mango; its looks, its taste,’’ he says. Then one day, he heard a friend talk about a rose plant that grew flowers of several colours. That got him interested in the art of grafting. He was 17 when he produced seven varieties of mango in a single tree. When the tree died in 1960, Khan was heartbroken.

For the next two decades, Khan remained a mango grower working with his brothers in the orchard spread over 22 acres. But his major leap in the world of grafting came only in 1987 when he pruned an 85-year-old tree and recast it as Al Muqarrar. The tree yields over 300 varieties of mango and got his name into the Limca Book of Records. No surprise, former President K R Narayanan once called him, ‘‘a scientist without an official degree.’’ One of his trees is also planted in the Mughal Gardens.

Khan, now 68, says, ‘‘That’s my biological age, otherwise I am almost 22.’’ He has also named several varieties that he has created. ‘‘Three of them, Nayantara, Jahanara and Anarkali were christened by UP Governor T V Rajeshwar,’’ he says. Then there’s Aishwarya. And Arshi Pasand, the latter named after his daughter who won an award for polishing off three kg of mango in three minutes last year.

A couple of years back, Khan saw that one of his photographs had Aishwarya Rai’s snapshot hanging in the background. ‘‘I wondered why. May be this was a signal from someone above to name a mango honouring someone who brought glory to the country. That’s why I called it Aishwarya,’’ he says.