Indians have a habit of talking to strangers on long train journeys and by the end of it, often have exchanged names, numbers and life stories. For a Madhya Pradesh mango farmer, talking to a stranger on a train has now turned into a booming business endeavour. Currently, in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur, security cover to politicians and celebrities has become passe, as similar safety cover is now being extended to mangoes. ‘Taiyo No Tamago’, a special Japanese variety of mango which is grown under controlled environment in Japan and is considered among the costliest mangoes, is grown at a private farmhouse at Chargawan road in Jabalpur. Both the fruit and the security cover have been drawing eyeballs. Over half a dozen security guards accompanied by specially trained dogs keep an eye on the farmhouse 24×7. Locals claim that these fruits at times sell up to Rs one lakh apiece and are delightful in taste. When fully grown, fruits of this variety could grow up to 900g.
But the now-guarded farm started from an ‘accidental’ origin. According to VICE, the owner of the farm, Sankalp Singh Parihar had travelled to Chennai four years ago, in search of hybrid coconut seeds. On the train journey, he struck up a conversation with a man seated opposite him, who on learning that Parihar was a farmer, offered to sell him a special mango sapling for Rs 2,500 ($33). Parihar, taking a random chance, decided to buy it.
“I did not know what the mango breed was but I named it Damini after my mother and planted it," Parihar told VICE. “I grew it [the sapling] like an ordinary mango plant, but a few months later, saw that it had developed a beautiful red colour."
Starting with handful of saplings, the farm now boasts of mangoes of 14 hybrid variety including ‘Mallika’ which remains a large fruit and is considered costliest among Indian mangoes. Traders from Mumbai have placed their bets for buying mangoes at Rs 21,000 per piece, however, the farmhouse owner has declined to sell these fruits. The horticulturist is planning to create an orchard of around 500 trees of this Japanese variety.
In Japan, the fruit is also called ‘Egg of the Sun’ as it exhibits yellow and reddish colour when fully ripe. Sankalp Singh Parihar, a local resident has grown these fruits at his farmhouse. However, the special taste and the value these fruits carry, led to theft of several pieces last year which prompted the family to arrange security for their special trees this year.