Indian Summers are pathetic. Lets face it. They are torturous, painful and sweltering. From the foothills of North India to the coasts of the Malabar, The black tar roads radiate heat and the nights are devoid of winds. For mercury, sky is the limit and for the masses, heat stroke a perpetual and imminent threat. In conclusion, Mother Summer makes an entire nation prostrate before her cruel authority.
What good could ever come out of such ruthless climate? But be not mistaken, becuase for millions in this country summers bring along the smells of memories and the spices of nostalgia.
The greatest gift that Indian Summers have given us Indians (apart from the mango) are the vacations that we are forced to go on owing to the weather.
I still remember the days of my infancy when the school would be shut down for the summers and I would all around the place. To give you an idea of what being all around the place means let me tell you that atleast once in every week, I came home with a bruised elbow or knee, hitherto I have had a bleeding skull just thrice in my life- which is attributable to my vacations and so are the stitches I have on my face.
Of all my summer memoirs, there is one clear winner, the times I spent with my grandparents. (Both maternal and paternal)
It was always imperative to spend time at both maternal and paternal homes. The visit and stay was always characterised by great food, greater home made pickles and greatest grandpa stories. My grandparents lived in a different town while we travelled the country thanks to Dad’s job. So for many like me, vacations was the only time to bond with grandparents.
This was also that part of the year when I used to meet my cousins, uncles and aunties (or what we call in Hindi- mama, mami, mausa, mausi, bua, phupha, chacha, chachi)
Cousin Fights were serious stuff. It never never ended till either was down or till grandma lectured both. The arguments between us cousins did get heated and Toy Sharing Treaties were entered into but there was nothing that the roadside cheap orange ice stick couldn’t fix. (I cant eat that thing now. Its way too unhygienic. Or maybe because it stirs up too many memories.) For the lack of electricity in Uttar Pradesh those days, boardgames were the only way to kill time. Whether it be snakes & ladders (सांप सीढ़ी), Picnic or the evergreen Ludo. To this day I am of the opinion that my first cousin knew a secret trick to roll the dice and the magic number so often.
Now, none of my cousins come down in the vacations they used to back then. Some have started their own family and the others are on the verge of doing so. Some are abroad while others toiling in their jobs. No one has the time to come down and chat over a game of Ludo.
With every passing year, summer vacations began to acquire to completely different meaning for me.
As an Kid, summer vacations meant fun and frolic, as a Teen, it was the time to explore and understand body and self, As an adolescent, I spent most of my vacations in coaching classes and as a Law Student, my vacations were spent interning and worrying about the future.
As I write this piece, enjoying my last summer vacations, sitting in my long departed granddaddy’s room, I cannot thank the summers enough for what she has given me- Memories, Memories and countless memories.
P.S.- The title has been taken from a novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.