The summer season hasn’t begun until you hear typical lines, ” Why is it SO hot?!” , “Don’t reduce the fan speed!” or this one perhaps “Chubti jalti garmi, chubti jalti garmi ka mausam aaya hai!” blaring on the TVs of every household in the afternoons especially.
Summer has never been my favorite time of the year for many reasons which most of us would share. But I thought why not give it a little more positive outlook during the time where our body burns from the scorching heat, the sun-kissed faces then which now looks more like sun-burnt face, the constant need of water to stay hydrated all the time, the constant cravings to eat bucket loads of ice-cream, eat a zillion discs of juicy, red watermelon and drink a gallon of Tang or in my case, the 6 year old in me prayed fervently to God that he turn me into a boy just until monsoon visited us. (Oh, the girls reading this article will understand what I mean.)
Amidst all these cringing thoughts, let’s step into a virtual time machine and walk through some of those beautiful memories that summer has created for each one of us.
The 31st of March of every year was the day my final exams got over when I was in school. We had special permission during the month of March to not wear the school tie as it was very uncomfortable and stuffy. (Thank you, principal and teachers!) The next important task at hand was the water-bottle fights that took place immediately after the exams to ease all the tension and welcome the next 2 months of vacation. Meticulous planning of vacations was an integral part in every child’s life. Mine was done entirely by my parents and it was always planned only after April 10th (Exam result day) in my house. You might be expecting me to put up a huge list of places that I visited during my summer holidays, but it was a series of temple visits in just south India along with the visits to the numerous paternal and maternal relatives’ houses at Tirunelveli. (Not that I complained about the latter because I have wonderful cousins who were the source of my entertainment or rather vice versa!) Countless visits to the river nearby and frolicking in the ever so cool and clear water followed by a yummy lunch made by my grandma was a typical day for us.
On days when the heat was unbearable, not so typical board games were our savior. “Pallanguzhi” was one of them. The game consisted of a rectangular wooden board with 2 rows and 7 columns. There are a total of 14 cups (kuzhi in Tamil) and 146 counters. The counters could be anything from tamarind seeds or shells. (Each of us had a huge collection in each type.) It tested our quick math skills, eye-hand coordination, concentration. The person with the most number of counters won and trust me there were major tournaments in the house.
Another game which the elders loved playing was “Daaya-Kattai”. The game has a pair of long dice that are shaped like long cuboids, called the Dayakattai. They are typically made of brass and have dots punched onto the long faces (1, 2, 3, 0). Each player starts with six coins at a ‘home’ in the center of the game board. (This game is very similar to Ludo if you add the dramatic expressions of the elders.) There wasn’t a single house in my village that didn’t have either of these!
Not to forget, I did miss my TV shows and the moment I found Cartoon Network or Pogo in my grandparent’s TV set was equivalent to any CBI officer finding the answer final clue to his murder mystery.
The next adventure was finding the most beautiful object found in abundance in summer. In shades of yellow mixed with a variety of shades of green, sometimes with a few spurts of red, glistening in the light in the most elegant and charming way and enticing all its onlookers was the king of fruits, the MANGO! The saying is true by the way, “Stolen mangoes are the sweetest!” Although a monkey stealing it from you is not a very happy sight. The drizzle of a pinch of salt and chilli powder over the thin slices of raw mango was a relishing sight to every member in the household. Probably because that was the only time there was silence.
Every visit to my native was incomplete without visiting the Agasthiyar falls. The cold water from the falls hits your head like rocks being thrown at you. But after two minutes into the water, you wouldn’t care! The scrumptious lunch consisting of huge boxes of Puliyogare, Naarthangai saadam (Citron rice), raw mango rice, and curd rice with Maavadu(Mango pickle) was the icing on the cake! A million happy memories are associated when reminiscing the days spent at your grandparents’ house, the tiny fights with your older cousins, the well-kept gardens with many trees bearing fresh and juicy fruits, the beautiful flowers with their sweet fragrance making its way throughout the house seem so close yet so distant. Speaking about fragrance, nothing can beat the smell of freshly made pickle. As summer brought many seasonal fruits and veggies my mother and grandmother busied themselves in making a huge variety of pickles and fryums to be stored for the entire year(which miraculously never happened). Over ten different kinds of pickle in mango alone, along with the mixed vegetable kind, lime, lemon, citron and what not! The process of making the vathal (fryums/ sandige) was a little tedious as the batter had to be made early in the morning so that they could be shaped and let to dry in the sun. (I was a fan of eating them when they were half dried in the sun.) But the moment you deep fry those tiny beauties and pop them into your mouth, it is pure bliss!
But there were a few summer vacations were these trips didn’t happen summer camps were our rescue and a few years later they were replaced with piles of textbooks around you. Yes, I’m talking about the 10th and 12th board exam scenarios. If only it had stopped with those two. It continued up to engineering where you have to attend college during this most unfortunate period when the kids are having the time of their lives on the streets running around with their cricket bats and footballs. (And to add up to this is the frustrating moment when the teachers switch off the fans in the class which in their defense is a method to silence our ever so loud murmuring. So what have we got to counter this tactic? Yes, we brought our own personal mini table fan.) Gone are the days when you could sip ice cold water along with yummy snacks in front of the idiot box under the pleasure of your living room fan without having to argue with anyone.
Don’t we all dream for a summer like this? The only tension we had sounded something like, will there be many power-cuts? Will our class be shuffled for the next academic year? Will there be enough mangoes to eat?
I wish I didn’t have to get down from this time machine! That’s all, for now, folks!
Enjoy your summer and also take a look at the alluring sight of trees on the Bangalore roads. You will have to wait another six months for this delightful view if you miss it now!
(P.S. Thank you for the cover image, Souvik.)