Yes, summer is back with temperature peaking like never before. It is the time of the year when every conversation with loved ones or strangers is about how hot the weather has become and that the worst is yet to come. As we sweat, fret, phew and freak, it is also the time of the year when families comes closer due to irregular power cuts.
Summer is a season of making memories; memoirs that last a lifetime. When I look back on more than 30 summers that went by… I guess each one was special in its own way – with its share of memories, lessons, and warmth.
Everyone generation has a story to tell and memories to re-live, of how their summers were spent. Nostalgia is the flavour of the season that I now so often indulge in…. where summer was about people, mangoes, khus ki tatti, aam-panna, mogra, vividh-bharati, and more.
I miss the simplicity of the life that went by.
Now, summer is felt, not only because of the scorching heat, but also for the hype that surrounds it. Everything around is buzzing with summer camps, summer fashion, summer holiday destinations, summer jobs, summer getaways, summer workouts, summer blah, and more. There is more to summer than scorching sun; more hype than heat. Summer seems to be the happening thing around.
I look back at the summers we had as kids… where it was about fun, holidays, and of doing nothing and everything. Summer was about more of family, fun and frolic. There was no homework to complete, no extracurricular classes to attend and no summer camps to participate in. It was about charting ones own activities, time tables and living for the moment.
Life was so less complicated in those days. Devoid of cutting edge technologies and concrete jungles, there was more to life and living. Summer was not about air conditioners, gas-guzzling generators, ice skating rinks or blue colored mock tails.
Summer was more about spending the season without getting spent. The effort was on conserving oneself, loved ones health and to ride over the season with best of social activity in the most economical way. People were, by default, seeped in eco-friendly summer practices and there was never a need to look beyond the local remedies for keeping cool.
Looking back, there was more sense in simplicity.
The Magic of Jasmine and Mogra in Summer
The women of the house had the art of making summer more romantic than what it was. Or rather they invented ways of spending quality time with one another in the hot season. They would gather in the evening to weave strands of jasmine for one and all.
Stringing of jasmine flowers is an art by itself which my mother had mastered in her youth. The right number of flowers, the right mix of sizes interspersed with buds and blooms, the heavenly fragrant downam leaves and twigs in between. From any angle you see, the strands are perfect in size, even in shape and the longest than anyone could make.
Most of the flowers would come from the desolate jasmine climber plant from their courtyard or would be brought from the cycle phoolwala that did rounds every evening shouting motiya-bahaar-bahaare-bahaar. The kids would run in all directions to catch the flower vendor and bring him at the door step. Then there would be the daily ‘yawn’ bargaining cycle over a few paise.
If the flower vendor was in a happy mood or pleased with us, he would throw in few twigs of downam with the flowers. That was considered an ultimate victory and we would proudly get the delicate fragrant wares inside. Summer evenings were indeed more romanchak than romantic.
Whats summmer without the mangoes…
Summer meant mangoes. No. Summer meant kids sitting around a huge cauldron which had mangoes floating and sinking in water. Rasaal, tota-pari, be-nishan, etc, were the more regular ones found in this cauldron where everyone eyed the biggest, yellowest, and the ripest mango in the lot.
Even the raw mangoes were not spared. While most of them went into making hot and spicy avakai pacchidi or aam-ka-achaar or mango pickles, few would be reserved for everyone’s favorite summer drink – the tangy aam-panna.
Anything for a cool sherbat in summer
Summer drinks were naturally organic, even before the eco-friendly hype took over. Nothing could beat the taste, simplicity and effectiveness of natural fruit juices, fruit based concoctions, and remedies for summer heat.
In those sultry days, the best guy on the planet was the ice-gola wala selling balls of crushed ice dunked with some weird flavored concentrate. He always had only two standard flavors and sizes to choose from. Life was so much simpler then.
Next in demand was the sugarcane juice wala. Ganne-ka-sharbat in the afternoons was an exciting affair as the vendor would come to your house dragging his huge and heavy contraption on wheels, make the juice in front of you, and customize its taste with ginger or lemon. It was always a riot as none of us would have the same taste or preference. God bless him – for he always handed out to each one of us, the perfect sugarcane juice with perfect seasoning with right level of ice in it. Not to mention the falsa, nimbu paani, tarbooz and many other drinks that were a routine.
Atiti-Dev-O-Bhava – Summer Guests Galore
Summer meant guests, guests, and more guests. A trip or two to the railway station was inevitable in summer. Living in a big joint family ensured there were mamas, mamis, chachis, bhai, behen, et al, visiting every holiday season. But that also meant that the whole family had to receive them as well as send them off.
Events at the railway stations were like the reality TV shows. It was all about tearful welcomes, tearful farewells, tearful talks and teardrops in tea. Thankfully that’s not the scene anymore. But whenever I see a huge family gathered on the railway platform – I smile… for somebody is creating memories for a lot of people. Good memories for sure.
The then Khus Ki Tatti now known as Vetiver Roots Curtain
Khus – vettiver roots are a natural air conditioner. The remarkable feature of these mats is that they can cool any hot room instantly putting any air conditioner in the market to shame. The dried roots of vetiver or khus are weaved together with coir rope, like a mat or a curtain for varied uses. You can hang those curtains outside your window or door and drench them in hotter hours in water.
We, as kids were assigned the job of pouring water on the khus-ki-tatties every afternoon. It was a job we loved. The fragrance of the water soaked roots, and the cool wind that comes in through use to be so musky, heady and relaxing that … cannot be described. It is something one should experience in their life – spending a summer afternoon next to a wet vetiver curtain. I guess I will go out to buy some of those blinds soon.
Powercuts and summer are made for each other
Power cuts were a part of life. Regular - on time – they would give us all a chance to get away from whatever little TV we could watch. Power cut at nights would make the whole family come out in the open courtyard with Palmyra leaves fans in their hands. The favorite topic would be a vacation fantasy to faraway cool places like Kodaikanal, Kashmir,Ooty, Shimla, Mount Abu, etc. No, we did not know about Switzerland then or that one could go to such places for vacation.
Summer beauty remedies off the kitchen shelves
Beauty did not take a back seat in sweat then. There were hundreds of home remedies for sunburn, body heat, sun tan, giddiness, dryness, and more. Nanima was treasure trove of ancient remedies and she had the perfect cure for any ailment or concern. Clothes meant cotton and fashion meant Lucknow Chikan kurtas and Bengal Cotton Sarees. Look no further.
Summer beauty treatments were mostly about henna and multani mitti. Mehendi , a natural coolant, was applied on hands, scalp and married women’s feet. Multani mitti, also known as Fullers Earth, could be smeared anywhere on the body to draw the heat out. Kids had a ball watching thier mothers become mummies in 15 minutes as the clay dried on their faces and hands.
Summer refuge that grandparents give
Summers saps everyone, including grandparents. While the kids remain uncontrollable bundles of energy, grandparents ensure that they remain hale, hearty and healthy. From taking us out to the park, watch over us while we played, storytelling, to giving few coins to enjoy our fun-filled days… there are so many things in which they care and teach us in silent ways. Like giving a glass of cold water from the earthen pot to any passer-by, keeping water out for stray animals such as dogs, cats and cows, and so much more.
I lost my grandfather to summer heat. He was out in the sun when he had a stroke. He loved the outdoors so much that heat did not deter him. The point is that he enjoyed what he did and he did it till his last breath. That’s the summer’s message for me.
Summer is here… back again to complete its thanda-garam lifecycle.
Yes, it was different then. It is a lot different now. I do long for the back yore days… but there is still so much at the moment to bask in. To learn. To feel. To enjoy. To live. And wait for the avkali baarish – the non seasonal summer showers.
There are more memories than the blog can contain… maybe some other day.
I would love to know what your summer was like when you were half your age and size?