Summer is here! Or atleast what can be called summer in Bangalore. Mostly I’m extremely thankful for the mild Bangalore weather – you don’t need to think a hundred times before stepping out at 2 in the afternoon, no layers of sunscreen, goggles, umbrella, the AC is not switched on much. Add to it that in the past 5-6 years I get extreme headaches whenever I’m exposed to even a little too much heat or sun. I’m not proud of it and really want to change it. But don’t know how. The headaches are so bad that I don’t dare regularly expose myself in the hope that I’ll toughen up.
It’s strange really. I have lived most of my life in the northern plain. Lucknow, Varanasi and Delhi. And other than the Delhi part when I was working it has been mostly without the benefit of air-conditioning. So it’s not as if I’m not used to the heat. I don’t know what is wrong – is it the weather which is more extreme now or is it us? Are we so used to living at an optimum temperature that we just can’t tolerate the heat any longer.
My Dad is a railway officer. So we’ve been transferred around quite a bit. And as I said the largest part of my childhood was spent in 2 cities – Lucknow and Varanasi. Both heartland U.P. – both very hot in summers and very cold in winters. We lived in the government accommodations which were mostly pretty good, plus the colonies were also very green. Wide streets with less traffic, big gardens. I guess to some extent that must have made a big difference. You can go out in the heat if you have a nice garden with big trees. But what if instead there’s just a road with loads of traffic?
When I think back to my childhood, the summer months are what I remember as the most fun. I remember the smell in the air in March as summer was approaching. Summer meant exams done with and two months of no studying. Summer meant jugs of rasna kept in the fridge. Summer meant home-made kulfi and ice-lollies. Summer meant lazy afternoons spent at home with all the curtains drawn. Summer meant trips to Nani’s house where all us cousins got together. Summer meant mangoes and litchies eaten in the afternoon in the kitchen when the adults were asleep. Summer meant fighting over who would get to water the plants with the big garden hose. Summer meant early morning walks across the fields which were near Nani’s place. Summer meant no school but mornings spent at the dining table being forced to finish the holiday homework (mostly handwriting practice – blech). Summer meant khat-mithi which Nani made. Summer meant new frocks which Mummy and Mausi would stitch for us and the frocks we made for our dolls using the scraps. Summer meant the gorgeous smell of khas from the window cooler and the cool spray on your face when you went close to it. Summer meant nights on the terrace sleeping under the stars. Summer meant days spent doing absolutely nothing at all. Summer meant having a bath anytime, anywhere. Summer meant plays and performances put up for the adults by us kids. Summer meant inventing a hundred different games using just one prop – an old and battered teddy.
Summer also meant endless power cuts. But the part I remember about power cuts is playing gold spot outside while the adults sat and chatted on the verandah. Summer also meant awful heat but somehow it never seemed so awful then. I know most people in the north hate summers and prefer the winters but somehow I always loved the summers. True they were uncomfortable in many ways but there were just so many good things too. For example you can truly appreciate a tall chilled glass of nimbu paani only if you’ve walked in from the blistering heat.
I know all this sounds good only in a nostalgic way. Last year we went to Nani’s place in July when Anna was 6 weeks old to attend a cousin’s wedding. We spent the whole day inside with the AC switched on. If I have to live in that heat again it will be very uncomfortable. But in my memories summer is a very nice place.
I sometimes feel ashamed of how used to comfort we have become. Our school class-rooms had maybe 2 fans with 60 kids stuffed in. We either cycled to school or when my school was a bit further away went in a tiny non-AC bus. We went everywhere by auto or rickshaw or if with Dad then in our non-AC maruti 800. My hostel room was like a mini furnace. We used to walk to college and the after lunch walk was like walking through fire. I once actually got blisters on my face because the wind was so hot that it literally burnt my skin. But I don’t remember ever being aware of discomfort then. Sure we used to feel hot and complain but it didn’t matter so much. Unlike now when the slightest heat can trigger a headache.
The summers of Anna’s childhood will be very different from mine. But I will do my best to make them magical. As magical as my memories.