My most fond memory of summer is not special. It often slips out of my mind as I get invested in the daily routine and who knows if it will stick with me for my whole life. It only comes to me in some lazy moments. What it is, is an instant connection. Every time I think about summer, there is a specific image that pops into my head. I would get up late in the morning, lazily brush my teeth, and take a nice long shower. Just as the weather would turn hot, I’d turn on the fan and put it on full capacity and just lie there. As much as I like to say that I lay there under the artificial wind for hours and hours, I didn’t. I would not be able to spend even fifteen quiet minutes before I’d hear the voice of my mother yelling at me either to get out of the room so someone else can use the bathroom or that the lunch was ready.
Yeah, summer and breakfast is a combination that I have not been able to grasp yet.
But strangely enough, I’ve never missed that feeling. Even right now, as I am writing this under a fan that is also operating at the maximum capacity, I am not nostalgic. How that particular image is associated with the season in my mind is a bit mysterious to me.
Perhaps it is the heat. As I have grown up, the summers of Ahmedabad have become progressively hotter. The smiling faces of people that I’d meet in the summer, people who seemed freer and less exhausted, seems to have replaced by the sweaty people having conversations about how hot it is — neatly summarized in just three words Garmi toh jo. Air-Conditioners have popped up across homes like characters in a children’s book. There is a sharp imbalance between the temperatures inside the houses and outside the houses. I don’t see mothers shouting at their kids to get inside the house as the sun goes high, because they are already inside the house.
Or perhaps it is the smell. Summer has a distinct smell that I have never been able to point out. To me, summer materializes from the layers of talcum powders that people put on their bodies to keep them fresh. But the actual summer has the fragrance of talcum powders fused with sweat and grass and beach and so many flowers who have been filled with life.
Or maybe it is not the heat. Or the smell. Or the moment. Or even the image itself. Perhaps it is the spirit that that image embodies. As I lay there under the fan, I really do not remember what I used to think. But that image tells me that I was free enough to do that. I was free enough to lie down, spend my time away thinking about trivial things and just enjoying that heat of summer. Summer days were lazy and stretched on and on in retrospect. And yet, how short they used to seem! You wake up, take a bath and have a delicious mango without really caring about the price of those mangoes in the market. Later, you’d snuggle in a corner sheltered from the wrath of the sun, playing video games till your eyes become red and the sun goes down presenting a beautiful warm evening as if ashamed of its own wrath. Later, you’d go out with your family at the river or the lake or just to have some ice-gola.
Summer always meant freedom. I used to be one of those kids who liked to be in the school and every time a vacation would be inching to its end, I’d be both a bit sad and glad. You can understand the value of that freedom only when you no longer have that. And still, now that I am fifteen hundred kilometers away from the home and I have moved on from that scorching summer to the place where summer is just a few more sweat drops rolling down your neck as you navigate the traffic, summer still embodies that sense of freedom somewhere within. Even if that freedom is no longer present. It survives in the spirit.
People in India return to their families two times a year. First is the period of Diwali. And it is quite natural since Diwali is the time families come together and have a celebration. It is the period where everyone is active and happy and the relationships bloom.
The second is summer. When you look at it rationally, my returning home leaving rains of Bangalore to the heat of Ahmedabad seems completely counter-intuitive. It is nothing more than the result of that spirit. And that freedom does not simply give ourselves some free time to relax. It also works as a reminder every single year, that no matter where I am and how complex I think my life is, there exists an edge to the world where the sun is shining brighter and the heat is unbearable. Where there are people clad in caps and dupattas covering their oily heads, ready to hold your hand and say Be tu garmi toh jo. Where there is an infinite amount of mangoes to gulp down and showers which are way too hot and the fan which can be turned on to the full capacity just with a slight twist of the knob. And hours and hours at my disposal to lie down and think about trivial things.
Casey Neistat seems to agree with me.
My twelve-year-old self has a lot to learn. But summer with or without a crazy hotel room, a big boat, a jet ski or that car we never drove, it’s about the spirit, it’s about being alive. You’ve gotta make the most of every moment. Don’t worry, you can sleep in September.
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Manu Joseph has a brilliant article on his Summer experiences in Madras.
In Madras, it was always summer
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