Summer is here and it is bright and beautiful all around, even in our neighborhood. Lathered up with sun screen and donning hats and sunglasses, everyone’s ready to tackle the dazzling summer sun. After all, it’s only going to last a couple of months! It indeed calls for celebration. Barbecues, trips to the pool and the beach, running through sprinklers, backyard camping, lovely flowers wherever you look, long queues outside the local ice cream parlor, summer camps are all part of that merriment.
Growing up, summer was somewhat similar but also slightly different. It meant the much awaited summer vacation and a trip to someplace far enough to warrant my favorite mode of travel- the train. It also meant visits from some of our favorite people, extra T.V time, staying out for a little longer than usual. It meant gorging on mangoes, the most juicy and sweet kind one can probably find only in the state of Bengal and it also meant sultry afternoons sipping on the ‘ghol’ (a very light version of its famous cousin-the lassi). It also meant ‘holiday homework’ that only got started usually on the last week of the ‘holiday’ and the scramble to get it all done added to the crabby feeling triggered by the imminent opening of school.
Back home, the hot and humid summers make the air heavy and drown everyone in sweat. The afternoons are sometimes unbearable and an eerie silence descends on the neighborhoods that is only occasionally broken by the cawing of the crow or the shrill call of the peddler trying to sell his wares. His sticky skin glistens under the glaring sun and the heat from the asphalt probably scorches his feet through the threadbare sandals. We often heard peddlers from inside the comfort of our houses, where the silence was instead broken by the rotating blades of the ceiling fan. Ma sometimes spoke about such courageous people who fought against adversities on a daily basis just to make ends meet. If our doorbell rang, Ma would buy something even if we did not really need it (these were mostly inexpensive goods as well) and would always offer the person water to drink. And there were a couple of occasions when I remember she let them rest indoors for a while till they felt ready to go back out again. Some other families in our neighborhood did the same. Summers were cool for many but scorching for most. But times were simpler back then and people looked out for each other probably more than now. Trust was implicit and that made living easier.
Summer time in Kolkata and in the eastern region of India also brought/brings the much awaited and always welcome ‘Kalbaishakhi’- the Nor’westers. Skies darken and the stillness in the air deepens. Rumbles can be heard far and wide and then the dark grey clouds open their gates to drain the earth with torrential downpour. The heady aroma from the sweltering earth, the bruised leaves dancing in the rain and the crackling thunders make everyone overlook the temporary inconvenience the Kalbaishakhi causes. I remember them with clarity and fondness and I miss them dearly too. While we do get sudden thunderstorms here as well, they fall far behind the almost royal nature of the revered Kalbaishakhis.
This photo was taken by a pretty mediocre cell phone camera right before one such ‘Kalbaishakhi’ back in Kolkata a few years back. The sky had turned this deep yellow and there was stillness all around.
The following photos are from neighborhood strolls and from lunch outings over the past couple of weeks- it has been beautiful all around.
Thanks for stopping by. What are some of your favorite memories from summer?