Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Remembering Summers past.

And just like that, summer is here. Strangely enough the sound that slowly echoes summer to me comes from the ceiling fan! Yes, the slow moans suddenly give way to rapid whirrs and drown out not the quietude but the noise. For, me the onset of summer has always been associated with the suddenly fast fan :) And soon enough there would be the water cooler - and not that one which is associated with corporate offices nowadays. When I was growing up in a small little town in M.P. (incidentally now its become part of the truncated Naxalite Chattisgarh!!) water coolers would be stuffed with freshly dried grass called 'Khus' - I'm still not sure what sort of grass that was - but it had this beautiful soporific smell. The first blast from my water cooler could literally send me to wonderland! There is something about air-conditioning which can never quite compare.
There I am, at maybe age eight, airing myself out in maybe just a shameeze - that muslin cloth under-thing that covered me yet left me light. Those days these shameezes came with something called 'shadow-work' embroidery. There were pretty criss-cross patterns of birds and flowers peeping from under the cloth - if I close my eyes now - I can still see them! I am almost a 100% sure that my mother would not allow me out in such attire, but I have this really vague memory of being happiest when I was with my birds, dressed such.
Summers were these huge vast wastelands of time - and memory does not serve me well on the heat. I do not remember it. I just remember the whiteness. The entire landscape would turn many shades pale. The grass would dry and be prickly to naked feet. There would be unnamed fruits which would shed long stamens with pretty dried flower heads. The guava trees would be white - have you ever noticed the white limbs of a guava tree, puckered and covered with scabs of bark? I have. There used to be this particular tree (yes, there were many!) right next to my bedroom which I favoured above all. I knew all its limbs well, knew which foot to put where, the forks of the branches where I could rest. Shielded from the world. Sometimes the wind would carry across voices to me. But in summers it would be mostly still. The land behind our home would be barren, whatever crop that had been yielded, cut to earth, drying out the leftover chaff.
But there were the Gulmohars. And the few resilient bougainvillea - these collected dust, their veins dried, tired and gray - paper thin. But the Gulmohars were gorgeous - succulent petals - which tasted khatta - yes I ate them sometimes! Drops of breathless living red in an ocean of white and dusty brown.
For me the memories of summers spent in this particular home will always be about the smells and sounds and how things felt. It was a vast home - a British era bungalow, flanked on all sides with vast tracts of land. Things were bent and crooked, as things of a certain vintage are. Maybe I gloss over how the canvas false ceiling would threaten to upend under the pull of the giant swirling fan; how there were mosquitoes and macchar-daanis had turned yellow with overuse. Maybe I forget how stifling the slow movement of time was, how inane getting the water boiled in a copper boiler could be. What I do remember is the red-concrete floor with its unevenness, the mosaic floors which had pictures hidden inside which only a child could find -scratches that I had by-hearted. I remember the curtains that had to be pulled up from the floor to be put down only after poncha was done, the wooden columns of the showcase, the cane chairs - long bleached, and painted over green and then white with only their frayed feet letting on their truth. I remember Holi. Oh! Very much. A slow gaggle would start at our gate and then slowly wind down the lane collecting people and songs as it went. I remember the gulal streaked pathway - pink on red earth.
And there I leave it for now, my reminiscences of a much loved past :)


  1. Hi Nidhi! you have a way with words... took me back in time... share similar experiences in small towns of MP... nice way to summarise - reminiscences of a much loved past...

  2. Many thanks Nikita - glad to know it reminded you of special times too :)

  3. i have often read & heard people romanticize the winter. its beautiful how you romanticized summer...

  4. I used to spend my summer vacations at our native village surrounded by cousins getting together from far off places..your post reminded me of those summers..want to run back to them!

  5. Hi Gauri :) I know those memories are the best!