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In the Summer Time

Summer Vacation of Yore

Mathew says I’ve got to do a tag. A tag of summertime memories. Now how did Mathew know that I have been kicking around this exact same idea for a while now? A post on my summer time memories. Unfortunately, he’s said quite a bit of what I would like to say. So let me dredge up stuff he hasn’t mentioned. Here I go.

Back to those lazy, golden summer days, when life was just one big slurp of ripe mango, the sweet twang of ripe tamarinds, a big bound volume of comics, and a kaleidoscope of colors, of broken glass bangles. Days of simple innocence and unadulterated bliss, when the ULTIMATE source of delight and entertainment was a stack of unread books and a few ripe mangoes.

Even now, sometimes, when the sunlight falls on me from just that particular angle, when the cool breeze blows by, ah, just so, I am suddenly a kid again, transported back on a whimsical burst of nostalgia. I just wish to close my jaded eyes and go back … HOME.

Think summertime and the first thing I remember are the mangoes. The ripe, golden, luscious neelam mangoes that grew in our compound. There were three trees at home and in April May, they were laden with fruits and during the onam season, we put up our swing from its branches. Besides those, mangoes would come pouring in from my grandparents’ house, neighbours, and sometimes my father would buy them from vendors who sold them door-to-door. Breakfast , lunch and dinner at times, used to be just mangoes. I still am partial to the neelam mangoes despite having tasted more celebrated varieties. We didn’t leave raw mangoes alone either. That was a special treat too. Chop ‘em up, thrown in pinch of red chillie powder, salt, a couple of small red onions minced and a dab of coconut oil… (As I write this, you can sail a boat in my mouth. Am drooling so much)

And what do I miss most in the US of A? Mangoes of course, from India. What we get here I tell you, are pathetic excuses for mangoes. I cannot wait till they start letting in mangoes from India. Today those three trees at home are no more. In their place stands a more ‘modern’ house, with all the works. But I miss the mangoes…

I grew up almost as an only kid despite having 4 siblings. Blame it on the fact that they were all much older than me and were starting families of their own. When my sisters came home for holidays, I fought with my nieces, but my nephew and I were/are as thick as thieves. But I did have plenty of friends among neighbors and cousins and we had nothing to do during those long summer vacations, but play all day, and eat mangoes.

‘Yoga prize’:
Nothing to do with ‘yoga’ mind you. More to do with yogam or luck. Most mornings we woke up to the sound of long drawn out cries of “yoga priiiiiiiiiiize!” there were some little kids in the neighbourhood who would sell these little raffles. They had tiny squares of folded paper stuck on to a large poster and the square or tickets cost just 5paise each. If you were lucky, you won a little bit of money. Just like the scratch and wins of today. Instead of scratching, you open the folded squares. The highest amount you could win was usually Rs.5 or Rs.10. a princely amount in those days. I remember the day I won Rs.5 one day. Was treated as a queen the rest of the day, which means I got my pick of the mangoes that day. I would love to wake up to that cry again and rush out with a ten paise clutched in my hand to try my luck. Feel the excitement and anticipation in the moments when a ticket was ripped out and opened…

We had not only the usual hide n’seek, SAT, and scavenger hunts, but also a host of games we made up ourselves. We even had a game which was mostly play acting. We called it ‘nada kali’. I guess we called it that since we sat playing it on the ‘nada’ or steps leading into the house. And the board games, Snakes and Ladders, Hind Trader (a desi version of monopoly), Thaayam (Ludo/pacheesi), Jodi(something like mah jong – sounds like mango doesn’t it?)

Broken Glass Bangles:
Please don’t be mistaken. These are definitely not associated with what you would think. no broken dreams, no unhappy endings, nothing lost whatsoever… these were just the pieces of broken glass bangles we saved religiously to play with. We had whole tinfuls to show off. We played, thaayam and the game jodi that I mentioned. We drew a small square/circle/polygon/any amoeba of a shape, and gently threw in a handful of the broken bangles, taking care that none crossed the outline. Every piece was part of a pair and the player had to take out the pairs one by one without moving any other piece. Move a piece and the turn passes. Take them all out and earn an extra turn. Oh the hours we spent, pouring over the bits of glass trying to find a way out… and sucking on mangoes while praying that the person currently playing would move a piece and be out. The only problem was that the mangoes made our hands awfully sticky.

After mangoes, the second best thing we loved to munch on were tamarinds. Ripe, brown, tart, with just a hint of that sweetness… ah just the thought makes me scrunch my eyes shut and click my tongue… you know what I mean. Mango and tamarind season coincided with summer holidays. And the tamarind season had phases and we children were involved in all the phases. First the ripe tamarinds would come home in huge sacks. They would be spread out in the sun a couple of days. Then the fun would start. First the shelling phase when we got all the tamarinds out of their thick shells. Then came the deseeding. We had a special little tool called’ pulikkuthi’ a miniature spear kind of thingy. We sat around using it to take out the seeds. And this was the time when we would start popping pieces into our mouths. We were allowed a couple of pieces but not more than that. We would eat them and then go snitch to each others’ parents about the extras. Then followed a couple of days of ‘I won’t ever talk to you again’. And by that time, the tamarinds were all shelled, deseeded and nicely sun-dried and ready to be packed up with salt in huge ‘bharanis.’

The tamarind seeds were not ignored either. First we would play with them. ‘ottaya rettaya’. Simply meaning odd or even. Take a handful and have the next person guess whether u had an odd or even handful. Once we were done with that, the seeds were roasted or boiled and we loved munching on them during our games. (never mind that they had the same effect as ‘chakka kurus’/jack fruit seeds. : ))

“Polonius: What do you read my lord?
Hamlet : Words, words, words.”

Yeah I could never have enough of the written word. I would read anything that I could lay my hands on. Enid Blyton, Amar Chitra Katha, Poompatta, Balarama, Tinkle, Ratnabala, Gokulam, Indrajal Comics, Tin Tin, Asterix came much later ‘coz only then i could truly appreciate the nuances of the genius of Goscinny and Uderzo. The William books my Richmal Crompton, the classics… Jane Austen, Brontes, Mark Twain, abridged versions of Shakespeare, Mythologies and folk tales from around the world, etc etc. I had a cousin who worked at the Kerala University who would get me books from the libraries in Trivandrum, my sister got me books from her college library and I had my own network of friends to keep my bookshelf well stacked. Even now when I go through my old library at home, I smile at the well thumbed pages, sometimes with splotches of yellow on them … mangoes of course. Told you, they made my hands very sticky and the juice used to drip down my chin.

When I was forbidden to read at the dinner table I read all the labels of the pickle, sauce and medicine bottles kept on the dining table. I just could not stop reading and that is why I do not have the heart to tell my daughter to stop reading and go to sleep when I find her still up at midnight, curled up in bed with a nice fat book.

After I was done with everything I had available I would peek through the glass doors of a locked bookshelf at home that held books that were off limit to me, wondering when I would be able to lay my hands on them. Ah, that came sooner than I thought. Someone left the key in the lock one day. : )

Trip to Trivandrum:
Every summer I would spend anywhere from one week to a month in Trivandrum with my sister’s family. For a small towner from Nagercoil, those few days in the ‘big’ city of Trivandrum was the highlight of the summer holidays. Shopping for clothes and other ‘fancy stuff’ in the ‘big’ shops there, a visit to a department store where you could actually go around the store and pull things off the shelf by yourself into your shopping basket (wow that was the height of cool! I even used to marvel initially at the milk that came in plastic packets. After all ours back home came directly from a cow!), a couple of dine-outs, ‘ball’ ice creams from Shimla ice cream parlour, these were all ultimate treats. And yeah, my sis has a mango tree right behind her house too, plus the mangoes which came from Nagercoil.

So that was what my summers were all about. Today those friends/cousins are scattered all over the world. One of them is no more, and most of our kids barely know each other. Even we grown ups just about manage to keep in touch. With some of them, I have totally lost touch.

I sometimes feel sad that my daughters are missing out on something very vital despite the overload of entertainment surrounding them. When I talk to them about it, they voice the same concern too. To them, my childhood days were simply utopian. Lazy summer days of nice, clean, wholesome fun… and did I mention the mangoes? Ah… the mangoes!

P.S. Mathew had tagged me long back. But halfway through the tag I lost steam. Was caught up with a hectic social life. I can’t complain. Till a couple of months back, I hardly had one; a social life I mean. So I sat down to finish this tag today. I was told to come up with 8 things I enjoyed during my summers. Thank you Mathew for forcing me to go down memory lane on a very enjoyable trip.

People I tag: Dilip Krishnan, PK Madhavan, John Sudhakar, Neelambari, BVN,(Mathew tagged him too, but he hasn’t done it yet) and dunborn traveller.

2 responses »

  1. @ jose,

    that’s the thing about summer isn’t it? everything about it spells ‘HOME’. and from far far away, everything about it seems so wonderful. why don’t you elaborate on ur summer memories? am sure it will make wonderful reading. would love to hear more about the kuttanadan days.

    anyway, thnx jose, for the comments.


  2. …summer time memories…cutting of countdown dates stuck onto the inside of my study hall desk at don bosco mumbai…tracing my fingers over the railway tracks on my atlas…keeping unread my books for the trip… finally the smells and sounds of kerala…those lazy days at my ammaveedu tucked away in the glorious isolation of the backwaters of kuttanad…swimming and fishing…fishing and swimming…watching movies in thatched theatres whilst crunching kaplendies…my first cigarette/beedi…smoke thru the nose…my first kallu shaap visit……



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