The eyes opened with the melody of koel chirping on the nearby mango tree. The calm breeze was blowing as the children had started flocking in the park where a solitary fountain was sending a stream of jet in the air as the spray drifted in the ever changing direction of the wind. I looked up at the sky which was crystal clear and a distant overflying jet with a plume of white smoke appeared on the horizon. The summer vacations had commenced and the schools would reopen now in July. Such a nice feeling engulfed the mind. A quick cup of tea and we rushed out to join the fun in the adjacent park. The little girls waited for their turns on the swing whereas we rushed on the rickety merry go around as each new entrant gave a hard tug to maintain the speed as he climbed up with abandon ! Soon we would be sweating and hungry charging to the kitchen. Ice was crushed with a pastel to the ‘lassi’(sweetend yoghurt ) which was frothing after churning with a wooden handmixer called ‘Rai’ till there was a huge froth settled atop. Piping hot ‘aloo paratha( stuffed potato pancake) and lassi was’ heavenly’ to mark the start of the summer vacation.
In the days that followed we made frequent trips to the market to pick up the ripe mangoes. They would be then immersed in a huge tub of water and guzzled by dozens on the hot afternoon never to even think about the amount of sweet intake. Also, the water melons and smaller musk melons would be regularly devoured in the afternoon post siesta.
As the sun moved in the westerly direction the temperature raised and the air was soon similar to a draught straight from the oven. It was almost impossible to step out of the house so the best thing to keep us children occupied were a game of cards, or carom board, snakes and ladders and Chinese checkers. There was no TV program in the morning and only insipid ‘Krishi Darshan’ and some stray movies on weekends were telecast. A weekly program of select movie songs called ‘Chitrahaar’ was telecast for 30 minutes once in a week. Most of us kids would go to the nearby community center to watch this fare with glee!
It would be fun to help mother in slicing the raw mangoes once in a season to prepare the pickles at home and the tangy pickle was stuffed in an earthen ware pot, after covering the lid and the container placed under the sun for the pickle to season for another week before we start using it with every meal till the throats got sore!
There were no refrigerators so huge earthen pots were filled with water every day for meeting the cold drinking water requirements of the day. The unbeatable aroma of the cold water coming from ‘Matka’( the round tummy pot} or the ‘Surhai’( The long necked earthen vessel) would satisfy the thirst almost instantaneously!
That reminds of the adventures of trying all kinds of colored ice candies (golas) from local vendors who crushed the ice on a contraption and squeezed it in a small glass and inserted a straw and pulled it out effortlessly. The colored sweet syrups would make them enticing. The ‘kulfi ’(sweetened milk candy with dry fruits) treat was always something to look forward to. In summer months certain berries ( phalsa) were available which had a lovely tangy flavor! Somehow, these are no longer available in the big cities but one can find them in smaller towns. Another wonder fruit was’ Bel’ which was very fibrous and the pulp of it produced an excellent coolant in the summer months! The other summer delights were the ‘Raw Mango Panna’ (Cold sweet drink from raw mango pulp),’ Sattu’( Made from roasted gram ), Khus Khus and Thandai( both drinks made with various spices and herbs and dry fruits).
Though the times have rolled on, many of these local delights have been gradually taken over by fizzy colas, sundaes and smoothies and assorted frozen desserts! Many of the outdoor games we played have slowly crawled back in pages of history to be taken over by a maze of video games like 'Angry birds'! We now have far more ‘Facebook’ friends than the real ones with whom we could play and fight and await yet another day of summer vacation to spend time with!PS: Images Kind Courtesy Google