Traditionally, the festival of Holi is said to mark the beginning of summer. While there are some people who raise a cheer at that prospect (students with holidays coming up, ice-cream manufacturers, air-conditioning service men and the like), the rest of us either sigh resignedly or contemplate suicide, and begin to hunt out our cottons, service all our cooling devices, hang up the chiks, and prepare to endure the season of heat, dust and sweat.
But summer needn't be a season of suffering. Well, not all the time. A well-timed holiday, a mango-eating session and a long lazy afternoon nap are just a few of the things you can do to relish this time of year. Read on!
Air-conditioning: How do we love thee, O inventor of the air-con? Let us count the ways. Honestly, is there anything better than air-conditioning when summer comes to stay? Don't bother to answer. Instead let us list the ways you can always manage to be in an a/c environment 24/7 - take the Metro or air-conditioned cars or cabs to work, always choose air-conditioned restaurants for coffee and meals, shop only at malls, hang out at the bigger art galleries and museums and watch movies back to back on those nasty hot afternoons.
Dehydration: It's almost impossible to beat that dreadful feeling of being parched when you're out in the sun. But there are things you can do to stave off that moment when you feel almost faint - carry an umbrella, portable fan or wear a cap, make sure you always have a small bottle of water with you, and find as much shade to stand or walk under.
Evenings: However nasty summer can get, there's a blessing at the end of the day. It's called evening. Still hot, yes, but so blessedly mild (well, in comparison) and easy on the eye. So after a day spent dodging the summer heat, be brave and step out into a garden in the evening. Watch the sunset and let the cool(ish) breeze waft over you.
Fans: No matter where you are, chances are you're using a fan to cool off. Whether ceiling, table, pedestal-mounted or hand-held, the fan represents our primary mode of cooling. But what makes us really happy is the small fans you can buy and use on the move. One of those can really make your summer - trust us!
Guilt: We love air-conditioning. We love diving into a pool. We love standing under a cold (or at least cool) shower to wash off the dust and grime of the day. But when we think of global warming (which is hard not to do when we're convinced it's the hottest summer ever), we're consumed by guilt. Someone help, please. Is there any way to stay cool without destroying the planet?
Hills: The British had the right idea - when it gets hot, head for the hills. From Shimla to Kodaikanal, the upper reaches of our country stay cool, misty and altogether delightful while the plains scorch away. You'll be amazed to find clouds wafting through your hotel room, even a slight fog descending down and sudden, unexpected spells of rain - all sometimes in the same day.
Koel: Part of the ineffable pleasure of the summer evening, the call of the koel somehow signifies something cool. The fact that you never get to see the koel but still hear it call gives you the feeling that somewhere, not very far away, there is a cool, dark forest that feels nothing like a tandoor.
Languid: We don't know whether this is a good thing or not, but summer brings with it a laziness that is impossible to deny. Languid is not good when you have to work. But languid is wonderful when it's a Sunday afternoon and there's nothing, nothing you have to do but lie back and give in to hazy daydreams.
Nimboo pani: If it's summer, it must be nimboo pani. Must be. No other drink brings out the Indian in us. Even the MNCs have
figured this out, which is why we saw a slew of nimboo pani based packaged drinks being launched some time ago. Still, nothing beats the homemade version, though an expertly mixed fresh lime soda at a restaurant can come real close.
Ouch! Look at our bijli bill: The mercury isn't the only thing that rises in summer. One look at the power bill is certain to lift our BP and sink our spirits as we contemplate the cash flying out of our pockets.
Pool: You don't have to know how to swim. Just lowering yourself into a bright blue oasis of cool is enough to make you giddy with pleasure. Paddle at the shallow end, float at the deep end and splash about in between - a couple of hours in a pool is a sure-shot way to ENJOY a sunny day.Quarrels: Keeping your cool is never easy when you're all hot and bothered - and that makes for a lot of arguments, disagreements and fights. When that happens (as it inevitably will), breathe in, count to ten, and remember that there's three months of summer to be endured. Stay cool.
Rain: No, it doesn't rain in summer. But within two weeks of getting into the dog days there's only one thing on our minds - the monsoon. When will it start? Will it be on time? Will it pour and pour? Can it come early this year? Please?
Temperatures: The one thing on our minds every day in summer. How hot is it really? Feels like 300 degrees in the shade, sure, but 38… did you say 38? What do you mean it's 47 degrees? The world is wrong - it's not the British who are obsessed with the weather. It's us!
Umbrella: It's the easiest way to stay protected from the heat, and doesn't cost a bomb as well. But we're strangely ambivalent about carrying an umbrella in summer, even though in the next season, it never leaves our side. This year, get yourself a nice brolly and twirl it around on a sunny day.
Vacation: It's a funny thing. We complain bitterly about the soaring temperatures at home, but go on holiday to the beach, and suddenly the heat ceases to trouble us. That's the effect a summer vacation has on the senses - it cheers us up, reminds us that this time of year can be enjoyable, and brings us back to work refreshed.
Water: When you're thirsty, absolutely nothing can satisfy your thirst like water. When you're sweltering from the heat, only a cool bath can restore your equilibrium.
XS clothing: Noodle-strap tops. String bikinis. Micro minis. Short shorts. There was a time when as good Indians, we would have shuddered at all of the above, but now we're not the least bit flustered about wearing sexy togs in summer. After all, it's already so hot, does it matter if we send the mercury shooting further?
zZZ as in afternoon naps: No one wants to go out on a summer afternoon - even if it is a holiday. So darken your drapes, cool the room and snooze into blissful oblivion.
Beer: Frankly, beer is good at any time, but summer is when it really comes into its own. That's because beer is always best when it's drunk ice-cold (never mind what the Brits say) and there's nothing to beat the slightly bitter taste of beer as it hits your parched throat on a day (or night) when the world seems to have turned into a tandoor. Bottoms up, we say.
Cottons: Soft, cool, airy, flowing… Cotton was made for an Indian summer - it seems as though someone up there really thought about the perfect fabric for us. White cotton always feels best when the sun is beating down (and it looks great too, when the atmosphere and environment goes all brown and sere). But the best part of cotton? You can dye it in all the gorgeous colours the country is famous for and make the summer bright and gay.
Mangoes: If there's one thing that makes summer worth all the trauma it's this - the king of fruits. Face it, even though mangoes can be artificially ripened these days so that in Mumbai at least, you can begin to feast on them in February, nothing, NOTHING can beat the taste of a fresh, naturally ripe mango. And we're so lucky. We have so many different kinds of mangoes. Mera Bharat indeed mahan.Ice-cream: From the humble gola to the gourmet gelato, from the cheapest ice lolly to the most expensive imported carton, from slurping from a cone to scooping out from a glass or cup, ice-cream is still the most satisfying way to beat the heat. Dig in!
Juice: We know now why fruits were invented. So we could juice them up, perk them up with ice and drink them all though the weary summer. From mangoes to watermelon to mosambi to litchis, fresh iced juice can take the sting out of the heat.
Sunglasses: You have to admit, when it comes to style, summer has a serious edge over the cooler seasons. What can look more sophisticated than a pair of sunglasses? Slip them on and look like a film star! Instantly. (Carry a pen around always, in case anyone asks for an autograph.)