Indian summers once used to be a time for homegrown fun and relaxation, a time when children would just play hopskotch, fly kites, sleep through lazy afternoons or visit cousins. Now they come packed with summer workshops.
Every year, classes teaching theatre, dance, painting and many more activities spring up as schools close for nearly two months in the harsh, hot weather. But does it burden the little ones and take away their precious free time?
"In our childhood, we used to go to the river Yamuna and spend hours in the water like buffaloes. Kite-flying and gulli-danda were other passions. We spend summer vacations lasting two months as if there was not a care in the world and we were free as birds to do what we wanted," says Hari Dutt Sharma, a teacher in Agra.
Mukta, another Agra resident, said, "We used to go out to our relatives, to our 'nanihaal' (maternal grandparents' place) or on long vacations. My father used to buy bundles of old comics and children's books at half the rates and we would devour them in hours."
But times have changed. With both parents working, where is the time to take the kids out for a long holiday or an outstation visit to the grandma's place?
Cricket academies have come up with the promise of producing star cricketers. Children are made to learn robotics engineering and rock climbing. Working parents, especially, are grateful.
Veena Victor, a Delhi-based medical professional, said: "At least our children can learn something new. Else, who is going to take care of them at home?"
Sandeep Kaur Oberoi, a Faridabad-based child counsellor, feels summer workshops are a way to maintain the routine for children.
"Workshops maintain the routine for children. With working parents, there is nobody to take care of kids during holidays at home, and these acivities at least prevent them from surfing the internet and TV all the time," Oberoi said.
For instace, Hippocampus in Bangalore and Chennai has been running creative classes like story writing and shooting for kids for seven years.
Chandini Khanna, director, Hippocampus Chennai, said, "Parents should be spending quality time with their children or they will only play computer games and watch TV. Our classes make them learn innovative things like scriptwriting and we also offer a huge library of books."
Many also say these bring out the creative talents of younsters.
"Undoubtedly these summer camps have been able to tap and nurture artistic and creative talent. This is what summer time camps are doing, if not all, many of them," says Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) national general secretary Jitendra Raghvanshi.
Last week he began a month-long camp "Little IPTA" at the Soor Sadan auditorium in Agra.
Surendra Sharma also lives in Agra - he in fact owns a hotel where summer classes are being held. But he admits that these workshops have become an industry.
"They are charging exorbitant fees to teach children some hip-hop and breakdance or some funky steps in the name of promoting culture. Ideally summer vacations should be reserved to relax and rest to re-charge minds and bodies," he said.
And has anybody asked the kids what they want to do?
Said 11-year-old Armaan, based in Ghaziabad, "I'd rather go with my parents to Nainital on a 10-day vacation than to a summer class!"