It’s that time of year again when the sun is merciless, hostile and fierce, when motley human beings scamper helter-skelter to escape its harshness, when the days are long and tempers short.
Over the years, though, the Indian summer has undergone a transformation of sorts. Not so much in its meteorological technicalities as in our reaction to it. There were times when we would be sturdy enough to play cricket in 40°C without batting an eyelid (pun unintended). These days we rush to air-conditioned comfort zones when the sun is only half as punishing. In this era of baggy bermudas, colourful flip flops, mint mojitos, gelato ice-cream, frozen yoghurts, IPL, getaway vacations, and wellness resorts, the urban Indian has the wherewithal and the capacity to beat the heat in numerous ways.
Folks from rural India still brave the ferocity of the season with limited means though. Thatched roofs, cool lassi, old-fashioned coolers and creaky fans make up their defence against the onslaught of the sun. Be that as it may, village residents stay healthier on the whole than their city-based brethren. We have all become, pardon me, rather namby-pamby.
Thus the perceived need to sleep in the AC, cook in the AC, and even bathe in the AC! An affinity for air-conditioning appears to have inflicted the people of our country, to the point of overdoing it. Few can brave the adversity of a hot summer afternoon these days without the aid of modern-day technology. AC dehydrates our bodies and leaves us feeling weak and lethargic. The need to sweat a little during the afternoons and make do with just a fan at night is perhaps what the doctor should order.
In some countries, there is a dictum that advises offices to keep the temperature at 24 degrees indoors. Men are permitted to not wear ties and remain comfortable. Here, we often try to get the cooling down to 18 degrees, especially in public spaces such as hotels and trains. And then we complain when we fall sick as a result of being exposed to 42 degrees on stepping outdoors.
The need to roll down the car windows before switching on the AC in the mornings has been oft extolled but is still observed in the breach by some, to their potential peril. Some of us grew up at a time when car AC or any AC was unheard of. Straw hats, hand fans, kurta-pyjamas, rooftop charpoys, pedestal fans, and mosquito nets were still around. Road-rage was certainly less prevalent.
Nowadays people have a really short fuse, especially in the summers it seems. Cool and calm minds are rarities. As are polite car users. But summers are also about invigorating morning walks, outdoor chats long into a balmy night, juicy gossip, and juicy fruits of all sorts, led of course by the emperor of emperors, the mango. Those men and women who have not partaken of mangoes in the confines of their homes, in a half-clad state, have hardly lived. And to those who avoid mangoes since they are fattening supposedly, I say humbly that they should avoid that spoon-full of sugar in their tea, avoid all toffees, chocolates, ice-creams, and even rice if they have to, but let us keep up the tradition of abiding love for the most succulent of God’s creations.
Summer romances are short-lived. Mango deserts us by mid-August and melon even before that. So let’s relish the taste of the season, and keep our cool, come what may. Summer time is fun time. Enjoy the season folks!
(The writer is an administrator, author, and motivational speaker)