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Nov 15, 2019-Friday



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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Humour: Hey AC-worshipping, ice-tray filling, ganji-wearers... summer needs some love too!

There’s more to the reviled Mumbai summer than just steam and sweat

brunch Updated: Mar 31, 2019 00:19 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
Long before Goa had emerged on the social landscape, there was Juhu beach and the pav bhaji stall to satiate summer cravings
Long before Goa had emerged on the social landscape, there was Juhu beach and the pav bhaji stall to satiate summer cravings(Photo: Shutterstock)

Everyone hates the Mumbai summer. That puts me in the category of no one for yet another reason. As someone who’s spent 37 summers (make that 36 – that one scorching, dripping, electricity-tripping Goan summer made me reassess everything in life) in Mumbai, I feel like I can speak with some authority on the subject. Hear me out, you AC worshipping, ice-tray filling, ganji-wearers. Look at the summer through my loving eyes. I promise you there’s more to the season than steam and sweat.

Bhaji on the beach

One of the absurd aspects of being a grown up is looking back at the 1980s and ’90s with nostalgia. Long before Goa had emerged on my social landscape, there was Juhu beach. Summer Sundays were spent splashing about in the water with siblings and cousins, pretending to swim, sometimes pretending to be the Little Mermaid languishing on the shore, unable to go back into the sea. Once we’d had enough of the water, we’d toss rings (that I later discovered were called quoits) aiming for sundry prizes like biscuits, chocolates, or a 20-rupee note stretched across a block of wood. Invariably, the rings landed halfway across the prize, and we’d lament our bitter fate.

It’s hot and miserable in the Mumbai summer, but not in the cool interiors that the lucky inhabit. While the folks around me wither and wilt, I thrive like a perverse flower in the wild!

But there was consolation at the nearby pav bhaji stall. I remember our favourite being manned by a Javagal Srinath lookalike. The bhaji was an excuse to have plenty of buttery pavs and escape to the kalakhatta stall and its tongue-tingling, lip-blackening, stomach-unsettling offerings. The advanced ’90s brought the bhavishyavani stalls, where robots speaking through voice recorders predicted your future for 10 rupees. “But I thought I’d get to keep the robot for that kind of money!” said an indignant younger cousin at the end of a feel-good recording.

Afonso de Mumbai

Those glittering beach days are a thing of the past. As is all the cycling down Bandra’s lanes, on bikes rented for ₹8 an hour. All the running around the newly created Joggers’ Park, with its fancy new ducks and no-eating rules. The romancing at Café Seaside at Bandstand over cold coffee. But as a grown-up, I still mourn the loss of a typically Mumbai public space. Sea View hotel at Juhu beach had a clientele that ranged from the shady to the hip. The dive with a view of the Arabian Sea defined grunge before grunge became a self-conscious style aesthetic. Those leisurely shandy and pork chilly afternoons with friends by the sea, which I thought would be the stuff of adult life, are long gone.

But Mumbai’s summer is still golden, and if the harassed city doesn’t drown itself in the next few years, will remain that way. Why, you ask? Alphonso. My Aligarh-born grandmother, with a UP-wallah’s love of fruit, would apprise us of the progress of the haapus from faraway orchards to our local market in her writerly way. The journey would be a lesson in history, geography, politics and meteorology. Their arrival at our Santacruz home – and arrangement in big brass thaals – was an annual event of some significance. Years later, I’m still smitten. Every summer, I temporarily abandon the search for life’s meaning right after I’ve tasted my first aamras of the season.

A flowery canopy

How wonderful it is to not bother with sweaters and jackets, mufflers and socks. No annoying coughs and colds, high-pressure weddings and reunions. It’s hot and miserable in the Mumbai summer, I’ll grant, but not in the cool interiors that the lucky inhabit. And the electricity supply sticks by us during the Mumbai summer for most part. So I find this constant complaining to be quite perplexing.

While the folks around me wither and wilt, I thrive like a perverse flower in the wild. Cheerful in my white t-shirt, weaving around in an auto, marvelling at the trees that throw a flowery canopy over post-apocalyptic roads. As for all you summer-tormented people, what a lovely time to catch a temperature-controlled movie in the theatre. A breezy night-time walk by the seaside. A chilled tumbler of aam panna. And a thoughtful pause to consider how the summer never killed anyone in Mumbai. On that ebullient note, I’ll dive in for the second shower of the punishingly hot day, hoping the overused bottle of deodorant hasn’t died on me yet. Ah, happy days!

From HT Brunch, March 31, 2019

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