I like summers. Mine are not what they used to be of course. Those days where summer meant two months of timelessness are gone forever ..nonetheless …. i still like summers.
Like birds coming to roost children living afar arrive at the doorstep of the familiar home they grew up in. To hand over their little ones into the welcoming warmth of a grandparents arms while they happily slide into respite from the daily grind. The gentle rhythm of the house changes in a heartbeat.
The soft, ordered rhythm goes for a dramatic change. Discipline takes a back-seat, habit is thrown to the winds. Disarray rules, toys lie strewn, clotheslines sag under increased load, the kitchen becomes redolent with once-familiar aromas as doting grandmothers rush to indulge the `deprived’ grand-kids.
In a house where silence ruled now evenings run into nights as friends and relatives drop by to catch up with the visitors from afar. Wisps of conversation, the abandoned laugh of a little child, sudden high-pitched admonishment, insistent stubborn wails …
I stand at my window, my eyes drawn every now and then to the house across, the little child running around, curious, exploring this new world, the grandfather who in the winter-gone-by found it difficult to walk tailing him indulgently.
Two months of timelessness, then the house will be silent again .. I like summer.
Getting married is something you can never be fully prepared for. And if it is one that crosses boundaries – be they of religion, caste, language, geography – or whatever other dimension that serves as a division and not a union – it serves up surprises all the time. For me one of the surprises was of summer madness in the family I married into.
I had observed with an element of amusement (and many a time gnawing hunger) how breakfast was a `might happen’ in the new family, how an entire meal could be composed of what I earlier classified as dessert (e.g. modaks), that rice is eaten before rotis in the meal sequence, that plain cooked arhar dal without any garnishing or chaunk is an accepted, integral part of a home meal and so on. But four months into married life I came up against a shocker. The family that worshipped a thousand deities like most Hindus abandoned all of them in favour of paying obeisance at the altar of just ONE God.
Come morning, noon and night this God spread its tentacles to every nook and corner – hiding in straw under the bed to occupying significant shelves in the fridge. It was truly omnipresent in our home. It manifest its presence in various hues – from green to reddish tinted to yellow to golden. It permeated our spirits in various forms – from firm to soft to liquid. It was demanding – it dominated all conversation and significant energies were spent in ensuring it was cared for well. Routines were established for its care, responsibilities farmed out to family members – who would go out to identify the best ones, who would ensure it was well `nested’, who would pick the ones for special attention each day and so on.
To my utter dismay slowly all cooking was abandoned and the kitchen counter tops too were relinquished to make way for its increasing tribe. The Ratnagiri Hapus (Alphonso) ruled over us and for three months of summer we became a family that ate, drank, talked, walked, dreamt mangoes. Now I liked mangoes too. Maybe more than liked .. a little love. But what I saw here was sheer madness. My saying `No thank you’ to a fifth mango of the day begot me incredulous looks and I could almost hear the cries of `Infidel’ `Traitor’ and suchlike that remained unsaid only because at four months of marriage I was a bit of a novelty too.
Now with fifteen years of this under my belt and exposure to many other similar zealots I am beginning to appreciate some of the positive aspects – like locking away the kitchen for three months. But I am yet to succumb to being snooty enough to turn down any mango other than the Hapus! My son is on his way there though – the Ugandan one we had yesterday barely got an appreciative nod and the Raaywal’s I once tried to tempt him with met with a `why not just sip on the Mango Slice bottle’ look L
As for me – the sight and smell of raw mangoes sprinkled with red chilli powder still makes my heart skip a beat (for reasons that don’t all quite fit in with the subject of this post 😉 ) – and the Hapus can wait for its turn on MY table.