Thursday, May 8, 2014

Summer Time






Good old days, they say, are nothing but a myth created by those who can't remember them anymore. I don’t think my memory is a cause for concern because I remember my kindergarten friends, even though I keep forgetting my relatives. Since we are talking good old days in the month of May, I am reminded of my childhood summer vacations.

Among the smaller pleasures of life when growing up was the time spent during summer holidays. Summer meant hill stations, vacations and relations. Summer also meant that laziness found respectability. Despite the excruciating heat, absence of power, and air conditioners - summer holidays of the eighties were good fun. Is it because we were kids? Because when we don’t feel the heat, we are either too happy or too young! Or is it because nostalgia comes dressed in wistful clothing? Perhaps remembrance has colored my memories with shades that never existed in the first place. Perhaps all of that, and more. 


Regardless, my summer holidays came marinated with the hope of relatives coming over for an extended period of stay. And relatives meant distant cousins, their cousins and even their neighbors. While mother fretted about extra hours in the kitchen, a visit by the grandparents or a visit to the grandparents, was a bonanza for us. Happiness rested neither in a new i Pad, nor in a touch phone but in the simple joys of meeting your favorite cousin. And chatting long after everyone had dozed off. Who among us didn’t enjoy those lazy hot afternoons?

And when parents indulged in afternoon siesta, it was time to indulge in forbidden activities. Conduct our own experiments. I remember pouring kerosene in the back yard water tank, and igniting it to check flammability. When mother woke up, she noticed that my right eyebrow was missing. Fortunately, the face remained unharmed. I did get an earful, but escaped spanking.

The evening activities of playing board games were a symbol for family unity, seeking somehow to signify that a family that spent holidays together stayed together. So whether it was dicing mangoes for dozen odd relatives, playing ludo with cousins or counting the number of fireflies on the Shisham tree - every activity brimmed with pleasure.

Back then, summers were more about passive learning without trying too hard. Even though there were music lessons, skating escapades and painting attempts, the absence of deadlines made sure that leisure reigned supreme. However, leisure activities for children in Gurgaon are not so leisurely anymore. The other day, my ten year old neighbor was fretting about not completing her story for a creative writing workshop. The girl's mother had enrolled her for etiquette and dining classes too. “Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s only a hobby class. You can complete the story next week.” 
“No, I have to finish it today,” she rued. “Otherwise, I won’t get my certificate.”

Living in a competitive digital world, it is not difficult to understand why the idea of creative leisure is unacceptable today. As we progressed, we realized that there is logic and purpose in everything. In a world where time is precious and competition aggressive, it is the extra edge that separates the winner from the second place. So children need to know more, and learn more in order to survive the competition. After all, winning is everything. At one time summer vacations were all about leisure, hobbies, visiting relatives and laid back fun. But today those ideas are too boring and old-fashioned to be considered. That laid-back world does not exist anymore. Not in Gurgaon. Bryan Adams knew when he sang:


Standin' on your mama's porch
You told me that it'd last forever
Oh, and when you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Oh, yeah.
Back in the summer of '69, oh.


 This is an edited version of the original article that was published in Gurgaon Times, The Times Of India, 8th May, 2014.

67 comments:

  1. Oh yes! Summertime was bliss. As much as I detested summer (simply because I was in a land where temperatures scaled 50degrees) I loved summertime. Not only did it provide a respite from school, it was also the time that we came to India and holiday'd with the family. Ah, loved your post Alka. Especially more since I just finished writing a rather nostalgic guest post for Dagny about childhood games that didn't involve technology. Thank you for making me nostalgic. It kind of made my day

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    1. Thank you for reading Sid. And so glad you liked it.

      Delete
  2. It's only now that i am allergic to the summer months but back then (read childhood days) May month was welcomed with open arms for ripe mangoes and playing full-time with all children of all ages.I remember helping mummy with papad and pickles. Now I do not make these but buy from the stores. An era has been lost away.

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    1. Oh yes Kalpana, the papad pickle making rituals are a thing of the past.

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  3. :) A very nostalgic post indeed... Summer vacations to me also meant sweet ripe mangoes from the orchard in our native home, the sickly sweet smells of the beli flowers and the gondhoraj (the aroma king) lebu (lime), the tele program called "chhutti chhutti" and of course the evening story telling sessions with my grandma :)

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    1. And Harsingar flowers too! Oh yes summers meant all of that and more.
      Thanks for stopping by Rajrupa.

      Delete
  4. Reminiscing your golden childhood days is a pleasure. Today, the augmented reality is more dominant than the normal reality.
    But me being a kid from 90's, I am glad that my childhood was somewhat similar too :D.

    http://www.anshulgautam.in/2014/05/treasure-of-love.html

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  5. Right, guests for extended stay meant relatives, their relative and their extended circle. What fun it was to play hopscotch and that game with little peeble (Geetay, don't know what it is called in english).

    This one is one of my all times favs.

    Congrats yet again!

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    1. Thank you Saru. So glad you liked this. Means a lot.

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  6. I have such fond and similar childhood memories too. But I am sure my kids will also look back at theirs with nostalgia. I guess it is that way for every generation. Like I mentioned in my comment, there are many factors that have transformed vacations including more women working professionally compared to in my mother's generation. Right touch of nostalgia in the post. Great going!

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    1. Yes, a lot has changed. Women are working, joint family system is disintegrating, technology has taken over.
      Thanks Rachna.

      Delete
  7. Yes,our summers were full of fun of the non -electronic kind.Today's kids need laptops,i pads,mobiles & the like to have fun ! Maybe the generation gap or maybe our overindulgence or maybe both.

    The narrative of your article is superb ! Takes us back to our summer holidays !

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  8. somehow i feel and know too that the childhood we had was much nostalgic, these days its more of facebook - emails - PS3 etc etc and so on ..

    We use to have so many relatives , one of the BANES of living in a city while everyone else was in villages , anyone got sick, anyone wanted to catch a train , or a plane or anything .. even go to another big city.. would first come to our house for a night or two.. and those we loved were forced to stay a bit more :)

    my childhood was 70's 80's so you know it was WOWOWOW... and i somehow still live those memories a lot ..

    the games we playes , as saru said above , Geetay, pithu Garam.. langdi taang, chain chain etc etc etcccccccccccc


    Bikram

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    1. Langdi Taang, Ludo, hop scotch...yes the games we played.
      Technology has taken over simple joys.

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  9. Absolutely true. The summers now are no more fun for the kids with summer camps, skates class, violin classes, and so many more. I mean give them a break yaar. I consciously do not enrol my daughters to any camps and let them be themselves with the neighbourhood kids. I don't see any harm in being a second or third or fourth in the rat race, but all I want them to have is some time to relax and enjoy childhood. A very well-described post. The lines that touched me more are the following.

    "Happiness rested neither in a new iPad, nor in a touch phone but in the simple joys of meeting your favorite cousin. And chatting long after everyone had dozed off. Who among us didn’t enjoy those lazy afternoons?"


    "

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    1. Thank you Rekha. So so glad you liked it. Means a lot.

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  10. A beautiful post that captures the small pleasures of lives, Alka:) Read the full text in the morning paper! Bryan Adams has sung many an immortal songs!

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  11. Now I remember, during summer holidays early 1990s (my primary- middle school times) the real fun usually started just after lunch time. we cousins , especially girls experimented in making sweets with disastrous results, acted like a tom boy and used to beat cousin brothers, climbed mango trees in the back yard and irritated few big red ants and get bitten by them in retaliation, learnt to ride bicycle by renting them for Rs 10 for 1-2 hours, playing carrom board as we felt board games such as ludo too boring then Those were the times.
    I feel old now!

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    1. Oh yes, the bike riding lessons and the tree climbing.
      Those were the times, yeah.

      Delete
  12. Right about that KG. I even remember the KG teacher's name and how I got a cut on my chin, trying to show off in the class.
    Summer was fun when going to "native place" (though it was terribly hot with only one table fan - waiting for the fan to turn and come back to you in the next oscillation)
    One of the past times, catching as many fireflies as possible and putting them in a jar......
    Congrats on that Gurgaon Times.

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    1. Yes, you did that too? Catching fireflies? Thanks a ton.

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  13. Aah yes!! Summer vacations! How they have changed!!

    Good on you for being published regularly now!

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  14. Creatively described the vacation operation. Yes, there is lots in them

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  15. The absence of cable television, computers, video games, the internet, mobile phones and the presence of a crazily high number of cousins, friends and others to hang out with meant that most of my summers were spent either playing cricket or soccer outside or games like Ludo, Scotland Yard, Business indoors. Man, those were some fun days!!!

    Lovely post, brought back some really wonderful memories :)

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    1. Yes board games were as pleasurable as play station.
      Waiting for the ice cream vendor for that orange bar!
      Thank you for your time.

      Delete
  16. Yes! It also helped that we did not enter the rat race at birth :)

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  17. Your write-up made me nostalgic. When we were kids, we didn't feel the heat, were happy with just six dresses and couldn't think of life without our cousins. I spent most of my summer vacations in Lucknow after a mandatory visit to the hills. And I'd cry my heart out when it was time to catch the train to Delhi.

    The article is replete with gems like - Good old days, they say, are nothing but a myth created by those who can't remember them anymore.

    Or is it because nostalgia comes dressed in wistful clothing? Perhaps remembrance has colored my memories with shades that never existed in reality. Perhaps all of that, and more.....

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    1. Yes, the mandatory Shimla, Mussoorie or Nainital visit. The hill stations have changed over the years. I was so disappointed when I went to Nainital after two decades. The loss of green cover and mushrooming of hotels was distressing.
      Purba, we had loads of relatives during summers. Dad being a doc, some cataract or hernia surgery was scheduled during that time. Fixing the mosquito nets in the aangan, adjusting the table fan, picking Bela flowers in the morning....it was so much fun.
      Thank you. You appreciation means a lot.

      Delete
  18. Earlier summer vacations meant, playing with cousins, climbing trees, reading comic books in the garden, licking on ice lolly and sometimes going for family trips. Now it is all about, SUNSCREEN, Video games and being on bed.
    So much the children these days are missing.
    Made me nostalgic.

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    1. Red, in Gurgaon it is about boxing classes, piano lessons, even dining and etiquette workshops.

      Delete
  19. Oh yes , those were the times. Tv had very limited programs and so there was never a chance for extended TV time. Board games and mangoes and ice candies.... Summer of late 80s and early 90s :)

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    1. Yeah, those were the days. Thanks Jaish.

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  20. During summer months,if live in North...for us it used to be Nainital,Dehra Dun,Mussorie,Shimla
    When we lived in Bombay.......for us it used to be Mahabaleshwar,Panchgani.
    While our rich friends found London and Swiss more comfortable

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    1. For us it was Nainital, Shimla Mussoorie.

      Delete
  21. Nostalgic. Those times were so much better

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  22. I think vacations for today's kids means hours watching Cartoon Network or spent playing PS/XBox games.

    Some of the more unfortunate ones spend their vacations on dance classes or karate classes or music classes or tuitions.

    Cheers
    CRD

    Updated my blog. Do drop by.
    www.scriptedinsanity.blogspot.in

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    1. In Gurgaon it is about boxing classes, piano lessons, even dining and etiquette workshops.

      Delete
  23. This 'past days' is a very interesting phase of almost everybody, from the late 60's to the 90's and possibly, even the millennials would be saying the same thing in a decade or two. Time has been rushing past, and it seems that it is an innate human tendency to only let the bigger picture endure - which for us has been a rosy one, thankfully.

    All the while I was reading this, I was eager to see if you'd mention Mangoes, and was elated to see them find mention. The mangoes haven't changed, from what they were back then, and now. :D

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. You are so right about the bigger picture enduring and staying with us. Yes, nostalgia comes dressed in wistful clothing. This is the edited version Anshul. The original piece had everything about plucking mangoes, fixing mosquito nets, playing Ludo, and waiting for the icecream vendor to buy that orange bar.

      Delete
  24. Lovely essay, Alka! Made me recall my summer trips to places like Almora and Nainital and having a wonderful time there year after year. I recently went to Mussoorie and I cribbed all along the journey, the stay and the return! Maybe because I am an adult now.
    Or maybe because that's what we folks from Gurgaon like to do! :-P

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    1. For us it was Nainital or Mussoorie. And when I went to Mussoorie recently, the lack of green cover, the kurkure wrappers in Kempty falls, the mushrooming of hotels, and the commercialization was shocking.
      And Gurgaon folks prefer exotic locales like Netherlands or Swiss Alps. Any local hill station is too down market for their social reputation. ;)

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  25. Ahhh Lovely post, Alka. I loved summers :) you bought back so many memories... Mangoes..jasmines..drawing classes...making lemonades and rasnas...freezing milk with sugar in ice trays and telling everyone that I made ice cream...LOL..I want to capture my own summers before I forget them :) The temperatures also have changed past few years, didn't they? And I wish people never invented video games at all. It is so hard to put a time limit or else the kids eat your head. Now, within 2 weeks the schools give holidays and another madness begins.

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    1. Oh yes, the ice cream making sessions! Funtimes.

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  26. Today's kids need to enjoy more of the fun minus Ipad or Iphone..well, quite a naughty child u were..hhehe.
    Nice one, Alka

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  27. What a sweet piece Alka.. it brought back so many memories.. I loved those days, we would be up early all raring and eager to go. playing hide and seek and lock and key before we hit the library to pick up a few of those Three Investigators and Hardy Boys. Living next to the beach meant spending the evenings making castles in the sands...life was anything but sedentary. We hardly watched TV, who had the time for it really?....sigh.. those truly were the days..

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    1. Seeta, today I see Gurgaon kids boarding a bus for etiquette and dining class!
      That makes me think..yes, those were the days.

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  28. This post has been selected for the Tangy Tuesday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging :)

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  29. In fact , childhood memories never fad & they remain with us, to be remembered later and feel good about the good old days.

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  30. Walk down the memory lane, Alka :) I remember my summer fun!
    Glad that your experiment just harmed an eyebrow...& all is well :)

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  31. Such a fun post to walk down those years that were pure fun. I remember going to my maternal grandfather's house during summer's and go the farm house and dip in that tube well, to escape the heat, and then have the sugar cane ka juice and play hide n seek.
    Summer's were the time to get all tanned, and not a worry on my face about it. The era of being conscious of what and who we were did not exist...those bachpan days should be lived by today's generation :)

    Awesome post, Alka!

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  32. damnnn i miss my childhood like hellll!! though i am just 17 now :D BTW grt post mam!

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  33. Nostalgia and moist eyes, first reactions after reading this. Absolutely, we have left all those small and free of cost pleasure ideas long behind. Not sure, where are we heading and what are we planning to achieve with this rat race in a digital world. I wish if we can bring back those days for our kids but not sure, how this virtual generation going to take that. I remember once we're watching a B&W movie and my niece, said, "chacha yeh kaisa TV hota tha".
    Apologies for reading it late.

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  34. Aah yes! Summertime was a great time. I miss my childhood days in summer, when I was carefree and at my absolute naughtiest... just like you! :-P

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