Namaskar Y'all - 2018


The Long Days of Summer

By Shyama Parui

The sun is almost setting and we step out to the backyard. At once we are greeted with the cooler air and the sound of birds settling down for the night. We cook dinner at a leisurely pace over the grill. It is a Sunday that is devoid of frantic preparations for the school week. We share roasted vegetables and paneer tikka and the conversation is about books to read and pictures to paint. We are occasionally interrupted by pesky mosquitoes leading to a debate about the next best technique to completely get rid of mosquitoes, without starving spiders and other species that rely on those insects for food. Ah! The joys of summer.

I am not exactly sure of how the school calendar emerged with summers off. Varied explanations of farmers needing helping hands, urban schools getting too hot, low attendance, high cost of school operations, and so and so forth are found on the internet. Whatever the reason, why question something that you like? As a child, I am sure that you didn't object to a break from school either. Even as an adult, I have favored the unstructured laziness of the hot and humid months, although work doesn't allow such luxury. Maybe childhood conditioning is to blame. The academic year in India typically ended around mid-April after weeks of studying and worrying about “final exams". An escape from education-induced stress was a welcome relief.

I vividly remember how the summers in India peaked in the month of May with fruits disappearing from the market and vegetables wilting under the relentless harsh sun beating down on us. Only mangoes, dubbed as the King of Fruits ruled. The self-confessed mango lover in me, always felt that summers were created just so we could enjoy the sweet, fragrant flavors of the myriad varieties of mangoes that grow in India. When the first basket of Alphonso mangoes arrived at home, it was the official start of the “most wonderful time of the year" for me. I usually ripped the strings, hastily pulled out the hay that cushioned the delicate fruit and screamed with delight at the sight of hapoos aam that was supremely regal, draped in golden skin and a crimson crown. Drawing in the aroma and letting your taste buds delight in its succulent flavor, is an experience to die for.

For most people of my generation, the long break from school was not necessarily structured. From what I can recall, it was less about accomplishment and more about leisure. The biggest challenge was finding ways to beat the heat. Homemade pickle accompanied with curd and rice, chilled kala khatta flavored drinks, and afternoon naps topped the list. The substitute to organized summer camps was our group of friends determined to fill the hours with bikes, books, and badminton not listed in the order of preference. Of course, the order of those activities was carefully timed according to the temperature outside.

Summer was also a time to reconnect with your roots as a lot of families living in Mumbai visited their hometown or native place. In some ways, that is also true today. We immigrants long to spend time in the countries of our origins and even though the summers in the US coincide with the monsoon in India, sort of an inhospitable time, we embrace the opportunity to travel. The risks of dengue, malaria, and unbearably boring flights far outweigh the gains from face to face interactions with our near and dear ones.

Doing something out of the ordinary, whether it is foregoing the precision of your usual routine, learning something new, seeking adventure, or finally doing that thing on your bucket list that you've always dreamed of or simply procrastinated, can be extremely rewarding if not always exhilarating. From my experience as a list keeper, checking off “re-organize the messy garage" is equally welcome as the chance to go parasailing. This reminds me of the breathtaking view of the Outer Banks from 1000 feet above the sea. It was surprisingly calm, giving the mind an opportunity to soak in the natural beauty and a gentle reminder of how small we are compared the vastness of the universe.

Travel can teach us so many things and one of the best gifts the US has to offer is the availability of affordable and safe destinations to visit. National and State Parks are perfect examples of places that provide numerous opportunities for everyone from Cautious Kaushik to Fearless Fatima.

For kids, overnight camps and sleepovers of the seasons sound exciting but for parents it is usually associated with anxiety. And if you've ever been the one who rolls his eyes because a parent is asking a lot of questions before allowing their child to stay overnight at your house, please don't do that in the future. It may surprise you but statistics on www.victimsofcrime.org show that one in five girls and one in twenty boys are victims of sexual abuse.

The most disturbing part is that the perpetrator is usually someone the child knows. So, as a parent this may also be the time of year when you discuss this topic and build awareness. I personally think it is completely acceptable to get as much information as you need before you leave your precious children in the care of others.

It is also ok to say “no" to your kids if there is ever any doubt about their safety. The anger or tears will be temporary and when I worry that my kids will scream “I hate you," I remind myself that I have to make the right decisions, not the popular ones.

Soaring temperatures and summer months may be lifelong partners, but boredom is their unlikely accomplice. As Samir Shukla talked about in his editorial last month, there are many benefits to allowing yourself to feel bored, too. So, sip some lemonade and savor the extra minutes of daylight because it will slip out of your grasp before you know it.

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Shyama is a long time North Carolina resident and an ardent writer. You can reach her at: shyamashree_parui@hotmail.com