When I was a kid, studying in a residential school for girls. For us the “boarders” summer meant getting away from the hostel, where we lived all year. As the summer holidays came closer, we made the annual visit to the dingy boxrooms in the basement to retrieve our trunks and dusty holdalls . The musty smell still fills my nostrils when I think of summers.
The other thing I remember is the last day at school. Parents would start dropping in even before the school hours finished. And by lunch time girls would begin to leave. Hostel gate passes were signed, and byes were shouted as cars rolled away, creating a cloud of dust and diesel fumes on quiet mud roads that were unaccustomed to any traffic.
By evening 4 p:M the dormitories would be empty. Bunk beds looked naked without colorful bed-sheets and pillows. An eerie silence would descend on UN-naturally neat rooms. The few of us that remained would roam the gardens, sit in the porch and generally kill time. At tea, which was served sharp at 4, there would be no queues for getting in. No loud banter, none of the usual seating order and hardly any seniors to show any deference to. The fact that only a few of us remained behind meant a sudden stripping of social order that was strangely unnerving. No one seemed to have any appetite and even though second serves we’re abundant, no one desired them. Everybody was kind of stuck in a limbo. The conversation would be about who was leaving next, when and how.
And when ones guardians came to pick one up, the feeling in the tummy was weird. There was happiness at the long holiday, at going home, away from schedules but also a strange apprehension. Apprehension of the outside world, caused undoubtedly due to living all year in a confined place with a handful of girls one’s own age and almost no exposure to the world, except letters and weekly phone calls from parents. Everything in the hostel was predictable – classmates , the teachers, the schedules, the food , the rules. Somehow leaving all that even for a short time , no matter how exciting was also a bit scary. Causing a strange sensation in my throat and belly that I can to this hour remember . I call it “the summer holiday sensation”
As I have grown up, and come out of the confines of a boarding school, summer has come to mean roadside vendors selling impossibly large glasses of chilled sugar cane juice , “golas” in a myriad of colors and flavors that no lecture on lack of hygiene can make less tempting. Ice cream sessions with my children, and fancy plush holidays to exotic locations.
I have also come to appreciate, with travel, the true significance of “summers”. I belong to a hot region of a warm country. Summers for us meant uncomfortably high temperatures, unquenchable thirst, unending sweat, stifling heat, killing sun. In these circumstances one could hardly appreciate William Shakespeare’s “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”. In Rajasthan, that would be equivalent to calling someone names! During my trips to Europe, I began to understand what “summer” meant to people from colder regions. Why the ballads and the songs, the unending reverie of the sun.
Yet, in the pit of my stomach when I think of summer I become the young 10 yr something girl, seeing friends leave and waiting for my turn to be taken away. Feeling in equal parts the strange sensation that comes from a strong desire to escape and an equally, if not stronger desire to remain at the place I knew, better than home!
I have been tempted by Alisa to write this post for the summer challenge on her wonderful blog Where’s my backpack?