People in the west get invariably excited with the onset of summer after the long and harsh winter months. In contrast, most in India are reeling under the intense heat and would prefer the winter season any day! This is quite understandable, as the intermittent power and water supplies in some parts of the country add to the general public’s woes. All this put aside, the Indian summer does have its share of romantic and nostalgic moments which make us love this season.
There are certain associations with summer that have got deeply ingrained in my psyche. Here is my pick of musts for the Indian summer.
Mangoes: Can you imagine an Indian summer without mangoes? A versatile fruit, it finds place in a number of savoury and sweet dishes such as mango shake, mango soufflé and mango ice cream. Every household has to have its share of mango chutney, pickle, ‘aam panna’ ( a delicious mango drink) ,mango rice and what have you! My favourite story is one which my mother often told me. Being one of seven siblings, the whole family used to gather in the courtyard of the house which was close to a passing rivulet. They sat under shady trees, squatting on floor- mats , with dozens of mangoes immersed in tubs full of ice cold water. They all literally had a mango meal, devouring one mango after the other (I assume there was very little scare of pesticide on fruit in those days). My mother also taught me the most elegant way to eat a whole mango without cutting it- creating minimum mess.
Lassi: Lassi or buttermilk is a cool drink prepared with curd and ice cold water and it is the perfect thirst quencher during the summer months. It has many variations – can be had sweetened either with sugar or Rooh- Afza (sharbat) .Sweet mango lassi is also a great option. The figure conscious can enjoy the drink with some salt, roasted cumin powder and a pinch of black pepper. It has cooling properties and is very refreshing. Yet another variation is ‘Katchi lassi’ which is very simple to prepare. Katchi means raw. Just mix cold milk and water in equal proportions and add some sugar or syrup like rose syrup or saffron. Top with lots of crushed ice. Serve in a tall glass. Garnish with dollops of fresh cream. Delicious!
Visit grandparents: Summer is the time to visit grandparents. It is essentially a time when the whole extended family can gather at one place. As a kid, for me it was a time to catch up with cousins and while away the time playing board games like luddo, scrabble and monopoly, while the adults played cards or were busy discussing the wedding preparations of an older cousin.
Head to the hills: Oh yes ! People would rather travel abroad now, given the chance. But a drive uphill to places like Shimla, Barog, Mussoorie or Manali has its own charm. A weekend away from the hustle and bustle of city life and the slight nip in the air is the perfect way to recharge a tired body and soul.
Getting wet in monsoon showers: How incredibly romantic it is to get wet in the monsoon showers. Nothing can surpass the heady and musky scent of the wet soil when the first drops of rain splash the earth. Add to that the piquant aroma of freshly fried delicacies like ‘pakoras’ coupled with cups of hot cardamom ‘chai’ (tea). Ah! These are definitely moments worth treasuring. Inevitably, I get reminded of soul stirring melodies of late Shri Jagjit Singh and Shubha Mudgal and my mind conjures up images of all the wonderful bollywood rain songs.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There is so much more to love about this season. What do you like about the Indian summer? I would love to hear!