Words Zahra K.
Header Credits Tasneem A. (@tasneemamiruddin)
As a child, summer vacations for me were a mix of bittersweet feelings. Ours spanned from mid-April to mid-June with two months full of possibilities. All my friends enrolled themselves in various classes during the vacations, learning various crafts and skills and filled their schedules with one thing after another. I, on the other hand, did nothing compared to that. I stayed at home, day-dreamed, slept late, woke up late, ogled the moving clouds, read books, wrote hateful letters to my elder siblings after a fight, watched cartoons and Takeshi’s Castle the whole day.
My parents never subjected me to a rat race of constant learning. They let me get bored, and figure out ways to entertain myself. My fondest summer memories include the time spent cooking with my grandmothers – I had 2 of them, so it was double fun. Together we would make aam rass, mango pickles, chutney and murabbo – our summer staples.
I spent a lot of time playing in my mom’s garden, while she pruned and watered her plants. I used to sit on the garden staircase, in the hot sticky summer afternoons with my bag full of kitchen sets. Miniature steel vessels, bone china tea sets gifted by my aunts. Even upgraded to a tiny mixer, fridge, and stoves at some point.
Jalgaon, a town in Maharashtra, is one of the hottest during summer. Mom would make me wear cotton frocks and make us all cold glasses of roohafza to fight the heat. I miss the Sweet Summer Smells of my childhood home. Fragrance of mogra (jasmine) flowers that spread all over with the cool evening breeze. The sweet sour aromas of freshly made pickles stored in clay jars. Those were the days, when I CHOSE to lock myself down in the comfort of my home, and do things that I cherish immensely today.
Fast forward to the future – 20 years later, a summer very different, yet similar in some ways, came into my life. It shook the world to great degrees, challenged us to survive using the best possible ideas. We were forced to lock ourselves down. These days were similar to the competitive summer vacations, where everyone did something while I did nothing compared to them. It felt like a productivity contest, just the way it was back then. Honestly, kudos to people who managed to learn and do numerous new things every day.
As for me, I cooked and cooked, and washed, and cleaned, and tried my best to not lose my cool. I had no energy left to discover my new talents by the end of the mundane chores. The experience of staying confined with my family 24/7 gave me invaluable lessons. So, sorry not sorry – I was no way going to let the incessant skill sharers on Instagram and Zoom bog me down.
The learning was more of an inward journey. I practiced patience and compassion dealing with my family and meeting their demands, learnt resilience – living with the most difficult mother-in-law, without any respite. I doubt she will, but just in case she is reading this, I am dead meat!
Just like the summers of the 90s, I did what I felt was best for me. This time around I binged on Netflix, MasterChef Australia, slept through afternoons, spiked my spiritual connection, finally had the impending conversations with my husband about life, and concurrently began some slow and steady work on my dream venture. I took time out to introspect and smoothen my rough edges. I realised, I was my own hero and my one true mirror.
I invariably came out a winner from most of my childhood vacations, despite doing nothing but learning everything that mattered. Today, I can safely say that I got out of this one, pretty neat too.
Thank you, Summers, you are the best teacher.
Its an eloquently written piece and Zahra, you are an artist with words.. Painted the pictures of your summers abd your feelings alike.
As always a journey of nostalgia perfectly entwined with the present.