Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.
From Summer Sun by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Thank you for writing about and to summer like I never will.
Summer is my favourite season.
Now if you’re from a place where summer means crowded beaches, different flavours of ice cream every day, and tanned limbs poking out of shorts, being in love with summer may not seem so absurd.
Where I’m from, however, summer means different things. I don’t wear shorts; thick body hair genes, and the roving eyes of men everywhere effectively lengthened all hemlines. Where I’m from, we don’t have air conditioning. In fact, the electricity would frequently flicker, leaving us to pant through the heavy and humid nights. The thick, muggish air made it difficult to sleep and eat. Where I’m from, summer beats you down relentlessly, squeezes you, chews you up, and spits you out.
And yet, for all the ways summer tortures us, it has always been my favourite season.
Summer is when we would make our annual journey back to Kannur from Jeddah. As we flew into the Calicut airport, it was as though loads of weights were rolling off of us. Back home, surrounded by loud family members, heaps of mangoes, and abandoned cups of warm tea, we would feel lighter and easier.
As a child, summer for me wasn’t just about the absence of school. Summer was a burst of life fit into two glorious months. Summer time meant that I got to hang out with a very interesting troop of cousins and aunts and uncles on a daily basis. I was free to wander the backyard and garden, picking chikoos and these strange black pods that would explode with the most satisfying CRACK if you threw them into water. An older cousin once told me how she filled a bucket with these black pods, and then filled the bucket with water in our aunt’s bathroom. Some days my cousins and I would be sneaked out of my grandfather’s watchful eye. We would be piled into my uncle’s estate jeep and taken to the beach to splash around, sling wet sand at each other, and finally be hosed down in the garden. Now we visit the same beach in loose kurtas and smaller groups of two or three, and never seem to be able to escape the gaze of men around us. Those seaside visits from years ago, are probably when I felt the most free, and the safest. Some evenings we’d be dressed in our best clothes, with colourful hair clips and high pony tails, and taken to visit distant relatives. We would sit under painfully slow and loud fans and squirm as we drank our lemonade, and the adults sipped their tea. We’d end up running around in their gardens, chasing cows and exploring their houses, many of which had been built decades ago. Summer meant I was free to go on aimless walks, and discover the cantonment where we lived. I was free to run across the street alone and buy candy and popsicles. I would spend the mornings reading books in the verandah with five windows, and climbing the house roof with my cousins and watching entire afternoons go by us on the street below. Once evening fell, we would make our way to the Banyan tree older than all of us put together, and swing on its roots until dusk fell and the mosquitoes chased us back indoors.
For those two months, I felt like the world was an okay place to find myself in; it didn’t hate me or ignore me, it saw me and welcomed me. It was my time to be happy, and to feel the warmth that so often eluded me.
Summer felt like a breath of fresh air, that was comfortable and homely. It felt like I could breathe in slow and long gulps of air without the disapproving gaze of the frantic world around me. It allowed me to feel the sand between my toes, the wind in my hair, and the sweat in the small of my back. You see, when the sun shines that warm and bright and golden, it seems to banish all my fears and insecurities in a way that neither I nor anyone else has been able to.
When I try to imagine a world where I am occasionally happy, and always content, it is a world where it is always a golden, syrupy, slow summer.