Another side to summer: The Way We Were by Poonam Saxena

Residing by way of these interminable days of blazing warmth, each month seemingly among the many hottest on report, all we will do is hunker down and ask ourselves: How are we going to bear it?

Which set me pondering: How did we stay by way of the Indian summer season, significantly the fierce north Indian summer season, in a pre-air-conditioning world? I spoke to my aunts, who had been schoolgirls within the ’50s. To my bafflement, I found that they didn’t bear in mind the warmth in any respect. What they remembered was an unhurried, nice rhythm to the lengthy days and nights, a rhythm created to maintain the home and its inhabitants as cool as doable.

So right here it’s: a day within the lifetime of a Fifties north Indian summer season in a Kanpur bungalow.

Let’s begin with the night time. Everybody slept beneath the open sky, both on the garden or within the courtyard, their cots draped with skinny mosquito nets. Pedestal followers and desk followers, positioned at both finish of a row of beds, created a mild breeze. The extra elegant family members positioned aromatic moti gajras, barely dampened, subsequent to their pillows.

The household woke and bathed early. At about 11 am, all of the chiks had been lowered and the large desert coolers could be switched on, which radiated cool air by way of the deliciously darkened rooms. Lunch was served early, round one. After that, the older family members would retire for a nap. The kids weren’t allowed out within the scorching noon warmth (although the extra adventurous would steal out to climb the mango bushes), so they’d normally crowd into one bed room and play indoor video games, ludo, carrom, playing cards (teen-do-paanch, rummy, bluff). Or they’d learn books and magazines; the Hindi journal Chandamama, with its vibrant illustrations and thrilling tales of Vikram and Betal, assorted kings and monsters, was hottest.

Within the evenings, because the solar’s fury abated, cooling drinks had been handed round: aam ka panna, bel ka sherbet, masala chhas, nimbu paani. There could be a selfmade nashta of daal moth, mathri, namak paara. At twilight, water could be sprinkled on the bottom within the aangan and different open areas, in preparation for the night time when the cots could be lined up beneath the starry skies.

Meal instances adopted a sample too. There was all the time a mutton curry, however no fish (Could to August, peak summer season and monsoon, was once a tough time to seek out contemporary fish, or hold fish contemporary). Seasonal summer season greens equivalent to lauki, turai and tinda had been staples, however since these weren’t thought-about essentially the most appetising, the kitchen would prove dishes made from besan, equivalent to gatte and taka paisa, or daal kebabs. Pudina and dhania chutneys had been a should with each meal. Summer season fruits like mango and melon had been eaten daily.

There was no fridge; the primary fridge (GEC) arrived solely in 1957. Meals was saved in massive, latticed picket packing containers with a high-quality mesh. There have been ice packing containers too, for which massive ice slabs could be ordered from the bazaar. These had been by no means used to chill water, which was all the time drunk out of earthen surahis and ghadas.

It helped that the homes had been constructed with thick partitions and excessive ceilings. There was wonderful cross-ventilation. The primary AC arrived solely within the late ’50s, however as my aunts all stated, “Did we actually want it? We’re unsure.”

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