Talking of summer, I am reminded of the various summers I have spent from my early days. We were in India. It used to be blazing hot. The day temperatures, sometimes, would go as high as 120 degrees in the shade. Everyone, then, would want to go into a protective spot to escape from the scorching heat of the Sun. There was no air conditioning, nor any other cooling arrangements.

The rich people went away to the hill resorts which were much cooler. The not so rich also made some arrangements suiting their means. They would have screens made of Khus (a dry aromatic grass which when made wet would cool the air with the evaporation of water and also give out a sweet fragrance). The offices were also provided with these screens so that the establishment could work comfortably. Of course these screens had to be continuously kept wet with water for which labor had to be employed. The labor was cheap then, there being many poor people wanting employment. 

The Government of India and the State Governments in the British days were not satisfied even with these arrangements as the Englishmen, used to cooler climates, could not bear this unbearable heat. They would, thus, shift all their offices to the cooler climates. The summer headquarters of the Government of India were at Shimla, while the state Governments chose their own spots within their state. There would be mass movements at the advent of summer, from plains to the hills and a reverse exodus at the end of the season.

The poor had really a hard time. They would have no relief of any kind. Even the nights were so hot that one could hardly get any sleep. The temperature, during the night, often, would not go below 98 degrees. Generally people would sleep under the starry sky and keep on gazing at the stars, studying different constellations. One was so close to nature and often thought of the Creator who brought all this marvel into being.

Another method of keeping cool during summer was to build houses with thick walls and high ceilings to provide a cushion of air between the roof and those living under it. Again from the ceilings, fans in the shape of wooden beams, with wide cloth drapes attached to them, were suspended. These fans were pulled to and fro by means of ropes. The drapes created movement in the air helping the perspiration to dry. and make you feel cool. Again these contraptions were only for the rich. The ropes were pulled by labor from outside the rooms, where it was much hotter. 

There was a big section of population which had to satisfy itself, evaporating their perspiration and cooling themselves by means of hand fans. Hand fans were sold in the market in large quantities with the beginning of each summer. It was and, is still a big industry in India.

Another big industry in India, during summer, is that of earthen pitchers which keep the water cool for the poor. Normally water gets so hot that it does not quench the thirst. To cool this water, it is kept in earthen pitchers. These pitchers being porous, remain wet on the outside. The moisture, coming in contact with dry air evaporates, cooling the vessel in the process. The water of the pitcher continues to seep through the porous walls and the whole cycle continues. The arrangement can be said to be a poor man's refrigerator. Even these days you can find these earthenware, being sold in large quantities on the roadside.

During our school days, we used to look forward to the summer. We would have vacations for a couple of months as study during that heat was almost impossible. During these vacations, we would refresh ourselves by visiting friends and relations. Those who had left their homes for study in distant schools, would go back home to be with their parents. There was much greater bond between the children and parents then. The interesting part of it was that when at school, they yearned for going home, and after having spent sometime there, they would get bored and again look forward to go back to school to meet their old friends. This shows how important change is for human beings.

Mothers of young children were afraid that they may suffer a heatstroke by remaining in the Sun for long. They would try to keep indoors. On account of the heat, they would also feel tired, and would want to have an afternoon siesta. They would, therefore, after finishing their chores, take the children with them in their bed for a nap. But, often, it was seen that after the mother was fast asleep, the children would sneak out and continue playing outside. This is what acclimatized them and made them hardy. In fact, the human will to live is so strong that each one adjusts to the circumstances in which one is brought up. It is only the parents who are often over-anxious, and make their children soft and shaky in the process.

All that was very fascinating indeed and there never was a dull moment. How could summer be too much then, when every time you were looking forward to it, even though living them was hard. The excitement was in the feeling of living it and there was a sense of achievement and victory in having lived it.            


More by :  Arya Bhushan

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