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Summers Gone By

Summer holidays. Anticipated, savored and cherished. This magical time was the highlight of fourteen years of school. Every summer, my sister and I (along with our cousin brother), spent 2 months at the home of our grandparents. A rambling mansion surrounded by gardens on three sides, with cavernous ceilings, ornately carved furniture, doors hidden behind cupboards, creaky stairs and filled with relics of the past.

Summer holidays. So many memories. The sweet smell of ripe mangoes. The shouts of fruit sellers from the streets. The raucous noises of monkeys as they eat from the trees in the garden. Trying to eat the ice cream before it melts from the heat. Eating cold taati munjalu (fruit of sugar palm tree) on a lazy summer afternoon. Squealing with delight when my grandmother unveils one of her special sweets. 

Playing cops and robbers with water pistols. Annoying the gardener while he waters the plants, hoping he'll spray us with the hose. Bowling with plastic balls and pins in the living room. Petting the newly born calf in the buffalo pen. Eyes watering from fresh, spicy avakaya (mango) pickle, still continuing to eat. Board game shopping with grandfather. Eating dinner at lightning speed, because the power will go out in 5 minutes. 

Sitting under a full moon in the garden, illuminated only by stars and kerosene lanterns. Playing hide n seek in the dark. Laughing, talking and listening to snippets of the movie being played in the theater next door. Discovering the broken record player and 3 foot tall radio, tucked away in the upstairs library. The smell of old books, still scattered the same way from last summer. The smell of wet dirt after the first rains of the season. Making paper boats to see whose sinks last. Checking shoes for frogs and worms before putting them on. Trying not to step on millipedes in the garden. 

Competing to see who can take the quickest shower. Fighting for the lone seat at the head of the table. Playing the stereo full blast in a bedroom on the first floor so no one can hear us. Getting caught sneaking cola bottles from the fridge before lunch. Eating street food and getting scolded for not eating dinner properly at home. Movie marathons till well past midnight. Listening to the whistle of the trains during the night. None of us gave any thought to the future, beyond planning what to do next.

Until the dreaded last day of vacation. Frantic packing and last minute conversations. Looking forward to eating all the pickles grandma has packed and yet sad to leave everyone behind. Waving goodbye till the train pulls out of the station and nothing more can be seen in the dark of night.

All things, however good or bad, come to an end. The three of us grew up, moved away and stepped into the adult world of careers, relationships and responsibilities. No more magical summer reunions. But no matter what my age is or where I am, I'll always have memories of the best childhood summers to cherish.


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