Everyone has his favourite season. Most people I know love the winter the most. The child-like cuddling up inside the rajai; the mellow sunrays of the morning; lazing around in the afternoon; the simple pleasures of sitting around an umhei (fireplace) at night – winter certainly has a lot to commend itself. There are others who love the autumn, a time when the sky is at its clearest, the temperature at its most benign and the air at its aromatic best.
But for reasons that I am yet to figure out fully, I have always loved the summer – the period stretching from March till the onset of the monsoons, to be precise – more than any other season. I have been considered crazy for this rather strange fascination for a time that is clearly a nightmare for most others, but I really can’t help it. As the spirits of others soar at the approach of the monsoons, my spirits go into a tailspin at the thought of my favourite season coming to an end.
No, I haven’t been blessed with some special mechanism in the body to bear the summer heat. Like others, I too sweat a lot after an outing in the sun. And yet, heat has never really deterred me from going out. I remember the childhood pleasures of jumping into the pond and spending hours splashing the waters, slipping out of home after my parents went for their customary post-lunch siesta to spend the afternoon with friends, ogling – and occasionally picking – the ripening mangoes in an orchard or just listening to the enchanting and rhythmic chirping of a cuckoo pierce through the stillness of the afternoon. Later in life, my wife has always had an issue with my insistence on going to the terrace to spread out my wet clothes to dry out after bath, going out to the neighbourhood paanwala after lunch or driving a two-wheeler in the hot sun without a cap on the head. Out of an illogical, unexplainable belief that a sun stroke could never fell me, I have passed all endurance tests – whether in humid Bhubaneswar or in the dry, burning heat of Rourkela or Delhi – with flying colours!
May be it has something to do with the fact that I was born at the height of summer. May be it has to do with the fact that summer in childhood also coincided with the long school vacation when studies took a backseat. May be it is the simple pleasure of partaking of that quintessentially Odia dish called pakhala. Whatever it is, summer is the time I really look forward to every year. April may have been the ‘cruelest month’ for TS Eliot, but March to June is the most pleasant time of the year for me. The cool breeze of the evening more than compensates for the energy-sapping heat of the daytime. Spreading out on the terrace and gazing into the sky late into the night is among the ultimate pleasures to be savoured. The smell of malli soothes the senses like nothing else does. At a more mundane level, the breathtaking varieties of fruits on offer are just the kind of stuff that a parched tongue looks forward to.
Temperatures are rising across the globe, environmentalists warn us. They certainly are. For proof, one does not have to go beyond Bhubaneswar, the place that used to be a wonderful summer getaway a few years ago. Present day Bhubaneswar is a far cry from the place that it was, say, two decades ago when temperatures seldom went beyond 40 degrees Celsius and the cool summer breeze rarely came to a halt. With much of its green cover gone due to inexorable march of urbanization, the city resembles a hot cauldron these days. But nothing, it seems, can affect my ongoing love affair with the summer.