On summer holidays and the rains that follow them

Behold the time of clouds surcharged with rain,
Like to a furious elephant they rise;
Or mighty monarch hurrying to the war;
In place of standards see the lightning’s flash,
And rolling thunder answers to the drum.

– Kalidas in Ritusamhara


Most people always seem baffled by my love for rains. They fail to comprehend how a wonderful sunny day with temperatures in the mid 20s can be topped by an overcast, windy and rainy day. Alas, they have never experienced the monsoons. They know zilch about the scorching heat of the summer that precedes the monsoons in India. The unforgiving heat, the long days, made longer by the fact that there was no school to attend. The saving graces – it never was too hot in Dehradun. Temperatures touching 40 were unheard of when I was growing up. And I could catch “Chhuti Chhuti” on Doordarshan. Duck Tales and Talespin are a lot more fun in Hindi, even now. But still, venturing outside the house before 5:30 was almost impossible. “You are going to fall sick in this heat”, mom would chide and like the obedient little kid that I was I would scurry back in the house with my bat over my shoulder.

You see, that was my main gripe with the summer. Countless hours of cricket lost, because it was too hot to play. The summer homework we got during those days was not much either, I definitely don’t remember doing that “one page of Hindi writing daily” that the teacher asked us to do. 60 pages? Duh! That is easily achievable in a couple of weeks. Why waste the whole holidays on something so mundane? However, living in the Indian Institute of Petroleum Colony during the summer had its benefits. Mango and litchi trees were plentiful, and plucking raw mangoes from the trees and eating them was quite common for us. If there is anything that makes the Indian summer worthwhile, it is the amazing fruits you get during that time – Mangoes, Litchis, Watermelons and Muskmelons. My stomach rumbles and my mouth waters even at the thought of these delicacies. I would willingly bear the heat of a thousand suns to savour them. As an aside, I was never a fan of the “Dussehra” Mango, always preferring the “Langra”. “Dussehra” was so overrated.

Another thing that the summer holidays were perfect for was for reading books. With no cable television in the house, there was never anything much to watch on TV. Dehradun did not even get the DD Metro channel those days. All we had was DD1 and there was only so much one could watch on it. But I am not complaining. “Champak”, “Nanhe Samrat” and “Nandan” were devoured the same day that “Sharmaji” (our news paper vendor) delivered them. In addition to these, there were always Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews to finish. Quite a lot to do then. But it was always getting hotter, and power cuts, though wonderfully infrequent (IIP used to have its own power backup) were still there. This was IIP in the 90s – 35C was too hot and a hour long power cut too much. Air conditioners were unheard of, and even putting the fan at full speed in the night was frowned upon. I used to keep the fan at full speed, and I think my parents used to drop in on me in the night to reduce the speed. It was hot, and then the rains would come.

You know, in the summers I could still play cricket. In the monsoon season,  it was all relative. Rains, heavy rains, continuous rains, were the norm in Dehradun and I probably lost a lot more cricketing hours to rain that I did to the summer sun. But I still loved rains, and love them to death even today.

I would sit in the verandah of the house, with a bag of chips in one hand, and a story book in the other. With the wind blowing, and the heavy rain falling all around me (not on me though) I would proceed to read the book all the while munching on that bag of chips. There never was a better way to read a book. There never was a better season to eat “Aloo Pakoras” or “Pataurs”. Sometimes it would rain continuously for a week, and there would be nothing to do. But it never occurred to me that this was a week of holidays wasted. It was raining, the temperatures were down, there were books to read and chips/pakoras/pataurs to eat and it used to be enough. And if the books were finished, which they invariably were, there was always Dangerous Dave and Prince of Persia (which was way more fun in 2D).  There was also DOOM (iddqd anyone?). I still don’t know of anyone who finished that game without cheat codes.

Though the best part about the rains arrived when the summer vacations got over. The rains were always heavy on the first day of the school after the summer break. Me, with my big yellow duck shaped umbrella, would go to the bus stop. There used to be a lot of kids there, IIP had a lot of school going kids in my days. All with multi-coloured umbrellas. And each one had the same thought – rain more, rain harder. You know why? Because we all wanted a holiday for “rainy day”. Not in many places outside lawyers for workers Dehradun do I think this concept exists. School getting cancelled because it is raining too heavily. And we would get to know it when we were already at the school. Not everyone had a telephone connection back then, so it would have been difficult for the school to inform us. And how jolly was the bus ride back home. The whole EC road would be flooded because of the overflowing sewer (they have since covered it), our shoes, socks and uniforms would be soaked through – but it felt so good to celebrate that unexpected holiday.

The monsoon season was also not supposed to a good time to eat street food. However, it was always difficult to keep me away from “Dulara’s” Chowmein, and after some cajoling and tantrum-throwing I usually got my way.

Now, studying in Europe, I miss those rains. I miss the flooding of the EC road, I miss the Rispana bursting to its seams with muddy rain water. I miss riding on a scooter in this rain and getting wet, I miss eating “Bhutta” when it is drizzling. I miss the sound – the sound of thunder, the sound of the rain drops pattering on the roof and the streets. And I miss the chaos, the pure chaos that rains seemed to cause, how they would throw a spanner in everyone’s work and how everyone still loved them.

My country is divided

There is Kashmir, there is Jammu, there is Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and there is Maharashtra. We have the Mufti Mohammed Sayyeds, Omar Abdullahs and the Thackerys. And of course, there is BJP and Congress. And amongst these, India is lost.

Nearly a hundred people lost their lives in the blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore but Mr. Raj Thackrey is more concerned about the fact that the shop signboards are not in Marathi. Oh, but the people who lost their lives were Kannads and Gujaratis, were they not. And Mr. Raj Thackrey is only concerned with Marathis, so why should he bother about these people. His energy is better spent in enticing the masses against the North Indians. For it is of paramount importance that these people be kicked out of Maharashtra as they are the only reason why thousands of Marathi, the true “sons of soil” are without a job. And in between, he finds the spare time to ensure that the Bachchans and the Khans comply with his wishes.

Not a murmur from the centre, but then what better can be accepted from a government consisting of clowns and criminals. They have very important matters to deal with, after all they are responsible for running the country. But I do not think that they need to worry, they have done a fantastic job already. Led in this honourable mission by the charismatic Arjun Singh, they have managed to divide the country on basis of caste. They are really good, they have managed to do better than even VP Singh, and I thought that was impossible. 60 years since Independence, 60 years of reservation, and if even then if we have managed to make a difference then maybe we need to look at alternatives. But obviously, how can our politicians compromise with their vote-bank?

But caste is not the only line that is drawn through my country. Religion is not far behind, is it? Nearly 20 years down the line Ayodhya is still the main agenda for the BJP, with the VHP and the RSS continuously making noises about the issue. Orissa is not new, for there was a Graham Staines before as well. Maybe one day we can all learn to respect each others religion.

Jammu and Kashmir, if I could only describe it in words. 20 years of war, thousands of lives lost, and countless ruined. A heaven ravaged, a paradise lost. I only wish it can be regained, not for me, not for you but for the people suffering there for two decades.

I do not know why I wrote this. Maybe because this is all what the Indian media feeds me. Strife, discontent, violence everywhere. All I hope for is that someday we all can just call ourselves Indian. Maybe we can learn to respect each others language, learn to appreciate the fact that each Indian has some different sets of traditions and values. Maybe there will be no SC/ST/OBC, just Indians. Maybe Ayodhya will house a mosque and Ajmer a temple. Maybe….. Maybe……

A night to remember

An expectant crowd

The expectant crowd had started coming in an hour earlier, the Mercator Servery, bedecked with decorations was unusually festive, was buzzing with excitement; for it was the night of the Indian Country Information Day and everybody wanted to make sure that they got a front row view of the proceedings. The audience were given an official welcome by Vikram and Nicole, the Mercator college masters. The fact that the Pakistanis on campus had helped in the organization of the Indian CID came in for special mention. And then it was time for the show to begin.


The Indian CID, themed on an Indian wedding,  began fittingly with the clip of a cricket match. Time to show everyone how mad Indians are about cricket. The groom, ( played by Devashish) in stead of attending his wedding was engrossed in the match along with his entire family. Only when India won the match did they all proceed to the wedding. And then, Jensen gave a presentation on the sports played in India which apart from cricket also include hockey, polo, kabaddi, chess and tennis.

Baraat Dance



Meanwhile, the bride’s family was anxiously waiting for the groom’s family and they arrived amongst much singing and dancing. And when the bride (played by Neha) finally arrived flanked by her sisters the groom was so captivated by her beauty that he took a walk down the memory lane thinking of the first time they met. He soon snapped out of his dreams and the “pandit” (An Indian priest, played by Rahul) continued with the wedding rituals. The bride and the bridegroom exchanged garlands symbolizing their mutual acceptance of each other.


And then lightning struck. The bride’s grandmother (played by Radhika) was infuriated that her granddaughter was marrying someone from another caste. The pandit managed to placate her and also gave us information about the evils of the Indian caste system and its historical background. The Granny was soon as calm as a lake and even agreed to bless the couple.

The argument ends amicably

Then Deepika told us about the secular India, about the 7 different religions practised in India, and about the numerous festivals that the country as a whole celebrates irrespective of religion.

Vilasini, Charitra, Swetha, Sheetla, Ravi, Anneysha and Ankur wanted to discuss where the couple should go for honeymoon and thus we were introduced to the various scenic locales of India, from the Royal Rajasthan to the Romantic Agra, from the backwaters of Kerela to the tea gardens of Darjeeling, from the serene beaches of Kanyakumari to the party all nights in Goa and then to the only paradise on earth – Kashmir.

And for those wanting to travel to India, there was interesting information from Tanmay who informed everyone that there are more than 1500 languages spoken in India and it might not be easy to communicate with everyone you meet.

Roy, Hozefa and Pranjal then decided to challenge the triumvirate of Ananya, Anneysha and Swetha to a dance session and what followed was a fun filled dance performance to some groovy bollywood tunes.


But Indian Music is not only about Bollywood and we were reminded of that by Radhika and Shikhar who informed us about Indian Classical Music and the various dances of India,  both classical and folk. Rahul chipped in with a performance on Tabla, one of the most popular Indian Classical Instrument.

Roy, Dipesh and Vilasini had some interesting information about technology and science in India which you just can not find on wikipedia. Everyone was amused by the concept of “jugaad” – a quick dirty fix.

And then it was time to go back to the wedding. The pandit over the “pheras”, the most important ceremony in an Indian wedding where the bride and the groom exchange seven vows which declare then husband and wife. There is also the ceremony of “kanyadaan” where the bride’s father (Mitul, here) gives his daughter in marriage to the groom.

But there was something missing, and it was the rise of India as an economic power. Mitul gave a detailed presentation on all aspects of the Indian economy, with the take away message to all other countries – Beware. We are coming!.

With the pheras over, so was the wedding. And it was time for the “vidai” where the bride;s leaves her father’s house to go to her new home – her husband’s house. Her parents and family bid her a tearful adieu and the curtains came down on what was a roller coaster ride through India and the life of Indians.


But wait, do not go away yet, for it is time for the most awaited part of all CIDs – food. The culinary delicacies prepared by the Indians, with help from some of their Nepali’s friends, were appreciated by one and all if the queue at the food counter was at any indication of this fact. Though nearly everyone seemed in a hurry to get a glass of water or the sweet and delicious “payasam” prepared by the college masters after the spicy food, yet they came coming back for second helpings.

All in all, it was a wonderful night, and the Indian community can be pleased of the fact that all their hard work paid off and they managed to stage a successful CID. And all this was realized on stage through the technical expertise of Prashant, Deepu and Kevin.

The End