I have been contemplating writing a summer edition of this blog since some time now but it somehow never came to pass. Mainly because of my laziness and pseudo busyness. So what forced my hand today? A day-long power cut and the development of a fault in a motor that supplies water to the entire part of the village where my humble abode falls. Hence, no water supply for probably 3-4 days. Add to it, having a fully sweat drenched top the whole day with sweat stains getting bolder with every passing hour made me realize it’s time I write this blog.
You may ask why is a sweat drenched top such a big deal? Because I just don’t sweat! An hour-long workout session doesn’t leave more than a teeny drop or two on my face while everyone else is practically wringing the sweat out of their tees on the sidelines. So much so that an ex-flatmate in Bengaluru hypothesized that I get pimples because of all the pent-up sweat under my skin that doesn’t come out. I have no idea if that’s a real thing but you get the point.
So, how’s my summer going in the village? You get a little idea above but let me dive in. Summer began somewhere towards the end of March, quickly escalated in April and has been in its full glory since the start of May. Full glory, as in, upward of 40 degrees Celsius at the peak summer hours with very less humidity.
Just like the trajectory of summer, my quest to beat the heat began in March. I borrowed a small table fan from my landlord. It became ineffective pretty quickly – in a matter of days. Then began the search for an air cooler. A few days and a couple of shops later, after hearing coolers being described with terms such as “Bhopali body”, I found one-small and cute, and brought it home. It quickly became the star of my household. All activities started revolving around it. I missed it terribly whenever I had to go to the kitchen. All its needs, mainly bucket full of water at regular intervals, were promptly met. This status quo remains to this day. Its star status can be gauged from the fact that my grandma and bua (father’s sister) who came visiting for a few days in April, called it the God of my little household. My bua eloquently put it in words, “We pray to it to always be merciful (Please don’t stop working, we could die!), we offer it prasad at regular intervals (lugging bucket full of water multiple times a day to and fro from the tank till the room, no problem!) and we take care of it as we would a sacred object (making sure nothing’s blocking the water supply to the khas – the air cooling pads)”.
The cooler is also very hard working. Apart from its main job, it also moonlights as a refrigerator. As I have mentioned in Part one, my major refrigeration needs are taken care of. But if I have to keep something overnight or keep something cool during the day, it goes in the top box like structure of the cooler. This box structure has multiple holes which supply water to the khas. The constant flow of water when the cooler is on keeps the eatables comparatively fresher.
Now on to other summer stories…
- When I came to Shahpur, I brought along conservative clothing (cue: mostly salwar suits or fully covered clothing). It stood me in good stead during the winters but as summer bloomed, it became clear to me that I am going to be miserable if I follow my own diktats, at least at my home. So, I sent a distress call to my mom. She promptly packed a couple of shorts in my grandma’s luggage, who was prepping for her mid-April visit. I don’t know if it helps or I am just a creature of habit, but I look at the upside – smaller cloth with sweat stains on it, hence lesser effort required to wash!
- Winter’s were pretty much pest-free but as summer dawned, hello pests! Ants- check. Lizards – check. Mosquitoes – check. Flies – check. I have learnt to live peacefully with the lizards, but the mosquitoes rile me. I am always carrying a small dread in my heart of contracting dengue, malaria…you get the drift. The mosquitoes coupled with me wearing shorts around the house seems a recipe for disaster. So I keep a constant supply of fast cards- those quick working mosquito repellents, handy. Hopefully I do not encounter an enterprising enough machhar who gets through all the traps I set in my house.
- During winter, I used to get water supply every other day at a fixed time to fill up my tank. ( I introduced the tanki in my previous blog) But lately, it’s been once in maybe two days. Maybe more. And at all kinds of odd hours, without any notice. 5 in the morning – yup. 11 at night – yup. Agreed the water table is all messed up this time of the year but releasing water at odd hours just leads to wastage. I have asked around about the panchayat employee responsible for releasing water and I believe there is a good case for asking him if the heat has gone to his head and scrambled the circuitry inside. It has been a cat and mouse game with the water supply being the proverbial mouse. There is a constant question on my lips for my landlord, “Nal aaya kya? (Has the water supply come?)”. Hearing yes to this query instantly transforms me, a sensation of happiness running through my body. My mind starts thinking of every single utensil in my house that can be filled with water apart from the tanki – since you never know about the next supply. As mentioned in the beginning, today the motor supplying water to my part of the village broke down. I am not sure when was the last time such a feeling of dread swept over me – thinking about all the runs to the hand pump to fetch water for every small need, not to mention the water guzzling cooler. I made the first run today and tried to be all positive telling myself, “Excercise ho rahi hai. Good cardio. Sath main weights bhi ho raha hai.” (You are getting some exercise – both cardio and weights). Seems like someone is going to be reaching their fitness goals earlier than expected!
- Summer has also spurred me to find some good “villagy” drinks to keep hydrated. In this quest, I stumbled upon “sattu”. It’s a powder made by grinding roasted black chickpeas (kala chana) and is consumed by dissolving in water. It keeps one cool in the summer, from what I have got to know . For a minute I thought, “You guys have protein even in your summer drink? Aren’t summer drinks kind of synonymous with empty calories – an excuse to chug down sugary drinks in the form of colas, lemonades, fruit punches? The healthiest we go is fruit juices and lemon water. Is this legit?”. I have come to admire the drink and a little research tells me it’s quite popular in some parts of India. Wikipedia even mentions Punjab, but I had never heard of it before.
- The biggest positive about summer here is the abundance of fruits. Watermelon, muskmelon, mango, papaya are all grown here. Back home, my both grandmas are worried about the calcium carbide used to ripen fruits and are wary of the quality of fruits available there. There is no such worry here. People trust the quality of fruits and vegetables that they consume and I feel the same too, since I know many vendors selling their produce in the weekly market. They all come from the villages around Shahpur and the NGO I work with is working with many of them, so there is a sense of knowing the process. My maternal grandma kind of took that to mean I can tell a naturally ripened mango from a calcium carbide ripened one. I told her that seems like a good superpower – which I unfortunately don’t have, and promised her I will check with the NGO if it’s possible to distinguish between the two with a naked eye. My paternal grandma goes,”Promise me you will have fruits everyday. Eat mangoes everyday. Go buy fresh ones everyday from that stall at the bus stand”. Sounded like a post apocalyptic scenario where everyone’s doomed but I had somehow found the elixir of life!
To wrap it up, after having enjoyed a day- long power cut and having experienced every drop of water in my body turn to sweat, this is a summer like no other. For one, I know for sure all my sweat glands are working fine. They had just never been tested this comprehensively. Second, all those posters and slogans we tote around in school “Water is precious”, “Don’t waste water” , those platitudes mean something. Third, experiencing Shakespeare – to be or not to be – in context of whether to wear shorts and use mosquito repellent creams. Fourth, you don’t really have to worry about exercising in a village in the summer. The summer takes care of the summer body! Lastly, the hope is to survive the summer and live to tell the tale like the last surviving Sparta in 300.
*Written on 4th June’17