Another side to summer season: The Way We Were by Poonam Saxena

Living via these interminable days of blazing warmth, each month seemingly among the many hottest on document, all we will do is hunker down and ask ourselves: How are we going to bear it?

Which set me considering: How did we stay via the Indian summer season, significantly the fierce north Indian summer season, in a pre-air-conditioning world? I spoke to my aunts, who had been schoolgirls within the ’50s. To my bafflement, I found that they didn’t keep in mind the warmth in any respect. What they remembered was an unhurried, nice rhythm to the lengthy days and nights, a rhythm created to hold the home and its inhabitants as cool as doable.

So right here it’s: a day within the lifetime of a Nineteen Fifties north Indian summer season in a Kanpur bungalow.

Let’s begin with the night time. Everyone slept underneath the open sky, both on the garden or within the courtyard, their cots draped with skinny mosquito nets. Pedestal followers and desk followers, positioned at both finish of a row of beds, created a mild breeze. The extra elegant family members positioned aromatic moti gajras, barely dampened, subsequent to their pillows.

The household woke and bathed early. At about 11 am, all of the chiks had been lowered and the large desert coolers could be switched on, which radiated cool air via the deliciously darkened rooms. Lunch was served early, round one. After that, the older family members would retire for a nap. The kids weren’t allowed out within the scorching noon warmth (although the extra adventurous would steal out to climb the mango timber), so they’d often crowd into one bed room and play indoor video games, ludo, carrom, playing cards (teen-do-paanch, rummy, bluff). Or they’d learn books and magazines; the Hindi journal Chandamama, with its vibrant illustrations and thrilling tales of Vikram and Betal, assorted kings and monsters, was hottest.

In the evenings, because the solar’s fury abated, cooling drinks had been handed round: aam ka panna, bel ka sherbet, masala chhas, nimbu paani. There could be a do-it-yourself nashta of daal moth, mathri, namak paara. At twilight, water could be sprinkled on the bottom within the aangan and different open areas, in preparation for the night time when the cots could be lined up underneath the starry skies.

Meal occasions adopted a sample too. There was all the time a mutton curry, however no fish (May to August, peak summer season and monsoon, used to be a tough time to discover contemporary fish, or hold fish contemporary). Seasonal summer season greens akin to lauki, turai and tinda had been staples, however since these weren’t thought-about essentially the most appetising, the kitchen would prove dishes fabricated from besan, akin to gatte and taka paisa, or daal kebabs. Pudina and dhania chutneys had been a should with each meal. Summer fruits like mango and melon had been eaten each day.

There was no fridge; the primary fridge (GEC) arrived solely in 1957. Food was saved in giant, latticed wood packing containers with a superb mesh. There had been ice packing containers too, for which giant ice slabs could be ordered from the bazaar. These had been by no means used to cool water, which was all the time drunk out of earthen surahis and ghadas.

It helped that the homes had been constructed with thick partitions and excessive ceilings. There was wonderful cross-ventilation. The first AC arrived solely within the late ’50s, however as my aunts all mentioned, “Did we really need it? We’re not sure.”

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