In love with summer

In love with summer

Long road trips, visiting grandparents, annual vacations... summer is all about creating magical memories with your family, writes Reethika Azariah Kuruvilla

From the food to the feeling of contentment at a grandparent’s home, there’s so much about summer that leaves you happy with being in your own skin and satisfied with where you are.

Road trips to meet extended family, hours spent on the lawn contemplating what you need to do next with your morning and life in general, unlimited food, family and friends — summer is that inexplicable season filled with a whole load of expectations and a huge backpack filled with childhood memories. Perfectly scripted in Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder, “There’s something about the sunshine that brings out the brightest in everyone. As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breathe it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”

There was a time, not too long ago, when we pined for those long dog days of summer. Summer holidays used to be that time of the year when families go on long holidays. This was before the rat race that the planet is in on today began. There wasn’t a string of specifically tailored summer classes for children to attend, and actually taking your annual leave from office didn’t mean you came back to your job having lost all your projects while you were gone. There used to be a time when the predictability of visiting grandparents was something everyone looked forward to every summer.

Nothing has changed

Interestingly, 75.3% of respondents on a recent survey claimed demonetisation had not affected their travel plans. The statistics on the Ministry of Tourism’s website, however, shows domestic tourism, within Indian states and union territories, grew by a mere 2.3% in 2017. This is despite the ease of travelling between states, and the country having the fastest growing aviation market in terms of domestic passenger growth.

Living with the seemingly never-ending Indian summer, as we tend to on the subcontinent, summer holidays still have that special place in our closely-guarded memories complete with silent trepidation of the unexpected. From the food to the feeling of contentment at a grandparent’s home, there’s so much about summer that leaves you happy with being in your own skin and satisfied with where you are.

Back in time

Nina Nair talks of how her all-time favourite summertime memory as a ‘fauji’ child dates back to 1988-89 when her father was posted in Kargil. “Much before Kargil has come to mean what it does now to the country, my mum and I would travel all the way up from Ambala to Kargil to meet dad. Our summer vacations would then be spent flying in from Chandigarh to Leh and driving all the way to Kargil, which would take us seven to eight hours those days, stopping ever so often at ice-cold streams. I remember sitting at the back, watching the world spin past, with the Walkman plugged in to ‘Tarzan Boy’ on those crazy jalebi roads with nothing but beautiful blue skies and not another soul in sight. The first time we saw a yak, and the excitement of coming running back to declare how we saw the aforementioned yak! Of course, there were also the holidays we travelled south, driving from Gurdaspur to Amritsar and on to Delhi to catch the Kerala Express train all the way to Trivandrum. The lazy motion of the train for nearly three days that led to a station platform filled with cousins and family all waiting... then again, this was before the cellphone and cabs that could be booked online — when the entire family actually turned up at the railway station when you were visiting.”

From the taste of fresh aam panna to baking in the sunshine waiting for something to happen, everyone has a favourite summer memory. The irreplaceable and amazing boredom of a long summer’s day, where the hours never get old, and the anticipation of friends visiting, perhaps its “time to sit back and unwind,” like the ‘Summertime’ jam from back when Will Smith was the Fresh Prince. Even if you still dress like it’s the 90s and listen to music from the 70s, think back to your favourite summer holidays.

It should be noted that there’s still time to make some new summer memories that you can look back at in a decade and feel good about. Maybe it’s time to take a couple of days off from work for no reason other than the fact that the weather is good. So, cut down the list of things that ‘need’ to be done, sign the kids up for a couple of fewer activities than the average ‘summer camp’ entails, and just take time to slow down.

Summer calls for long, lazy days in the swimming pool

Making new memories

Forget about taking time to smell the roses, when you do find them, here’s a little help with how you can put ‘making new memories’ right on the top of your summertime bucket list.

• Be spontaneous: Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art. Get rid of those lists. It’s great to plan how each day of your summer vacation is going to be spent, but sometimes it’s okay to just wing it instead. Do this in spite of what an upheaval it can create, especially if you’re used to planning your days a couple of weeks in advance. Shake up your routine a little, make impulsive decisions, set your own expectations, look beyond logic as it were, and do something spontaneous. From front-row tickets to the first-day-first-show of the latest Bollywood flick, instant noodles for dinner, and walking out for ice cream at night... options are aplenty.

• Get together with friends & family: Spend 48 hours with your closest friends or family. There’s nothing like the ties that bind and gag, and spending a good two days in the sunshine with people who are closest to you will leave you with memories for a lifetime. It doesn’t take much to get that perfect photograph for your social media handle, but perhaps we’re trying too hard for gratification that lasts not longer than a second or two? Whom are we trying to impress, how many ‘likes’ do we need before we realise we had an amazing time and those precious seconds editing photographs are lost forever? Try not to ‘check in’ with that social media app when you spend time with people you love, there’s more to be had in real life than online.

• Go outside: Ain’t nothing like the great outdoors. Get to your local park instead of the mall on your day off from work. Switch off those gadgets or put them away for a couple of hours. Leave your day open for anything that doesn’t involve technology for a change. Make your way away from bright city lights just for the weekend. Spend your time doing things you normally don’t have time to, even if it means sitting in silence doing absolutely nothing. After all, the only trip you’ll regret is the one you don’t take.

• Play some games: Get dusty old board games out, or better still, go out and invest in some — most of our best memories were made finding out if Mr Mustard was the murderer in the Study with the Candlestick. It’s the simplest, often the most mundane moments, that stay on in our memories long after we’ve all moved on.

• Travel: Make an effort to experience places you visit, as opposed to ticking marks off your checklist of tourist attractions. Sample local food with a healthy dose of the local brew as well. It’s the journey that counts, not so much the destination in your bid to experience new cultures and new cities. It’s a free world, and you do yourself no justice by not heading out to explore and enjoy the planet. It’s never about where you’re headed but the feeling of simply enjoying each other’s company on a long journey.

Ensuring you have that super summer of fun is all very well, but it does take effort, time and a whole lot of patience. At the end of the day, what counts is not where you go, how much money you spend, how perfect your photographs are or how many ‘post engagements’ you got online, but how you enjoyed yourself.

Time is a precious commodity, and something we take for granted, until it’s not there anymore to do the things we wanted to. Time invested in our relationships with friends, family and our children is invaluable and something we’re guaranteed to never regret. Take time off this summer to slow down, be actually present and not just physically, and make some new memories with moments that really matter. Besides, the best things to do in summer are almost always free. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride summer ride.