Once, March was the month of anticipation. There were final exams but we knew summer holidays were almost in touching distance. The weather too mirrored it, turning slowly, the coolness receding to mornings and evenings. The afternoon sat in between, hot, dry, slowing people down, reducing sound to a sleepy murmur. It was the trailer of the summer holidays.
Though everyone had different types of summer holidays, every essay titled “How I Spent My Summer Holidays” submitted on the first day of school sounded exactly alike. There was a good reason for this — they were all written on the last night of the summer holidays.
Holidays were fun not from any unique quality of their own, but rather the absence of school and timetables. Sure, I had some friends who went on ‘proper’ holidays, visiting national monuments I had seen only in the Bournvita Book of General Knowledge. But most went home to their grandparents, villages, hometowns and whiled time away doing nothing much. The aimlessness of afternoons enveloped the whole two months. It wasn’t idyllic as such. It was often quite boring, and you had to be bored in silence because grown ups were asleep.
I spent most summer vacations in my grandmother’s flat in Bandra. Afternoons were holiday prime time — an unsupervised oasis of idleness, when grown ups slept. You were also supposed to be asleep technically, but why waste time sleeping when you could while it away so many ways instead?
You could eat up that last remaining, cold, gold hapus hidden by a competing claimant behind the milk patila. You could read your lending library comics. You could run about in the stone-paved compound of the building barefoot, hopping over the scorching parts on the balls of your feet. If you got carried away and made a noise, you got caught. There would be scolding, weeping, promises to not do it again and repeat offence the next day. A kind of voluptuous boredom.
A friend and I were discussing this, and she remarked that maybe that boredom fostered imagination because we fantasised about what to do and daydreamed more. I really can’t say whether this was the case for me. I don’t remember doing anything remarkable with my idleness. I both revelled in
it and longed for it to end with evening.
Evening arrived in a long sound fade-up. Around 4 pm, the sea breeze would push out the day’s heat. The sun would track across the sky growing compact and burnished. Pressure cookers whistled, bhelpuri thelas clanged, children began to play and shout in growing numbers, someone yelled for tea and you were officially released to go out.
I know summer holidays are quite different now. Kids go for chess classes, mini Mozart, finger painting, summer school, camp, destination holidays. I’m not the one to oppress others with nostalgia. And why wouldn’t kids have busy holidays when adults too have turned time into a harrowed field that must constantly yield produce? We fill our days up with acts of imagined self-advancement, and the passing of a season only seems to flood us with anxiety that we haven’t done enough — even if we haven’t relaxed well enough!
This week when suddenly I had an idle afternoon, I found myself unable to idle, so used have I become, like many others, to being busy and productive. I watched the tree outside my window turning golden-green with the changing sun; its branches began swaying hard as the sea breeze came. A crow sat on the branch, swinging, like a phrase of jazz, an uncontrollable laugh, a lazy kid. Lucky crow.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.