The smell of the champa flower, sleeping under a canopy of stars- these are just some of the sensory experiences Indian Summer

The Indian summer is brutal – it is scorching, debilitating and merciless. As the old Al Stewart song goes, Indian summer /The earth is cracked beneath the midday sun /You’ve dragged your shadow round these streets too long /There is no cover… And yet there are some wonderful sensory experiences connected only and only with the Indian summer. These are evocative sensory incidents that can trigger a tumult of memories, feelings and emotional responses:

1.     The smell of the ‘champa’ flower

450px Magnolia champaca2 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerThe heavy, sweet, intoxicating smell of the champa flower permeates every corner of the garden or wafts to the nostrils as you pass by the tree on your evening walk – a heavenly smell.

2.     The sound of the koel

416px Asian koel 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerIt is the most ordinary looking of birds with the most extraordinary of voices – the honeyed, plaintive sound of the koel  starts off in cajoling tones and then rises to a hysterical sounding crescendo.

3.     The taste of Roohafza

roohafza1 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerWhat used to be referred to in my house during my childhood as “that foul rose drink” is nevertheless one of the mainstays of Indian summer. Enjoy it in milk, as a topping for vanilla ice cream, or with a twist of lime – cooling and refreshing.

4.     That first blast of the desert cooler

450px Air cooler 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerThat peculiarly Indian thing, the desert cooler feels wonderful as you come in out of the scorching heat of the sun. The smell of the water falling on the straw pads of the cooler is reminiscent of lazy Sunday afternoons in the summer vacations when school used to be a distant memory.

5.     The smell of ripe mangoes

Alphonso mango 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerWhen I was a child, we used to buy unripe Alfonso mangoes by the crate and ripen them in a bed of straw. I used to sneak into the room just for a whiff; the anticipation of juicy, sweet, satisfying mangoes.

6.     The indescribable joy of the cold bath/drink

800px Water droplet blue bg05 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerThe water tank heats up, so you fill water in a bucket and wait for it to cool all day, and then take a bath at the end of a sweltering day: Utter Bliss! And as for drinking off a bottle of chilled water, while letting some of it trickle on to your skin… again, bliss!

7.     The matchless smell of wet earth

800px Rain on Thassos 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerWhen the first drops of rain fall on the dry, cracked, baking hot earth; that smell – it is a small sliver of heaven!

8.     A snatch of a rain melody

The yearning for the rain can become a sweet ache. When the sound of a favourite rain song on the radio, on the TV (we all have a list of favourite rain songs I think) assaults the senses, that sweet ache can become a physical pain.

9.     The urgency of trying to finish an ice cream before it melts

ice cream 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerThe enjoyment of that cold, sweet treat on a hot summer day is unique; as is the challenge of eating it up before it melts!

10.The acute yearning to escape to the hills

Khajjiar 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerIt’s about now, that most of us undergo an acute case of wanderlust. Plans are afoot in millions of homes to escape heat and enjoy the cooler air of the hills

11.The peculiar satisfaction of boasting and predicting

Mercury Thermometer 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerAs the English are preoccupied with the weather, we Indians take a unique grim satisfaction in boasting about the heat “it was 44 here today; the A/C has been on for weeks in our house” and in forecasting –“It’s going to climb to 49 this year-it’s going to be a bad case of El Niño”

12.The pleasure of sleeping under the stars

800px Starry Night at La Silla 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerClimbing up to the terrace with bedding and pillow tucked under the arm, lying under the stars counting shooting stars, chatting desultorily about the day before blessed sleep overtakes the senses… one of the other little delights of an Indian summer.

13.The enjoyment of the swing

It could be a tyre suspended from a banyan tree, it could be a swing big enough to sleep on – the swing’s lulling motion with the cool breeze blowing… each of us probably has a fond childhood memory involving a swing.

14.The relief of a cloudy sky

800px FoggDam NT 14 Essential Sensory Experiences of the Indian SummerWhen the pitiless, pale blue gives way to rolling grey, moisture laden clouds, we Indians experience a joy so profound and an anticipation so acute, that it is difficult to put into words. As for the joy of the first rains: the rushing out to get soaking wet, to become a child once again, to splash in muddy puddles and to stick out the tongue to taste those first drops of nectar – well, that is tough to articulate as well.

By – Reena Daruwalla

See also

Gyan Bollywood Has Imparted about ‘Gaaowalon’

10 Things Hindi Movies Teach Us about the Rains

8 Reasons for Vegetarians to Lighten Up

Images Courtesy Wikipedia: Champa Flower, Koel,  Roohafza Facebook Page,  Air cooler, Rain, Vadilal Ice Cream Facebook Page, Hill Station, Thermometer, Night Sky, Alphonso mango , water

Video courtesy – Madhuka Wickramarachchi , Ajay Yuvraj

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