by Sudha Mathew
The season of sun is here in the Indian subcontinent! With the rise in the mercury level, the beads of sweat across the forehead and everywhere else, and constant thirst, summer in India is quite a phenomenon. But as we were taught in school, every cloud has a silver lining. Not just the latest sunscreen lotions, cool new sunglasses and minimal clothing, here are 10 ways to enjoy the summer in India.
Just say the word “mango” and suddenly everyone’s attention is focused on you. That’s the power of this gorgeous orange-yellow fruit called the king of fruits in India; it is also India’s national fruit. Whether raw and tangy or ripe and sweet, mangoes are an addictive treat. In India, it is often served as a dessert by itself since it needs no fancy preparation. Different states boasts of different varieties of mango. While Andhra Pradesh has Himayath and Banganpalli, Maharashtra flaunts Alphonso; while Bengal boasts of Langra, Kerala has the lesser known Chandrakaran, Karnataka has its Badami and Imam Pasand. Eating mangoes is an activity by itself. You will come across Mango Melas (fairs) dotting the country. Delhi organises the International Mango Festival every year, where you can relish over 500 different variants of the fruit . If you want to eat mangoes at the source itself, visit a Ratnagiri mango farm in Maharashtra, where you can enjoy the pleasure of plucking ripe Alphonso mango yourself. No wonder the mango is synonymous with summer in India.
SUMMER DRINKS AND COOLERS
When the heat gets going, you need coolers to quench your thirst and cool the body. There are a number of indigenous coolers that are available. Since I wrote so much about mangoes above, let me first tell you about a famous mango drink, aam panna. This is made with unripe mango. Tangy and sweet, the drink is an instant thirst reliever. In some places, people make juice out of wood apple. They scrape out the inner part and mash it, discarding the seeds. They either use curd or make the juice with water. When the scorching heat drains out the best in you, the juice, commonly known as Bel Sherbet hydrates and rejuvenates you. You can also find special stalls in cities selling lime Juices and watermelon drinks. These also rehydrate you naturally. Drinks made with watered down yoghurt like lassi from Punjab and moar or sambharam from South India not only quench your thirst but also your hunger. Now that I’ve got you all thirsty, here are some recipes to make these simple Indian summer coolers.
With schools shut for a long period, people tend to flock to hilly regions to enjoy the cooler climate. Peninsular India is an easy choice with shades of green everywhere and lesser crowds than the more popular hill stations. A good choice is Munnar in Kerala. Located at the confluence of three rivers by the names Nallathanni, Madhurapuzha and Kundaly, there is a soothing climate in this valley even in the Indian summer. Not ranging beyond 25 degrees Celsius in summer, Munnar is definitely the place to be in God’s own country. There are some gorgeous places to stay in Munnar amidst nature on cardamom plantations surrounded by birdsong and clean, crisp, pine-scented air.
NORTH EAST HILLS
Now going over to the other end of India, there are pretty locales in the North Eastern region of India too where pleasant weather prevails in summer. Shillong is one such place. The air in this region is largely free of pollutants and the weather is cool. The temperatures generally do not shoot beyond 23 degrees Celsius. Though located in close proximity to Mawsynram, the wettest place on Earth, the climate is not humid due to orographic? reasons. Also near Shillong is Cherrapunji, a place that held the record for maximum rainfall in a calendar month in previous years. The average temperature hovering around 20 degrees Celsius in July, the place is cooler due to the heavy precipitation. Cherrapunji is popular with tourists from all over the world. Don’t forget to visit the living root bridges in Cherrapunji if you go visit .
But if neither Munnar nor Shillong enthuse you, then choose Kashmir for its beautiful lakes, snow capped Himalayas and the flora. Kashmir is infamous for the hostility between India and Pakistan regarding rightful occupancy. But in the last few years, tensions have reduced significantly and it is now largely safe. Tourism has increased every year. So if you can take that in your stride and decide to make a trip to this place, you will be rewarded with Paradise itself. Read this if you don’t believe me. Lazing in the shikara, a covered boat across Dal Lake is an experience in itself! Sipping on steaming tea, locally known as Kahwah, fanned by a cool breeze in the balcony of the houseboat is an ideal way to beat the summer heat in India. Kashmir gives you the gift of relaxation.
If you prefer adventure to lazing around, Ladakh is a good choice. Cradled between the higher Himalayas and the Karakoram Range, Ladakh is an ideal spot for trekking due to the terrain. Untouched lakes interspersed with brown mountain ranges make Ladakh a soothing treat, both physically and mentally. This place is for enthusiasts who love to indulge in the fanaticism of adventure.
Due to the sub tropical climate, moisture laden winds blow across the Indian terrain, often precipitating here and there. Mango showers or mango rains are common. These are pre-monsoon rains that occur unexpectedly in summer, sudden bouts of cool breeze followed by torrential rain. In the eastern region of India, it is often termed as Kalboishakhi. The storm and rain are often accompanied by hailstones. The sudden gush of rainfall drops the mercury level significantly gifting a sense of relief. Summer in India without such mango showers is difficult to imagine. Being the first rain of the year, you would find people celebrating it by running outside, to get drenched, clothes and all included.
Any sort of hydrating or cooling preparation is welcome during the scorching summer season. A common recipe made everywhere from homes to fancy restaurants to roadside stalls is Kulfi. What makes it so popular is the ease in making it and that it can be made in different flavours. Many Indian homes have freezers packed with such kulfis. For people who grew up before the advent of fancy ice cream brands, this exquisite milk based dessert and its demand at home is quite familiar. Caramelization of milk, adding the right proportion of sugar, nutmeg, dry fruits and placing the mixture in moulds in freezer are the basic steps to making yummy Kulfi.
NEW YEAR FESTIVALS IN INDIA
Imagining India without festivals in any season is improbable. Even during the summer, India is in a festive spree. It is New Year time in many states. While it is Ugadi in Karnataka and Nobo Borsho in Bengal, it is Gudi Padwa in North and Central India. Paying respect to elders, exchanging tokens of good luck and gifts, indulging in traditional food are all part and parcel of the celebrations. Visitors from overseas may find the frenzy surprising, considering the summer heat. But again, this is Incredible India!
GET A TAN
While some prefer running off to a cooler place to get away from the heat, there are also some who prefer the suntan. Even at the peak of summer in India, the beaches near Kanyakumari, Chennai, Goa, Orissa are still crowded with visitors. The salinity of the air around the sea makes it a different experience altogether from the hot urban areas. If you are looking for a different experience in Goa, then why not do a villa holiday in Goa? Enjoy the best of both worlds – a private pool villa and the beach together.
Need more reasons to love the Indian summer? Read an earlier post http://www.goseekandhide.com/blog/6-simple-pleasures-of-an-indian-summer/
Mangoes, IBN Live
Ladakh, Hindu History