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6 simple pleasures of an Indian summer
Friday, April 19th, 2013

By Sudha Mathew

I have been struggling to write a post for the blog since the last couple of days. Designing fabulous itineraries for clients, resolving website glitches and the ever hungry world of social media take up more than the hours available in a workday. This evening I forced my tired brain to work some more when I noticed some of the delicate leafy plants on the terrace wilting despite their morning drink of H20. My brain used the last of its energy to send signals to the body, “Water the plants NOW!” As the water hit the mud in the pots, a tantalising scent rose up like that of dry earth receiving the first rains of the season. Refreshed and inspired, I was happy to set aside that post and start a new one to share with you 6 simple pleasures of an Indian summer.

1. TRADITIONAL SUMMER COOLERS

Indian summer - Chaas - traditional summer cooler
Chaas is a lightly spiced drink made from buttermilk

Indians now have access to the best international cola brands but there’s nothing like nimbu pani (lemon juice) to quench your thirst. Or tender coconut water, aam panna, neera, shikanji and that uber healthy drink, buttermilk called chaas, moru, sambharam in various parts of the country. These traditional Indian summer coolers have a dual purpose of quenching thirst and restoring lost nutrients due to excessive sweating. Unfortunately most restaurants do not serve many of these traditional coolers and stock only aerated drinks to accompany a meal. There are some commercial brands of these coolers but I am not sure how “typical” they taste. The good news is that they are easy enough to make at home. I found this website with four recipes for traditional Indian coolers. Or try cadging some from a kind friend who makes them.

Indian summer - Tender Coconut -traditional summer cooler
Wonder drink – refreshing, completely natural tender coconut water

2. MANGO MANIA

Summer in India is synonymous with eating mangoes.  The season starts with the first few mangoes appearing like blushing brides in the neighborhood fruit shop. They are prohibitively expensive but like the aforesaid brides, they have an irresistible glow and I am happy to succumb to their lure. By April, the markets are awash in mangoes. Prices have climbed down and I am spoilt for choice. Smelling and touching them in the market, cutting up a mound of them and sucking out the last bit of juice from the fleshy seeds is an integral part of the process. The smaller ones are just peeled and eaten without the usual middlemen of forks and plates. Though the Alphonso mango has cornered the title of “king of mangoes”, I prefer the Baganapalli from Andhra Pradesh or the local Imam Pasand from Karnataka. The Langda from North India is delicious but not easily available in Bangalore. I have ambitious plans this summer of making mango sorbet and mango ice cream. But that’s nothing to boast about compared to the traditional practice of making aam ka aachar (mango pickle) for a year that my mother-in-law and many traditional households in India follow.

Indian summer - Mangoes
My neighborhood fruit shop with many types of mangoes

3. LONG COOL SHOWERS

Nothing beats the feeling of cold water hitting the body after a day of working hard in the summer or cooking in the kitchen. I have to have one before turning in for the night else I can’t sleep and my mind will flit all over the place. I am not keen on swimming but I know that a day by the pool is a great way to calm down cranky kids in the heat.

Indian summer - cool swim
I’d love to be in the pool at Paradisa Plantation right now.

4. ICE CREAM IN A CONE

I know, I know! This is a universal pleasure and not limited to India. But how can I not mention it? I am not an ice-cream person; I am a chocolate person. Except in April-May when I crave ice cream every day. It tastes best when you eat it under a blazing sun desperately trying to finish it before it melts and leaks out from the cone. The combination of hot sun, cold ice cream and sticky fingers is a summer staple. My husband is a kulfi aficionado and claims that Bangalore kulfis are not a patch on the ones in Mumbai. That still doesn’t stop him from wolfing it down when he gets the chance.

Indian summer -Ice cream in a cone
Ice cream in a cone makes me feel like a kid again! Photo credit – www.culinarycapers.com

5. SLEEPING ON THE TERRACE

I’ve heard that this is a popular custom in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab in the scorching summers where temperatures cross 40 C and annual sunstroke deaths are routine. Last year we did that too for a couple of days when the heat was unbearable. And it works. You sleep through the night like a baby kept cool by the night breeze. I think this probably works only in dry climates that cool down after sunset. I haven’t heard of this practice in humid climates like Kerala Tamil Nadu.

6. SMELL OF RAIN

I have saved the best for the last. When the monsoon starts in June, the smell of dry parched earth receiving the rain beats any designer perfume hollow. The elusive scent stirs up strange longings and long suppressed yearnings that are hard to explain in words. While the monsoon has been portrayed in many a Hindi movie stirring up romantic emotions in lovestruck hearts, the experience is incomplete without sensory assault of the smell of rain. I recently learnt from a friend that there are people clever enough to make attar that recreates the fragrance. Mitti ka attar is almost as good as the real thing. An interesting fact is that this most traditional of Indian scents is used as a base for the French perfume, Terre d’ Hermès. I have ordered a tiny bottle of mitti ka attar from Lucknow through my friend, Renuka. I plan to use it to scent my linens. Won’t it be heavenly to sleep on rain-scented sheets?

Indian summer - Mitti ka attar - traditional fragrance
The scent-sational mitti ka attar for hot rainless days

Those were my favourite things about the hot Indian summer. I’d like to leave you with this thought. If the Indian summer weren’t hot and scorching, will we welcome and enjoy the rains with the same joy and passion that we do now?

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What are your favourite things to do in the summer? Do you have any nostalgic memories of Indian summers to share?

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Ice cream image credit: http://www.culinarycapers.com/ 

Cheers

Sudha


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Posted by Sudha at 11:33 am
2 comments
    Comments ( 2 2)
  • Subash

    April 25, 2013

    Hi Sudha

    I came across this site by chance whilst searching for random stuff about my favorite city, Bangalore…. sat here bored to death in manchester.

    I must say, having read a couple of blogs, it is interesting stuff, just capturing the nostalgia of Bangalore and some cities of South India. I was in Bangalore during March and just chilled out despite the burning tempratures there.

    Keep it going.

    Subs

  • sudha

    April 26, 2013

    Thank you for a lovely and detailed comment. Do keep writing in!

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Plan to travel to an Indian holiday destination?

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About me

The wise man travels to discover himself - JR Lowell

 

My name is Sudha Mathew. I'm an ex-banker who quit the rat race after a decade to follow my passion for travel and to combine it with my experience in understanding client requirements and exceeding their expectations.

 

While our content is mostly about the holiday experience, the accommodation and services, there's so much more to a journey. I have discovered a whole new me through travel. So I've reserved this corner of the website to share the unexpected aspects of travel. This space is also to hear from you about your journeys and discoveries. Bon Voyage!

 
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