It’s that time of the year when kids flock to summer camps where they spend their vacation between painted walls. This is the time when mouth-watering varieties of mangoes flood the market too.
My tryst with both was so different. I was lucky to have been part of perhaps the last generation that enjoyed unlimited fun during summer vacations. It was just before urbanization creeped into our area in Thiruvananthapuram.
There were vast stretches of land with trees and wild bushes that gifted us splendid summers. There were narrow streams that would irrigate the paddy fields, the banks of which held wild berries that painted our mouths red and blue.
The huge group of children, including cousins and neighbourhood friends, would spend time at home only food, bath and sleep! We would start after breakfast from home. There were umpteen traditional games that kept us occupied through the day apart from going on hunting rounds. Hunt for a kill of mangoes, cashew nuts, ayanichakka (bread fruit), pineapple, and of course the wild berries on the banks of streams that would keep us going through our trail.
All lands in the neighbourhood belonged to one relative or the other. So we had all freedom to explore the acres of land undivided by boundary walls. We would leave the fruits on the seven mango trees in our backyard to ripen naturally and would attack the trees in the neigbouring lands to satiate our hunger for raw mangoes. We share mangoes by crushing it against stones in the vicinity. The mud that gets stuck on the pieces are just rubbed against skirts or shorts before they are consumed. Some fresh mangoes are taken home if there's a cricket match on Doordarshan in the afternoon.
Post-lunch time is spent on chopping the mangoes fine and mixing it with salt, chillies and a bit of coconut oil. It's kept for some time for the juice to mix well with the ingredients. My brother's cricket team mates and our cousins would come home to watch the match. I would supply the heavenly mix then. My idea of supplying this during match is that no one would ask for more!
In the paddy fields, harvest would be over by Vishu. We would fly kites in the vast stretch of land fringed with coconut and arecanut palms. The most memorable part of it is when clouds roll up above the fields cautioning us of a heavy summer shower. Our spirit to fly kites would soar high with the intensifying breeze. Rain wouldn't wait. It would storm towards us with a roaring sound. Next comes our race against the rain. We would sprint home trying to save our kites from getting wet before the drops touch down… climbing up the field, jumping over the stream, running up the narrow path amid thorny pineapple bushes on to the mud road that leads home. Rain would always win. We would be drenched along with our kites by the time we crash land onto the verandah.
They say mango trees give good yield when kids shake its branches and play on it or even throw stones at it. Our mango trees have proved it. They were in full glory when we were in school and had fixed summer vacations to spend lot of time with them. Once we stopped climbing their branches and spending time in their shades, they almost stopped bearing fruits.
Over the years, many trees fell victim to construction activities, some to parasites and the remaining ones bear fruit for namesake. Paddy fields don’t exist anymore… nor are the pineapple bushes or wild berries. Concrete has replaced it all and confined the kids within its walls.
All that’s remaining are the images brightly lit by the summer sun in mind and the scent of the mangoes on the tip of my nose...