Into The Last Summer Break

The sun beats down like a hammer on this city, splintered into blades cutting through the gaps in the trees. I see the million moving stabs of light on the pavement, and my shadow moves through them bobbing and pinned to my feet, unaffected and living on a different realm. The afternoon traffic goes past me with its sounds and vapors. Today, I decided not to take the bus home and just walk the mile. Because, there was no other option. I spent all of my bus-money on the twenty rupee feast in the canteen – the worst burger, glass-bottle soda and a bag of chips. It was one last splurge with my friends before I would see them again after the summer.

The energy of the last day of school before the summer break is different from the one before the winter break, and far from the one before the final exams at the end of the academic year. The other days always came with some anxiety about what lay ahead, but the lack of worry today would reflect in everyone’s mood and actions. No amount of holiday homework could faze us, it would all be done the week before the school reopened anyway. I bet the teachers felt the same too, a break from this state-backed madness.

The kids got out of control when the last class of the day would end, and the teacher left hurriedly with the ring of the bell. Some students would just be out of the gates even before the buses started rolling in, the privilege of straight up bunking, or having physical education, or Work-Ex class towards the end of this day. But, the fun awaited those who lingered around the campus – a fight, a dramatic proposal, or some student getting into trouble; no matter how late you left, there would always be something you missed out on. Today, we just threw water on each other and then threw the half-full uncapped plastic coke-bottles at the running ceiling fan. The ceiling fan would shoot it in random directions and someone would score a hit – bonus, if it was an unsuspecting girl. Double bonus if the rickety fan finally gave up and stopped working. It did not make sense, it didn’t have to make sense. By the end of it, the hot and humid classroom would be a minimalist’s art piece on teen-chaos, and we would have to get away from it before the cleaners arrived.

My shirt is still wet from this game, mixed with sweat and sticky-sweet droplets of Coke drying on my skin, now making a shower an absolute necessity when I get home. I can smell my toasted scalp, with wafts of sweaty uniform in between. The nylon-socks are itching, but I would experience the bliss of scratching my calves and shins only after reaching home. Balls would be second in order. The backpack is light, thankfully, as I had planned to not take any books with me today – it was a low-risk gamble for the occasion, so I could afford the being sent out of the class. I would have preferred it, actually, but I guess the teachers too knew of my tricks. The only thing in this beaten up schoolbag, apart from a notebook and a few assignment handouts, is my lunchbox. The half-eaten parantha in it would, on some previous years, be untombed not until the very end of the summer break. I must not forget about it. I hear it interrupt and randomly dampen the rattle of the metal spoon – its coinhabitant in that lunchbox, which was dancing to my strides.

As the local market – too posh for me or my family, comes close, I am grasped by the desire to grab a McAloo Tikki from the McDonald’s there. Then I recall the very reason for which I am walking home. Maybe, some of my friends are already there, maybe she would be there. Not today, though, I just need to get home to a liter of lemonade, a cold shower and rajmah-chawal doused in dahi. I can also catch a glimpse of her (the other one) on one of the school buses now coming back around. There was always one on every bus. There was always one in every class.

I cross the road and I see the window of my home peek through the other houses and trees. The dog knows I am around, and I can hear him bark, the maniac’s voice comes from every window and end of the house, bouncing off walls, as he paces about frantically. In this familiarity, as the sound of cars also fades behind me, I start thinking of the evening. Today, my friends from the neighbourhood (who were also my schoolmates) would stay out till late in the evening. I wonder which computer game did they get, I wonder if my machine would run it, or if I will have to play it at their place in the evenings and skip football. I hope the two girls come out for their evening walk, I would skip football anyway. That reminds me, I need to harass my parents for football shoes, I still play with my old sneakers on and everyone else already has obtained their ‘kits’. My classmate had told me earlier at school that a celebrity was wearing nothing but cauliflower leaves for a PETA photoshoot, which was in the city edition of the papers today – I have to check that out right away, but maybe after my belly is full. Maybe, after I pass out on the couch, to the breezy sprays and hums of the cooler.

The mango tree which shades my house, rustles and welcomes me as I enter the stairwell. He is ready for the summer too – and there will be plenty of pickle for us and the neighbours. And some more for the relatives in Kanpur, Lucknow and Dehradun. Though this routine and this walk has happened before on several such days as today, this was the last one. I run right up the cool stairwell, mother would have already unlocked the door by now because of the dog. I do not think about the significance of the moment, but the last summer break has just begun.


In Rochester, weather is the most easiest-to-converse-about topic between strangers. Everyone and anyone can get started about their own snow and storm story. This post is based on one such discussion I had today with a Lyft driver about it – rather than the “back in ___ we got _ feet of snow”, this conversation was more about appreciating this climate, even with its extremes.

Living in the upper latitudes of the northern hemisphere is way different from where I have spent most of my life. Here, all the four seasons are very salient and each comes with its own intensity and beauty.  This is unlike how it is in the temperate climates, it gets hot or cold but your surroundings pretty much look the same throughout the year. Nature reminds one loudly about time as it passes and a new appreciation develops as each year ends and starts over back again.

For people like me, who arrive here in August, it is almost like starting a biography of someone from somewhere in the middle. You get to see the individual age, shrivel up and die, but you also start the book again to see what you missed. Maybe that is how I will write my autobiography, that might help me know myself better.


The colors of the summer can be found to be lingering on for a month or two and give one enough time to observe what will soon be gone. It quickly rustles away with the winds, the same omnipresent winds which once felt like a breath of life, now carry with them the remains. Life measures time with decay, but in that decay it puts on a grand show, its last colorful push of reds and yellows – maybe a struggling display that this life, these trees, these leaves and flowers, too existed in this space and time. And then they are gone.


Winters are long and unforgiving, thus meditative. They bring in that necessary pause our lives require. One can just sit for hours and look out at bare trees, with maybe an animal skipping through quickly gathering the last bits before heading home. A crow would often break the silence bragging probably about how it has braved these winds. I am always fascinated by that one leaf which is dry and dead but still clings on to the tree, as if by some miracle it will revive once again; and maybe it does, and no one notices. Even within this stagnation, one can see decay occur – in the wet ends, at doorsteps and carpets, in what happens under the snow and the salt. Life recedes back to the bare necessities, around the heart and the hearth, and the extremes and excesses are numb so we can only hold the layers tighter to our chest, bent in and closed off from the death that stands at its strongest in this veil of stagnation outside.


The burst of the spring through the sleet, wind and snow, is that reminder of life’s return which one tends to forget about in the months of the winter. This happens almost by magic, within a week or so, and you see life raise its head once again. It feels like it would only get colder there onward and it often does – the winds and the rains crush and dissolve the large chunks of snow that lay out there for months, the same winds which had suppressed life now destroy what they had set. And then, one can see the grasses rise through the snow and the flowers dot the trees. From that, which one assumes to have been dead and stagnant, comes a sign that life was always there. It only survived in decay.


Summers are absolutely beautiful here in the flower city. It never gets too hot, and rains cool down the weather whenever it gets too uncomfortable. The days are long and the sunsets at 9 pm with their long shadows and the reds make the whole place look like a few places I have seen in my dreams. There is this laze which sets in even in the life people lead here. Now at its most fertile, this is when humans come out – we are the decay which feeds on this tree from the top.

Why did I ramble about the weather of Rochester? I do not know. Maybe this is my ode to it.