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An Ode to April

Koel - an ode to AprilAs I write the date on the papers in front of me, suddenly it strikes me that we are already in the last month of the first quarter of this year. The month of April evokes a collage of memories.......neither sweet nor sour not even bitter...perhaps acrid...just like purple jamuns...the fruit of the month. It is not the fun-filled December or eager June and not any other bland months. It reminds me of Mumbai heat, the fan rotating endlessly trying in futile to keep our throbbing heads cool, the exam fever, staying up late in the night, awaiting summer break, and then enjoying holidays, that too with the tension of results at the back of our minds. In April you take everything with a pinch of salt just the right amount you add to buttermilk or on cucumber

I have a love and hate relationship with April. Many a times I have woken up from sleep full of sweat thinking that I was going to appear for the exam of some totally different subject while having studied something else. Its a recurring dream. I often wonder whether I will ever manage to overcome this fear. As we grew up and started going to the college April became the month of preparations. Just like the smells of raw and ripe mangoes, jackfruits and intoxicating jasmine or mogra flowers, I also associate it with the smell of old photocopiers, somewhat closer to that of kerosene, in a crammed place where you could get photocopies for reasonably low price. The cheap ones, literally and figuratively... we had to really focus hard to understand what was written on the paper. For that we were ready to go long distances. The friends from science stream used to have one  more concern named journal submission.  It used to sound more like death penalty than some academic task.  Obviously studies and various aspects related to it were in forefront while rest everything was blurred in the background.

In retrospect, now those blurred images have started becoming clear. I can clearly feel, smell, hear and see the month unfolding in front of me.  The sweet and sour freshly squeezed lemon sarbat drank from a stainless steel glass. As it used to trickle down the throat its coolness used to sooth both eyes and brain as well. The slightly pungent Ambedal eaten with refreshing panha ( a raw mango drink).  Various fruits that are available only in this season like green karawanda (the tangy berries often used in pickles), tamrind,ratambas ( the fruit used to make kokam sarbat) and many more. If you notice, not a single fruit is overtly sweet. The king of fruits, alphonso starts making its appearance felt with astronomical prices . You get it in abundance by the end of the month or in May, till then we used to satisfy ourselves by aiming at raw mangoes hanging down from some neighbor’s trees. I wonder where those mango trees have disappeared.

I vividly recollect koyal’s  melodious tunes from dense trees. It has never failed to amaze me how this invisible harbinger of spring comes to know when to break into a song. The heady fragrance of raat ki rani floating on cool night breeze used to lull us to calm sleep even though the air conditioners were not so common. Although the refrigerators were very much part of my childhood, the cool water from earthern matkas with occasionally a small bunch of khus roots placed at the bottom of it, had some magical power to quench the thirst. In those days ladies believed in  making and storing the quota of all their masalas, papads, various types of dried friums, chillies etc for the whole year. This was the test of their ultimate skills as an accomplished homemaker. The neighbors or relatives used to gather together to make this otherwise boring activity interesting. The gossips, jokes, friendly banter used to bond the ladies as well as we kids who used to do errands such as shooing away the birds and making numerous trips from kitchen to the courtyard or terrace and spreading the stuff handed over to them for drying. When there was no work to do, we used to play cards incessantly any game from Bluff( which used to be called as Challenge) to  mendhicoat to rummy.

Those were the pre-computer, pre so-many-tv-channels days and we never got bored. Come summer holidays and all the board games used to come down from the loft where they used to be stacked for the entire year. The intense carrom sessions in cool curtain drawn rooms barring the sultry afternoons. Endless game of monopoly,  accusations for unfair play, fights over fake money. Learning to ride bicycle on a rented bike. Getting bruised knees and elbows. Do those bike rental shops still exist? Never came across any in the recent past. In the night when there used to be a power failure one of the most favorite time pass used to be narrating ghost stories, apart from antakshari.

These balmy April evenings have that power to make one reminisce about the days of childhood, youth, which has slipped from our fist like sand. I am definitely not one of the people who dwell in the past, but a quick trip down the memory lane is so heartening.  As I curse the ever scorching sun, sweltering heat these memories of past Aprils bring a line of smile on my face and I feel like sharing my experiences with someone which is what I just did.

An Ode to April