Summer by the Sea
'SUMMER BY THE SEA' - HOW GRANDMUM SURVIVED THE TROPICAL GOA SUMMER BEFORE THE DAWN OF MODERN COMFORTS
Summer was a time of joy. School-breaks, vacations at family homes and as the trend' progressed, in carefully designed tours of far-away places on high mountains or within inches of the sea. For grandmum, it was none of it. She waited and prepared for summer more poignantly, than any other season during the year.
In all our summer time spent at our village in Goa, she was possibly the happiest during this season. Goa until the last decade had a history of summer power cuts and limited work that generators could do. It is quite painful to imagine today my memories of it as a child, craving to go back to the city, in the cool comfort of the apartment, the air-conditioned walls and malls. Grandmum, however thrived. And thrived would be an understatement to the happiness she felt and spread across to everyone during this season.
As I enter my fourth full-time summer in the tropics this year, in power-cuts and negligible air-conditioning, here are some of the lessons learnt from grandmum in surviving the tropical Goa summer without modern comforts to the present and rising heat.
Trees make it easy:
Nana (grandmum) loves to this very day, a brilliant fullgrown mango or coconut tree. A lot of memories and pictures as evidence of those tiny memories formed in my baby-brain was of picnics, swings and bamboo beds under huge mango trees. Around the house, grandmum made sure that almost no portion of the backyard and frontyard was left without the shadows of trees.
I realised the magnum impact it had in terms of temperature when the trees around our city's apartment were cut and the temperature around the entire zone shot up by 3-4 degrees. The summers would be hot in Goa around the house, but not unbearable. A little stroll in the garden, a stool under the guava (peru) or drumstick tree while we procrastinated doing random-children stuff was pleasant, comfortable and as I remember it even today - Fun.
Grandmum's relationship with the coconut was probably beyond spiritual. It was like her own personal horcrux. The tree, palm and coconut. Summer coconuts from the frontyard tree were harvested each season. The entire plot of land would shudder as the modkar (coconut cutter) would throw bunch after bunch- 20, 50, 70 coconuts from the tree. The rest of our time would involve sneaking the curved machete (koita) and trying to cut a big, green coconut with the splashing sound of water inside to only be get caught by nana who would eventually cut a coconut for each one of us while telling us stories of people who've lost a finger trying to cut coconuts without learning to use the tools. I think our respect for people with the skill to cut a coconut stands at the epitome of everything thanks to those gnarly stories.
Nana's secret to her long and healthy bones and quality of life is her 'one coconut a day' mantra - where she as a child would consume one whole, green tender coconut every single day. I am 26, but I do know the comfort coconut water gives my body at the peak of the 2pm sun in summer. It is refreshing, a survival hack in the least with a new way of drinking coconut water I learnt from a dear aunt in Morjim- refrigerating whole coconuts and drinking chilled coconut water in summer.
Go Mango crazy: Mangoes in the western tropics was a festival. Alphonso, Mankurad, Mussarads and more than 120+ varieties from the western ghats alone. Nana was on her A-game each season. There was a period of buying only mankurads from the house with the mankurad tree, followed by a change in buying only alphonsos from the market. We also had to respect any other type- even though sour and unfamiliar in taste as part of the summer-mangofest. Mangoes were refrigerated or kept in a water bowl to reduce sty-eyes and heat boils. Jammed, pickled, jammed and pickled (sweet mango pickle), juiced, milkshaked and even put into curries.
We learnt later of the essential nutrients of mangoes and how they help the body in heat responses and recovery of nutrients lost in the summer. Above everything, the tradition of waking up to a sweet, aromatic, soft, chilled mango alongside breakfast is a lasting memory I continue to this day.
Summer coloured clothes: Summer was a rejection of dark, gloomy coloured clothing. Anyone wearing black in summer around grandmum was a risky task as the 'who's funeral do we have to attend today'? razor sharp sarcastic comment would fly in on speed delivery. Grandmum's summer wardrobe was like watching the Paris fashion week commence. Cotton pastels, frills, clean cuts, lots of cream and yellows. Dresses and skirts were in and loose pants and kurtas if ever a long-picnic or a Bardez (North Goa) visit called upon.
Every summer since 2012, I would count the number of times I would wear my favourite but dreadful uncomfortable jeans or jeggings outdoors. As part of the adolescents 'in-fashion' upkeep, wearing jeans in Goa was something I held very close to my heart which used to follow with heat boils and rashes. While working on field to gather data as an adult, it was quite impossible and the advice of light-coloured breathable clothing, helped finish a lot of work that would have been as initially as it did, followed by boils, rashes and discomfort to finish the tasks.
Another key advice was layering appropriately and not letting the skin burn during extreme hours of afternoon heat. A headscarf, a flimsy light overall have been instrumental in reducing the impact of heat on skin and motivation to finish outdoor work.
Seasonal produce: Watermelons, pineapples, ice-apples (tadgudas), kokum, curry leaves, mint and seasonal seafood like the green mussels was in summer. The health it has contributed to our three generations and beyond is plausible of grandmum's indigenous, traditional knowledge in taking on a season so harsh, with love, yummy food and lots of fun. Sounds familiar? Let us know what was the summer stories of your hometown!
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