“But how did the exam go? Did you write properly?”
Amma was carefully reading every line of the question paper, but I was already upstairs. My bag was somewhere on the staircase, books on the dining table. I wouldn’t need them for the next two months.
That evening, appa drove us all to Sukh Sagar in the Maruti 800. The restaurant looked crowded but it didn’t matter to us. We weren’t getting out of the car, so we already had the best seats. The waiter came to the window and took our orders. When we were done, amma put the empty plates of the roof.
To celebrate the first evening of the summer holidays, we all had one Softy each.
I called my two best friends home; we had some serious work to do. You see, we didn’t play silly games like hopscotch or lock and key. We spent the school year reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, so we obviously had to start our own group of detectives. We made a list of people to invite, and asked our mothers to make popcorn and buy chips. We were going to find a mystery to solve tonight.
Around ten people turned up for the first Secret Seven meeting. No one mentioned mysteries until all the popcorn and chips were gone. When the food was gone, the rest of the detectives went home too. No mysteries were solved that night.
I started reading the first book in the Faraway Tree series. By mid-morning, I was halfway through the book and only tore myself away because amma was making Rasna.
After lunch, I went to Lalbagh with my cousins. We tossed a Frisbee until we heard the unmistakable sound of the ice cream cycle pulling up. I bought a Raspberry Duet, the adults bought masala mandakki from a vendor nearby. I ate with the rest of the kids, sitting on the giant rocks (mountains, we called them). They were still a little warm from the afternoon and nicely complemented the chill of the evening.
We left for home just as it was starting to get dark. Our souvenir for the evening was a balloon each, thanks to the seller (balloon uncle) passing by us at the right time.
I read too much of Faraway Tree; I was starting to panic as the book felt thinner and thinner on my right hand. I forced myself to shut it and went out to play with my friend. We must have been outside for long, because her mother was furious when she found us.
I went back home with a sense of purpose. Today was the day I would finally draw something good enough for the kids’ edition of the newspaper to publish.
I finished my book and begged my mother for the second one. While I waited for it, I cleared the textbook cupboard under my study table and prepared it for the Faraway Tree setting I was about to create with my old Barbie sets.
In the evening, my friend’s mother bought us a pack of Cheese Balls and one Boomer each. We fished the toy out of the Cheese Balls and peeled the Boomer carefully so that we wouldn’t tear the stick-on ‘tattoo’ that came with it. After we finished eating, it was tattoo time.
(Summer was the best time to do this, because school strictly forbade tattoos.)
I don’t ordinarily keep track of the week during the holidays, but Sunday is important. It’s the day the whole family gathers to watch the Bournvita Quiz Contest. It’s the one day amma lets us eat in front of the TV. Today, we ate idlis and drank Bournvita as we yelled answers at the screen and cheered for strangers.
In the evening, appa took us to the Musical Fountain show. We ate roasted peanuts out of a rolled up page from a magazine and ordered butta for the next course. As much as I enjoyed watching the fountains dance, nothing was better than the sight of the man fanning corn over hot coals.
Amma had some things to buy, so my sister and I were going with her to the shopping complex in Jayanagar. I never had anything to do here, but I loved to go because the complex always made me feel like I was in a cave. It was a dimly lit area with stalls selling things I never thought could be found in real life. One woman sold puja items; the shelves of her stall had giant piles of kumkum and haldi. The man next to her sold birds. The old man next to him sold green apple flavoured Jelly Belly.
I walked around the complex and watched as my mother haggled with vendors and bought flowers, fruits, and one packet of Jelly Belly for my sister and me. We bought chips and pastries on our way back; tonight, my friends were staying over and we were going to re-enact the midnight feasts we read about in Mallory Towers.
For some reason, the first week of the summer never made it to my “How I Spent my Holidays” essay. I would write about the art workshops, swimming camps, and out-of-town trips. But twenty years later, as late February rolls around and I feel “summer vibes,” these are the moments I find myself craving most.