The air-conditioner has been purring unobtrusively as it does all through the day, transforming our home into a winter wonderland, while the two potted plants in the balcony have sadly wilted either under the care of my not-so-green fingers or due to the sweltering heat. The thermostat has been set to 24 degrees along with limiting the use of electrical appliances between the peak hours so as to ensure that the husband will not be in for a rude shock at the sight of the electricity bill by which time the children and I will be temporarily relocating (otherwise called vacationing) to parents’ and in-laws’ homes, where we will carry on with the same tasks, routines and life in general to a different venue — until schools reopen.
Last year, after the monsoons wreaked havoc, I stacked our suitcases with winter clothes only to have warm sunny days ahead of us. Parents and relatives cheerily said that we had brought along sunshine into their cold and damp days, while my children perspired swathed as they were in their winter clothing, leaving the thirsty mosquito party singing their song of frustration. So this year, I have packed for every conceivable weather condition, thrown in different shoes for good measure along with medication to combat every sort of illness or rash that usually return untouched save for the antacids that come in handy every time I lose sleep after Little Princess coughs or Sid gets a mosquito bite. As much as I wish to travel light, the ‘weight’ of my packing hits me at the baggage carousel upon our arrival when I invariably need a few strong helping hands to successfully mount them on airport trolleys.
In the days of yore, summer holidays meant train travels with suitcases operated on number locks, a basket full of homemade food and coolers filled to the brim with water. Upon our arrival to grandmother’s home, the grown-ups got busy catching up with their siblings, leaving us cousins to pick up from where we had left our exploration of the vast property the previous summer. We enjoyed our days amid the thicket of mango grooves, cashew nut trees, a little pond and a shack made of dried coconut leaves beside the well. The adults rarely fussed over us and our interactions were limited to meal times and disastrous afternoons when we were caught raiding grandmother’s store that was stacked with goodies. We lived in perfect harmony alongside the mosquitoes and the rare bugs that dared to enter grandmother’s perfectly maintained home. Upon our return, we sported a healthy tan, our limbs strong and mouths bearing the stains of mango sap from days spent climbing trees and greedily devouring mangoes. Upon our arrival back home, we slipped back into routine while the tasty treats from grandmother’s store invoked memories of a bygone summer while dreaming of the next.
Today, my children need me to guide them through the routine even during the summer break while we get together with another nuclear family living their carefully charted routine in small houses that boast of a vegetable patch and a mango tree. The children are jumpy at the sight of mosquitoes and terrified of croaking toads. When Little Princess found joy in squishing centipedes, I added “rinse her hands every half-hour” to my carefully tailored vacation schedule. Sun downs include closing every window (to my mother-in-laws disappointment) and covering every crevice that might allow the villain mosquito into a home that houses two children with sweet blood. Luckily, the children can continue to sleep soundly under the purr of air-conditioners that often leave us with frost bites by the early morning hours, but ensure that the stray mosquito that ventured into our repellent-barricaded fortress has failed to get its fill of sweet blood as it froze under its icy grip.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.