An Ode to the Summer Afternoon

As I type this post, I can feel the hot sun’s wrath crashing through my window’s resistance and warming my back. I feel my skin heat up and beads of sweat tingling behind my ear. The fan’s promise of providing cool has long been rendered defenseless as I look up to it, circling with a defeated sense of duty. I look around the room, the sunlight doing a victory dance all over the furniture, floor and walls. I smile and turn back to my computer, elated at having my afternoons back, however briefly it may be.

An Indian summer has a tumultuous relationship with Indians, a one which starts on a sweet note but sours as we age. As a child, summer was something I looked forward to all year. It was a period of total bliss and abandonment of routine as my friends and I spent all our days outside the confines of our homes and schools. It was a period which could make or break friendships. Those sipping of cold lemonades, running all day and inventing games, mindless gossip and chattering. It is a period every person reminisces about with nothing but pure fondness and joy. As we grow up, a certain degree of dread fills our senses when we talk about the dawn of this season. No longer children and crushed under the trappings of adult life, we actually start planning ways in which we can combat this torturous season while maintaining our daily routines. We try to reach our offices and take refuge under the centralized air conditioning before the heat reaches its peak, put off everything until the air is cool outside, change our wardrobe to include lighter clothes as an armor against the brutal onslaught of the sun. Every action is a defense against the season.

To be fair, we cannot be blamed for this. This blazing, hot fire spitting body successfully torches every romantic sentiment anyone may have harbored for this season, especially when we no longer have the liberty to divorce ourselves from our routine. But fortunately, I have had an opportunity to do so over the past few weeks and I am enjoying it to the hilt.

I have always had this highly romantic, unachievable notion that summer afternoons should be a time devoted to ourselves. As I started working, I realised what an absurd thought this was as it would take skills beyond my power to squeeze in a siesta with client calls and meetings. For the past four years, I spent my summer afternoons under artificial lighting and air conditioning. Unsurprisingly, these four years made me highly appreciative of natural light, which explains my happiness at being simmered in this unflinching summer at this moment. I have been very happy, spending time with myself these few weeks. I have escpecially loved the afternoons, a part of day I thought was being gradually dissected from my life. I especially like to read during this time of the day and love the unhurried pace this time provides. It makes me feel that I would be reading till the end of time, an idea I am not really opposed to. Afternoons have always provided me a quiet reassurance that the day still has plenty to offer. It also reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, “The Great Gatsby”, when all the characters are relaxing in a particularly hot summer afternoon, fanning themselves and drinking lemonade. I think this is an especially poignant time in the book one can sense the simmering emotions underneath the idle chatter. It is the last point of calmness in the book and everything which follows is a flurry of activities and emotions. Maybe unconsciously, I have started seeing afternoons in the same light. There is activity during this time but everything is muffled. Everything is a preparation for coming of the evening where the day comes alive again and the intimacy is gone.

Henry James once wrote, “Summer Afternoons, Summer Afternoons; to me, those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Needless to say, I think he was absolutely right and I am couldn’t be happier at rekindling my romance with the glorious summer afternoon.





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