One of the first geography lessons I learnt in school was – India has (only) three seasons:
- Monsoon / Rainy – from June to September
- Winter – from October to January
- Summer – from February to May
MONSOON / RAINY:
I never liked the rainy season much. Going back to school after 2 full months of absolute freedom has been one of the most painful parts of my childhood. The overcast weather would add to the gloom. To make matters worse, the playground was out of bounds for two of our most favorite activities – playing and having lunch. The misery continued at home as well since I couldn’t play “gully cricket” – one of the most important skills of Indian kids. Staying indoors both in school and at home was something I simply hated. However, things were completely different in the military school where it would be business as usual irrespective of how heavily it rained. I still remember sweating it out in the rains!!! Once a responsible, salaried young man, I did do a few monsoon treks and motorcycle rides but I would like to remember them as nothing more than “experiences”. I could never really relate to the idea of trekking to a peak or visiting a new place just to find it engulfed in fog and monsoon clouds. Of course there are no two ways about how important the rains are to India!! But, to me, they will always be the bitter pill that needs to be gulped down.
The summers have always been associated with final exams, results and enjoying the “long vacations”. Though I missed the school playground, I would make up for it by playing gully cricket all day long. The increased day light was an added advantage of the summers. However, the scorching afternoons gave the mothers a chance to free their vocal chords and stop us from venturing out. So we had to make do with some board games or cards. But even that came with a rider of keeping noise levels to the minimum so that the “grow-ups” could enjoy their siestas. Of course, the tropical Indian summer is incomplete without the mention of “mangoes”. Of late, I also associate summers with some amazing night drives to Lonavla – the only way to quite literally beat the heat!! However, the scarcity of water in most parts of India is a striking feature of the summer and therefore not quite the season of choice for travelers.
Sandwiched between the rains and the scorching heat have been the pleasant winters. With the monsoons just gone by, there is ample greenery everywhere. With all water sources sufficiently stocked, there is a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. As the sun shifts its focus to the southern hemisphere, there is just the right amount of warmth throughout the day. All the extra-curricular activities of school life like Annual Day and Sports Day, were conducted during these times. Watching the early morning sun pierce through the blanket of fog as I cycled to school and the family get-togethers around bornfires at night are some of the fondest memories of my childhood. Learning to run in a group without crashing into one another in pitch darkness and wearing not-so-white vests under sweaters are some candid memories of the winters in military school.
There’s something very assuring about the tropical winters – they are generally sobre, pleasant and don’t throw many surprises. It’s the time when farmers celebrate the good harvest of the kharif season. Cricket, the religion that unites most Indians, starts in October. The biggest festival in India, Diwali, is celebrated during this time of the year. It’s also during this time of the year when a huge variety of migratory birds flock the entire expanse of the country, adding some very vibrant colors and soothing sounds to the already pleasant atmosphere.
Having experienced all the three seasons of India for a sufficiently long period now, I am more than convinced that I absolutely love the winters and everything that comes with it. Some of my most satisfying treks, motorcycle tours and drives have been during the winters. It is now that I realize it is the law of nature to pursue and seek perfect balance. And to me, nothing symbolizes balance better than the tropical winters!!!