Sense and Sensibility

Supriya Newar is a Kolkata-based author, poet, music aficionado and communications consultant

Sense and Sensibility

Nothing seems to make much sense in this heat. All last week, temperatures hovered close to 40 degrees Celsius while the humidity remained unbearable at an average of 56 percent daily. Streets, otherwise crowded, are beginning to look deserted in the afternoons. Schools are now ringing water bells as a reminder to primary school students to hydrate themselves and the one thing everyone seems to be discussing when they meet is their summer holiday plans to cooler climes. And to think that we’re barely into the summer with a good two and half months to go before the monsoons set in. And if the mercurial heat isn’t enough, all of India is simmering under political heat as well, with our politicians braving blisters for the upcoming ballot.

Summers in India tend to dampen our artistic or creative sensibilities too. Think of Indian folk or classical music during springtime and evocative, colourful ‘ragas’ such as ‘Basant’, ‘Bahar’ or ‘Hindol’ come to mind; think of the rains and there is a mélange of ‘Malhars’ or the more sonorous ‘Raag Megh’ to choose from. Even winters lend themselves to ‘Raag Shri’ or the austere ‘Malkauns’. But other than the now fading ‘Raag Deepak’, one doesn’t really associate Indian summers with a ‘raag’. Some of the most romantic songs from our films have been set either in the rain or in the backdrop of open lush fields or tall, snow-capped mountains. But summers? Can you recall anything remotely inspiring or beautiful that finds its story set in the sensibilities of summer? Mostly not.

Poets too, seem to favour laden, dramatic skies of the monsoons or peaceful cerulean blues of the winters to craft words and verses. The one Hindi poem that stands out in my memory, as far as our summers go, is Suryakant Tripathi Nirala’s ‘Todti pathar’, which describes the oppressive heat faced by a woman labourer who works on a construction site, the words are almost applicable in toto to the character of Nirupa Roy in ‘Deewar’. Indeed, summers have often been used to portray the inequity in our societies - from the pre-shower scenes of ‘Pather Panchali’ to Bimal Roy’s ‘Do Beegha Zameen’.

But then no matter how dark the cloud, there is always the proverbial silver lining. In this seemingly uninspiring season of ours where the heat and humidity rob us of our senses and mute our sensibilities, comes the king of fruits, the mango in its many, many avatars. The pricey Alphonso, the refreshing ‘Langda’, the sweet ‘Himasagar’, the juicy ‘Gulab Khaas’ and many others as well as its many concoctions - ‘aam pora’, ‘aam panna’, ‘aam ras’ and so on.

There is an immortal scene from ‘Mirza Ghalib’ which shows the master poet sitting with his friends over ‘gupshup’ when a nearby stray donkey sniffs at a ripe mango and carries on without so much as biting into it. Now Ghalib was known to be very fond of mangoes and the incident immediately gave an opportunity to one of his friends, to pull Ghalib’s leg and remark, that even donkeys didn’t eat mangoes. To which Ghalib gave the legendary retort, that only donkeys didn’t enjoy mangoes.

So just like Ghalib, it would make great sense to find our own oasis in these mercurial days. Be it tall glasses of fresh juice, ‘daab’ or a few laps in the pool, we’ll need to find ways and means to keep our cool. Some bathroom singing too wouldn’t hurt. The recommended song? ‘Thande thande pani se nahana chahiye’!

Author Supriya Newar may be reached at, Instagram: @supriyanewar, Facebook: supriya.newar and LinkedIn:

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