I Got The Summertime, Summertime Madness

I love the romantic image of summer that’s been perpetuated through the ages by white people who will never know what it’s like to be a human popsicle in India. You see it all the time in the form of stock photos of bikini babes and dudes on sailboats, sipping rainbow-coloured drinks and grinning because they’re obviously in the south of France, where visas are denied to sweaty people.

I’d love to see the more realistic image, where the sailboat dude is trying to get an auto on Linking Road while a torrent of back-sweat pretends to be Magellan and goes exploring in places that are otherwise explored on incognito mode. I’d like to see him shake hands with people all day, this harmless social greeting now transformed into a Woodstock for germs, which you counter with routine hygiene measures like cutting off your hand.

Don’t mind me. I’m just cranky because I stepped out for ten minutes and now I feel like something the cat dragged in out of a coal mine. Thankfully, I have science to back up and quantify my whining. Humidity levels reached 81% in South Mumbai this week, a phenomenon scientists refer to as ‘Just Stay Home And French-Kiss Your AC’.

This is how I know I’ll never be a great person. On the one hand, you had people like Nelson Mandela, who stayed unbroken after 27 years in prison. And then there’s me. I wouldn’t even need to be tortured or anything. If you want to get state secrets out of me, just put me in a room with a fan that the bai forgets to turn on after jhaadu. In three seconds, I’d confess to everything from killing Kennedy to being that guy who let the dogs out.

Another thing better people do is realise that they’re so much more privileged than most people out there. It seems a bit stupid to tweet updates like ‘UGHH SO SWEATY I COULD IRRIGATE HALF OF INDIA WITH MY ARMPITS’ and then look out of your AC cab to see a handcart puller lugging a load the size of a house without cribbing because he doesn’t have a Twitter account the luxury of doing so.

The only bright side of summer is the arrival of mangoes, a fruit known worldwide for its ability to drive Indians nuts. But I have to mess it up by being possibly the only Indian person who couldn’t care less about Katrina’s make-out partner. It makes things awkward in social situations. There’s always that moment where someone lovingly serves you a mango dish for dessert, and you tell them that you would rather eat your toes. As a result, I’m less welcome at dinners than the one friend who gets drunk and starts saying things like, “I’m not a bigot, but the problem with *those* people na…”

I guess the only good thing about summer is that you see way more women in summer dresses, which is really the hottest, most bad-poetry-inducing thing women can do. There’s just something about that look that makes you ignore the glossy finish that all Mumbaikars come in. As men, we have nothing even remotely classy going on. Our greatest fashion achievement is successfully resisting the urge to take off our pants in public.

There’s about six weeks of this nonsense left, so it would be best to remember the wise words of Plato who said, “Screw this, I’m going to the hills.” Unfortunately for Bombay people that means Lonavala, the hill station brought to you by Maganlal Chikki, starring Maganlal Chikki and introducing Baby Maganlal Chikki. What I’m saying is, just take a break and go to a nicer place, like a coal mine.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 10th May 2015.)

The Unofficial Guide To Slapping Summer In The Face

It’s that time of the year when you’re bombarded with headlines like “23 Ways To Beat The Heat!”, “Sweat: It’s Like Drool, But From Your Armpits!”, and “It’s Totally Okay To Sell Your Kids For a Box Of Mangoes!” In keeping with that theme, I present the only real solution to summer, i.e. leave. Head to the hills and come back only after the dawn of nuclear winter.

I did that two weeks ago, and it was great because now I get to be one of those annoying people who won’t shut up about their vacation. If you’re planning a trip to the hills, you might want to consider Shimla, Nainital and Manali, which offer great views of parents trying to keep kids from rushing into ravines, along with honeymooning brides showing off their forearm bangle armour kit.

(I always imagine them using the bangle armour to fend off sword attacks like Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah, with each blow sending up a shower of sparks. Yes, I’m single. What gave it away?)

Most young people go off in different directions though, which is what I did, and landed up in Kasol in Himachal Pradesh. The closest airport used to be an hour away, at a place called Bhuntar, as in, “Wow, she’s got amazing bhuntars!” But since Kingfisher was the only airline flying to Bhuntar, operations had to be suspended once the company shut shop last year, after having spent all its money on Sid Mallya’s hair gel.

So now, the closest airport is at Chandigarh, an eight hour drive from Kasol. Of course, I use the term ‘drive’ loosely, because the HP government’s brief to the construction companies was, “Our roads should cause backbones to disintegrate into a fine powder, which we can then smoke.” The roads are flanked by a lush green drop to the death on one side, while the other is reserved for truckers hurtling down the wrong way, probably in a rush to get back home to their sweethearts at the nearest roadside brothel.

But that’s a small price to pay for waking up to one of nature’s best photoshop jobs. Lazy rivers gurgle along, emboldened by the absence of people crapping into them, and snow-capped mountains rise up against the summer in what geologists describe as a “middle-finger formation”.

It’s interesting to watch city people turn into a raving, wide-eyed gaggle once they hit villages. The smallest things set us off. For example, it’s impossible for us to have a meal without making low moaning noises about the extremely mind-bending amazeballs freshness of local vegetables. And that’s because the bar has been set pretty low. I mean all a tomato has to do to make us weep with joy is to not look it just went four rounds with Mike Tyson. You could feed us goat fodder in the hills, and it’d still be tastier than the local greens fermenting in a patch of sewage water in the nether regions of Kurla station.

Kasol offers one of those rare, Parliament-like vacations where you can just sit back and do nothing. At most, you can check out some of the nearby villages, like Malana, which is famous for producing the world’s finest whatever it is that RGV has been smoking for the past decade. An hour-long drive takes you up to almost 10,000 feet, to within two kilometres of the village, after which an uphill hike reminds you that you have the lung capacity of an asthmatic corpse.

Malanis claim to be descendants of Alexander’s soldiers, and hence consider themselves racially superior to all outsiders. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. You’re better than everyone because once upon a time, some soldiers got bored of spooning each other. Also, if an army reaches Malana, it’s not really going to go very far ahead:

Commander: Men! We must march on, and conquer every land that lies ahead. Onwards, to glory!  *puff* Or dude, let’s just like, chill and like, play some Floyd maaaan *puffpuffpuff* Hey, is that my concubine or yours?

(Fun fact: Malana rules prohibit villagers from touching outsiders, which, on the snob scale, ranks somewhere between ’18th century pundit’ and ‘Colaba lady trying to pronounce Kandivli’.)

On the flipside, when your vacation ends, you’ll spend the next few weeks like a junkie in raging withdrawal, shuffling about, taking furtive hits off every AC unit you can find. Your friends might even need to stage an intervention. Ask them to bring fresh tomatoes.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 12th May 2013. Cross-posted from here.)