Chasing Butterflies on hot afternoons

A few things come to my mind when I think of holidays of my childhood.

A fan whirring overhead, cooling high ceilinged, spacious rooms.

Houseflies buzzing lazily on supine bodies.

Chasing russet coloured butterflies in scorching afternoon sun.

Holidays in my childhood meant summer holidays with a big H. We had a couple of months off in the middle of the school year on account of unbearably hot summers. It was so hot that we were forced to stay indoors for most part of the day; heat strokes were common among the labourers who had to toil on construction sites or ply rickshaws on the street.

We had lots of homework to keep us busy which we kept dawdling over till the very end and then the last ten days or so, we tried furiously to make up for that. The days began early, for early mornings and late evening were the only time we could go out to play. But the best part of the days were the intolerably hot afternoons. Intolerable only to adults, I must add.

Indoors, we would bring out our board games-ludo, snakes and ladders, carrom, playing cards. We spent hours engrossed in these games. Watching T V indiscriminately was almost unheard of and in any case, the transmission was on only for a few hours per day. Sundays and Thursdays were movie days. We had a full length (3 hrs) feature film shown in the evenings. I think all programmes were child appropriate, for we all sat around and watched. It was time spent with the family. The children were asked to turn the knobs to turn up or down the volume whenever needed and we would happily run over to oblige. Later, when the first T Vs with remote control came in the market, we wondered secretly as to their use. Why couldn’t a person just get up, take a couple of strides across the room and change channels??

Coming back to my snippets of memories. The rooms were cooled only by fans. There was no air conditioning. And I still yearn for that stillness. A few flies buzzed about, the screen doors unable to keep them out completely. To me, these memories are tied up with the innocence and the contentment of childhood.

The most enjoyable activity of the day was chasing beautiful butterflies in our garden under the scorching heat of the afternoon sun. All the adults were inside taking the noon nap and we were free to run about barefoot, happy. I remember the sun and the shadows, the warmth of the mud beneath my toes…

No matter how many vacations we have taken since; how many exotic locales we have visited, the most memorable ones feature fans, houseflies and butterflies.

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Chasing butterflies on hot afternoons

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