Capital Season – Delhi in the Time of Summer

The Delhi walla‘s pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls – Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Summer Teaser

Finding comfort in a steaming sun-drenched city.

[Text by Anuja Chauhan; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

At 43.5 degrees Delhi had its hottest day in fifty years some time during the last week of April, 2009. But my mother – who lives in Australia and is visiting Delhi during the summer for the first time in fifteen years is quite happy. Bhai, hum toh aam khaane aaye hain, she informs everybody who expresses surprise at this oddly timed visit. Apparently the hotter the summer, the sweeter the mangoes.

But sweet mangoes aren’t the only silver lining to the hideously hot Delhi summer. There’s also the flowering trees.

The party kicks off in late February with the silk cottons – huge waxy flowers that streak the sky crimson and cover the roads with a loud, sumptuous carpet.

Half way through March, the Jacaranda joins in. You get up one morning and its like somebody’s raided vast amounts of blackcurrant ice cream from a Baskin and Robbins truck, spun it into candyfloss and draped it onto the trees.

And then the tiny, starry neem flowers and the dense, tightly budded aam-ki-bor burst open and announce the summer officially Open.

Its only then that – with a great deal of self-important budding and fluffing – the Gulmohar arrives. Massive, brassy red and orange canopies, alive with koels – or, to be less lyrical but more honest, crows – are suddenly everywhere and fan shaped petals spin down upon you gently, as you rush about being robbed blind by water-tanker wallahs and vendors selling dark green tarbooz (inme injecsun se cheeni daalte hain… warns my cook darkly) and rosy litchis.

Finally, just as the heat rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and gets down to seriously murdering us, the roads explodes into the gorgeous bright yellow of the Amal-tas. Huge bunches of heavily massed, orchid like flowers hang down like golden chandeliers all over the city, gently making the point that maybe Delhi isn’t such a horrible place to live after all.

And what do you know, by the time the Amal-tas fades, the monsoon usually kicks in. And then of course its baarish and bhuttas all the way!

Maybe all this is just ‘ameeron ke chonchle’ – as my driver always grumbles when I get him to clamber onto the roof of my car and pluck large bunches of Amal-tas from the trees for me – and there’s nothing very romantic about Delhi’s savage summer. Maybe I’m seeing things through air-conditioned, middle-class glasses. Maybe, as my kids suspect, I’m just too stingy to take them out of town for an expensive holiday. But really, all I’m saying is, when rape is inevitable, why not lie back and smell the flowers?

[Anuja Chauhan is the author of The Zoya Factor]