Summer camp! Summer camp!! Summer camp!!!
It’s raining summer camps everywhere. The colored flyers and banners are all around, each one claiming to teach art,craft, music,drama, pottery and many more in short span.
As I see many latch-key kids making use of the summer camps, I am reminded of my own summer camp. My summer camps were always @ my grandparents house in the city of Madras( i like the ring of madras than chennai) which can boast of only one weather, though in varying degrees- hot, hotter and hottest.
But it never mattered to me that I travelled from the cooler climes of Bangalore, because I had the cool company of my 10 cousins who would also descend from their cities to my grandparents house at Mylapore (a suburb of Chennai). We also had company in two little girls who were the nieces of our maid servant. Those girls had actually come to share the extra house hold work but we would drag them to play with us, they almost become a part of our gang thus making it 12.
No structured pattern in our camp, just footloose and carefree days of gay abandon.
My grandparents house served as a transit point for all those relatives who broke their journey while moving from the southern cities of Madurai, trichy to the cities in the north like Delhi, Dehradun, Calcutta etc.So we had a regular flow of relatives. We enjoyed meeting them and then our story sessions with our peria patti( my grandmom’s elder sister), the frequent visit to relatives house and outings in the big amby car MSR 2277 in which all the 10 of us huddled along with our thatha and patti, our presence at weddings and occasions , our walks to santhome beach and occasional visits to marina, triplicane or elliots beach, our daily visit to Kapali kovil(temple) and shopping around the shoppers paradise called Luz, eat outs @ woodlands, shanti vihar, the famous rayars café and then of course the way we played pranks on each other and the various games on the mottai madi (terrace)- all these and much more made my summer camp.
We also lent helping hand to our elders when required. This was more fun than a chore. We helped them when they went to market, we bought the essential provisions from the nearby store, helped thatha with his work like filing papers etc,watering plants, cleaning the fridge, pumping water from the hand pump etc.
What we enjoyed most was sweeping the terrace in the evening and splashing buckets of water to make it cool, because this is where we would camp in the night under the star spangled sky, Our fans were natural which came in the form of sea breeze from the nearby Santhome beach . Thatha would sleep on the string cot while my grandmom, my mom and her 3 sisters along with their 2 sisters-in-law(mamis) and brothers would keep chatting. We children would play hide and seek, chat and share stories. If it was a full moon day, it was an ocassion for us, since we would have ‘nila sappadu‘ on the terrace. (Moon light dinners)
My perimma (mom’s elder sis) would bring sambar rice and appalams in a big dish to the terrace while my elder mami would bring in Thayir saadam(curd rice) and vadu manga( baby mangoes brined and spiced).
All the 10 of us(cousins) would sit around perimma. She would then give small plates which would hold our appalams. We would have a bite of the appalam and stretch our hand for the sambar rice. Perimma then would place the sambar rice on our palms and we would pop it into our mouth hurriedly and stretch our palms again. It never mattered to us if we were hungry or fussy all that mattered was the competition to stretch our hand for the next morsel. In a trice the sambar rice would be emptied.
Next was the thayir saadam. Now vadu manga substituted the appalam. All of us would have a bite of vadu manga and then stretch our hands for the thayir saadam.
After dinner, we all would go down 2 flights of stairs to drink water( this served as a exercise) and then brought our mats and pillows and then spread it on terrace.
After some running around and some story sessions later we all would blissfully go to sleep counting the stars in the sky,or waiting for the beams of the light house and looking at the temple tower of kapali koil which was visible from our house terrace. Sigh! Such blissful days. Will they ever come back? I would trade any material comforts for those lovely childhood days I have had - if ever I could live through them again.