The Sunny Days…

Caution: Very long post.

My dear friend Anjali tagged me long time back. I am supposed to write 8 things I enjoyed doing during summer/summer holidays. It was a very pleasant experience doing this tag as it brought many good old memories. Thanks Anju for tagging me. My favorites are:

Summer Rains: While I began writing this, the first rain of this summer came pouring down. It rained very heavily for almost two hours. The earth, soil and the plants that were suffering from the heat and dust welcomed the rain in a fierce embrace and absorbed the water like a sponge. For the first 30–45 minutes, until the soil got completely soaked, not even a single drop of water flowed. The temperature came down and the combination of the rain and winds created a magical climate, cleaned the roads, washed away the dust from the leaves and there was a sense of freshness and energy. Such rains are so few (may be 4 or 5 good ones a year) and that makes them very special. I always love the summer rains…

Water sports: We had a very large (100ft x 30ft) pond near our house. During summer the coconut trees, nutmeg tress, mango tress, all were watered. We had a proper underground irrigation system with access points in each plot for easy irrigation. I learned a lot about plumbing while we installed the system. We were more than happy to water the plants as it gave us an opportunity to play with and in the water. The fact that we used to get drenched completely was not at all a problem but a welcome relief from the sweltering heat.

Another activity that I loved was cleaning the pond and catching the fishes. During the peak of summer, when the water level in the pond was at it lowest (it never used to dry completely), my dad would hire a diesel pump and the pond would be pumped dry. The along with our workers, my brother and I would get in the pond (which was about 25 ft deep) for cleaning.

The fun part was catching the fishes in the pond. The little fishes that were put after the previous monsoon would have grown and there would be other fishes that came in during the monsoon season. We would use nets and cane baskets to catch these fishes. Since the water level was very low it was an easy task. Once the fishing was over we would stop for lunch. The fishes would be divided equally between all participants. The workers would take their share home when they go for lunch and we would take ours.

After lunch, the cleaning process will start. The walls of the pond will be washed with the water pumped from the pond and then the clay and mud that got settled at the bottom during the year would be removed. It would be lifted up in buckets and would be dumped in the paddy field. Finally after removing most of the dirt the water in the pond would be shaken and stirred thoroughly and the muddy water would be pumped out leaving the pond really clean. By the time all these activities were over, we would be dead tired and fully covered in mud, but it was fun.

Mangoes: Summer is the mango season. We had more than 20 types of mango trees in our house. There were the small and juicy ones; then there were large ones of different shapes: round, oval, heart shaped, etc. We never used to pluck the smaller varieties. They used to fall down when ripe. Since they were small, they would not get damaged during the fall. So during early morning and whenever there was wind, we used to rush to those mango trees to collect the fallen mangoes and most of the time they were consumed then and there 🙂

The bigger mangoes were plucked before they were fully ripe. One of our workers would climb and would pick the mangoes using a long bamboo stick with a basket and a notch at one end. He would then throw the mangoes down where my brother and I would be waiting with a jute sack or bed sheet—one person at each end—to collect them safely. It was nice catching practice!

Then there were mangoes that were reserved for making tender mango (kanni manga) pickle, cut mango pickles and salted mangoes (uppumanga). These mangoes were plucked during different stages of their development.

The mangoes for tender mango pickle were plucked when the mangoes were still young, small, and tender and the pickle is made by putting the whole mangoes in the pickle mixture—a very spicy mixture of red chilli powder, salt, oil, vinegar and so on.

The mangoes for salted mangoes (uppumanga) and other cut mango pickles were plucked when the mangoes are fully grown but before they start to ripen. For salted mangoes also, the mangoes are not cut. They are thoroughly cleaned and put in earthen pots (uppumanga bharani) with salt solution. In about 3–4 months they will be ready for consumption.

There were different types of cut mango pickles. For these, the mangoes are washed in water and cut into small pieces. Some times the skin is peeled off. The size of the cut pieces and whether to peel the skin depended on the type of the pickle. My mom and her two assistants would be working for days to make these pickles. Except for the salted mangoes, there will be red chilli paste, oil, vinegar and a lot of other spices that go into the paste to which the mango pieces are added. The aroma of these ingredients was simply irresistible.

Then there was a wonderful item called ‘thera’ (mango candy). It is made by spreading ripe mango pulp on a mat, drying it under the sun and repeating the process for 10-14 days. It was very hard work and the end result is a 4-5mm thick brown sheet of delicious mango candy.

Tender Coconut, Water Melon and Sweet Cucumber: During summer we consumed huge quantities of tender coconut water and the soft coconut flesh, watermelons, lemon cucumbers (kani vellari) and sweet cucumbers (pottu vellari). The coconuts were the reddish ones. These coconut trees (chenthengu) are planted solely for the tender coconuts. They usually won’t grow very tall, so the coconuts could be plucked easily as and when required.

We used to buy the water melons, sweet cucumbers and lemon cucumbers from the market. Most of the times we ate then plain. We also made juice and kept in the fridge and drank them in large quantities. My mom and I liked eating the melons and cucumbers but my dad, brother and sister preferred the juice. So to preserve democracy, all had to consume both forms 🙂

Buttermilk and Lassi: Two other drinks that were consumed in large quantities were buttermilk and lassi. My mom’s buttermilk recipe was handed to her by her mother. It contained more than 10-12 ingredients—salt, crushed ginger, green chillies, finely chopped curry leaves, lemon juice, vinegar, crushed red onion, tamarind water, crushed cumin seeds, finely diced tender coconut pieces, etc. It used to taste heavenly especially when drinking after playing in the hot sun. Another drink from the same family, but slightly richer in calories, was Lassi. We used to make both varieties—sweet and salt. Sometimes we used to make mango and pineapple lassis. But I preferred the plain sweet lassi.

Lime Soda: This was one of star attractions of summer. It was a very potent drink. It was made by mixing lime juice, ginger juice (the juice got from squeezing crushed ginger pieces), salt, and sugar all in ample quantities. We had a soda making machine and we used to make soda and keep it in the fridge. The mixture is stirred well with a little water. Then cold soda is added to get a wonderful drink.

Paddy field Cricket: During that time of the year, the paddy fields would be empty. The harvest and associated activities would have been over and the next season would begin only after the monsoon. So we had the entire paddy field for ourselves. We would prepare the pitch in the center. Since we didn’t have any rollers, we used a wooden log to roll the pitch. Cricket was played with proper cricketing gear. But there were only three players—my brother, sister, and I. My sister was the fielder. Since we didn’t have a wicketkeeper, we used to erect a fence about 6–8 feet from the stumps. Each player would get 5 chances to bat at a time. My mother used to be very relieved when the venue got shifted from the courtyard to the paddy field as her plants and pots as well as the windows will be safe.

Studying: This was one of my favorite summer vacation activities, but I was the only participant in this as my enthusiasm was not shared by my brother and sister. Once the schools close for the summer vacation, I would buy four 200-page notebooks and four pens (black, blue, green and red) and a set of sketch pens. I would then get my text books—Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I would then make copious notes, condensing what I have learned, forming acronyms, drawing mind maps and so on using different colors. This was a practice that I started when I was in the fourth standard (then I had only 2 books—Maths and Science). I would also get my vocabulary book, where I write the new words that I learned during the year and revise their meanings and usage. I would also revise the previous year’s topics—I just have to read through the notebooks. By the end of the vacation, I would get the text books bound and will keep the textbooks and notebooks in my cupboard. This revision and learning techniques have helped me a lot and even today, I can recall most of the things I learned in school—something that came in very handy when I was teaching my nephew for the CBSE class X exams. Almost all topics in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English, I could teach without any preparation. I had my notebooks and textbooks from my fourth standard onwards neatly arranged in my shelf till 1993. When I had my accident, and while my parents, brother and I were away from home, my nephew (then a very small kid) tried reading my notes and texts. It seems that he didn’t like what he saw, because he tore most of it…

I wish you all a very happy Vishu…

I am not tagging anybody, but I request all who have time to do this tag. It really is a wonderful experience.


  1. kajan said,

    April 12, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    The longer the better when Alexis writes!

    I enjoyed reading this so much. Everything except cricket and studying(!) seemed like going to back to hot summer days. Just reading your account of childhood summers made me feel like getting soaked in cold rain on a hot summer day:-) Too bad about the notebooks. But this account alone has made me realize how studious and organized you must be.

  2. anju said,

    April 12, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    We too had a good downpour yesterday! 🙂

    We were allowed to play in the first summer rains. It was a deal between us and our parents. Besides the usual rains in Bangalore was no fun at all as it would be cold. Those mangoes you get in Kerala have so much more flavour than the mangoes that you get here. And the familiar sound of the magoes falling was music to the ears! My ammachi made a variety of things with Uppumanga, including a delicious salad made up of chopped onions, green chillies, curry leaf, coriander leaf, coconut milk etc. It was yummy!! She also made a really yummy ripe mango curry! She was a whiz in the kitchen and I dont see any of the dishes she made being made today!

    This was an exact replica of my summers in Kerala except the studying part. Great post!

  3. Alexis Leon said,

    April 12, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Kajan: Thanks Kajan. Most of us have good memories of the summer holidays. We are fortunate to have such nice memories of childhood and its simple pleasures. I was very sad at the loss of my notebooks, but at that time spinal cord injury had the priority 🙂

    Anju: During those days the first activity in the morning is collecting the mangoes that had fallen in the night. Those went for the ‘thera.’ The mangoes that fell during day belonged to us. The uppumanga salad (uppumanga chalichathu) is great combination with kanji. The ripe mango curry (pazhamanga curry) was very delicious. We used to eat the curry as the main dish and rice as the accompaniment. It is sad that these dishes are not made today. Today, the kids only need pizzas, burgers and fired chickens. They don’t know what they are missing :-). The link, that I have given for uppumanga shows how the uppumanga salad is made with some really nice photographs.

  4. thanu said,

    April 13, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Remember kani maaga… those really small ones that are used to make curry. I love Mangoes and karrikku.

    Soda naranga vellam, I thing U get that only in Kerala…..Even this trip I had a “Cheta oru soda naranga vellam…” moment.

  5. Ravi said,

    April 13, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Very beautiful pictures !! Captures the essence of summer very well. Nice post.

  6. Dhanush Gopinath said,

    April 13, 2007 at 10:27 am

    It poured Heavily here yday. And summer has cooled down :). But still I yearn for that Soda Sarbath.

    Last time I went home on Bike, before getting into Thamaraseri Churam from the Waynad Side, there is a small shop on the left hand side of the NH. The typical Kerala ThattuKada. I had a soda sarbath and Pazham Pori 🙂

    mmmm Mangoes… Neelaparunki Muthal Ottu Maanga Vare..Thinnu Nadanna Kaalam.. Nostalgic

    Studies …???? Strict No No 😉

    Great Post Alexis.

    Happy Vishu to You.

  7. Alexis Leon said,

    April 13, 2007 at 11:15 am

    thanu: Kanni manga achar is one of my favorites. After a few months, the mangoes get soaked and will melt in the mouth. And one doesn’t need other side dish–one can have a delicious meal with kanni managa achar and kanji. Same is true for uppumanga. And soda naranga vellam seems to be out state drink 🙂

    Ravi: Thanks ravi.

    Dhanush: I can drink the soad naranga vellam anytime and in huge quantities. We used to drink 3-4 glasses after playing football/cricket/basketball etc. while in college. There was a tattukada in front of our college were we used to get good soda naranga vellam–cold soda, good naranga with lots of sugar and salt. Happy Vishu too. Do you give vishukaineetam to your nephews and nieces?

  8. chekku said,

    April 13, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    terrific..what makes your posts special is the kind of details zyou give to describe it…can realte to all except the studying part..kinda had a allergy towards study books!! :p

    butter milk description makes it so tempting..cant imagine a better drink in leave the beer!!

  9. lalitha said,

    April 14, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Enjoyed reading this tag.made me want to go get some mangoes.especially love the green mangoes with salt.

  10. Suji said,

    April 15, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    What a wonderful post to read on Vishu! Makes me so nostalgic about summer holidays spent in Kerala, though it was nothing as colourful as the ones described by you. We also had a lot of mango trees and used to help in catching them with a sack. It was real fun. The narangavellam u get in Kerala u don’t get that anywhere else. When we used to go to Kerala, we used to take a suitcase full of books to study and do the holiday homeworks that we got, but I don’t think we ever opened even one of them….lol.

    Nanmayum, aishwaryavum, santhoshavum niranja Vishu aashamsakal.

  11. Dhanush said,

    April 16, 2007 at 6:54 am

    Yes I do. I have more cousins than nieces or nephews. This is the worst part of growing up 😉 All my vishu kaineetams are getting reduced while I have to give others now 🙂

  12. Alexis Leon said,

    April 16, 2007 at 10:24 am

    chekku: Thanks buddy…“…kinda had allergy towards study books…” LOL. Hope you are having a nice time.

    lalitha: Thanks lalitha. Green mangoes with salt was part of our daily diet during summer holidays.

    Suji: Thanks Suji. You had caught mangoes using the sack. Was great fun. And regarding packing the books and not opening them…really funny..LOL. Hipe you had a nice Vishu.

    Dhanush: Hope you had a nice and vishu and gave good kaineetams to you nephews and nieces.

  13. bindu said,

    April 16, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    your post made me very nostalgic. guess many of us have similar moments in our life. the part i liked best was the mangoes. i still remeber how we used to rush to the yard with a ‘kotta’ each to collect the mangoes fallen during the night. yesterday, there was a similar article in malayala manorama by ‘Kavalam Narayan Panicker’

  14. Alexis Leon said,

    April 17, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Bindu: Thank you. Yes, we all similar memories. Read the article by Kavalam Narayana Panicker. Really good.

  15. The Sunny Days | water-sports said,

    April 18, 2007 at 8:32 am

    […] : We had a very large (100ft x 30ft) pond near our house. During summer the coconut trees, nutmeg tress, mango tress, all were watered. We had a proper underground irrigation system with access points in each plot for easy … …Sportzia More […]

  16. venus said,

    April 20, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    monsoon, is my the most fav season too! I miss here playing in downpouring rains 🙁 when it rains here even in the summer, it’s gets so cold, i can’t stand beyond 5-10 mins in the rain.

    yum yum, mangoes, mango is called the king of the fruits, well deserved!

    I love the yellow flowers you have posed in the pic, it blooms in the deadliest summer, i remember!

    Happy Visu to you too..

  17. Chacko said,

    April 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Hello Alexis…. as usual a nice post with a nostalgic narration…

    For me summer vacation was always at my mothers house….eating mangoes, playing in “thodu” which was constructed for irrigation system, playing cricket…etc were our(me and my brothers) main activities. 🙂

    nowadays – the new generation- kids wont get a chance to enjoy the vacation as we did.

    Belated Easter and Vishu Wishes 🙂

  18. Alexis Leon said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    venus: The yellow flowers in the post are ‘konna’ more popularly known as kanikonna flowers as they are an integral part of the vishukani.

    Chackochen: Thanks buddy. Yes, what you said is true. The new generation kids usually won’t get a chance to enjoy the vacation as we did. Sad but true.