When Kalidasa speaks of summer in the Ritusamhara, he describes not just the the hot and dusty earth but also the comfort of fountains and lily ponds, of moonlit nights spent either on cold slabs of marble or on airy terraces; of the anticipation of a good monsoon and of the affairs of the heart.
He writes about how lovers prepare for courtship in this harsh season. How fragrant flowers and sandal paste are used in the driest months, even of the soft sounds of the anklets worn by lissome damsels.
The poet might as well have alluded to the kind of summers Pondicherry offers. However oppressive the heat during the first half of the day, from late afternoon onwards, a cool breeze starts blowing in from the sea. The trees start swaying with gay abandon.
The lily ponds can be forgotten. As the sun starts packing up his bags for a night’s well earned rest, denizens rush to the Promenade for a leisurely stroll.
If the tender coconuts on street corners provide succour to hapless travellers by day, strings of fragrant jasmine flowers provide a welcome relief during the evening hours. The mere thought of a sea-side stroll with the added perks of this intoxicating aroma wafting in frequently, lifts soggy spirits!
Abandoning cafes for air-conditioned comfort
This is the time when those peddling frozen desserts, ice creams, fruit juices and smoothies laugh all the way to the bank. Owners of bistros and cafes miss their normal rush of customers, who prefer to pop up instead at restaurants which offer air-conditioned comfort. Hotels with swimming pools become sought-after properties for locals and visitors looking to take the plunge.
Like the poet Kalidasa envisages, cool rays of moonlight provide great comfort late in the evenings.
Just lying on a terrace and looking up at the moon makes one momentarily forget the harshness of a hot and humid day. The sheer expanse of twinkling stars is invigorating. The skies are invariably clear and you can easily see distant constellations.
The reasons for Pondicherry retaining its attractions during summer are not hard to find. The place is small and does not require one to waste much time commuting. Even though it offers metropolitan comforts, it is not a concrete jungle- yet. Mother Nature still holds sway.
Dip in the sea or ride the waves
An early morning dip in the sea can perk you up no end. So do boat rides, riding the surf and scuba diving. The crowds are much lesser, making it a good time to enjoy a peaceful vacation (or staycation )! With fewer number of people swarming on the beaches, one might manage to enjoy some private space at most public places.
As someone who has lived in Pondicherry for over two decades, I can say the summers were almost 2 degrees cooler in the past. Yes, we do end up sweating rather profusely- but after all, that comes without the cost of a gym membership!
The author’s new book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’ is available here .