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Summer Afternoons – the centerpiece of my everyday

I had an instinct for the art, but it was only after marriage and with considerable encouragement from my husband I trained in pottery and ceramic art. My husband is a commercial artist and works in the art department of a publishing company in the city. I work from home, make ceramic items, and supply them to online retailers. There is a nice lady, a buyer, who helps me with connecting with the retailers. My job is to create what I have the skills for and not worry about the savvy business matters. As long as I feel a sense of fulfillment and need to commit just a few hours every morning, I am not inconvenienced by my ordinary dreams. Frankly, I never pursued an imagined life or ambitions with statutory sacrifices of everyday life’s little mediocre pleasures. They are the very substance of my being.

summer afternoons

Afternoons are the central part of my everyday. I sometimes remain aware of every minute of its passing. Afternoons are slower and have their own set of activities that I like to think of as part of my plans but are more of the season. The hum of the electric lines running over great distances through the rice fields – glistens in the summer blaze, as if will go up in flames any minute. The buzz of the bees, flies, occasional chirps of the crickets sets the summer tone. Two idle hens busily go pecking around my backyard compost drum.

I stop work right before lunch. I keep the meals prepared in the early morning alongside breakfast, not to spend time cooking after my two children and husband have left for the day. Four hours of non-stop work and a very determined halt, how much ever abrupt, at the stroke of 12. After a splash of borewell water on my face, I make a quick call or simply message my husband before sitting for lunch. I eat my lunch alone but not entirely alone. The street cat makes a routine visit and sits expectantly on the parapet of the back porch. The back porch faces north, and the bamboo blinds are seldom rolled down. It’s a steady stream of northern breeze throughout the day.

The backyard overlooks our plantation that runs for a few acres. We have planted banana trees this season. Sometimes during the weekends, just to behave spoilt, we try and choose between which porch to sit in for the evening tea – the one overlooking the flowing lush green of banana leaves or the front porch enveloped in a mystic fragrance of jasmine and summers roses. The front yard garden is more of my work as an inexpert with limited garden skills. The plantation work is done mostly by the skilled agricultural workers we hire each season. It has been the subject of our numerous evening conversations with our friends – are we more farmers than artists? Are the two vocations in contradiction or somewhat aligned? Which one do we identify with more? For me, the first bloom, the season’s harvest, the completion of a piece of pottery work – each prompt a sensation I begin to miss even before I finish experiencing. I like to remain suspended in that never-ending sense of longing. That is the life goal I identify myself with most.

I get the dried laundry in and fold them in a rush before any distraction makes me put it away, for this is one ordeal of a chore that I never want to come back to in this lifetime again. Housework doesn’t tire me, and the cleaning lady working for two hours every morning is such a help. I hardly get a chance to catch up with her, though. She finishes her work and leaves, sometimes leaving some Jamun fruits wrapped in a banana leaf on the back porch table. She knows I love them and picks them up from the temple courtyard on the way here. I run a quick check on the pickles and mango pulp left for sun drying on the terrace before bringing them inside.

I have about an hour before my kids come back from school at two. I pick up a book and lie down on the rattan recliner on the back porch. I find very little to do on the phone. Most of my family and friends live nearby. I subscribe to the household and some monthly literary magazines. I don’t like reading them on the phone apps. One magazine runs a series of old letters shared between famous people in the past. I like that series but wish there were letters shared by ordinary people. I once sent an entry for a poetry competition ran by a literary magazine, and it won and was published. It was a day of such inexplicable joy in my life.

The postman rang the doorbell. It was a letter from my school. They found a cardigan with my name on the tag. The school wants to know if I would like it back and could collect it in person. I went to school in northern India, three thousand kilometers away from where I live now. I started planning my trip because it looks like I want to collect my lost maroon school cardigan after all. I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed, the kids, the household without me for days. The clock alarm went off at quarter to two. I rushed to the front gate of the house. The school bus drops off right there. The kids ran inside. I walked back with my younger son’s school bag in hand, slowed down from the fleeting slumber during a breezy summer afternoon. My slightly enlivened mood from the silly dream did not escape my older son’s attention. In moments like this, he sees the perfect opportunity to insist, in the most endearing way, for some treat of freshly fried banana fritters!

After settling the kids in, I head to water the garden before sundown. As the smell of the wet soil begins to fill the air, it is almost evening.

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Author: Staff Contributor
Illustration/Photograhy: TDLM Design Team


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