As I lie down in the cool comfort of my air-conditioned bedroom, blissfully unaffected by the hot and sultry weather outside, I cannot help recalling the summer nights when sleeping out in the open was a norm. In my growing up days there were no ACs, no coolers either to give respite from hot weather. Heat inside the rooms was unbearable in summers; hence sleeping out at night in the open was more a matter of compulsion rather than choice.
Taking out folding beds and carrying light bedding on the roof every night in summers was a daily routine. All the cots used to be lined up, one beside another and the entire family slept out in the open. Since my father was very particular, it was mandatory for us to sleep inside the mosquito net. Just imagine our plight- sleeping in a mosquito net on a hot summer night with a single pedestal fan to service all the beds. Since I was the one who made the maximum hue and cry about the uncomfortable heat, I was given the luxury of sleeping on the most coveted cot. My younger brother and sister were obliging enough to let me occupy the prime bed closest to the revolving fan.
Of course, sleeping under the starry sky had its own charm. We used to count the stars, tried to identify the constellations and at times saw the shooting stars. On a breezy, pleasant night it was heavenly to sleep in the open but not all nights were comfortable. On the nights when then there was no breeze to give relief from hot weather, we would be drenched in sweat in our mosquito nets. If at night there were droves of mosquitoes to attack us, in the morning there were flies to hover over us. Hence, we had no option but to use mosquito nets.
To add to the woes, there were rains which on many nights proved to be spoilsport. It was most irritating when the rain would disturb our sleep forcing us to pack up and move inside the rooms. Sometimes we would doggedly keep sleeping in the drizzle but were forced to beat a hasty retreat when the drizzle turned into downpour. As the rain stopped, we would again be back on the terrace. This mid-night to and fro movement was most annoying as it robbed us of our sleep every now and then.
Of course, many would recall sleeping under the sky with nostalgia but I must admit my reminiscences of those nights are not so romantic. I remember those summer nights with a sense of realism for sleeping out in the open was a fun at times but had its travails as well.
(Published in Hindustan times on July 21, 2017)