By NAVEED GILANI
“Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay.” – Grace Metalious in her 1956 novel, Peyton Place
That is how I was introduced to the quintessentially American phrase ‘Indian Summer’, back in the days when I was starting to discover the pleasures of reading. Peeling off Grace’s gilding, ‘it is that unseasonably warm, dry and calm weather in early winter, usually following the initial period of cold weather or good hard frost’. Happening in the late Autumn, it is an enjoyable respite where winters are long and dreary. And this here brings to my mind the delightful image of Indian Summer somewhere in the northern hemisphere of America which goes thus:
Under the canopy of the bluest of the blue skies flows calmly a shallow stream splashed with an orgy of colors from the surrounding jungle of trees – flaming oranges, lush reds, yellowing greens, bright yellows, and warm wine purples. The stream moves gracefully, cresting over pebbles underneath and sparkling ephemerally with each swell. The air, warmed by the mid-day sun of early winter, gusting gently. The divine silence of the scenery broken intermittently by the soft rustle of the trees. Water striders gleefully skating the surface reveling in Godsent warmth.
This is heavenly, indeed!
About fourteen years ago our eldest son flew off the nest to study in college. The next followed four years later with the youngest taking off a year after him. Both my wife and I were left empty nested. I brooded a bit. My father consoled me for there was a time many years ago when he too had seen off his children, one after another, to pursue their destinies.
No more coming and goings of young boys and girls for group study, or for playing in the soccer field nearby; no more loud music, playing of guitars, or playing of drums; no more rush to drop them at school at those early hours or waiting outside to pick them up; no more curfew which, by the way, never got fully imposed because of my wife – she always sided with the boys; no more Sunday breakfasts together giving me the captive audience for my weekly lectures followed by the family basketball game in the driveway – I cheated without shame. By and by the transition from a fuller, thunderous house to a tamer place was complete. The stray cat that Danny, our youngest, had brought home from his school before he left for college grew on us and was now sleeping in our bed; we had more time with our friends; we got used to not knowing the exact location of where our boys were every minute of the day – a less frequent update of their whereabouts sufficed. This, then became the new normal.
The boys graduated from college. We moved from Karachi to Dubai. They got jobs; the eldest one got married, the youngest followed his passion to become a film editor and moved to the film mecca of the world – Hollywood. I started to think about retirement – when and where hasn’t been decided yet; I prepared my bucket list – which keeps getting longer with time. I think I am wiser but my wife doesn’t agree. Nostalgia for the days gone by and lost to the summer of life creeps in often. The Winter of my life is here to stay and I am at peace with it.
A few weeks ago, out of the blue, our middle one, Danesh, decided to move back with us for a few months before he enrolled into his graduate program. It was joyous news when he first broke it, which soon grew into overjoy. It was joyous because of many reasons, mostly for his sake – he had done well in school and after graduating, at work. Hopefully, after getting a higher degree he would do even better. Overjoy was to my selfish end – I have been a sucker for family happiness and this stay of his, however short or long, would be wonderful. I could resume my weekly lectures, though with a reduced audience of one. We could spend quality time and I could again be nosey about his whereabouts at any given time of the day or night.
Indian Summers are short lived, yet a boon to enjoy. I am going to max the limit on this one.