Lucknow Summers

Atul Chandra Sarkar

Come summer, the day begins
With the sweet and fluffy
Makhan-malai of Lucknow!
At almost short distances
Are visible either long-necked
Or big-mouthed, paunched,
Floral and swastik girdled,
Earthen goblets of all sizes,
In pyramids under tattered
Plastic shelters that roof
Many a wretched shanty,
Intrepid scalding heat yet
Ready for buyers who desire
Water: cool and pure,
Unmixed with rose water,
Unflavored with kewra-water
Distilled from lingering
pandanus flowers,
But with an aroma of soil
That portends the arrival of monsoon,
To quench their parched throats;
Somewhere the yellow pulp
Of the bael is scooped,
Somewhere the mango pulp,
Somewhere the translucent,
White, juicy aril of litchis
And somewhere the raw
Green mango is boiled,
Squeezed, sugared, diluted
In icy waters to make
Heat-resistant drinks,
While some savor ice-cubed
Curd shake, seasoned with dry-fruits,
And cream topping, others relish
Butter-milk or spiced whey
Or flavoured milk with a tang
Of refreshing rose water;
Many love fresh lemonade
Sugared, spiced with a dash
Of black salt to do the honours;
The blood red slice of water-melon
Sits atop it to publicize
That its sweetness is in no way
Inferior to the succulent,
Musk-melon: yellow or striped;
Who can ignore saffron, pistachio,
Cardamom flavoured frozen kulfis
Which challenge yummy ice-creams
Of the younger generation;
As a lady in her best colored dress
The gaudy colored, sweet-syrup bathed
Ice-scrapes and ice-crush
Tossed into clay cups or held like lollipops
Entice the old and young alike;
While purple falsa, black jamun,
Slivers of fresh coconut,
Slumber in rows on ice
For customers to awaken them;
Drowsy and gusty afternoons lead,
To age-old shops which smell of the blend
Of chilled milk, sugar syrup,
Almonds, cashew nuts, rose petals,
Fennel seeds, pepper and cardamom,
And customized cannabis
Which promises a sure-shot escape
From the searing heat; and a surefire
Soar to stupefying ecstasy!

Author's Note: This poem is about the city of Lucknow, which is the capital of the State of Uttar Pradesh, in India.

It's a historic city, which amongst many things like its architecture, cuisine, language is traditionally famous for its peculiar mannerism popularly referred to as 'Pehle Aap'. This literally translated as 'first you'. In everyday life it is common to offer a relative or stranger the first chance to do anything, eat, drink, sit, enter, move out and the like.

Main Location:

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 226002, India

Street scene in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India