Summers aboard the Coromandel
This is a collaborative piece
Text : Sahana Srinivasan
Art : Shiv Kumar Akula
Summer starts with surreptitious scrawls of
"happy holzZz" on sweaty forearms.
Then Amma scrubs me clean with Camay soap and thoroughly dusts me with prickly heat powder.
At Sealdah next morning, Appa is in charge of the big suitcase, Amma the sports bag and I, the water dispenser.
We are borne by the Coromandel to–
My grandmother, with flowers in her hair, wrapped in a soft cotton sari and the faint acrid smell of sweat ,
Bare feet on a cold stone floor,
Camphor and sandalwood and sambar powder at 10am,
My grandfather's mumbles, interrupted by Sun TV, interrupted by the whistle of the pressure cooker,
My cousin getting yelled at by Akka for stepping on the kolam.
Akka, despite elephantiasis of the foot, cycles to our house every morning with bags of milk. She sways around the house, swatting us from room to room, (unintentionally) teaching us words we (unintentionally) repeated to the grown-ups.
In the late afternoon, we futilely amuse ourselves by re-reading Amar Chitra Kathas bought at the train station, until the smell of coffee wafts through the courtyard and energizes the sleep-soaked heavy-lidded adults. We plunge headlong into the Chennai chaos, weave our way along chattering crowds in rainbow colours, the hum of the pious and the thrum of the autos, heat and dust and holy ash, temple bells and streetside fights.
I get a slender rope of jasmine, and Paati piles it around my head like a crown. We inhale the salt of the sea and the molaha bajji, shoot balloons with our toes in the sand. The sun sets, incandescent neon orange, the white crests of the waves, the metal sheen of utensils and the glitter of churidhars all blur into each other. You nestle into Amma's shoulders and wake up in your own bed, the creaky ceiling fan. A surprising lullaby.
Eventually, when the last banganapalli has been devoured,
It is time to unwillingly complete holiday homework on a blue coated berth on a train
That only SEEMS to be homeward bound.
Sahana Srinivasan is a grad student of neuroscience in Gent, Belgium. She enjoys bad puns, learning random phrases in multiple languages, finding obscure spots to love in extremely touristy cities, and postcards in the mail.
Shiv Kumar Akula is an architect, photographer, and artist based in Hyderabad. He documents most of his beautiful art on his Instagram.