Summer is here in Doha, hard and unforgiving. It’s 43 degrees outside. Hot enough to see the shimmer above your car hood, bright enough to render you almost blind. The air conditioning in the house cannot work fast enough and myself and my two turkey-complexioned, ill-humoured children need some sort of internal relief.
And then I remembered the hot, crowded streets of Calicut in Kerala and the carts of fat, heavy watermelons dripping with sweet juice. The vendors would hack away at some of them, chunk some of it up, crush the rest for juice, squirt in some lime and pungent mint and decant into a glass with a spoon. So simple and so effective. Sun baked passers-by such as myself, could buy these for pennies, sit on a gnarled bench at the side of the road, under the shade of a coconut tree and take a little time out.
While swatting away the determined flies and trying to slurp/eat this deliciously cool mix, I watched the heaving throngs of equally roasted people pass by. Men in the traditional ‘mundeh”; white cotton sarongs, fat ladies in colourful saris, young women in figure hugging salwar kameezes and children, irritated with the heat, being dragged or scolded into keeping pace with the adults. Occasionally I shared the bench with someone else who was smart enough to do the same. We might exchange a word or two, starting with the the weather, of course. I might have another watermelon crush, if the conversation gets particularly amusing. More often, I readied myself to step out of the coconut tree’s generosity. I eyeball the watermelons one last time. No. I have to accept that it’s too heavy a load for too long a walk. I’ll send my cousin over instead. He’s got a bike.
So I offer the same to my children, without the pre-requisite of devouring it under the same cruel conditions. Being the kind mother that I am, I sprinkle a little extra sugar on top. Just because.
Their faces are still a deep pink. Their humour, however is restored. We collapse in a cuddle on the sofa, tired but satisfied and watch another installment of the riveting Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. We slowly fall into a doze, my two babies cradled into my shoulders while Mickey chimes in the distance…..”Come on everybody, let’s do the hotdog dance…..”