The Summer of Sam

Rakshat Hooja

Rakshat Hooja lives in Jaipur. In his late thirties, he is still trying to figure out what to do in life. Currently, he is working on a project to set up a community college in Jaipur. He loves watching sports and reading and discussing about politics.

Editor's Note: This story is a takeoff on a short story by Shree Rakesh Hooja [now deceased] published in X Rays, the student newsletter of St Xavier’s School, Jaipur in the mid nineteen sixties. Once again, school holidays have come to an end. As kids they are our favourite time of the year and later in life we look back at them nostalgically (though I am not really sure why )? Here is an imaginary account of how one boy (let's call him Sam) spent his holidays. Let me know if you relate to his story. Sam had managed to survive several sleepless days and nights of exams and was now looking forward to some sleep. The prospect of there being no teachers to bother him for the next two months was a very pleasing one. He decided to keep the bag containing his school books in the storeroom for the first month so that he could enjoy himself. No books, no school work. Just fun and enjoyment. His idea of enjoyment was waking up at eleven o' clock, going out and meeting a friend only if the car was available (apparently he doesn't believe in exercise), roaming about the house doing nothing in particular, and making a nuisance of himself. Sometimes, Sam would be busy, concentrating, and tapping away on his mobile phone. In reality, he was forwarding memes, sending emojis and playing PUBG. Rest of the time was spent lamenting about how bored he was. Holidays for Sam meant extra work for his parents, especially his mother. She had to drag Sam out of bed every morning, nag him to do the chores, and nag him, even more, to go out and meet his own friends! Sam's mother loved him, so she tolerated his 0laziness. The same love made her decide that Sam should spend his holidays productively. So, after a chat with his Dad, Sam, apparently and without any memory of it, volunteered to join swimming and chess classes. Initially, Sam quite looked forward to swimming. He was at an age where everything was judged in terms of the probability of meeting new (and hopefully beautiful) girls. Sam was of the opinion that swimming costumes made every girl beautiful. Unfortunately for Sam, the pool had separate timings for women and men. Boys in braces and hairy and balding men were not the company of his dreams. And losing diving competitions to five-year-olds did not make things better. But floating around in the cold water during the hot summer months was not that bad. Sam turned out to be a natural at chess. Once he understood the rules, he would ask his mother to play against him, defeat her and boast about it on the family What’s app group. His mom just smiled. Maybe she was letting him win. A long weekend, due to a local holiday, meant that Sam's father could get five days off from work. The family decided to drive to a hill station for their annual summer holiday. Sam often dreamed of driving the Himalayan Rally one day. His father remembered, with nostalgia, the idyllic drives up the hills. The ten hours spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic to cover the two hundred odd kilometers to their Airbnb rental was, to say the least, a slightly different experience from either of those thoughts. The hill station itself was quite lovely and, literally, cool. Sam also met a nice girl. Let's call her Zara. Forget swimming costumes, even in woolens, Zara was beautiful. They did have coffee together. It was more by chance, as they were both waiting for their families. (Sam was all over her trying to impress her. With his funnies and wry humor. Zara was relaxed and indulgent.)

At a hill station.

At a hill station.


But Sam had his ‘victory’ date story to impress his friends back home. Little bit of ‘mirch masala ‘and it was a win winasd for him. Amongst his friends. He had a holiday girlfriend. his friends would stay zealous for several months. Zara's parting words, before she left the hill station, were to look her up if Sam was ever in her town. Sam could now declare his holidays a success. Maybe he was in love too. Back home Sam settled into his routine of doing nothing in particular. This structure was shattered one day by the arrival of an email with his Exam report card attached (perhaps the sleepless nights during the exams too had not really helped)! Sam was sternly told to start studying. Study meant placing an iPad inside an atlas and reading with the headphones on to help him concentrate. A week before classes started Sam realized that he had not done any holiday homework. So, he dug up the homework list, headed to a friend who was a year older, hunted out the required files of homework last year's homework and copied them on a pen drive. After the normal CCP (cut, copy, and paste) routine, he proceeded to delete random sentences in the copied work to make his homework "unique." Finally, he finished his work by sitting up on the last two nights at home, multi-tasking by inserting tables, charts, and images from Wikipedia into his homework, and watching Netflix at the same time. As was to be expected, his work was not very good nor devoid of many mistakes. Sam was satisfied, for he had managed (or so he thought) to fool the teacher, but what he didn't know was that he was actually fooling himself. No official holiday homework had been assigned this year. His mother and his teacher, together, had "pranked" him! Epilogue: Sam never saw Zara again.

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