Monsoon in Delhi has forever been associated with romance, swinging from trees, kite flying and picnics. For Dilliwalas, visiting Mehrauli’s open spaces for picnics and weeklong stays during the monsoons is an old tradition. Amma was full of stories of how families would travel in camel drawn carriages to Mehrauli. These carriages were carpeted and cushioned. Families began their journey at night and reached their destination the next morning. The sexes were segregated in different carriages –zenana, ladies, and mardana, gents. Much like modern farmhouses today, many rich families in yesteryears owned houses in Mehrauli. They extended invitations to friends and relatives to stay in their homes. These retreats were stocked with food for the guests. The Chunamals, whose famous haveli still stands in Chandni Chowk, were among those families who had a summer home in Mehrauli. Daddy often recalls his trips to Mehrauli when four or five families travelled together. They hired camel carriages from the stand near Lahori Gate, where the Shradhanand market is now. Some families travelled in lorries that facilitated intercity travel. Other modes of transport in the Old City were horse drawn tongas and trams. Lorries can be described as a cruder version of today’s buses. They were higher, and getting inside was not easy. Although they had seats, they had a door at the back, which the conductor opened to allow access into the lorry. Passengers had to place one leg inside the lorry and jump in. Buses were introduced in Delhi after India attained freedom. Daddy often recalls his trips to Mehrauli when four or five families travelled together. They hired camel carriages from the stand near Lahori Gate, where the Shradhanand market is now. Some families travelled in lorries that facilitated intercity travel. Other modes of transport in the Old City were horse drawn tongas and trams Abba, my grandfather, had rented a home in Mehrauli for some years to help his wife regain her health. Amma had been unwell and the hakims of the city advised the fresh air of Mehruali. Those days my father travelled daily from Mehrauli to his school in Fatehpuri in a lorry. Ammi has childhood memories of monsoon picnics amongst the Hauz Khas ruins. Delhi’s various monuments once made for wonderful picnic spots. Ammi recounts lazing with friends inside the arches of the monuments as rains lashed the area. When the showers stopped, the girls dyed colourful dupattas, long scarves, sprinkled with silvery abrak. These dupattas were exchanged as friendship tokens, similar to the friendship bands exchanged by youngstersthese days. In the tradition of Amma and Ammi, I too tell my son monsoon stories. With the arrival of the first showers, I remember Amma preparing for a family picnic to Mehrauli. Stoves, cooking cauldrons, food items, gmophone, ropes, records and other requirements were stacked in one corner of the house. Amma and Apa Saeeda made monsoon specialties such as dal bhari roti, withdal stuffing, and hari mirch ka qeema, mutton mince cooked with large green chillies. We drove in our Dodge convertible car that had a sunroof, which could be drawn open. On reaching Mehrauli and finding the ideal picnic spot, the elders helped us make jhoolas, swings, on the trees. We carried the ropes and patras, blocks of wood, from home. We sang songs while swinging from tree branches. Sprawled out on durries amidst the green landscape, the elders played film songs on a gramophone. We looked for khirni trees to pluck the small yellow coloured fruit. Mehrauli had plenty of gondni, an orange berry-like fruit, and ber bushes. We drove in our Dodge convertible car that had a sunroof, which could be drawn open. On reaching Mehrauli and finding the ideal picnic spot, the elders helped us make jhoolas (swings), on the trees. We carried ropes and patras, blocks of wood with us from home. We sang songs while swinging from tree branches Amma busied herself supervising the warming of food and frying of pakoras and gul gule, made with wheat and sugar. Mangoes were cooled in iron tubs full of ice. Mango-eating competitions were held. The one who could devour the largest number of mangoes won. We never stayed overnight in Mehrauli; that tradition ended with the Partition. Eating and distributing suhaal, a mithai, amongst families and friends was a monsoon tradition. Andarse ki goliyan, small round fried cookies made with rice flour and sprinkled with sesame seeds is another monsoon specialty. Come the rains, I send someone to the old city to get us these delights. Dilliwalas remain choosy about their mangoes. We don’t eat early croppers and prefer to wait for varieties such as dussehri, langda, sarauli, chausa and rataul. Abba loved rataul, preferring it to alphonso, and delighted in distributing them to friends. He told us about his contribution in taking rataul to Pakistan. On a train trip to Pakistan during the year 1948, he carried 150 saplings of rataul for friends. Dilliwalas remain choosy about their mangoes. We don’t eat early croppers and prefer to wait for varieties such as dussehri, langda, sarauli, chausa and rataul. Abba loved rataul, preferring it to alphonso. He would delightfully gift them to friends. He also told us about his contribution in taking rataul to Pakistan Rataul originally comes from the district of Rataul near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Apparently Anwar, one of the brothers who owned the orchard, migrated to Pakistan. He began growing this variety, which in Pakistan came to be known as anwar rataul. It now grows there in abundance and is one of their best mangoes. In Delhi, rataul is no longer easily available, and one has to request fruit sellers to organize some boxes. Ammi has childhood memories of monsoon picnics amongst the Hauz Khas ruins. Delhi’s various monuments once made for wonderful picnic spots. Ammi recounts lazing with friends inside the arches of the monuments during spells of heavy rain At Shama Kothi, mangoes came in mans, hundreds of kilos. These were left in a storeroom to mature. ‘Aam ki paal’, was the phrase used for this method of storing. Amma checked the lot daily, handpicking the mangoes that had ripened organically. Nowadays mangoes are mostly matured with the use of chemicals that change the flavour and taste. Heaps of mangoes were placed in iron tubs or buckets with ice for a few hours before consumption. Amma said that this neutralised the garam taseer, warming effect, of the mangoes. On my mother’s insistence, I still place mangoes in a bucket of water for a few hours before stacking them in the fridge. When returning from boarding school for our summer holidays, the thing we most looked forward to was mangoes. Amma made jugs of hand-beaten aamdoodh, mango shake, each morning and sent it to our bedrooms. She used sarauli mangoes, best for mango shake. Sarauli mangoes are also perfect for making fresh mango chutney. As a young girl I loved the small yellow safeda, mangoes that are fibreless and can be sucked. I always made such a mess that Ammi regularly dunked me in the bathtub with loads of safeda. Agreed that sucking mangoes is an activity not conducive to table manners, but it’s difficult to forgive Ammi for this one! Much like the rataul and sarauli varieties, safeda mangoes are not commonly available but I do occasionally spot them. In Delhi, the coming of the rains is celebrated with pakoras of different kinds with tea. The writer is a media person, activist, writer and a columnist, based in Delhi. She Tweets at @sadiadehlvi and can be reached at email@example.com. This is an excerpt from her new book Jasmine & Jinns published by HarperCollins Published in Daily Times, September 16th 2017.