Bindu Tobby pines for the summer holidays of yore, where kids had a carefree, cheery few months

Cool early mornings watching a cow (or a rubber tree) getting milked, feeding hens or squishing tiny feet into slushy paddy fields. Humid, sweaty afternoons hooking down mangoes or jackfruit in the garden. Digging up pineapples or tapioca, splashing in the river or simply running wildly along narrow muddy roads. All packed in with the freshness of the air, company of bratty competitive cousins and lots of home-made goodies (courtesy grand-mom). That's how most of us remember our summer holidays.

Cut to twenty years later – summer hols are now packed with ‘liberating' promises from organisations that claim to unleash the creative potential of your child – there's drawing, craft, art, theatre, drama, story-telling… all cramped into small lifeless rooms of some apartment complex, shared with other equally restless and energetic children. Of course the course content and the programme is modified to suit the mental and creative needs of varying age groups of children and lots is done to keep the sessions lively and ‘fun'. Sadly, but truly, there is a lot missing from those earlier days we knew, and no wonder that however hard these camps try, they cannot re-create the magic of the summer holidays of yesteryears.

Says Piya Bose, mom of nine-year-old Roheet, “I don't remember ever having to go for a summer camp when we were growing up. The visit to grandparents' house and the ample freedom that promised, were enough to keep us gainfully occupied through the summer holidays. We played outdoors never bothering about sunscreen or the need for a skilled trainer, we jumped into the nearest water body and learned swimming without having to wear swimsuits!,” she quips.

She goes onto add, “However, the innocence of the summer holidays are lost these days. I see parents all around me, rushing to enroll their tykes in summer camps even before the annual exam is over! In my humble opinion we are pushing the kids too hard these days and I am disappointed to see parents hounding the kids to score more than the neighbour's kid even in a summer camp,” she exclaims adding, “I guess I can afford the luxury of getting miffed since I am blessed with parents who are there at home to spend time with my son while I'm at work. So Roheet is left on his own through the holidays with complete control of his time, except maybe his swimming classes in the morning.”

Marina Furtado, a brand new mom of two-week-old Andrew reminisces of her younger summer holidays which used to be spent in their estate home in Coorg — “My mom would pack lemon rice, boiled eggs, and some snacks and we would all get into the Ambassador early in the morning and be it sun or rain, we would always sing, ‘We are all going on a summer holiday! she laughs.

She adds: “Once we reached our place, the oxygen would go to my head and I'd create so much noise just because I could and the neighbours wouldn't be able to hear! The house sometimes didn't even have running water at that time and electricity was a gamble, everything was heated over wood and the food tasted amazing. In the night, if we had electricity, it used to be so low in voltage that there wasn't much difference between the bulbs and a kerosene lamp!”

While Nita Ramesh agrees that while there was true magic in her childhood summer days she adds that summer camps these days are innovative and customised to suit the current needs of working parents and nuclear families.

“With both parents working, taking long breaks from work is difficult and these camps seem to be a great place to keep the creative vigour and liveliness of children alive rather than wasting precious time flopping themselves in front of the telly!” She adds: “there are such a wide set of choices these days, from adventure sports to theatre and crafts to classical dance and you should consult with your child and also observe his/ her interests before you decide on what he/ she should enrol for!”

Sad that summer holidays are no more about the free wild adventures, no holds barred carefree few months children (and adults enjoyed). Like Marina says: “Those days were the best days of my life - simple and happy. Really hope we can do simple things like that with my kid. I'm tired of all the fluff in our lives these days!”

Summer camps in the city conduct a wide range of activities from theatre, puppet shows, art, craft, music, communication-skills and storytelling for kids ranging from two to 15 year olds.

The fees range from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2,000 or more per week, depending on the activities and the time for which your ward is kept engaged.

As parents, it is important for us to try to take at least a few days off from our busy schedules, spending time with our kids, preferably at a place filled with nature's goodness.