Winter Solstice is very near. The earth is in the process of chilling. What of Europe and America, the whole north of India is afraid of reeling under severe winter ahead. While in richer countries people cope up with winter, dressed appropriately with fulfilling foods and drinks, in India some of the very poor people die for want of resources.
How the poet described the scene:
The cold earth slept below,
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around, with a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow,
The breath of night like death did flow
Beneath the sinking moon. (‘Lines’ by Shelley)
But here in Pondicherry, a coastal strip of land surrounded by Tamil Nadu or the land of Tamils in South India, the soil is arid, air is hot accompanied by simoom type air-waves; land or sea breeze. Usually excruciatingly hot sultry weather continues for some eight, nine months with some variations. The sky is bare and blue, fruits are juicy and heart fulfilling, flowers are usually whitish and fragrant. With or in spite of all this the Pondicherry summer is oppressive. One looks with dreamy eyes towards the sky wishing for the possible formation of clouds.
Rain has its beauty and essentiality. Rain and summer make the most of South Indian climate. But the usual monsoon does not bless us. When the south-western monsoon causing rains all over the country returns over the Bay of Bengal from the north-eastern direction, it rains copiously in Pondicherry and coastal Tamil Nadu. One specialty of it is that it rains at night and keep the days dry. But not always. Some times it continues monotonously, day in and day out.
Soon the days of rains are over by the second week of December. The bright Sun greets us. The joy of the trees knows no bounds. Drenched leaves drink sun to their hearts’ content. New branches sprout, some fruits grow and flowers flourish though the main winter fruits and seasonal flowers grow in northern India. Wintering Water birds dance in hundreds to rejoice the time with teeming fishes in water bodies full of water from the just ended rains. But of late such water bodies have mostly been killed by pollution and by other uses. Part of December and January gives some taste of cold during the mornings and nights which vanish through the second week of February. Mornings are chill. Usually people enjoy such mild cold. It is like spring in northern countries. It may be said that climatically it is the best season here though the natives may feel somehow uncomfortable as they are habituated to live in the black mass of summer reflecting in their usually black-tanned bodies. Carrying the French traditions they organise Fete de Pondicherry and many other functions during this time, usually at the sea side which becomes full of audience and revelers. This year the French, Bonjour India, festival has been scheduled throughout the erstwhile French territory with different programmes.
Though winter is oppressive throughout the continents and people wish earnestly to go out of it registering their hope with Shelley again: ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’ (Ode to the West Wind)-we sit tight rejoicing the winter, wishing its continuance as it is the spring here. The real spring brings the sites and sounds of summer.
© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2009