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Saturday July 2, 2022

Of This & That : Autumnal Interlude

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Before we realise it, the Pujas have come and gone! The Goddess had arrived, decking us all in finery – new clothes, shoes, newer cuisine – and has departed, leaving behind her a trail of sadness and void. The pandals are empty – as much of her presence as of the footfalls of devotees – and there are absolutely no cacophony of sounds. She came and she conquered our hearts and filled us all with joie de vivre. But what’s left behind after the immersion? Is it not a feeling of déjà vu? But this year, thanks to the new normal, things aren’t the same anymore.

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness has just about made a stealthy but steady entrance into our lives. The trees are getting ready to garb themselves in a new look altogether. Nature’s beauty is best expressed in spring. But winter has its seasonal glory as well. Winter flowers like dahlias and chrysanthemums bloom and hence prevent the solitariness of the season from creeping into our hearts. I had read a short story by D.H. Lawrence called ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’. Like many of his stories, this was also set against the backdrop of a coal mine. I later learnt that the story had been made into a film which was screened at the Milan Film Festival. Notice the dichotomy. Chrysanthemums also bloom in as desolate areas as collieries. The last novel penned by John Steinbeck was The Winter of Our Discontent and the title came from the first two lines from Shakespeare’s Richard III – “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York”.

Has anyone thought about why these festivals are observed during this time of the year? Perhaps these are meant to blow or sweep away the bleakness and stupor of the dark, desultory days looming ahead.

Despite the gloom and despair that the winter season brings in its wake, there’s reason to hope still. I’m again reminded of the lines from Paradise Lost by John Milton : “All is not lost – the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield! And what is else not to be overcome?” With the departure of the festivities both from our hearts as well as from our hearths, we gear up for the advent of winters. The autumn season, every year, acts as a harbinger of seasonal change – from the heat of summers to the cold and phlegm of the winters. It prepares our souls for extremities. It smoothens out Nature’s graph of the change of seasons.

Nature is at its bounteous best during spring. Hence we celebrate it with the Festival of Colours. But except for the summers, which are hot and humid in most parts of the country, the other seasons like autumn and winter have their own charms as well. Winters are the time for impromptu picnics. When I was young, a visit to the Alipore Zoo was a must in the December winters. Migratory birds – they’ve almost become all but extinct – were an added attraction. Like all good things which fall prey to misuse and mismanagement, the Zoo which was such a bright feather on the cap of our city, is wading in troubled waters. I’ve heard that it’s become the sanctuary for local goons. Unless we are able to instill a love of nature among the children and the youth, the feelings of mutual love – of give and take – and compassion would never prosper.

Why do we all feel sad after the immersion of the idol of the Goddess? Is it just because it rings the bell to the end of a week-long of festivities and frolic? No, I don’t think so. The sadness has everything to do with the feelings in our hearts. Goddess Durga is venerated as Matri Shakti. She is our Mother. When the mother goes away leaving her children behind, it gives rise to the feelings of desolation and sadness. And when all our hearts are laden with gloom and despair, nature also seems to conspire against us. The days suddenly seem to become shorter and the nights longer. Winter’s footsteps can be heard from the distance! But as we all know – ‘if winter’s here, can spring be far behind?’ And the cycle goes on and on. One year comes to an end and another commences, without our realising either of one’s going and the other’s coming. All the despondencies and fears get mingled with the joy that the dawn of a brand new year brings in its wake.

As we celebrate the festive season in our part of the country, the rest of India also gears up for a series of such festivals. Durga Puja is followed by Deepavali or the Festival of Lights. Has anyone thought about why these festivals are observed during this time of the year? Perhaps these are meant to blow or sweep away the bleakness and stupor of the dark, desultory days looming ahead. For example, the lights of the festive season are meant to eradicate the feelings of doom and all negative thoughts from our cumulative minds and hearts.

All that being said I take this opportunity to wish everyone a festive and prosperous end to an otherwise unhappy year. When we are all crying ourselves hoarse in our battle with the Novel Corona virus, there’s all the more reason that we pray to the Gods and Goddesses to protect us from this raging pandemic. The sincerity in all our prayers should remain in our hearts and not get expressed by free social crowding. The Covid Warriors have all but turned their nights into days in order to help save mankind. We all must co-operate with them, our motto being: “Live and let live!”

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