Last week, while teaching my students how to develop descriptive writing, I asked for a few topic suggestions that they can think of. They responded with their ideas, and a lot of them thought "The Six Seasons of Bangladesh" would be a great topic! While it was an expected answer, I still could not get that out of my head.
Six seasons? Six seasons with six different characteristics, with six different flavors, with six different sets of colors- where are they? Sitting in this grey-brown-murk city makes it even difficult to answer that question. But the city had its own seasonal changes, too!
I remember how it was almost customary to taste all the summer fruits available, at least for once! My father would make it no short of a celebration when he used to bring the biggest of jackfruits home for the first time, and would fix a date to cut it open and distribute it among the relatives and neighbors!
With his elaborate preparation and dedication to the work, he almost convinced me that cutting a jackfruit open, with all its super sticky saps carefully handled, was indeed an art! Of course I wasn't interested; for me it was too much hassle for a fruit that is not mango!
The season I miss most is the monsoon! Apart from the fact that rains in the morning meant no school (well not always!), I always enjoyed the bathed and cooled down nature after every shower!
The mandatory khichuri and spicy beef bhuna would also be there, before you even ask for it! Have you ever tied the handles of a plastic shopping bag, the ones more popularly known as polythene bags, with a long string, to make an instant kite when a stormy wind is blowing and it is nothing less than a perfect Kal Boshekhi Jhor? Now when I feel irritated about a rainfall, thinking about the muddy mess, with hard to decode traffic I might have to suffer because of it, I cannot recognize myself!
October is a tricky month for me! Whenever it comes, I start sniffing the air, to find hints of winter. I am a sniffer. I like how every season smells! The life in Dhaka city smells like an unorthodox combination of traffic, sweat, scattered inviting aromas coming from the kitchen next door mostly. When I still somehow succeed in finding the post-rain earthy, muddy, refreshing scent amidst this madness or the foggy, wintery something, I feel happy!
Thanks to global warming and the overall environmental deterioration, the signature six seasons of Bangladesh, with a dedicated monsoon and a prolonged autumn, is at the verge of becoming a history. Now we have warm days with sudden chances of rain anytime, anywhere, and a few weeks when we do not need to turn on the fans and ACs that we call winter!
Can you recall the shivering winter nights sitting under cotton wool comforters, with your siblings and cousins, all cuddled up, not only because of cold, but also from fear; as the elder cousin or a younger uncle or the mischievous aunt is telling you the scariest story that you have ever heard, about how the house you all are in right now used to have a ghostly past?
I know I am riding the nostalgia train a bit too much. I know we have some amazing changes that we can be proud of. I too am proud of those!
But somehow, something from the deep within tells me that we are gradually losing the things that are/were ours! I want to be able to sniff the air with its distinct smell with every changing season. I want to pass the celebratory cutting tactics of a jackfruit and pickling of mangoes in mason jars to generations after generations to come.
I want to see the joy of people enjoying the first rain and drenching on it voluntarily, altogether, till the day I die. I want to scoot off with my friends to find the first kashbon of the season, or to explore the miles and miles of mustard fields with its unique yellow flowers whenever I can! I want to wake up to all the pithas with secret recipes and make sure that it is an everyday thing, not an occasional affair! I want the ghost stories to be there!
For me, being a Bangladeshi means all these things; all these beautiful little practices, habits, customs that we are slowly shifting away from! I don't know how we can uphold to these, but I feel there is chord missing somewhere!
Do you feel that too?
Mehnaz Tabassum is an academic, critic and writer
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