Winter is here. One feels a nip in the air, the need for a blanket, and that lazy feeling in the mornings. Early morning sunlight suddenly streams through my kitchen window...it doesn’t happen during other seasons. Fruit vendors sell seetaphal; the elegant tree jasmines are in full bloom, perfuming whole stretches of roads on which they stand. The Nepali sweater sellers are back, with their colourful woollens. And mirchi bajji smells at twilight seem more tempting than ever...I have been trying to get my children to take a day off from school so we could all laze and do nothing, but the idea has immediately been vetoed! Why don’t schools encourage such enterprise?!
The Indian name for this season is Hemanta-ritu—the time when it just begins to get cold and the sun begins to set earlier than before; suddenly 5.30 pm looks like 6.30 pm, and you want to go to bed early.
Here are the other Indian seasons...their names make the seasons sound so romantic; names we should have all been familiar with, but unfortunately are not.
1. Hemanta-ritu: mid-October to mid-December: Season /of deepening shadows.../slash /of/ wind/in frost-light/ a song/remembered/a scene/replayed/ it is getting cold now.
2. Shishira-ritu: mid-December to mid-February: Season/of ice and song.../snow sets on /ice /through /fog and rain/ the sometimes sun/sometimes /shines /flowers /sit pretty/it is shivering cold.
3. Vasanta-ritu: mid-February to mid-April: Season/of softening snows.../rivers rush/cold/swift/to touch the earth/warmth evaporates/and the sun/climbs/the /sky/it is the end of biting cold.
4. Greeshma-ritu: mid-April to mid-June: Season/of raging fire.../white/hot/blazing/only/sea breeze/and spectacular skies/permit relief/it is hot and hotter.
5. Varsha-ritu: mid-June to mid-August: Season/of pouring sky.../storm clouds/gather/sweep/across the land/conquest/follows/conquest/it is the monsoon.
6. Sharata-ritu: mid-August to mid-October: Season/of heavy stillness.../like a fruit plucked/too soon/like the air/charged/and/changing/it is cold and not cold/it is wet and not wet. (from the Tulika Diary of Seasons 2001)
Every one of these seasons brings with it, its own ambience, its own festivals, different in different states of India. Somehow, when the season changes, something new and different seems to happen...however subtle. There is change in the air, a new day seems to dawn bringing with it, new hope...
And let us remember that this happens in India, SIX times a year!