Autumn? Really? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 06, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 06, 2010


Autumn? Really?

Acacias blooming on the Sylhet-Fenchuganj road. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir

I spent four years in the American northeast where seasons arrived with a bang, not a whimper. Sandwiched between the sunny comfort of summer and the coming harshness of winter, autumn evoked bittersweet emotions. While enjoying these last warm days of the year, one constantly looked over one's shoulder to see if the cold had arrived.
“Fall Colours” was the best part of those autumns. Green leaves of deciduous trees turned bright red or yellow - and many shades in between - before falling. The sumptuous colours of a northern forest in autumn are not easily forgotten.
In Bangladesh, autumn is different. The period between monsoon and winter is divided into two seasons: Shorot and Hemonto. While it is easy to know when monsoon, summer, spring or winter is here, the arrival of autumn is subtle. For me, this makes for a confusing season. This year is worse because nature herself appears confused.
For example, consider our expectations of autumn. Supposedly, the dark skies of Borsha yield to brilliant white clouds against a blue sky; nights and early mornings turn noticeably cooler; sunlight becomes crisp and clear; and Shephali, the favourite flower of Shorot, washes the earth with its delicate scent.
But we are well into Hemonto autumn is three-quarters over - and what has happened? The rains drag on. Rain or not, the sky looks like a coating of mud was applied to it. A mind-numbing haze has driven out any clarity the light might have held.
And Shephali? In my last five years living here, I can count on one hand the number of Shephali trees I have seen. Has it become a dying breed?
But let's not write off autumn in our haste to get to winter. Autumn's gifts make up in substance what they lack in show.
Luckily for our stomachs, the farmers were not confused like I was. They have finished planting autumn's rice crop Amon. While waiting for the rice harvest, they turn their attention to growing vegetables. The rice should ripen in another month, bringing good cheer to villagers. (Indeed, where would we be without our farmers?)
Autumn brings its own fruits: jambura, kotbel, amloki, jolpai and aamra. They lack the sweetness of summer's fruits, but so what? Flavourful and loaded with vitamin C, they lend themselves well to childhood favourites such as chatnis, achars, bhortas and toks.
But for me the best part of autumn are its flowers, particularly acacia and chhatim.
An acacia's small yellow flowers, 2-3 inches in diameter and several inches long, cover the entire tree. From a distance, the mix of yellow and green is spectacular.
The chhatim - with its pretty, star-shaped leaves - wears its white flowers like a bridal gown. It attracts numerous admirers: wasps, bees, butterflies, crickets and dragonflies, which devote themselves to the reproduction of the tree's next generation.
In the countryside, both have bloomed in abundance, proving that autumn is unquestionably here. Really!

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