So, Asharh is here again!
So Asharh is here again. Asharh, the month in the Bangla calendar that signals the advent of monsoon, is here. It comes every year. But we do not notice it anymore because it has, over the years, lost its lustre. We do not even know that monsoon has arrived until well into the month of Asharh or even may be as late as the beginning of Srabon. This year miraculously an unpredictable 'low' occurred in the Bay of Bengal and Asharh began from the very first day of the month. In this month, it is usual that heavy downpour does not happen but it drizzles day in and day out. Nostalgia is a part of the process of growing old. And sure enough I am getting there. But then nostalgia has been a part of my life as far back as my memory goes. I was nostalgic at six about things that happened to me at five. I love to live in a state of invariable reverie. But that is another story and should best be kept for another day. Let us revert to this most glorious part of Asharh.
In our childhood, with the advent of monsoon, it started to drizzle first, then the drizzle converted into a heavy shower and gusty wind. And this change occurred in the dead of night when with the sudden sound of the rain and draught we woke up and then again, cradled by the music of rain, transited into the world of dreams. The following morning it used to be water all over. My father used to say, “Out here when it rains, it pours”. This inundation and the persistence of rain made us really happy. It meant that there would be no school. The classes would be suspended because of a 'rainy day'. And we would run outdoors, braving the rain and hit the playground with a football. We would ski, dive, jump and kick the almost immobile football and everything except play a game of organised football. This went on until it was well past lunch time. Then I could see a dot in the horizon that eventually formed into a human being. I saw my cousin, years older than me, approaching me. He carefully remained distant from the water that had now turned dirty with our misdeeds and announced, that if I didn't come home right away, I would be in trouble with Maa. So, with utter disgust, I had to abandon my friends and the football and left for home. Seeing me go, my friends also decided that enough was enough and withdrew from the game. The football, the only individual in a pool of water now relieved of the kicking and cajoling, gave a sigh of relief. Then, hot Khichuri garnished with deep fried shredded onion and fried iIlish would await us on the table. A look at the food, a whiff of its aroma, would now make me feel like a hungry monster. The 'love's labour' was not lost after all.
We lived reasonably close to the Buriganga. On some monsoon days, defying the drizzle, we would go to the river, rent a boat and paddle down by the bank as far as we could go. The river would be in full flow. I would remember a nursery rhyme recited by our parents, “patter, patter goes the rain, and the river is in spate”. On some rainy days laziness would have the better of us and we would lie around begging our cousin or Didi, my eldest sister, to tell us ghost stories. At times those stories could become unbearably frightful. And after dusk, we would even refuse to respond to the call of nature...!
Well, where was I? Oh, yes, I was drowned in immutable reverie again. To the harsh realities again…! One of my English friends had once told me; it seemed to him that we, the Bengalis are forever taken by surprise when the rainy season came. We started looking for umbrellas, running here and there for the raincoat going berserk when it caught us in the outdoors. I see no reason to fret over this. There is an excitement, a thrill in this unpreparedness that adds a bit of colour to our otherwise drab life.
Coming back to this year's monsoon, I must say that after a long time I am witnessing the same kind of monsoon again that we used to see in our childhood or early youth. And, predictably, I am swayed away by some great memories.
But I must confess that in a city, that has grown to be about a hundred times in size now, especially in terms of population, little do I realise how painful it must be for the people to commute, go to work and do their irregular chores.This is reflected by the irritation of the active young population towards the impediment against their movements. There is no denying the fact that over the years the rivers of Bangladesh have silted and cannot hold the increasing volume of water during the monsoon, this overflows the banks and a vast area of our country is flooded causing unbearable sufferings to our common people.
The cities, especially Dhaka has seen its population multiply by leaps and bounds. This population often behaves irresponsibly and litter the drains of the city with indestructible waste material. This blocks flow of the flood water to the nearby rivers. River grabbing and conversion of the water bodies into land mass also causes floods in case of heavy downpour. The population of this city deserves a transport system that can address the needs of movement of both human beings and materials. The transports to do so are inadequate. Therefore, the long queues of passengers waiting for transport have to undergo additional physical discomfort during the monsoon season and often have to abstain from work.
All the above and a lot more do not necessarily make the rainy season the most favoured time here. How I wish that people in authority would have thought of relocating the concentration of human beings in Dhaka to smaller satellite suburbs of the metropolis. Relocating the important offices to other district towns, helping those towns to grow, encouraging to build an infrastructure of education; healthcare; residential quarters etc. so that the burden from the main cities could be spread all over the country. Otherwise we would choke under our own ever increasing pressure and our cities would die a premature death.
But who cares? Our governments only think of one term of office. Our people only think of a few years from now. All of us, like frogs in the well, think that the small round sky that they can see above our heads is the entire world.
Well why should I care? This Asharh, let me take off from this city and enjoy the gift of monsoon wholeheartedly in the villages of Bangladesh where I can immerse my legs in mud and water and do absolutely nothing.
(R) thedailystar.net 2011