The Dry <i>Season</i>
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Each step I take loudly announces the dry season. I recognise several dead leaves covering the ground: jackfruit, mahogany, acacia, koroi, shegun and bohera. But many more are unknown. Some leaves die on the branch and fall; others drop while yellow. Leaves of the native bolos - a beautiful but useless tree - turn bright red before dropping.
Occasionally a tall blade of grass peeks through the blanket of leaves. Here and there, a tiny yellow wildflower bravely introduces itself to the world.
Up in the trees, new leaves quickly replace fallen ones. Amloki and mahogany are two of the prettiest ones.
New amloki leaves are bluish green in the middle, gradually turning into a bright, almost fluorescent green at the periphery. From a distance, this change appears as an unearthly glow until the leaves attain a uniform colour and blossoms appear.
Mahogany leaves, tiny and translucent, appear in amber ripples. In a few days they turn a pale, shiny green. When I look up from below, their pattern shimmers as if a wave were passing through them.
The bohera trees sport small, bright yellow leaves which turn orange in a few days. A younger amra tree takes its time growing new leaves. Its shoots appear at a leisurely pace with leaves to follow.
Meanwhile, nature prepares for the coming monsoon's reproduction frenzy. Blossoms of mango, lychees, jaam, golapjaam and guava appear. But the real fruity miracle, to me, is jackfruit. It grows from tiny “muji”, barely two inches long, into the giant fruit sometimes weighing over 10 kg in three short months. These fruits all ripen in the summer. Thus, their seeds can germinate and start life during the rains.
The warmth following winter brings out all manners of creatures. Swarms of dragonflies and termites share the airspace over a field in a mad aerial dance. A fingey (drongo) perches on a nearby kodom branch, its head jerking left to right as it scans the field. It dives suddenly, returning to its seat seconds later. Only this time it is not alone: a hapless dragonfly dangles from its beak. Two quick bites, and the dragonfly finds its place in the planet's relentless food chain.
Various reptiles, such as ela and kaklas lizards, come out of hibernation. Hungry after winter, they run around looking for food. Luckily, bloodthirsty leeches are still hiding. Those will come alive with rain.
Lonely warbles of winter's doves are replaced by a veritable orchestra of birdsong. Some, like harichacha (treepie), sound rough and dissonant. The ishtikutum (oriole), however, sings a beautiful welcoming tune. I am not surprised to learn the village folklore about this bird: if you see it, expect relatives or friends to visit.
Villagers make plans for the coming planting season: what seedlings to plant where. They shore up their walls, bridges, dams, roads and rooftops while it is still dry.
Through it all, we wait, patient yet anxious, for rain.