An Indian Spring

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Persian silk-flower

Over the centuries, Indian literature has been dotted with allusions to Spring and it’s stunning beauty. Raag Bahar is in tribute to this season, evoking the shringara (love) rasa (sense), a classical treatment of ‘Love is in the Air’, let’s say. Kalidasa and others have waxed eloquent about Vasant ritu and there is an official photo-friendly festival for the tourist brochures, Holi, where the advent of this special time, recreating Krishna’s love of dance and music is marked with flinging coloured powder on each other, drinking bhang and a lot of licentious behaviour thrown in. Let me not lower the tone of what aims to be an uplifting blogpost 🙂

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Blossom in India

It was many years after I came to the UK that I began to observe the fresh new change that is a distinct feature of living in this country. I remember it being an overwhelming thing to absorb – an alien event that others kept talking about with such passion. Along with adjusting to a whole different life, to register and to accept the changes around me took time but now I’m sold on Spring – I will gawp at the delicate blossoms that scatter to the ground soon after they bloom, as a bus blows its exhaust fumes over them, creating a wave of dreamy pink on a dreary street, the flowers that sprout out of trees, hedges and the fragrance that lifts our spirits into a blissful state. A welcome change after months of seeing stark branches appealing to the sky for some mercy.

An article on American literature mentioned the difference between books from the west coast and east of that huge country. The change in seasons is a big feature for writers from the east coast whereas in the west, it is rarely dwelt on when it isn’t so obvious with a temperate climate all year round. That was my attitude too towards seasons in India where it became hot, it rained (if at all) and then it became hot again. The giant Persian silk trees shed their pink-tipped feathery flowers to the ground, children picked them up, blew the feathers into their smaller parts and walked on. Bougainvillea was in flower all year round, subsiding in the marginally cooler months. The Flame of the Forest and the bright yellow Chinese Lanterns were in and out of season, but which season, no one knew. As for jasmine – apart from December, it was there all the time. The humidity and sticky nature of the climate was the dominant aspect – the Spring of the Mughal courts and classical Sanskrit literature were almost as if they were just the stuff of fiction.

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Bougainvillea in white

And then I found myself in the heat of Spring in Chennai a few weeks ago – it was not the delicate warmth of a barometer climbing to double-digits for the first time as it is in England but it comes with a screeching announcement of summer around the corner, a full on explosion of colour, exuberance and joy screaming everywhere. And I never even noticed in all my time being jaded and bored, growing up there. But this time, my visitor’s eyes noticed and like many things in life, it felt better late than never.

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