This winter is definitely a reminiscence of those bone-chilling ones down the memory lane. Yet it must be admitted that it is not like any of the ones experienced 50-60 years ago. Even if it were colder, in the jungles of concrete and roads full of automobiles, the wintriness would have been tempered with the combined heat released in the city environment. In villages where people live close to Nature and in poorly built shelters ---more particularly in the country's north, frost and unrelenting cold waves prove too hostile to negotiate. The young and the old suffer the worst consequences.
Otherwise, this winter would have been most welcome not because it has kept its date after so many years but also because the planet sends a positive signal through these colder spells. Can it be that the pandemic forced lockdowns all across the otherwise heating planet and gave it at least some rest to recuperate from the mindless mayhem humans are ceaselessly causing to its health?
Indeed, normalcy or if it can be termed pristine wildlife had a chance to revisit its lost grounds. When people sought the sanctuary of their homes for fear of catching coronavirus and automobile rarely made a sortie on deserted roads, the rarest of the rare wildlife inquisitively embarked on an occasional reconnaissance to see what has happened to the ultra species that has drove them away, cornered them and still unwilling to share spaces with them.
Many naturalists, environmentalists and scientists viewed the closedowns as a blessing in disguise. The planet Earth could heave a shy of relief and had time to nurse its wounds. No wonder, even in the rainy season there were more rains than any year in decades and this made the weather cooler. But news from the arctic zones is highly disconcerting. Temperatures in the polar regions as also in Siberia were record high. In its explanation, scientists have put forward their observations that the accumulated greenhouse gas could not cross the stratosphere and therefore caused unprecedented temperature rise in poles, subsequently melting ice caps.
Laymen like us, however, are not bothered with the arctic icy developments. A winter brings in its wake rich tributes to us from Nature. This is the time when an array of beautiful and delicious vegetables grow. Even the gastronomic function speeds up as if to do justice to those bounties of Nature. If the wintry bite is unwelcome, the natural offerings do more than compensate for it. Date juice has no equal in the world of drinks. Molasses produced from the juice can beat anything in sweetness. The Bangalees are blessed with this heavenly delicacy and with a variety of cakes made from newly harvested rice, the taste and tenor of the combination assumes a community festivity. Even in the city 'pitha utsab' (cake festivals) are arranged almost in every locality.
However, this year such festivals are not being held considering the threat from the pandemic. Similarly, this winter will not see many of the outdoor religious and cultural functions for the same reason. In villages, winter is the most propitious time for 'jatra' (country or rural opera). However, this traditional, artistic and highly entertaining form of art has long suffered a setback in the face of opposition from religious radical groups. It has already become a dying art form but in West Bengal, it is thriving and theatre artistes from Kolkata often play roles in 'jatras'. There is a need for revival of this art form of entertainment.
The pandemic will disappear today or tomorrow but the Bangalees must nurture their traditional art, culture and musical functions in rural areas. In the name of such functions, vulgarity has been imported and the healthy stream of rural entertainment is drying up with the invasion of alien music, Hindi songs and dance in particular. The challenge is daunting but it must be taken in order to give a new lease of life to the age-old form of rural entertainment.