Over the last few years, the arrival and exit of three main seasons in the country are occurring on time. They are summer, monsoon and winter. The phenomenon has been surprising. Against the backdrop of the long erratic behaviour of seasons in the country, their timely coming and going might appear to be nature's return to its age-old, infallible cycle. In conformity with this pattern, winter has started setting in. On the 14th day of the Bangla month of Agrahayon today, the time belongs to the pre-winter autumn. As seen in the last few years, winter seems to have started arriving.
The air blowing from the north direction is getting colder. Winter vegetables, fruits and scores of other delicacies fill the kitchen-market and eateries. The now city-based 'Nobanno', the festival of rice harvest, occurred this year in the urban areas in restrained arrangements thanks to the corona pandemic.
The most striking feature amid the above spectacle comprises colourful warm clothing. With men in latest blazers, jackets, pullovers and half-sweaters, and women covered in attractively designed shawls, ladies' caps etc. the cities appear to be filled with a merry carnival. The heightening extent of the pandemic couldn't daunt people. From dawn to late into the night, people of all ages keep coming out of their homes. The city suburbs and villages give a similar look.
Two to three decades ago, warm clothes in the country's rural swathes were characterised by their unavailability. Prior to that period, sufficient winter garments remained illusory to the common villagers. Although winter remained relatively tolerable in the large cities, the remote villages, especially those in northern Bangladesh, would pass through several mild cold waves. By Bangladesh standards, those were the times of a fierce winter, prompting the middle-class people to rush to the nearby towns. Certain areas in the urban pockets had markets of second-hand winter garments. But for the people belonging to the extreme poor class, especially the elderly, the season of winter descended on them like a yearly curse. Most of them used to lack the ability to arrange even winter wears made of coarse cotton fabric --- leave alone woolen garments. As they lacked even a tattered blanket, many would spend sleepless nights. In spite of Bangladesh being a land of temperate weather, deaths of a number of marginalised people were common occurrences almost every year. Those were prevalent in the northern and south-western Bangladesh during winter.
Those days of winter-time sufferings appear to be over. Forty to fifty years ago, lower-middle and middle class males would visit Dhaka's Victoria Park and the adjacent areas to buy used foreign coats, overcoats, jackets etc. The markets have long shifted to the GPO area. Many other busy city points have seen the sprouting of markets selling flannel and jeansshirts, denim trousers, jeans jackets and caps. As pointer to the country's self-sufficiency in warm clothing, these garments are manufactured in factories on the other side of the Buriganga. Now that the intensity of the corona pandemic has weakened to some extent, the factories have resumed production in full swing. Smaller RMG units seem to be bent on manufacturing as much winter clothes as they can before the second wave of the pandemic strikes the country. It may not be an overstatement to say that Bangladesh is now self-sufficient in producing winter garments.
It is the upper-middle class people who visit the exclusive winter garment outlets selling products of globally known brands or shops at conventional malls. The common people have already started thronging the GPO area to buy coats, jackets, children's wear etc. Watching these markets, many middle-aged and elderly people are reminded of a typical village scene: bare-bodied children sitting in the sun draped in 'lungis' worn by the adults and tied in a loose knot at their necks.