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Elusive autumn of Jibanananda

Shihab Sarkar | October 25, 2020 00:00:00

Normal cycle of Bangladesh seasons would have seen the Bangla month of 'Kartik' now well in place across the country. This has not been happening for nearly two decades. Kartik is one of the two autumns of the six Bangla seasons. Theoretically, one arrives after monsoon, the other before winter. The post-monsoon 'Sharat' and the pre-winter 'Hemonto' comprise the country's autumnal treasure. Despite being intangible, the two autumns' smell, touch and expressional richness have been fascinating the people of Bengal for ages. Bangla songs and modern poetry stand in distinction for their generous eulogy paid to 'Sharat' and 'Hemonto.'

With the 'Sharat' (the rainy July and August-September) receding, the second autumn 'Hemonto' (Oct-Nov and December) arrives hot on the heels of the former. Normally, the two seasons coalesce into one another. Both the autumns are supposed to be dry, sunny and without rain. They used to be so even half century back. Nowadays, none of the two autumns arrives and fades away without rain-- either drizzles for days or torrential rain. These days, floods are common spectacles during the second autumn, which keep vast swathes of villages under water. With the onrush of water from upstream inundating fields of ripe paddy, the merry harvest season turns into one of woes and misgivings.

Poet Jibanananda Das celebrated Hemonto in his poems by vividly portraying the commonly unnoticed features of the season. He would be stricken by bafflement if he had seen the spells of rain during Kartik-Agrohayon --- the two months of Hemonto. The poet has generously referred to the blanket of fog, a dominant feature of the pre-winter times.

In the 1930s, when the poetic output of Jibanananda was at its zenith, the phenomena of climate change, global warming or bio-diversity loss were far beyond the imagination of even the highly enlightened classes. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the poet was a well-informed person. But even he had the least idea of the dreadful changes which were poised to end up in global temperature rise in just over seventy years. The state of psychological devastation and the inner traumas of a sensitive poet over these transformations could be presumable. But in the concluding decade of 20th century, the state of the global climate reached a terrible point. Even the laymencould feel the approachingtopsy-turvydevelopments in the world weather. With the fast increase in the duration of summer and the rains, the arrival and exit of winter were barely noticeable. In such a virtually weird seasonal cycle, the fleeting presence of 'Hemonto' cannot be called unnatural.

In fact, the world now bears witness to the eccentricity of the weather patterns. To repeat a cliché observation, it is the humans whose reckless and insensitive treatment of nature has led to this situation worldwide. Starting from polar ice-melt and glacial displacements; unusual flooding, tornadoes to frequent wildfires in the West and many unlikely places, repeated natural disasters now rule the roost. In the essentially temperate Bangladesh, the scorching heat has now become integral to the land's transformed weather. In his poetic career, Jibanananda Das must have found Kartik 9, which falls today, an auspicious occasion to greet the seemingly unearthly season of Hemonto. Had he been alive today, his inner torments would have prompted him to write poems like 'One Season in Hell' composed by the French poet Rimbaud.

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