No, it is not autumn yet but the sun is already yellowing like the big crisp leaves on my wild old Saal in September used to, before it was felled. Afternoons have become thicker, like a big spoonful of sun dissolved in a glass of water, quieter like the fisherman who sits for hours on the riverbank with his bait, and as clear as mama’s savory broth cooked on low flame. Afternoons are already lazing out under huge shady Molshree trees with their favorite autumnal pastimes on their laps, holidaying after months of stormy turmoil. Their long sabbatical is about to begin and will continue till winter drudgeries begin. Yes, I can smell it in the gentleness of the air, I can feel it – on my skin and inside me, I can hear it in the soft rustling of the Amaltas leaves, I can see it everywhere around me – the air carries its faint notes and golden dust – autumn is coming! I post here a photo of Saal in bloom:
Autumn in India is different – quite different. It is the season of poised quietness and serene mellowness. Mornings are never more benign and chaste, afternoon ditties never more languorous and unhurried, and full moon never more magical and nearer in any other part of the year. This is the season for all the idle books that you kept locked in your shelf the whole year for an ideal time. No harsh winds, no jarring cacophonies, no disquieting anxieties, and no feverish excitements that get on your nerves – it is the time of the year I most eagerly wait for. It is the season of healing, of calm recovery, of rediscovering your inner ‘self’ – the time to recuperate and revive.
Autumn is not restless, capricious, and youthful like spring, it is gentle, kind, and slow in movement, and in its mellowness, it somehow always gets linked up with the memories of my old grandma who I remember for her simple wisdom and kindness. Vicissitudes of life had given her that mellow wisdom which only comes and ripens with age. I remember my Grandma’s home – time somehow always seemed to slow down over there, afternoons became longer, unhasting wafts of breeze from the river slower and evening tea lazier. No sickening hurry to reach somewhere, no anxieties to fulfill assignments of daily routine, autumn is the ideal time for vacations. Just a pot of tea simmering over stove, a motionless blue hornbill sitting unflustered on the high end of the garden fence and an autumn-washed sky that is never more azure and deeper in any other part of the year – autumn conjures up so many enchanting images.
We call it ‘Sharad’ here in India – the season of festivals. Life dresses up for quaint fiestas to remember the victory of truth. Every town, every village, every corner of the nation welcomes and celebrates the season in its own charming little way. College and schools close down for weeklong folk theatricals called ‘Ramleelaa’ and colorful and musical local night-processions called “Dal”. People clean their house, paint new patterns on mud-mopped walls, and burn the evil “Ravana” to mark the victory of Ram. Here is a photo of a typical Raamleela show:
I have some of the most beautiful memories of my childhood and my school days associated with this season. Yes, it is the time for “autumn vacations”. Nothing in this part of the year can force me to work and nothing can disappoint me more than some unavoidable compulsion placed by time to part with it. And when I see so many people rushing past that brooding old bench over there – under the singing trees of sun-drenched Saal, just where the road bends, I feel sorry. They do not have the ears to listen to its jingling autumnal melodies, they do not have the eyes to see the gold in the air, they do not have the heart to feel its radiant goodness.
Take a day out for an evening stroll on the quiet riverbanks – you will see tall Kaans in wild bloom – huge feather-like grasses that surge like sea-froth after the rains stop. Here is a photo of Kaans in bloom:
This is the first part of my Autumn diaries. Hope you will not miss the second part i am presently working on, which seeks to explore select paintings and photographs that communicate the soul of this beautiful season.
I would love to hear from you some tales of this season, how it blesses your part of the world. Do drop in your enriching comments and experiences.