The global climate sector doesn't offer any good news. A nearly disastrous flood continues to afflict some regions in Japan. The overflowing Yangtze and some other rivers have wreaked near-havoc with large swathes in China. Floods and landslides have also left trails of destruction in Nepal. Bangladesh has not been spared its share of seasonal monsoon floods in its north and northeastern region. The flooding, like in the previous years, caused a couple of major rivers to swell, prompting vast areas to go under water in the country. The disaster this year is feared to last for some time.
The ice caps on the Alps mountain region go on disintegrating without remission. Patches of glacial chunks on the Alps have lately been found changing colour. The Himalayan crevices continue to widen, with polar icebergs coming off from the masses integrated to the polar region since their forming millions of years ago. These murky developments are being punctuated by spectacles of the encroachment on rainforests, especially the world's largest one —the Amazon, in South America. Wildfires have become common news in many parts of the world.
Against this depressing background, the small landmass of Bangladesh has been witnessing a new behaviour of nature and its ecology. It can be termed unique to the land. Unlike the other countries in the South Asian region, Bangladesh has for a decade remained free of major natural calamities. The cyclones Sidr and Aila battered the country in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Although the spectre of sea-level rise looms above the country, the land has long been free of clamitous floods and storms. Brief monsoon floods in the greater northern and central regions, however, continue to visit the country almost every year.
Amid these calamity-free times, the countrywide outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is cited by a section of bio-scientists as a corollary of imbalances in nature. Although not proven indisputably and the country being not the primary source of the scourge, deviant human behaviour is being blamed for its emergence in Bangladesh. The larger sections of epidemiologists rule out the theory outright. Thanks to its centuries-old day-to-day customs, eating habits and social life, pointing the finger at the country's people for the outbreak amounts to being brazenly misplaced. The same applies to the region's other countries. The reckless behaviour of a large section of people in Bangladesh, who have unwittingly helped the contagious disease spread, is a different case. It occurred after the disease had nearly overwhelmed the country.
Barring some unexpected disruptions to the course of nature, Bangladesh has been experiencing a normal cycle of nature for several years. It hasn't seen any major abnormalities in the onsets and departures of its three major seasons --- summer, monsoon and winter. The long elusive spring and the two autumns increasingly prove themselves to be barely in existence. The situation was different in the distant past. People in the river-dominant land back then used to feel the features of its six seasons quite distinctively. Even the air of the big cities, including Dhaka, would remain filled with the unique colours and smell of every season. Those could be clearly seen and felt in the vast rural swathes.
It's amazing to see that in the recent years the major seasons of the land have been making their arrivals and exits in accordance with their age-old schedules. The extraordinary phenomenon has caught the season-sensitive persons by surprise. When the whole country, except pockets in the northern and south-western regions, began lamenting the veritable disappearance of winter, the slow reappearance of the season couldn't be interpreted in any other way — except as a freak of nature. Even in the highly congested city of Dhaka, its residents have eventually felt the presence of winter. The return of the festive season was heartily welcomed by people of all socio-economic classes. The winter was not punishing. The night temperature hardly dropped below 10 degree Celsius, that, too, on days. Even three decades back, the residents of the capital used to put up with 7-8 degree Celsius occasionally during the season. Severe cold waves were normal features in northern Bangladesh.
In the recent years, the onset of winter began to be felt as being pleasant. The people in the city had, in fact, been depressed about their plight as they were unable to wear their winter clothes comfortably. The re-emergence of winter has allowed people to see themselves clad in colourful winter wear. Welcoming the season of winter ought not to be interpreted as bypassing of summer. Perhaps to announce its presence with a renewed emphasis and to demonstrate its strong link to global warming, summer in Bangladesh doesn't show any let-up in its intensity. Its pervasive presence is felt in all seasons — in short round the year. The humid, exhausting summer nowadays has turned more sweaty, burning and annoying. Many in the country wish the season appeared with its typical dryness as felt in the past.
No sooner had the scorching summer begun cracking our mind's soil than the cool wind-swept monsoon started appearing with its pleasant seasonal charm. It is after a long, long passage of time that the lovers of the rain-soaked nature can once again discover monsoon in their life. The unremitting onslaughts of the corona pandemic has apparently jeopardised normal life in the country. Monsoon with its inherent beauty and the gift for rejuvenation has restarted emerging as a blessing in these fraught times.
The present month of July, and the coming August are set to be replete with the seemingly endless gifts of monsoon. Rains cannot fight the pandemic virus. But it, undoubtedly, can play a great role in liberating the mind now under the siege of a deadly pestillence. Had this year's intermittent downpours in the corona-hit areas of the country not drenched nature, people might have developed an incurable obsession. It's one which cripples man's basic urge for survival.
The eventual return of the panoramic beauty and the exuberance hidden in the Bengal monsoon seems to be speaking of the many changes awaiting the country's nature. There are lots of places and stretches in disparate regions which have undergone environmental changes. All these have occurred the last few centuries. Bangladesh may not be an exception. Notwithstanding the occasionally destructive aspect of the season coming in the form of floods, people having a positive bent of mind will continue to take heart from monsoon. In many parts of South Asia, the season is greeted with traditional folk ceremonies. It's because the season's arrival features the people's expectation of good harvests and a prosperous life for the coming year. Perhaps few seasons have a more dominant place in the South Asian life. As for Bangladesh, after a long gap its monsoon appears to have staged its characteristically auspicious comeback.
Few seasons of greater Bengal have found a more dominant place in popular culture than monsoon. In the different branches of the arts, especially in music and poetry, the Bengalees are used to seeing the spontaneous eulogising of the rains. It has been going on since ancient times. The poets and troubadours in the Middle-Ages in Bengal, including today's Bangladesh, have left a rich legacy of poems centring round love and monsoon. Known as Vaishnava Padavalis, these verses written by Bidyapati, Chandidas et al are cited as instances of early Bangla poetry. This tradition of linking divine love with earthly longing for the beloved has later been given a modern form by Rabindranath Tagore. The later poets in the 1930s onwards developed their own style drawing much on abstraction. The direct address to the beloved living far away had been replaced with an indirect approach coupled with apparently unrelated allusions. Pioneered by Jibanananda Das, this form gained popularity among readers. Poets in the monsoon-dominant Bangladesh do write love poems. But they do not limit themselves to one single season. All seasons, including winter, are equally important to them. Alas, in the turmoil of climate change, the season of romance — spring, became a casualty in both poetry and mundane life.