The pictures are of a krishnachura in full bloom and of a Kalboishakhi
There are two times of the year when I miss my native Bengal the most. At all other times I can be severely critical of my country, but during the New Year and the Pujas, I cannot but remember only the positives of my country. And I am not ashamed to say that during these times, “my country” shrinks to Bengal, I may include Bangladesh in this, but while I am proud of my Bharat, in this case I mean Bengal.
The Poila Boishak brings the New Year to Bengal. It is also the start of the summer. The mellow winds of the Basanta (spring) season give way to the blazing sun of the Grishya (summer). The Mango flowers are now gone and the fruit hangs from the trees. The trees are full of unripe mangoes that then slowly ripen and by the end of the summer will be available in the markets. I spent a half year in Malda, the home of the finest mangoes in Bengal, in the early years of my career. The health centre I worked in was surrounded by mango orchards and from January to May I was able to see the entire gamut of change in these trees, which were guarded like children by their owners. The end of winter saw the trees full of flowers, and then came the tiny fruit which grew rapidly and then began to ripen. For a city boy, it was like magic.
Poila Boishak also heralds the onset of the Kalboishakhi, the nor wester , which is unique to these climes. A very hot day follows another and another and soon the heat is intolerable, But like a blessing comes a dark cloud, initially far to the western horizon, it then expands rapidly and covers the sky and then the lightning and the train comes, cooling temper and houses and gardens and gifting a comfortable night’s sleep to everybody. There are any numbers of poems celebrating the kal boishkhi and many of them tell of the pleasure of collecting green mangoes that have fallen off the trees. Unfortunately as a city bred boy, this is something that I never saw or experienced, but I do remember the pleasure of collecting the hailstones that commonly accompany the kal boishakhi and sucking on them greedily like ice cream.
The Poila Boishak is also related in my mind with the flowering of the Krishnachura. (Gulmohar) This is one of my favourite trees. The onset of summer clothes it with brick red blossoms that often last until the kalbioishakhis bring them down. In most cases they persist until the rains. They are common in Calcutta and in fact nowadays have become even more common because they seem to be the favourite tree planted on roadsides and gardens.
Poila Boishak would never be complete without a gargantuan meal. Rice of course, with masoor dal, alu bhaja, begun bahja and then straight to mutton. No fish this afternoon for me, there must of course be a thin tok made of green mangoes. I want it sweet, though I admit it is contradiction in terms to have a sweet “tok”. And to follow mishti doi and rosogolla. A nice mitha pan would not come in amiss.
This Poila Baishak , I was in India ,but in Bangalore, attending a meeting. It lasted all day, they fed us well, but as I said, I missed my Bengal. The rural areas near Bangalore where we attended a outward bound learning course are beautiful but for the Poila Boishakh, I want the green fields and wide rivers of Bengal.