The Great Wheel turns….

Here in Agartala,  the weather starts to change from mid- October. Darkness starts to fall noticeably earlier. It rains occasionally- light but stubbornly continuous; and when it does, the sun refuses to show its face for many days in succession. Foreshadowing the shape of things to come, a white mist sweeps in from the West on some mornings and most evenings. The evenings also have the edge of chill in them- faint initially, growing more insistent as the days shorten.

Even though the flaming Autumns are absent, leaves start to fall, leaving some trees totally bare by January. Since the sweepers have better things to do with their time than compost the fallen leaves, they just wait for them to get reasonably dry and light fires. The birds do not set up their usual chorus in the mornings. There is a definite lull in the atmosphere- of silence and waiting.

One notable exception is the Parijata trees, which grow abundantly here. Each day I wake up to a fresh and fragrant carpet of last night’s blossoms. But these too peter out by December.

My home state, the one which I claim to be from, even though now I have spent more years living outside it rather than within its boundaries, lies to the South-West, nearer to the Equator, and is edged by the sea. The happy consequence of this geography was that I grew up an utter stranger to Winter, which (for me) existed romantically only on Christmas cards, depicting snow covered landscapes.

Later, tossed to a town in the foothills of the Himalayas one October, I became the owner of my first  woollen sweater at the age of twenty-three. Thick blankets and a room heater quickly followed. That first winter of North India, caught me off-guard; but then, I had the resilience of youth with me and emerged quite unscathed.

But today, another twenty three years later, I am in no position of resilience. The cold, damp mist and the absence of sunshine takes a toll on both physical and mental health. I am a sitting duck for stray viruses cruising around; my last birthday was spent in bed, unable to sit up or keep the eyes open, hallucinating wildly, BP dipping down and with a wild thirst ravaging the body. I remember nothing of the journey to or from the doctor; and had to force myself to tell him what was wrong with me. Mercifully, he asked very few questions; being a Homeopath, neither did he prescribe tedious blood tests and antibiotics to subdue the virus;  just a tiny vial of medicine- two drops to be taken every two hours. I was fine the day after!

Depression and lack of enthusiasm is the other side of the story. Whatever glimmer of warmth or sunshine the day has to offer,  is over too soon. The days become an endless procession of chilled greyness. Melancholy tightens its grip- trying to squeeze out all joy and there are days when I fear it will win. Like the Last Leaf in the O Henry story, what sustained me last year was the sight of roses! The rose bush in front of my house, a hardy local variety, blooms every single day of the year- rain or shine. I do not pick flowers- cannot bring myself to do so- and am content to admire the blooms from afar. So pale pink roses it was, not only in December, but January and February too.

Autumn and then Winter following on its heels, both seemingly merged into one marching army of depressing days, varying only in the intensity of the biting cold,  are also a space for reflection. A time to face mortality and also a reminder that the Great Wheel is turning. A time to hold up a mirror to ourselves and to see how much, if at all, we have progressed.

I live one day at a time in winter; trying to be friends with my dark shadow self, feeling the absence of warmth and sunshine, yet fighting to stay above it.

The last days of sunshine

The last days of sunshine


5 thoughts on “The Great Wheel turns….

  1. A fascinating and very melancholy posting today. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a very real thing, you know. I grew up in Buffalo, New York (far from you), but the long cold and snowy winters and perpetually overcast winter skies led me to grow up believing that a degree of sadness was just part of winter. When I moved south years later, I was surprised to see blue skies for most of the season and found that my mood was much less melancholy. Still, your words lead to a poem:

    Only the pale pink roses blooming in the garden
    have the power to brush away the chilled grayness
    the army of depressing days struts past
    a leaf falls as I pull my woolen sweater close around me
    from this window I watch the passing of the days

    or (your choice)

    Only the pale pink roses
    Blooming in the garden
    Have the power to brush away
    The chilled grayness.

    The army of depressing days
    Struts past as the last leaf falls

    I pull my woolen sweater
    Close around me.
    From this window
    I watch the passing of the days.

    I hope it will bring a little light into your day to know that your writing and honest thoughts lead others to find the light and use it as it falls. All good wishes, Sylvia.

    ~ Mary

    • Thank you so much Mary, both for your thoughts and the beautiful poems. Till I experienced winter, even the non-snow ones we have in India, I thought it was a fun time, what with snowmen and sledges and log fires and Father Christmas. (I grew up on a lot of school stories by Enid Blyton and Elinor Brent-Dyer, you see.)

      Now I just long for the season to pass- By the way, the photograph was of view from my verandah. It was very sunny today.

      Thanks again for your kindness and hope you had a wonderful Halloween!

  2. Manoj KC says:

    Hi Sylvia, Enjoyed this post about winter… days without sunshine can infact be depressing. But for us in India, I have found winters to be better as summers are normally hot, dusty and generally filthy. Not to speak about summers in Kerala… Not sure how, but in winters the surroundings somehow appear to be cleaner. Till recently I used to travel very frequently to Delhi and being there in the peak of summer was a nightmare with all the dusty winds and pollution.. Agartala might be different but I suppose you would have enjoyed the winters in Gujarat 🙂

  3. Exactly the same age when I owned my first woollen sweater 🙂 Your post brings back memories of the years in the North. I am no fan of winter and prefer the monsoons in our home state any day. 🙂

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