On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring

Winter has well and truly left!


It is difficult to imagine sunshine, while one is in the gray depth of winter, but truly, everything passes. There were days when the sun had all but disappeared. The day would dawn, stilled and subdued somehow because of the fog, which would cloak the outdoors in white and deaden sound. The fog at Agartala is not the smog of cities, but just what it is supposed to be- a silent white presence, which also makes one appear to be  smoking, while in the innocent act of simply breathing out!


Then, sometime around mid February, a sudden shower- fleeting and brief, which nevertheless brought so many shrubs I had given up for dead, back to ebullient green glory.


The thick sweaters were discarded, tentatively at first, since there was still a chill in the air. (This act also gave people the benefit of appearing as if they have all lost weight miraculously!) Then suddenly enough, days of bright sunshine! Glory be!


I read about the legend of Marzanna, a Baltic and Slavic goddess, who is the goddess of death as well as winter. The effigy of Marzanna is made in the month of March and burned to celebrate the triumph of Springtime over Winter. Even though the winter which we have in India may not hold a candle to what that they did, I am wholeheartedly behind them in their effigy-burning enthusiasm!


(It is the parallels between such rituals in different world cultures that make me want to examine legends of Atlantis and other such myths which we generally dismiss as outlandish! Think about Holikadahan in India.)


And to imagine that I used to be one who gazed dreamily at the snow-covered landscapes in Christmas cards, which winged their way by Air-Mail from the UK in snow white envelopes (addressed to my father, from his youngest sister), with stamps showing a youthful Queen Elizabeth in profile! (the stamps used to have different colours based on their denominations). At least now I am very clear in my priorites- I enjoy viewing the misty lochs and glens of Scotland and the purple heather of Ireland- from the safety and comfort of my favorite chair in a warm corner of India.


It was around the last week of February in the early hours of a morning that I heard the call of the first cuckoo of the season. A rusty call, as if recovering from a bout of pharyngitis; questioning at first and hesitant. The cuckoo’s call is a great wakeup alarm; especially when the cuckoos gain confidence and the calls become louder and more strident. Unfortunately, sometimes their excessive enthusiasm (or hormones?) make them lose track of time altogether. I was woken up one night at exactly 1.30 am- disoriented and groggy- there was a whole concert going on outside!  Thankfully, they have now recalibrated their internal clock now, to – 4.30 am!!!!


More on night life in a future post !

Note: On hearing the first cuckoo in spring is a tone poem composed in 1912 by Fredrick Delius. It is considered as a perfect evocation of a spring morning in England.