By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
The month of June has never been kind to the people of this region. It initiates summer and the rainy season. I think in the previous years it was not as malevolent as we find it this year. The sun god seems to have conspired with June to make human life a hell on earth, at least in this region. The blazing rays of the sun have scorched not only human beings, but animals and plants as well. It is true that in this concrete city of ours we do not see many animals or birds or trees. Gone are the days when colourful birds and trees laden with fruits and flowers had gladdened our hearts. Now we see only some stray street dogs or cats roaming around and some crows and some pigeons occasiolly. The trees look morose without their rich foliage. There are only a few trees scattered here and there. They too are suffering due to intense heat. The dusty and drooping leaves of the trees are a depressing sight.
We are suffering terribly due to intense heat. From the early dawn to late night there is no respite for the suffering multitude. The children too are suffering a lot. It is sad to see the young students trudging along the road with heavy school bags on their backs. Their stiff and starched school uniforms possibly make them very uncomfortable. The month of June is very cruel to them. They not only suffer from scorching heat and mosquito bites, but they also have to sit for the unit tests and half-yearly examitions held in the schools. Hence they eagerly wait for the month of July, when they will enjoy the long summer vacation. I wonder why June is so terribly hot this year. Possibly it is due to global warming about which we hear so much. Yet we have not noticed any perceptible effort on the part of the government or the social organizations to improve the environmental situation. Indiscrimite felling of trees have worsened the situation.
To add to the woes of the suffering people our all-powerful electricity department has been playing hide and seek at any time and for as long as they please. We do understand that there might be shortage of power and they may be helpless. But I feel that there should be scheduled hours of load-shedding and it should be notified, so that the consumers can make suitable arrangement to cope with the powerless hours. But they do not get previous intimation and are often caught uware. It creates lots of problems for the common people. Perhaps you are holding a birthday party, or entertaining friends with tea and scks or perhaps baking a cake-and suddenly lights go off without any warning. This happens due to unscheduled load-shedding. Imagine such a situation. What would you do in such a predicament? Actually it is not imagition, but stark unpleasant reality. All of us are facing such unpleasant problems every day. At any time the power may go off night or day. But the electricity department does not seem to be the least concerned about the problems faced by the consumers.
Hence you cannot even celebrate a birthday party without hiring a generator. Most people who can afford to do so are already well-equipped with inverters or generator sets. They have air conditioners and everything they need to cope with the intense heat. But all are not so lucky. They have to keep stacks of candles to mage during dark hours. So when the electricity is suddenly disconnected in the evening when you are entertaining some body or cooking, you have to grope in pitch darkness for candles and matches, risking your neck in the bargain. But the department of power is sublimely indifferent to the problems faced by the consumers.
The sweltering heat of June has made human life a terrible misery. Because of the incessant load-shedding the rich people have installed inverters or generators to beat the heat. But all are not so fortute to bear the expense of inverters or generators. The agony of the middle class in indescribable. But who cares for them? Apparently nobody, at least not the power that be. I may be wrong, but I hear that there is no load-shedding in certain VIP areas and that there is no water scarcity as well. I know that it is no use grudging the good fortune of the privileged class. Perhaps they are the God's chosen ones and hence are lucky people. We should not be jealous of them as jealousy is an ignoble feeling and it should certainly be suppressed. Our grumblings at the injustice meted out to the common people are merely confined to a gathering of friends and not extended beyond that. At least by sharing our woes we feel a little bit better and problems get lighter when they are shared with others.
In this oppressive weather we need plenty of water to soothe body and mind. Now water is a precious gift of God, which is essential for living entities. The animals and birds get it free as they use the water for bathing or drinking in any available place without bothering about its purity. Water is a free gift of God, but humans have to pay tax for it. I believe that God created water, air etc along with the earth for the benefit of all living entities. But now it has become a government property and for the use of water we have to pay handsomely. It is not that we do not want to pay tax for water. We do it most willingly. But unfortutely even after paying for it, the citizens do not get sufficient water for their daily needs. In this sultry weather when our homes have turned into ovens, we get very little water. There is nothing so frustrating as turning on the tap only to find that there is not even a trickle of water to gladden your mind. In such a situation our sufferings become acute. Water we must have-but how?
It is strange that the citizens are deprived of water despite the fact that the mighty river Brahmaputra has been flowing right through the heart of the city since time immemorial. There is no supply of water at all in certain areas of the city. People living in these areas have made their own arrangement for getting water. Some have installed tube well and some purchase the precious liquid from some private firms. These establishments make huge profit by providing water to the needy, and we are really grateful to them. At least they have provided the life-saving liquid to the residents of the city-though at an enormous cost.
But as it always happens, there is some good even in the worst situation, in the same way, the scorching heat of summer also has brought some good to some people. What is pain to some is pleasure to others. The ice cream and cold-drink sellers are having a very exciting time and are collecting money by the sackful. The buyers throng these places for a cool drink or for an ice cream. The street vendors selling green coconut milky juice are also having a wonderful time. They are making huge profit, which is demonstrated by the heaps of coconut shells dumped by the road side. Some people find coconut juice very soothing and pleasant. Of course some people like myself prefer a glass of ice-cold water with a few drops of lemon juice in it. In this hot weather we do need water in some form or other.
In some areas handmade fans have made their appearance. Once they were indispensable in the summer season, that is, before the advent of electric fans. Then they lost their importance, since most people have electricity in their homes. turally the handmade fans were not needed any more. But now due to frequent bouts of load-shedding people are again being attracted to these handmade fans. We can see some vendors sitting with beautifully designed colourful handmade fans, in some areas. It does seem that they have again maged to get their due recognition. We must not forget that once people depended on these handmade fans during summer months to cool their bodies when there was no electricity. But they lost their importance and popularity when electricity appeared on the scene. Now due to excessive load-shedding the people are once more turning towards these handmade fans, thereby giving a big boost to our cottage industry. Our department of power certainly deserves credit for that.
Summer is always malevolent to the people of this region and hence it is not at all welcome to us. In the western countries it is a different matter. They have long icy weather with frequent snow falls in the winter season. Their summer is mild and they wait eagerly for the brief summer when they can go for holidays in the beach or elsewhere to have some wonderful time. Summer is the season for them for partying, dancing, picnicking and all sorts of hilarity. So in the west summer brings a bonza of fun and hilarity, while for us it brings nothing but misery. Hence for us the situation is entirely different. Here winter comes only for a brief period and summer with its intensive heat seems to be unending. This year I think that summer has been intensely venomous. I have experienced many summers in my reasobly long life and every year people go through the same agony. That is why rains are very welcome in the summer season, which cool the earth and soothe the perspiring residents. We have been experiencing heavy showers frequently, but the heat has not been lessened at all. Still we do hope that rains will continue their good work.
Usually rains do come each summer like a fairy god mother to act as a palliative to the sweating multitude. Rains are very necessary, yet the scorching heat of summer has continued as before. Somebody remarked the other day that heat is so intense due to global warming. It is a fact that the whole world is now worried about the dangerous consequences of global warming, which might lead to the extinction of earth as well as humanity.
It is also true that rains do bring innumerable problems to the people. They are not unmitigated blessings for all the people. One heavy shower is more than enough to drown this dear city of ours. The city looks like a river during the rainy season. The residents in the low-lying areas go through immense hardships due to artificial flood. They have mastered the art of living in the midst of water. When the situation becomes intolerable they shift to some other place for a temporary period. You have to wade through knee-deep water to reach your destition. Vehicles get stuck on the submerged muddy roads, but help is always close at hand. Little urchins wait for such an eventuality. They push the vehicles to a safer place-for a heavy price of course. By why not? They deserve the money for their hard work. The drivers of various vehicles also know that they have to loosen their purse string at such times. If the little boys had not pushed the car they would have been stuck for hours together. So since they have saved the car and the people inside from their predicament they deserve their reward. They should be paid handsomely for their help. Hence we are undecided about the rains. For some they may be blessings, but for others they may be a curse. Whatever that may be, we can only hope and pray that the sun will take pity on the suffering humanity and the sun's rays will be milder.
The heat is not the only problem of summer. In this season you do not get many attractive vegetables which you may like and which are necessary for making delicious dishes. You have to be content with unexciting and uttractive things like gourds, brinjols, squash and some limp leafy vegetables and of course the ever present potato. The summer vegetables are not at all tempting-especially to children, who invariably demand varieties of tasty dishes. But that does not mean that you get these vegetables at a fairly low price. The cost of everything is daunting. For the housewives they are causing real problems. They have to use all their ingenuity and skill to make tempting dishes for the family with all these uttractive vegetables.
Summer fruits are available in the market. I suppose that mango is the most delicious gift of summer and they are loved by the young and old alike. But the price is prohibitive. They have been imported from diverse states. I think that mangoes from Bihar and Maldah are most popular. The mangoes are grown in our state as well. You can see some mango trees in various homes, where some space is available for growing mango trees. But they are not favoured by the residents, since they are full of small insects. I wonder why it happens. Is it due to some deficiency in the soil? Among the summer fruits you also get jackfruits, lichies and plums. Some people love the soft and sweet pulp of the jackfruit, though its outward appearance is rough and crusty. Bas are grown in most of the homes and they are always available. Once these fruits and vegetables were grown in one's own orchard, as there were plenty of open space. Black berries, coconuts, bas, guavas, mangoes, jackfruits, papayas and various other fruits were available at each home. Children had a lovely time pottering around and plucking whatever fruits they fancied. Those orchards were a delight to weary eyes. People did not have to go to the market to buy fruits and vegetables, as there were more than enough at home for them. Along with the fruits one could see butterflies and different species of colourful birds hopping around. Bright colourful flowers in the front garden bewitched everyone who saw them.
In the early dawn multitude of birds of various colours gladdened the heart of everybody with their gay chirping. In the evenings glow-worms flew around like so many little stars. But now there is not such joyous atmosphere. I feel sad when my mind goes years back to my spacious home at my tive town Jorhat, where all those delightful creations of God could be seen. What a lot of attractive things today's children have missed!
There is no vacant space to be found anywhere. There is no garden where the children can play and breathe fresh air. They do not see any home-grown fruits or vegetable. They live cooped up in their flats and do not get any fresh air. They do not get sufficient space to play with their friends. Countless number of multi-storied buildings have altered the framework of the city. These hideous buildings have obliterated the tural beauty of the city. I feel nostalgic when I remember those early days, when sprawling compounds of various homes were chock-s-block with fruit trees, vegetables and flowers. There were birds, butterflies and all sorts of delightful entities. How peaceful and happy those days were! The children of that era played happily in the open space and turally they were sturdy and boisterous with rosy cheeks, while today's children look bored and jaded. They sit with their laptops or watch TV serials to while away the time. What else the poor things could do?
In those days, possibly because of the open space and all those trees all around the summer did not seem to be so oppressive. The absence of trees may have made the hot days much hotter. Today there is nothing for us to see except all these RCC monstrosities, malls and bars. May be they are the symbols of our so-called progress. The blazing sun has done everything possible to make human life a misery. Yet it is the law of ture and none can escape from it. What cannot be avoided must be endured and that is what we are doing. Man has done enough damage to the earth with his reckless assault on ture. He has disposed what God proposed. Let us then try to undo the damage we have done. We can only pray to God to forgive us for our wanton destruction of his wonderful creation. We do hope that sun will take pity on us. We still have a long way to go, as summer has just started and it would remain for several months. I suppose we can find lots of good things even in the worst situation. Let us try to count the blessings of summer, dear reader. A happy summer to you.