Ode to winter

Published On: January 5, 2020 08:44 AM NPT By: Babu Ram Neupane

Winter deserves special recognition. It is nature’s best housekeeper. We have arrogantly belittled, berated and left it unsung unduly for so long now

Winter is the best custodian of the nature. It may seem to muck things up but it rarely sucks them up. It makes beautiful young lady joggers look like shabby decoys wrapped in multiple layers of apparels installed in front of a store of a stingy uniform business owner. Likewise, handsome young men joggers look like nondescript and rundown scarecrows erected in the farmers’ fields.

Winter is a weirdo in dealing with lovers. Thousands of fallen leaves laugh boisterously as the lovers rush to initiate the labor of love and dissipate the erotic energy preceded by amorous conversations. No creature in the vicinity remains aloof from the riotous actions of two souls that embrace, kiss, and lick each other.  The owls ogle, crows get curious, and passing colonies of ants adjust their antennae and are left wondering what could have turned the lips, tongues, cheeks, and necks of the lovers sweeter than the sugar (cane) to each other. 

In the meantime, winter days seem too short for a maiden date. In contrast, they feel too long for the picnicking lovers as they impatiently wait for the opportunity to converse and consummate their love with their sweethearts by slipping into some solitary corner of the woods. They look more stressed and less relaxed despite being tipsy upon realizing that even the dead leaves come alive to make crackling and rustling noises when they sense love in the air.  

Winter plays pranks with the crazy lovers who scribble their names along with their sweethearts’ on the barks of the trees and rocks with a plus sign between them. Winter may give the wrong impression of defacing and deforming those markings. But the spiky icicles hanging by the branches of the trees and the edges of the rocks help mystify and solidify the markings rather than erase them. 

Suffering and joy
Winter comes hard especially on the old people whose overriding concern is to remain warm during the frigid days and nights. Therefore, love gets more cerebral and less corporal to them. Age wrinkles, crinkles and folds their most vital paraphernalia loose from head to toe. What still stand tight and strong are the thoughts and imagination which bring vivid memories of the exciting adventures of the past. 

The bullet train of thoughts and imagination comes to a screeching halt when some wanton sparks fly and land onto the playground of procreation and recreation. Winter witnesses and chuckles at their hysterical agitation. A lightning speed of reaction takes place to curb the annihilation of the very foundation of human civilization. They retreat to the refuge of imagination again after swiftly averting the unexpected existential crisis. 

Many people in the countryside rightly believe that rui(cotton/clothes), dui (couple) and fui (fire) are the best alternatives to outsmart winter. That is why most of the eligible bachelors in the countryside get married in winter. From the collection of sal leaves to weaving of the leaf-plates to installation of the pavilion for the worship rituals to preparation of delicacies including kasar (hard sweet balls made of roasted rice grates) and rice bread get completed within a period of days as the relatives and immediate community members join hands for the same. They help solemnize a marriage between two electrified souls ready to take on the mighty winter.  

The students from the colder regions of Nepal making fires on school premises during the coldest winter days achieve dual goals: proximity with certain boys or girls and preferential treatment from the teachers. Most teachers receive the courtesy of occupying the coziest spots by the fire, which is often reciprocated with generous scoring during the grading of exams’ answer sheets. Most elected Nepali representatives from the hills and mountains even take cues from this trick to successfully land plum ministerial portfolios in the cabinet. 

When certain boys and girls come close to the fire to enjoy its warmth with a smile, it indicates that the door to their heart is ajar. It takes more calculated efforts to get them flung open. Anyway, the adolescent students’ huddle and jostle around the fire and produces a sweet smell of youth that suppresses the putrid and steaky smell of the fire. The aura and aroma of this exhilarating smell lifts their spirits unless the cane wielding grumpy headmaster/headmistress with a grim face orders them to disperse into their classrooms. 

Body change is a natural phenomenon during adolescence: development of breast on the girls and facial hair and pimples on the boys. The realization of being so close to each other causes a feeling of unease adequate enough to make them feel feverish and sweaty. Such occasions also arouse sensual desires and strong attraction toward the opposite sex. This fire of socialization is more preferable than the unsociable ‘phubbing’ (snubbing people for smartphone) mania rampant among the youths nowadays.

Nobody can escape winter’s ire. The high energy farmers also struggle with painful heel fissures or cracked heels despite frequently rubbing them against the sedimentary rocks with smooth surfaces by the creeks. The lentil and soybean threshers working all day long in the countryside barn get covered with the itching and malicious spicules (needle-like hairs) with severely limit prospects of having a good bath at the end of the hectic day when they return home.

What the lads do 
The highland lads and lasses expose their nose, forehead and cheeks no matter how hard they try to protect themselves from the winter chill. The lowland lads and lasses pedal their bicycles along the semi-graveled rural streets covering their head with shawls and mufflers enjoying the smell of fresh chyura (beaten rice) wafting in the air being produced in the nearest rice mills until the drive chain dislocates or a tire goes flat midway to destination. 

The lucky ones have pocket money to buy some mouth-watering samosas and finger-licking chutney at the sweetshop by the street. Moreover, having enough money to buy a couple (one for the special him/her) of balcony seat tickets at the town’s movie theatre to watch a superhit Hindi romantic celluloid is to live a dream life. One gets awakened in the middle of the dream when elopement is the theme in the reel story. Elopement is like eating a dead crow in real life. The intermission is a nightmare for those who are habituated to peeing by the gorges and terraces since their apparently overfilled urinary bladder refuses to release even a drop-through its canal in the overcrowded restroom. 

The early morning blowing of the siren at the local sugar mill awakens the morning shift college students still in bed while their English teachers prepare to teach lessons in phonetics, who pronounce the words ‘heart’ and ‘hurt’ exactly the same way. The correct pronunciation of the word ‘heart’ as ‘/hart/’ is alien to them. Most of them also believe the American linguists to be crazy for nixing U’s from ‘labour’, ‘colour’ and ‘behaviour’ to make them ‘labor’, ‘color’ and ‘behavior’.  

Winter plays a very proactive role of a reliable ally in the nature’s grand scheme of things. It puts most natural lives on a reset mode. At the sametime, it also delivers diamond-like dew drops to the pale pyauli (flax) flowers blossoming along the terraces in the countryside in Nepal. So does it to the pale, purple and pink pansy flowers adorning the sidewalks, driveways, parks, and gardens under the subfreezing temperatures in America. Flowers are the greatest levelers of happiness and joy that transcend political and geographical boundaries. 

Winter smiles through the pale pyaulis and pansies despite our hesitation to acknowledge it. Aren’t we pretending to not notice the acres of princely mustard flower estates beaming and hosting thousands of working bees and bumble bees?  Winter sings full-throated with these bees and bumble bees while tending to the sleeping flowers, plants, and birds that quietly plot to make a colorful and uproarious comeback again.

Winter is a shy gardener and a stealth lover of beauty. It supplies nourishment to the roots of flowers, plants, and bare trees through natural fertilizers in the form of snow, frost and ice. It meticulously broods over the brilliant orchids in the wild. Winter deserves special recognition and appreciation. It is nature’s best housekeeper. We have arrogantly belittled, berated and left it unsung unduly for so long now. 

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