Although, it was Winter, and I have been waddling around, in layers, a beanie on my head, a scarf around my neck; socks on my feet, and cotton plugged in my ears, my heart has been in ‘Spring’ mode since my older one returned home for the Christmas holidays. I feel paralysed and incapable of doing anything when I’m cold which is how I felt the entire winter in Dhaka; my head hurt as if the liquid inside (if there is any liquid within) had frozen and the solid form was occupying more space and was pushing hard against my skull. The cold has a way of creating aches and pains in parts of my body that I didn’t know existed. My children joke that I behave like I am older than their grandparents, but, I can’t help myself. So, when the sun came out on the 26th of January, which also happens to be the Republic Day of India, I was thrilled. I had registered for the celebrations at the Indian High Commission- an invitation to the High Commission is one of the privileges of being an expatriate in a country like Dhaka with a small population of Indians.A chill outside would have ruined my plans of going out.
26th January, The Republic Day of India
The Republic day is the day on which the Constitution of India came into effect replacing the Government of India Act of 1935 as the governing document of India, thus turning the nation into a republic separate from the British Raj. The occasion was marked by the flag hoisting ceremony at 9.00 a.m. followed by singing of the National anthem and the High Commissioner reading excerpts of the President’s speech. It ended with a group of singers singing patriotic songs. On the way out, we each were given a box of sweets and savouries.
The appearance of the sun on the 26th also marked the beginning of Spring or ‘Basant Panchami’ as it is called here and in some parts of India. It literally translates to the ‘Arrival of Spring’ and is celebrated as the harvest festival in many parts of India. Here, in Dhaka (as is done in East India), ‘Basant Panchami’ is celebrated at the Dhaka University with Saraswati puja (prayer to the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, music and art). We couldn’t go to the University as we were at the flag hoisting cermony. Hopefully, the two celebrations fall on different days, next year, allowing us to attend both.
Spring in our balcony
While the trees in the park were still shedding leaves as if it were autumn and not Spring, the season confirmed itself in the form of two blooming dahlias in our balacony. We had picked up the dahlia plants with no knowledge of the color of the flowers (the nursery owner did not seem to know either). So, on the 27th when the buds bloomed into two, beautiful crimson-red and white, dahlias, our hearts rejoiced for the magical change in seasons and the gift of nature. Basant Panchami also saw our first homegrown tomato, ready to be plucked.
The apartment we live in, came with soil pits in two of the balconies and a fish pond. We left the fish pond empty but we tried growing vegetables in one of the soil pits. We decided if we were successful, we would grow them in the other soil pit, too. Imagine our joy at the sight of red chillies, a tiny pumpkin and mint leaves – all grown by us. I’ve started having black tea ever since- I love plucking homegrown mint leaves to put into the tea. Elated with the results, we now plan to put some seeds in the second soil pit, too; we’re thinking of putting lady’s finger, brinjal and spinach. We’ll have to see how that pans out.
Other than our blooms which gave us immense happiness, the newly opened coffee shop in the park got us excited, too. It was a regular Friday morning when my older daughter and I headed to the park for a walk, when, at the gate we noticed a standee that said, ‘Open Now- North End Coffee’. We stopped on our tracks and squealed in delight, without realizing that one of the boys working in the newly opened coffee shop was just behind us.
The glass enclosure in front of the entrance gate which had been empty since we moved in, three months ago, now looked bright and colorful. It had opened only yesterday (I got to know from ‘Dhaka lifeline’, a WhatsApp group of Indian expatriates. But, more about that in another post). A coffee shop 300m from home in the neighborhood park calls for celebration- so, after our walk, we sat down to a cup of cappuccino (for me), a hazelnut latte( for the younger one) and a mocha (for the older one) and enjoyed every sip of it.
Something to look forward to
During our walk, we noticed work happening at another glass enclosure in the park. These glass structures had been covered in dust since we moved into the country. Seeing something happening in there got me hoping for a library or a book cafe or something of the sort there- the enclosure has glass racks and shelves all along the walls; I’m not sure what other store would require so many shelves. Having a book cafe so close by, would be a dream come true. I have my fingers crossed but if it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to let it dampen my spirits.
For now, I’m grateful for the opportunity to sit with a good book and a cup of coffee, in a park, so close to home. This feels like Spring, allright.
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