In northwestern India, like in many other places, spring is a season welcomed with joy and cheer. It has its unique characteristics in this part of the country, producing a few days of mild weather which soon turns into scorching heat before we know it. Aside from the ubiquitous blooming of flowers and the tiny new leaves on the old twin trees facing our house, it possesses distinctive symbols which herald its arrival.
First of all, it is marked by Vaisaakhi or the harvest festival, with the harvest of sugarcane starting two months prior to it in waning winter. This is the time of the year when the 'ganne waala' (literally, the sugarcaner, best described as the one who extracts sugarcane juice) arrives with his juice extracting machine, hearing whose whirring sound all our neighbours rush out of their homes and cry out to him to stop. He washes his utensils and inserts two long sugarcanes into its mouth, then doubles and reinserts them till a substantial quantity of juice is obtained. He arrives at the perfect time of the year, when the weather is pleasant and all seem content and good-humoured, their satisfaction augmented after ingesting a glass of sweet and refreshing sugarcane juice.
Next are the kites, which you may see being whacked into trees and plummeted through the blue sky by a handful of lucky children with ample time to spare. Whenever I happen to see one, I stroll lazily into the park determined to learn kite flying, but end up winding and loosening the spool of string or running after it and watching it slash and soar, finding ways to stray from my purpose. Year after year I return with renewed hopes of learning this art, however miserably I may have failed before.
The third is the presence of the jungle babblers, those noisy grey birds which scavenge for the bits of food we leave for them on the tin roof of our storage shed - cum - laundry. Whenever we sit outside to soak in some sun, we hear them scratching and pecking at crumbs, as well as their sharp, irregular chatter, which sounds quite like an animated discussion. Unlike the cuckoos and eagles immortalised in poetry, they are always present in groups, and delight in creating a racket. They fly in when winter is almost over, and are found in abundance till autumn. Though they do an impeccable job of distracting me from studies, they are nevertheless welcome.
Spring is a lovely season, though short-lived here, and gives us the much-neede respite from the chilly winters. It is always awaited eagerly, since we know that with its arrival, the summer vacations and days of endless savouring of freedom are not far behind.