As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy
- Emily Dickinson
Mumbai, they say, has only two seasons: Hot and Wet. True, except thanks to the messed up ecological balance, we do get some pleasantly cool weather now and then. Last winter was one such.
But cool or wet, the heat in Mumbai never goes away. It is always a couple of degrees away, biding its time, waiting to rear its sweaty head...
The departure of winter (and the arrival of summer) then, cannot be felt like it can be in the north, by the onslaught of heat. It is, as Dickinson says, imperceptible, and announces itself through small, innocuous signs.
The first one is the koel as he gets himself into a frenzy, singing to attract the female. He is at it all day long, all summer; the female koel is, well, a female, and makes him sing his heart out.
In older neighbourhoods that still boast of trees the Gulmohar begins to show signs of bursting into orange-red blossoms. The tree is also called Flame of the Forest, and here, in the city, the flame is a torch, lit to remind us of a world that needs saving from itself.
Elsewhere, in the by-lanes, older residents of the city search for a little patch of sun in the shadow of the infrastructure boom. They spread out old saris, frayed with age and made more translucent by the sun, on terraces and common balcony-verandas. Fresh rolled papads, pieces of raw mango, kokam and chillies stuffed with masala get spread on them. The saris are folded back to protect the goodies from crows and the ends are weighed down with stones. The infrastructure boom is a good thing; stones are easier to find these days.
But these signs are not evident to all; most of us realize summer is here when colas, sunblock creams and ACs start dominating ad breaks on TV. That, and the IPL.
A tangent, as usual: I typed this post on the phone. The word 'perfidy' isn't in its dictionary. Perfidy means betrayal, a deliberate breach of faith or trust. I was in college when I studied this poem and began using the word ‘perfidy’ in the context of love (and to show off my knowledge of ‘difficult’ words). I was wrong. Because the end or betrayal of love is not always dramatic or perceptible. Usually it just withers away, one petal at a time.