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by Tajnim Imami

Shrouded in mist and sprinkled with drops of dews, winter prowls quietly into the ether. The dense fog of the dawn gives way to sun kissed mornings as the vapour rising from warm, fluffy pithas dance into our breakfast menu. After a seemingly never ending summer and a tumultuous monsoon, winter approaches as a welcoming respite from the scorching heat of this tropical country.
Being cocooned in soft layers of cotton and fur and reading a book or spending priceless moments with loved ones can spark a little fire of warmth in one’s soul in the days of winter. However, as appealing as cozying up at home may sound, winter is the season of exploration in Bangladesh. Beaches, mountains and forests beckon the wild spirits of those who embrace the chill in the air and step out of their habitat to see the new and the beautiful. Rangamati, Chittagong, Bandarban, Cox’s Bazar and Sylhet are the superstars of tourism. However, for those pining for home, an escape to the countryside anywhere across Bangladesh can be as gorgeous to witness and savor in winter.

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The bounty of Hemonto brings new harvest spreading the joy of Nobanno Utshob as the fragrance of the new crops of rice emanates through the air of the countryside. The festivity of collecting and preparing the new harvest of Nobanno may simmer down by the time winter arrives, but the scent of atap chaal reigns supreme as every household make their own arrangements for pithas and other winter gastronomical delights. Steeped with the goodness of molasses, coconut and other delectable elements, the pristine white rice grounds are cooked and baked in oil or steam to be transformed into fantastic winter delicacy. Bhapa, puli, pua, chitoi, nokshi, patishapta and many more grace our plates in wintry mornings and evenings as crowds huddle around the comfort of fire of earthen stoves in villages or kerosene stoves by the road on pitha vans in cities. Ducks make for another delicacy of the season as they flock about the paddy fields to graze on the new harvest and their flesh become especially flavorful from the diet.

The sight of a little pitcher tied to the trunk of date palms is a the quintessential picture of wintry joy. The syrup extracted from the tree is then heated with the anticipation of making fresh nali gur. Also used as the congealed form known as patali gur, khejurer gur is the ubiquitous companion of the scrumptious winter pithas.

5421027676_06089ce45f_bTrees may shed leaves and the weather may seem harsh to the tenderness of our skin, but on this side of the world, winter brings its own marvelous treasury of flowers and vegetables. The floral fortune of the season is as colorful as they are fragrant. The heady scent of roses waft through the curtain of mist in the morning as gadas blossom with all the ferocity of the golden sun. Dahlias bloom in vivid shades of red, yellow, magenta, lilac, blush pink and more delicately swaying atop their tall, strong stems. With petals like intricate lattice work tightly knit in a ball or large flared out fans, dahlias are the glamorous divas of a winter garden. Chrysanthemums or chandramallika are another floral beauty of the season that add to the sensual drama of the season.
The beauty of winter stretches from the visual to the palatable with some of the freshest, most delicious vegetables grown during the season. Just as barns come to overflow with new harvest of rice, bazars become a riot of color and texture with hidden promises of taste and nutrition. Baskets brim with an abundance of cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, bean, broccoli, tomato, capsicum, spinach, radish potato etc. The joy of picking out fresh veggies at a bazar or better yet from a garden during the early hours of the day is one of the most earthly and satisfying perks of the season.

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The flocking of migratory birds create perhaps one of the most breathtaking scenery of the season. Crossing thousands of miles, these birds make their escape from the unforgiving winters of places like Siberia, Mongolia, and the Tibetan plateau to choose Bangladesh as their home for winter. Jahangirnagar University, Hakaluki Haor, Baikka Beels, Tangoar  Haor, Nijhum Dwip, Chitagong Hill Tracts, Mirpur Zoo and many other areas throng with the vibrant colors and whistles of these gorgeous fowls, endearingly named otithi pakhi. Shorali, khanjana, patarihash, patitara, goyar, dhupani, lalmuri, sindhu eagle, batul, shamukkhol, khopaduburi are just a few of the participants of the marvellous migratory horde. pitha-8wb
Winter can be as cruel as it is beautiful. The smell of timber spreading through the night air announces the battle against the biting cold that many endure living out on the streets. The countless winter clothing drives across the country cannot stop the casualty suffered during the season. Fog is another element of winter that adds to the mortality rate as drivers are often unable to see and sense danger on the road. The mass of otithi pakhi, suffer from the scarcity of food and wetlands along with the threat of poaching as they dwindle in number. Despite the attempts made by the government to raise awareness regarding the protection of these birds to strengthen our eco system, very little has changed.
20170105_0753201Winter is the mercurial enchantress of the seasons in this country. From delivering the soft, sweet smiles of the sun upon earth during the day, her mood changes into a merciless onslaught of freezing cold that leaves nature shivering through the darkness of the night. Her vegetal wealth, cool breath and soft muslin veil of mist enthrall us nonetheless.

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