The Dawn: May 20, 2016

Punjab Notes: Summer: content and discontent

Mushtaq Soofi 



Humans are an ungrateful lot. They are generally never happy with the things the way they are. The problem with the things is that never remain the same. They change and change constantly.

The change, an inevitable element of process of life, is nowhere more visible than in the cycles of seasons that force all the living beings to adapt to the changed environs.

Of all the creatures humans are the ones who crib and cringe most while trying to cope with the seasonal changes. Food, sex and weather are the topics humans discuss and debate most gleefully or painfully all over the world.

Weather is something that is always there to stare you in the face. It affects just not your body, your physical being but also your mood and behaviour.


If it is pleasant, it becomes a natural source of cheerfulness enabling you to do more what you intend to do. So weather affects you on two distinct levels; psycho-physical and socio-material. It can make you happy or unhappy psycho-physically.

It has the power to enhance or reduce your productive capacity socio-materially.

Heat and cold, dryness and moisture are the marked features of seasons which remain what they are in their nature but are taken differently by humans and other living creatures in different regions of the world.

How weather is taken by the living depends to a large measure on how extreme it actually is. In fact it’s not weather but its severity that can trouble and torment us.

In the colder regions, it’s extremely low temperatures that make the world a frozen hell. Weather gives poets similes and metaphors. “Youth like summer morn, age like winter” rings true in European context. In the hotter regions, it’s unusually high temperatures that make them infernal.

Winter for Europeans means cold fire and summer signals time of joy. And it’s other way around for us who have to suffer the searing hot for seven or eight months in a year. “…And after summer evermore succeeds barren winter with his wrathful nipping cold/so cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet”, says Shakespeare. “… winter tames man, woman and beast” in the West and summer ‘lames’ man woman and beast in South Asia.

Extreme weather conditions continue to vex and inspire poets and people alike in the subcontinent. Kalidasa, the most celebrated poet and playwright of classical Sanskrit, wrote a poem” Ritusamhara” on seasons.

The poem contains six cantos depicting six Indian seasons: Vasanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharat (autumn), Hemanta (cool), and Shishira (winter).

Seasonal changes are described from the perspective of lovers. The poem composed by Kalidasa in his early age is highly erotic.

In modern Punjabi language Baba Guru Nanak was the first to compose poem on seasons called “Baran Mah” (twelve months). He deals just not with the six seasons Kalidasa mentioned in his poem but describes the keenly observed imperceptible changes each month brings.

He created a whole new dimension by exploring the psycho-spiritual stirrings caused by changes in season. This genre of “Baran Mah” became so popular with the passage of time that some of the major poets, including Baba Bulleh Shah, employed it for expressing their poetic experiences ranging from season-triggered physical comfort and discomfort to erotic love to spiritual elation.

Summer is here. Days are long, so long that we have light for more than fourteen hours which can blind your eyes at noon if they are not shielded by sun glasses.

With the introduction of modern technology rich households and high end markets and offices have got air-conditioned. But bulks of people have to work either in open air and non-air conditioned boxes where they constantly struggle to survive threatened by shadows of suffocation and dehydration.

This summer with all its torments has been there for thousands of years. Upside of the phenomenon is that it is summer that gives a major crop, wheat, in addition to a large variety of vegetables and fruits in this part of the world.

We not only survived the rigours of summer heat but built highly sophisticated urban civilization in this part of the world. The situation in recent times has been exacerbated by the unbridled intrusion of modern ways of life i.e., vehicular traffic, pollution, high-rises, toxic waste, excessive consumption and gradual elimination of forests, lakes and wetlands.

We ought to learn to combine tradition and modernity in order to make summer bearable if not a time of joy. We need to develop a natural defence mechanism like our forebears to fight the harsh summer heat by exposing our bodies to it morning, noon and evening albeit with our guards put up.

We must also learn to protect our micro as well as macro environments by resisting undue induction and use of technology. The underlying assumption of constructed capitalist world must not be allowed to go unchallenged that we can afford to have infinite consumption.

We cannot have infinite consumption in the finite world we have. The loopy idea of unlimited exploitation of natural resources can turn our planet into a wasteland. Our peasant proves to be the wisest when it comes to the changing moods of the weather.

Can’t we plan a reprise of peasant’s role? He always discovers something productive in weather regardless of the fact whether it is searing heat or freezing cold, life-giving spring or devastating rains. He sees it an opportunity to grow something that helps sustains life in its diverse forms. —

Back to Mushtaq Soofi's  Page

Back to Column's Page