Hindustani Awaaz – Those Days of Gulabi Jaade

The debilitating smog that chokes much of India in its deadly grip has put paid to any talk of gulabi jaada.

4 min read
Hindi Female

The way light fell, the angle of the sun’s rays, the slight nip in the air, the strong, unmistakable scent of the saptaparni flowers and the tremulous beauty of the haar-singhar that would be found scattered on the dew-hardened ground, the call of the dhunna as he went home to home carding old cotton wool to be filled in new covers, the early Nagpur oranges and crunchy water chestnuts (singharas) – these were the signs of the onset of winter as days got shorter and nights steadily longer.

For most of us in upper India, till not so long ago, late October and early November were the most pleasurable days – called gulabi jaada (literally meaning ‘pink winter’) – these were the days of mellow sunshine, blue skies, gentle breezes, and golden afternoons.


They seem like a distant memory now; soon they will become an urban legend relegated to the same status as qissa-kahanis of kings and queens and fairies and elves.

The terrible debilitating smog that chokes much of North India in its deadly grip has put paid to any talk of gulabi jaada. The mai ki lazzat gulabi jaadon ki (the wine-like intoxication of the pink winters) that Urdu poet Muztar Khairabadi alluded to, will be reduced to mere nostalgia. Will there be another Ishrat Afreen to write:

Yuunhi kisi ke dhyaan mein apne aap mein gaati dopahrein

Narm gulaabii jaadon wali baal sukhaati dopahrein

(Afternoons that hum to themselves as they sit lost in someone’s thoughts

Afternoons that dry their hair in the soft pink winter sunlight)

Or a Gulzar who will paint these word pictures:

Dil dhoondhta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din

Jaadon ki narm dhoop aur aangan mein leit kar

Aankhon pe kheenchkar tere aanchal ke saaye ko

Aundhe padey rahe kabhi karwat liye huwey

(The heart searches again for those days of leisure

The soft winter sunlight as we lay in the courtyard

With the end of your aanchal pulled over our eyes

And lay face down and sometimes on our side)


We will have to go back in the pages of history to find a Nazeer Akbarabadi, the people’s poet from 18th-century Agra, who virtually wrote on every aspect of everyday life and also waxed eloquent on the pleasures of winter: the months of aghan (corresponding with November-December) giving way to puus (corresponding with December-January), the days that run at a trot to welcome the long nights when teeth chatter with the cold, and the damp chill of winter rains (called mahavat) that leads to a ‘cold wave’:

Jab maah aghan ka dhalta ho tab dekh baharein jaadey ki

Aur hans hans puus sambhalta ho tab dekh baharein jaadey ki

(When the month of aghan wanes witness the joys of winter

And the month of puus laughs and takes its place see the joys of winter)

Nazeer Banarsi alludes to the sun that was once the only source for warmth for the poor who were otherwise destined to shiver through the winter cold when he writes:

‘Seink detaa thaa jo jaade mein gariibon ke badan’,

(The sun that used to heat the body of the poor,

The sun that now goes to hide behind a pall of smog and gloom.)

Shakeeb Ayaaz evokes those days of early winter when the sunshine was once mellow and warm and inviting:

Naye jade ki kachchi dhuup tanhaa

Mire ghar mein pasar kar so rahii hai

(The solitary sunshine of early winter

Is spread-eagled in my home fast asleep)


Cosy Days of Winter

In his nazm 'Yeh Jaade ke Din', Ameer Ahmad Khusro listed out almost all those things that we once associated with winter: sweaters, shawls (doshala), knitting, portable coal braziers called angeethi, the light razais for early winters and the thick quilts called lihaaf for the long cold nights, the coarse woolen blankets called kambal (often bought from local weavers or from Khadhi Gram Udyog outlets), and the hankering for piping hot meals:

Ye jaadey ke din aur ye jadon ki raatein

Lihaaf aur sutar ki har ghar mein baatein

(These days and nights of winter

This talk of quilts and sweaters in every home)

Then there were large numbers of verses on the intimacy of snuggling beneath warm quilts in cold winter nights such as this sher by Insha Allah Khan:

Jaade mein kyaa maza ho woh to simat rahe hon

Aur khol kar razaai hum bhi lipat rahe hon

(It’d be such fun in winter if she were to be shrinking

And pulling back the quilt I too would be snuggling)

Or this by Jan Nisar Akhtar, again with the play on gulabi but used here for the seductive allure of winter nights:

Kum nahiin nashe mein jaade ki gulaabi raatein

Aur agar teri jawaani bhi milaa di jaae

(The rosy nights of winter are no less in their intoxication

If only your youthfulness too is added to them)


Given the steady degradation of nature, the havoc created by global warming, the desecration of the seasons created by our short-sighted greed, the spring that we have angered and driven away from our gardens, one is reminded of Faiz Ahmad Faiz who wrote:

Ravish-ravish hai vahi intizar ka mausam

Nahin hai koi bhi mausam bahar ka mausam

(Everywhere there is only the season of waiting

Nowhere is there any season that’s the season of spring)

Balbir Rathi may well have been speaking metaphorically, but every word rings true for the Delhi we live in:

Phir fiza mein koi zahrila dhuan bhar jayega

Phir kisi din apne andar kuchh na kuchh mar jayega

(Once again a toxic smoke will spread in the air

One again someday something will die inside us)

Come November, this sher by Fahmi Badayuni says it all:

Phir main zahrile kar-ḳhānon mein

Zinda rahne ka kaam karne laga

(Once again, in these poisonous factories

I have begun to work at staying alive)

(Dr Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and literary historian. She writes on literature, culture and society. She runs Hindustani Awaaz, an organisation devoted to the popularisation of Urdu literature. She tweets at @RakhshandaJalil.)

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Delhi weather   Poems   Climate 

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