From the start of the spring of this year till a fortnight into the present Assamese new year, I was a little bit apprehensive. And, my apprehension was created by the absence of the cuckoo or rather, the absence of its sweet, melodious and previously familiar voice this spring.
As the winter in this part of the world ends and spring sets in, one experiences light to medium drizzles and, a lushness of vegetation in the environs. This heralds the Assamese new year which is celebrated as ‘bihu’ by the people which is equivalent to the ‘baisakh’ in Punjab. The first month of the new year is named as bohaag which gives the name of the bihu as ‘bohaag bihu’. This changeover from winter to spring or, bohaag is chaterized by a Trinity-the blooming of the orchid (which is a native of Arunachal Pradesh), the koel and, the cuckoo. So, perception of any one of these three before the new year starts brings to the minds of any Assamese that bohaag has arrived. So during this year also, a week or a denary of days preceding the Assamese new year (bohaag), I witnessed the blooming of the orchid planted in my house. Some days later, I heard the shrill cries of the koel which established the impression that bohaag has arrived. But even then I felt a voidness in me as if the whole of the bohaag has not arrived this time. My such voidness was initiated by the fact that unlike all the bygone years, this time along with the koel and seeing the orchid, I haven’t heard the sweet, melodious voice of the cuckoo. ‘strange, isn’t it?’ i said to myself. ‘perhaps it has already come and even sang without my hearing it?’
So I waited for days when one day bohaag entered. Even then I didn’t hear the cuckoo which lengthened the voidness in me and created a fear in me which led me to think that the cuckoo has died and became extinct or, has changed its course (of migration) and will not be visiting us again. Two weeks into bohaag and I was sure that my apprehensions have come true: we will not be hearing the beautiful cries of the cuckoo again.
And so, as I was in this way busying myself in completing the little, household tasks which I have been carrying out from the start of the lockdown and also from time to time, trying to figure out what made the cuckoo extinct or, made give it up visiting our land and going elsewhere when, from remotely and subtly, I heard the euphonious sound of a bird crying, ‘cuckoo!’ ‘cuckoo!’ I felt as if I have jumped up from my work (metaphorically) when I heard that greatly missed but familiar voice (which I had been hearing from my childhood). Although it was faint and was coming from a-far, I knew that in a day or two, it will resonate in our locality also. And I was not to be let down this time! The next day, just before dawn, when the darkness of the night was beginning to fade and, a sort of tussle could be perceived by the looker-on between darkness and light, I heard clearly and firmly the sweet and melodious sound of a bird crying, ‘cuckoo!’ ‘cuckoo!'(signifying that he has arrived). And then I felt blessed and greatly relieved that nature and God hasn’t destroyed nor diverted this melodiously small bird from our part to another part of the world and for which I thanked God for this and also prayed to him to perpetuate the migration of this bird to our land till existences are possible on this earth.
‘cuckoo!’ ‘cuckoo!’ yes! The cuckoo is alive and, also singing.
P.S: this only means that the cuckoo was absent from our locality upto a radius from which its cries couldn’t be heard here.
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