Winter is my favourite season. I am definitely biased! The woollens, snazzy colours, mittens, caps, hot steaming brews in layers of quilts, I love everything about it. Starting with foggy-misty days to red-nosed chill is simply adorable. Gastronomically speaking, every single chai-shack (tea stalls), dishing out the warm pohas (flattened rice snack dish) and daal-wadis or mangodas (fried lentil fritters), has to be visited and the snacks enjoyed with gusto!
Marching happily alongside this winter exuberance, one might experience a variety of cultural bonanzas Bhopal has to offer. The residents really look forward to the handicraft fairs, ‘utsavs’, theater fests, Lok rang, Bhopal Mela, Chrysanthemum and Rose shows. Food fests host famous cuisines from across India. You just name it and it is there!
Bhopal as the capital of Madhya Pradesh was nowhere on the mindscape of any one till the Gas Tragedy gave it a crushing blow. There were deaths and untold sufferings. Gradually, as the images of the catastrophe died down, this beauty of the city bloomed, raring to go! It is a city that bounced back after the grim tragedies of those forlorn years. In fact, the long sufferings purged its soul. It emerged stronger. We might liken it to a gorgeous woman of substance.
It was time to let go of bygones, revive past glories and embrace the city’s fantastic natural beauty. With the onset of winters, Bhopal is at its romantic best. Few days from now, in the month of February, you will find the gorgeous ramparts of Gauhar Mahal hosting the annual Potters Market. It’s hosted graciously by Sonia Rashid. Eminent ceramic artists come together giving Bhopal’s eclectic crowd a delightful insight into a potters’ world. Even with dipping mercury, folks go about with an air of anticipated happiness. Huddling together, clad in the warmest garb, with cold fingertips, people of Bhopal sit and cheer the artists visiting the various auditoriums at Bharat Bhavan, Ravindra Bhavan , Bhopal Haat, IGRMS (Indira Gandhi Manav Sangrahalaya), et al.
Basically it’s party time! The performances keep the audience enthralled. Soft husky renditions of Rekha Bharadwaj, the crooning of Indian Ocean, the heartthrob of many –Arijit Singh’s numbers sooth ones spirits to a perpetual high! It’s delicious and you get to lap it all! Indian classical dance forms or musical events are much awaited. They have been blessed to hold the audience and revel in it too.
This year’s Lok Rang is all about – ‘Nayika’, the Heroin. The aspects of beauty and beautification are celebrated. International performers as well as the local artisans and folk artistes put up some splendid shows, enthralling the audiences, from far and wide, for hours. The places are donned up with striking artwork and artifacts from all nook and corners of India. These venues come alive with stunning performances till the wee hours at night. The day transforms Ravindra Bhavan’s ground with stalls depicting the themes and wares of each entrepreneur. Sometimes, the surprise element is regional cuisines! Comforting warmth flows from sunshine and the smiles. That’s Bhopal to me!
I should not forget to take into account the Rose Show. Each year, for two days nature’s splendor is showcased in potted or planted stipulations. It is just mesmerizing. Everyone awaits this event eagerly. The colours and the hues just amaze and fill the hearts with joy and wonder. It’s spectacular to see the bees and butterflies buzzing about the buds and flowers. Children or adults seem to be under the spell of nature’s beauteous wonders. The sellers bring in fantastic hybrid varieties for the buyers thronging the narrow set up. Chana-jor-garam (dry roasted gram) or the warm roasted peanuts are hot favourites. The photographers go crazy trying to get that one neat shot!
With the first nip in air, winter extends its arms lovingly to bone chilling cold, Bhopalis gear up with picnic baskets and durries (mats); laden with goodies. They look like jammed pickles to me at times! Unmindfully stopping over wherever they wish to. It is a grand time out with grandparents in tow, making the most of vacation days. It’s a common sight to see the parks and picnic-spots dotted with over laden jeeps and cars jam packed with families and friends, stuffed with utensils too! No jarring music can cloak the peals of laughter and the zest of life and living coming from these smiling happy bunches!
Pic and Text by author