There are three occasions in a calendar year that affect the human race in a profound manner. While the first fall of winter snow and the first drop of monsoon rain bring out the child in every adult, it is the breath taking beauty of sprouting foliage, the velvety turf and a myriad of colorful flowers that puts the spring (pun not intended) in one’s step and a song in one’s heart.

Spring is a siren that seduces all living things. Birds appear ‘recharged’ and their birdsong reaches new heights; insects seem to be buzzing a little louder as they go about their business and four footed creatures whether domesticated or wild, begin exhibiting a friskiness not seen at other times. This week’s column therefore, is dedicated to this wonderful season - a season that brings joy and lifts the spirit, no matter who and where one may be.

A large ‘maidaan’ behind our residence in Lahore was once home to hundreds of refugees, who had left their homes and hearths to undertake the hazardous trek to Pakistan in 1947. Many of them had lost loved ones on the way and arrived with only the clothes on their backs. Those of this lot with technical and commercial skills, soon began making enough to run their kitchens, but there were many who lived an existence worse than what anyone can imagine. Ali Muhammad was one such person, who had lost a wife and young child on his perilous journey to Lahore. He had been a middle class farmer before independence, in a village near Gurdaspur and possessed no qualification other than ‘a green thumb.’ Life for him was an infinite ‘sentence’ since it was often that he failed to find work and was forced to spend nights on an empty stomach. I came upon Ali’s one roomed ‘katcha’ home on a lovely Spring Day, while going to a nearby kiosk that sold fireworks - and stopped mid-stride. The facade of this humble abode was resplendent with flowering vines and plants that grew in discarded tin cans. I returned home and narrated the experience to my grandfather, who immediately accompanied me back to the spot and was amazed at what he saw. The very next day, he spoke to someone in Lawrence Gardens and Ali Muhammad happily found himself doing what he loved to do most – grow things and getting paid for it. I often revisit the incident and wonder that I might have simply passed by the house, had it not been a spring day in the Creator’s divine scheme of things, and had the house not been adorned by bright foliage and so many magnificent flowers.

Another effect that Spring has on me at a personal level is that it transforms the grouchiest of my acquaintances into charming personalities albeit for a few weeks. One close friend often visits me when his stress levels reach critical limit. This person also suffers from insomnia, but on arrival at my house lays himself down on the turf and immediately falls asleep. He claims that neither medicine nor sleeping potions could ever do what the aroma of freshly mowed grass, blooming petunias and the droning of bees does to him – such is the therapeutic value of the season.

The profusion of flowers in my garden attracts not only butterflies and moths, but bees of all shapes and sizes. It is however the bumble bees that reminds one of childhood tales featuring pixies and fairies astride their flying mounts. Islamabad is fortunate to have three types of these large members of the bee family – the matte blacks, blacks with a green metallic sheen and the flamboyant ones with bright orange and yellow bodies. I often place saucers containing sugar syrup in my verandah so that my grandchildren can watch these lovely creatures converge on the spot to feast on the sweet ‘offerings.’

Spring is also a time when birds go into courtship rituals, followed by a frenzy of nest building. It is then that the Lady Banksia Climbing Rose in my house often becomes home to families of Sun Birds and Yellow Fluted Bulbuls. We take special pains not to disturb these birds as they go about raising their young and in turn are always rewarded by their wonderful birdsong.

We reluctantly bid farewell to this lovely season as summer sets in, but our regret soon changes into anticipation for the child in us begins looking forward to the day when the rolling clouds will fill the sky from horizon to horizon and the first drop of rain will herald the advent of the magnificent monsoon.

   The writer is a historian.