Reminiscing in the Delhi winters

Written by  //  December 29, 2011  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  Comments Off

It’s been close to two years since I have shifted to Delhi and once again it’s winter time. With every passing day, it seems to be getting a couple of degrees colder and the late nights and early mornings, a shade foggier. Bombay now, feels a thing of the past and Bangalore is all but memories of an old dream. If I have to choose one reason why I prefer living in Delhi over Bombay, I would say it’s because of the Delhi winters. The other day, while re-reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, I could clearly recall when I read it for the first time in the heat of June 2007 in Delhi. That time the description of snow covered roads of Kars and Ka bracing against the merciless winter provided a very comforting diversion from the thrashing rendered by the sun during the day. Reading it now at the peak of Delhi winters, I could feel the chill in the bones that Ka must have felt when he walked on the deserted streets at night.

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Living in Delhi for a year is like living in two if not three different cities. The huge trees at Humayun’s tomb and Lodhi Gardens which provided much needed cover from the summer sun like an eager host welcoming one with his arms wide spread, now seem to be wrapping around themselves to survive the cold; seeking to be left in their solitude like an old man shunning one and all. A pleasant evening ride in an auto through the wide green roads of Lutyens Delhi becomes a difficult ask. Enjoyable still; but only with adequate precautions of covering one’s neck and ears. In Bombay, it was difficult to tell April from November and the only indicator of the seasons was whether the rains had just passed or were just around the corner. For some, this steady weather of Bombay provides a comfort, for me it was like being stuck in the same place for eternity. With no apparent change in surroundings, there was no way of telling the passage of time and every month felt exactly like the one before it. Not so in Delhi. It’s easy to remember what you were doing last winter and then in the subsequent summer. The oscillation between the harsh extremes of weather makes it easier to chart out the mundane occurrences of everyday life. Rum and coke get replaced with rum and warm water; blowers replace air conditioners and the hyperactivity of summers is replaced by the lethargy of winters. The last week of December with Christmas and New Year’s acquires a significance which one completely misses out on in Bombay. The plastic Christmas trees and cotton snow flakes seem quite real, so do the festivities even if they are as artificial as the pyramids in Vegas. Well, that’s the point I guess. Your imagination is the only thing holding you back. It’s a delight to duck into a quilt and enjoy Home Alone, Eternal Sunshine… and Love Actually and remembering the slight hint of winters that was felt in Bangalore when one watched these movies for the first time.

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Sunday afternoons, which at the peak of summers, were times spent hiding in one place or the other are now reclaimed with a vengeance. The festivities of Connaught Place or Lajpat Nagar market on a Sunday afternoon replace the killing of time in the air conditioned environs of the Saket malls. But if the Sunday afternoons are reclaimed, the late nights in Khan Market and Hauz Khas are sacrificed. Their narrow lanes wear a deserted look much earlier than you would expect and even the people you see are cocooned in multiple layers of clothing. Sparingly however, you would spot the adventurous and the newly young in clothes that seem to be daring the weather gods. Walking on such foggy and chilly nights does have a charm of its own and even though you long for warmer nights, you are thankful for the shimmering sensation on your face and neck which keeps you buoyant and optimistic about the rest of the evening. The first signs of winters make one take out the woolens, jackets and blazers in Delhi, all of which either do not exist in a Bombay wardrobe or even if one had acquired them in the past, are consigned to a fate of rotting away in the bottom shelves. The ‘soon to be horizontally challenged’, get a couple of months to blame the tell tale signs on the clothes rather than the consumption of copious amounts of not so healthy stuff. For those earning a living at corporate offices, the onset of winter in Delhi is a welcome change. It becomes acceptable to come in a little later than usual; after all everyone can identify with the difficulty of waking up early in the morning. With the sun setting down at six, no one can raise eyebrows if you are leaving at seven. It is pitch dark and everyone wants to get back home as soon a possible before the dense fog settles in.

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The fog itself is a big menace for those who have to drive long stretches or have the misfortune of taking flights. But if you do not fall in one of those categories, it’s not hard to appreciate the mystical beauty that comes with a setting of dense fog. The roads become surreal like the sets in one of the film studios of Bombay. Memories of all the old Sherlock Holmes stories and thrillers set in London come rushing at once to your mind. Every nook and corner becomes interesting and every stranger walking out of the fog can be a character out of some mystery story. You acquire a better taste for horror movies in winters and also for those quintessential Indian momos and tomato soup. Breakfasts extend into lunches, lunches into dinners and it’s never too early in the day to order a drink. I love the Delhi winters.

About the Author

Grew up in Jaipur, graduated from National Law School, Bangalore. Works with a corporate law firm to pay for books and movie tickets. Idolises Tony Stark and emulates Dogbert. Till he conquers the world, he blogs here (also): www.littlegoldfishes.blogspot.com

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