The period between Christmas and the middle of January marks the peak of winter in the northern parts of India, which is where I had spent all my life prior to coming to Mumbai. The cold is bone-chilling and a hot cup of tea is never more welcome than in those days. Thick quilts and blankets adorn every bed (not!). Wardrobes overflow with all kinds of woollens.
Children happily consume copious amounts of chyawanprash,–apart from oranges, peanuts and sesame ‘chikki’– and fight for the best spot in front of the convection heater while they play Chinese checkers and Scrabble endlessly, making full use of their winter vacations.
The sabzi mandi is a riot of colours–greens, reds, yellows and purples. Everyone develops a ravenous appetite. Parathas are devoured in record time. Spicy hot curries are lapped up. Gajar ka halwa is the dessert of choice. The joys of baking are rediscovered in many a home.
‘Yesterday it was colder here than in Delhi !’ people declare triumphantly, as if it were some kind of achievement. The weather is an important topic of discussion those days. The elderly insist that this winter was going to be the coldest since 1962–or was it 1963?! A hush descends in the room whenever a weather forecast is about to be aired. Will it be sunny, or cloudy, or foggy tomorrow? Any signs of the ‘cold wave’ abating?
If it is sunny and a weekend, you cannot not go for a picnic!! So what if every year you end up going to the same old “botanical garden” cum zoo in your city, as we did when I was little–who says going to the same place again and again cannot be fun!
During my childhood, women of my mother’s generation bought spools of yarn and knitted furiously in their free-time, churning out sweater after pullover after muffler with all the flourish of a magician.
All the fun and merrymaking tones down considerably as the weather worsens progressively in the first and second weeks of January–the sun refuses to appear for days on end, the thick fog makes it difficult to see anything beyond a few meters, the grey skies and bare trees make a gloomy sight and your hands and feet just never feel warm enough. It is then that everyone swears they have had enough of winters and long for sunshine and warm weather.
Mumbai winters are a different story altogether–very pleasant weather with a slight nip in the air in the mornings and that’s about it. No woollens or quilts or blankets are required. The weather is just perfect for outings and get-togethers–really, nothing to complain about at all. Just that I sometimes miss those cold late evenings spent huddled under a quilt with a book in one hand and hot cuppa in the other while my kids bickered over who got to sit right in front of the heater!!