I woke up in the morning and remembered a conversation that happened years ago…
He: Winter brings out the best in you.
She: When I look into your eyes, May becomes December.
There’s something mesmerising about winter. It has always worked for me. Under a mild, tender sun, I can look back and soak in the warmth of my winter memories. In childhood, it was all about a game called ‘bagha khela’ (tiger game). It’s pretty simple. Two people have to sleep under the quilt (rezai) and one person will become the bagha (tiger) and then come to attack these two lying under the quilt. The trick is to hold on to the rezai from each and every side so that the tiger doesn’t get to touch you. I remember us (sisters) laughing like crazy under the quilt till my mom used to come and say, ‘Enough.’
You know winter has come when you see blooming marigolds dancing in quiet joy in the garden. Marigolds have been an integral part of my winter memory landscape. You know winter has come when the dining table has a dish of aloo gobi (my all time favourite dish). Unfortunately, the romance of cauliflower has died now as you get it throughout the year thanks to the cold storage. The same goes for other winter vegetables too. The romance of they coming in limited edition is gone. So has the longing. My mother used to make a delicious diced boiled vegetable dish with ginger which was much loved by my dad and me.
Winter meant Ma taking out sweaters, shawls from the almirah and putting them under the sun. And I remember wearing a blue colour sweater knitted by my mother. I think, my mom took the Government of India’s five year planning programme very seriously and knitted one really over-sized sweater. I remember a friend telling me in that blue sweater, I looked like Hitler. I presume, she just wanted to comment on my extra extra large size sweater. I wish I still had it. I would have definitely worn it now just to feel the touch of my mother. Alas, it is lost in the crumbling house of winter memories.
Winter is all about getting up in the morning and not to be able to see anything outside the window. In oriya, we call it ‘kuhudi’, in English it’s called ‘mist or fog.’ I like the word ‘mist’ — the sound of it, the feel of the word. It’s that feeling being enveloped by a thick white blanket and not being able to see what lies beyond it.
Delhi is the place that gave a new meaning to winter. Delhi becomes a different city during the winter. I miss Delhi’s winter, probably now that’s the only thing I miss about that city. The most enduring memory of the Delhi winter is just cuddling up under a blanket in a room that was just 10×10, holding glasses of hot milky tea and discussing ideas. And in between talks of Marx and Che Guvera, the lips did meet and there was a wonderful sense of warmth of being young and in love.
It’s a different story now. I am still as crazy about winter as I was in my childhood. But lots of changes have crept in. I no longer use a rezai, now I use a comforter. Sweaters are not knitted but gifted by my sister in USA. And the romance of cauliflower is just not there. But I still feel I am a better person in winter. I am more loving, more caring, more giving… For nothing he said it years ago. You know, certain things don’t change. I love sipping my Earl Grey tea and just looking out of my window (even though the view is so ordinary that it can be depressing in summer but you know it’s winters).
I think of love, longing when I listen to songs. He’s far away from me, living the life of an academic hermit in a foreign land. He sent a message on Gchat : You know, I was thinking of you when I was walking through the woods and snow.
I don’t know why but when I read that message tears welled up in my eyes. I thought of my mother, my father whom I have lost. And I thought of him too. In more than one way, I have lost him too. And I know, there will never be another game of bagh khela (tiger game) among my sisters. We have grown beyond a ‘silly’ game. We are all grown up now. Fighting our own battles. But I know one thing, when I wake up in the morning, I feel happy that it’s winter. And when it’s winter, even loss feels sublime.
(A silent prayer for all those who don’t have a home to go back in the winters and put up a brave fight against the biting cold on the mean streets of India)