Hometown: Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
I feel the cold winter chill, on the tip of my ear, outside the confines of the cozy, warm, heavy blanket. The one we get custom made by ordering ‘kilos’ of cotton to be quilted together, covered with a crisp white cotton, duvet cover with ties at the foot end. In India, the higher you live in altitude the more weight of cotton you use to get it made, the final product is dearly called a ‘Rajai’, in hindi.
How dear the ‘Rajai’ seemed on those terribly chilly mornings when getting to school on time was the biggest task to overcome in a day. Ages after these mornings past, sitting in a classroom thousands of miles away from home I learn of something called a soothing blanket, supposed to calm an anxious mind by the the weight and warmth of a heavy blanket. The first though in my mind is to remember my beloved childhood Rajai, I smile to myself wondering if the man who hand quilted our blankets in India knew the same product was being sold as an anti anxiety novelty in the US for about $100!
Going back to the chilly winter mornings, my mother the one to wake me and my sibling for school, giving us tasty warm breakfast , which I was too selfish to appreciate rather cribbed about, “why poori aloo again? why the hot milk?” oh how.. how… terribly I want those repetitive breakfasts today.
She would put out a giant mug of hot water ready on the sink for me to brush and wash up because hot water did not just flow out of the faucets all the time. We had to switch on the water heater at least 30mins prior to get a limited supply equivalent to the size of the geyser (water heater.) Again as the altitude increased people preferred to buy bigger heaters to meet their needs.
School uniform all ironed and crisp ready to be worn, pants in winter and skirts in summers with a sleeveless cardigan, tie and blazer with the schools monogram proudly displayed. God forbid someone mistakenly thought we studied in the rival school. Our school loyalties were as strong as that to your family name.
With half the breakfast in my mouth half in the hand as a roll, running down the mountain from my home to the bus stop. My school bag heavy with all the textbooks and notebooks neatly arranged as per the days schedule. Often forgetting a test notebook I took out for mom’s signature but forgot to pick it up in the rush of the morning. I had to do the climb again in those precious few minutes to retrieve it. The days I failed to make it back on time, to catch the overstuffed vehicle that took us to school, I had to make a choice.
Considering my school was almost midway on the mountain opposite to my house I could take the route on the right which would mean a longer walk uphill or the left which had a man drawn rickshaw ride across town followed by a shorter but steeper walk uphill. I usually chose the later just for the thrill of the morning air on the face and watching people go about their morning walks and what not’s. All the while thinking when I’m an adult with no school I am not getting up this early to torture myself.
Woolen caps were so not cool, but we wore a tightly wrapped muffler around the neck and gloves with fingers peeking out to hold a pen in class if need be. Standing in line to go for assembly and everyone trying to fit in the corner where the morning rays of sunlight fell. Oh the beauty of winter sun, luckily for my home town we did not have foggy winters rather we had crisp sun in the mornings with chilly winds that got colder and colder as the day proceeded to age.
In my world heaven can be defined as the feeling of the winter sun on your body while you take an afternoon snooze after a hearty meal. The little joys in life.
Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Soon the school years passed and my winters had a completely different shade to them. In the bustling big city surrounded in a hostel with girls from all over the country. We had a few misty mornings with bleak sun rays trying to escape and save our souls. The locals found the temperatures too cold to function , coming from a snow clad region my standards were different. But, nevertheless my winter clothes would be out first, cozy sweaters, comfy blankets…. they just felt like home.
The beauty of these winters was the excuse to go order a “cutting chai”, the 1/4th version of a regular cup of chai/tea. I can almost smell that old tea pot brewing in the canteen with tea being served in tiny glasses, no fancy cup and saucer for the lady. Just a not so new, sightly chipped unapologetic glass of tea.
Almost a decade of the not so cold yet pretend to be cold winters in the big city life. By then I knew I would not be able to handle the cold winters back in my hometown. My conviction was confirmed at my own wedding, who ever thought of a winter wedding in a hill station would garner such enthusiasm from both our families.
I cleverly dressed with layers and layers of thermals to look better in those heavy clothes as well as stay warm. My better half unfortunately was shivering during most of the rituals. Which made me seriously doubt his intentions and gave a whole new meaning to cold feet during the wedding!
Raleigh , North Carolina , USA
Now, our winters together were beautiful and mild, just a day or two of snow with just enough white cover to click amazing winters shoots every year. Black ice days that meant work from home and no school for all the happy families. Sometimes I secretly missed my winter wonderland and told him of those school mornings I had to bear. Oh no please don’t think I am complaining , not many get the opportunity live through the winter hardships yet love it more and more.
Winters in North America can be pictured with a beautiful array of white sceneries and a backdrop of christmas dust everywhere. “The most wonderful time of the year!”, plays joyfully in store you visit right after the thanksgiving fall decors are changed to bright and beautiful christmas cheer.
I studied in a Christian school and grew up singing in the choir which always kept a special place in my heart for this joyous festival. In our new life together as a family my husband and I decided to bring christmas home with as much as enthusiasm as it deserves. A beautiful tree decorated with love and memories, apple pie, cakes and cookies, gifts under the tree, the works!
Ann arbor, Michigan , USA
Then as if to remind me that life comes full circle we move to the coldest place I could ever imagine living with feet’s of snow being a regular day to day thing. But guess what, 24 hours indoor heating with hot water at my beck and call. Yes, I feel privileged. Though walking to the bus stop early morning, still running to catch the bus to school is still a task now much harder in much colder temperatures. There is something calming in watching snowfall so quietly but watching the break of dawn while traveling to school maybe a thrill for some but its still not my cup of tea.
The opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful college towns in USA is a lifetime experience which is unfolding each day with its challenges and perks. Another chapter we write together surrounded by family and friends. Truly, home is where the heart resides. This is when I realize I am one lucky person to have lived such a variety of winters. Always beautiful, always calm and always serene.