Newly faced with a proper 6 month long winter as a part of the calendar year when I moved to the US, I needed to make adjustments to my lifestyle. Far from the “winters” of India where I experienced the occasional zero degree weather in the doon valley (it included me sticking my head out of the doors and windows to feel the freezing temperature, much to my mom’s chagrin) and being oddly happy that it was the temperature where water froze. Winters were cozy affairs, with days spent sitting in the sun (and dozing, only to be woken up by a nasty headache) and having “tel-maalish” or head massages with mustard oil. Razais and wool blankets prevented any morning activity and getting out of bed was a chore. School uniforms included sweaters and blazers ( I was very jealous that mine never had those smart blazers as part of the uniform and I never wore one), caps and other color-coordinated winter gear. In theory and in my very biased memory, I recall feeling very cold and facing “brutal” winters. In reality, that was only “mild fall weather” when compared to what this north American continent faces.
Faced with long sub-zero nights and uncomfortable wind chills, outdoor life comes to a grinding halt. The pups no longer get their hour-long evening strolls, vegetation goes into hibernation (or in my case, ceases to survive) and the roads become quiet and isolated. It is one thing to protect oneself against the winter and have a version of hibernation in your home, but when the conditions ease – the one day of bright warm sunshine or where I live right now, the non-rainy day, the pattern of zero movement continues. I don’t see anyone outside and catch only a glimpse of someone scurry from their door to their car. We have temperature control everywhere – homes, offices, schools, malls, shops and can actually spend winters without ever facing the outdoors thanks to connected garages in homes. There is no dearth of winter jackets, coats, gloves, caps and other gear that do a magnificent job of keeping one toasty, in-spite of the elements. I then wonder, why does no one venture out? Why so afraid of the cold?
I share the pang of disappointment with my dogs, as they expectantly wait for their friends to come out of their homes during winters. We let a collective sigh and look up at the lit curtained windows and wall mounted TV’s playing football matches or America’s Top Model, with folks presumably curled up on their couches, refusing to venture outside. I wonder what makes them so afraid of the winters? Maybe it is a feature of the American suburbia where this complete isolation during winters occurs. I think a big, bustling city would be a different story altogther.
We trudge back home, wet and muddy. Yet another day passes by, where not a soul is seen outside.