Are you afraid of the cold?

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.


Rain rain, go away

After 5 months of gray skies apart from the 10 minutes of sunlight in January, I am jaded by rains. Sometimes, I find myself oblivious to it, with me not noticing the rain drops, the soggy jacket or the puddles on the street anymore. My last three winters have been textbook cases of the phrase – “Too much of anything is a disaster”. Also, “Be careful what you wish for”.

My latest stint in the Pacific northwest has been full of new and delightful geographical experiences. Watching a snow-clad mountain from my office desk took a good 6 months to become routine and the beauty of gigantic fir and spruce trees in my backyard lasted a whole year before it became mundane. The cascade mountains, that flank the city, were an unknown mountain range to me (blame it on the geography textbooks that stopped with the Sierra Nevadas -technically, they are an extension, but the climates and greenery surrounding them are so distinct!) Surrounded by such natural beauty and the untouched Pacific coastline, it was a joy to live and explore the region all summer, spring and fall.

Then came the winter.

Now, with a stint in Buffalo, NY that automatically elevates your tolerance to colder-than-Mars temperatures and gigantic piles of dirty snow, the winter here is extremely mild. I didn’t even take out my actual winter jackets. However, it does rain. A lot.

Rains are romanticized to death in Indian literature, movies, books and I had an extreme love for it too. Watching dark, cloudy skies after relentless sunny summer days and oven-like temperatures elevated my mood and made me so happy. But having 5 months of it, almost without a break, shows you how so much rain can actually bore you too. I was told when I moved here that I will dislike rains once I live here. I couldn’t believe them. I don’t hate it, but sure, my fandom has sure decreased a few notches. For one, you can’t wear nice shoes. Dogs are wet all the time leading to non-stop colds, coughs and hours of blowdrying and toweling. No outdoor sports, no biking, no casual strolls without umbrellas or rain-gear. Skies remain gray and cloudy, albeit warm and mild. Plants don’t do too well either, my herbs died because I delayed transferring the pots indoors and the dryer runs on overtime every week. Mud rooms are muddy and soggy and heavy vacuuming is essential to maintain general hygiene. A rainy weather routine is fun if the rain lasts for a week, or two. But once the season extends to a couple of months, you long for the sunshine already.

I stopped checking the local weather. How different is it going to be afterall? Only a 85% chance of rain, down from 100%? Oh well, guess what, it is raining. For the next 3 weeks.

End Semester and Sweet nothings!

I love this time of the year. Not only am I still in my birthday mood, it is that time when the university gives off to the grad junta as well, letting them have some fun during the festive season. Festive, it surely is. The weather Gods have been showering Atlanta with unusual weather this week, starting with snow flurries on my birthday (highly unusual for mid december), abnormally low temperatures (-16 C was everyday morning) , frozen rain (it was amazing, it felt like someone was shredding ice cubes up there somewhere) and finally ice sheets (where I almost ice-skated on the sidewalks ,watched a dozen cars skid and the average speed was down to < 25 mph). I completed another semester today. When the final ended, it was giddy relief that turned into a 'holy-I-can't-feel-my-hands-anymore' sprint to my office. And then I decided to do nothing but waste time officially.

So I watched a movie "I hate Luv Storys". Dont get too judgemental about my movie tastes now since I wanted to see a no-brainer. Somehow I always like to watch no-brainers and the intrinsic urge to watch something as intense as Inception doesnt come more than once or twice a year. The movie was as expected trash (I prefer Aisha to this-so you can understand how horrible it can be). And then my thoughts raced to the comments this Sonam Kapoor made on Shobha De's take of her acting (or lack of it) prowess calling her "menopausal" and "pre-historic". I ambled on to the large section dedicated to Zuckerberg who is Time's Person of the Year 2010. Somehow, he is always inspirational to me. Maybe that he is hardly 4 years older than I am, or its the movie 'The Social Network' which gives you an IQ high. And then I did something I always do when I am free – watch You've got mail.

There is always this one movie people keep going back to. For me, its You've got mail. I've lost count of the number of times I've watched this flick. I remember dialogues, scenes and even the apartment settings. Call me a romantic if you will but this movie presents a rare juxtaposition of things and people I absolutely adore. Let me start with the bookstore setting. Now, this is something I dreamt of doing (and might still do) is own a bookstore and have story-telling sessions, nice comfy sofas with cheap and nice hot coffee, newspapers from around the world and get people back into the long-lost habit. I always wanted to own "The shop around the corner" and felt nasty when 'Fox books' puts them out of business. I imagined my bookshop a mix of the two. Second, I like the premise. Email exchanges, one bookstore vs another and of course, the dog. Brinkley. Not to forget Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.And hoping that my dream man is like Joe Fox. Daisies, NY during Fall, more Brinkley, handkerchiefs and the little boy who spells "F-O-X". Ive been watching this movie since my freshman year at college when the world was my oyster and even now it gives me the belief that I can go back to my dream someday. I love the movie. Love. ( Its another thing that I'm planning to watch Pirates -1 once more at night since that is another of my all time favorite movies but at another level). You've got mail – now thats something else and personal.

Enough of my rant of the movie ( I know I lost readers long back and if you are still here then remain so 🙂 ). I'm planning to bake a cake tomorrow just to celebrate my birthday and try this whole new aspect of cooking called baking. As for the rest, I've another post in mind but let me pen that in the next one. For now, its Capt. Jack Sparrow calling!

Pitter Patter raindrops!

Yaay! Its raining in Chennai again. I will not say I missed it much. ( It rained sooo much in Goa in the sem-beginning that I thought prolly water would dissolve us all). But still, rains manage to bring a smile to my face. The whooshing of the wind, the noise of the raindrops falling on the portico, the gentle spray of the water on your face if one stands near the windows, dip in temperatures…oooh. Its so heavenly.

I still remember my school days when I last cycled to the school ( way back in class 6), i used to ensure I zip through all the puddles on my cycle. Kho-kho in the rains was so much fun. Jumping around in the puddles of mud, raincoats and umbrellas scattered across the classroom, the chilly weather…all are simply amazing. I might be the only one who grins at the news of a cyclone coming chennai’s way 🙂 .

I do not miss the cold like my parents. They love winters. I dont. I hated the last winter I spent. with subzero temperatures, layers of clothing, nothing but curling up in blankets and sitting in the sun all day. Noooo…I love this. Im not complaining.

PS: I got selected for story-telling in Landmark today. I would be reading Cindrella to a bunch of 3-4 year olds. Wish me luck people. I am going to enjaay it!!