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The big snow story

Canada, it turns out, is cold. Whoever knew? And not only is Canada cold, “cold” is the first word that pops into anyone’s head when you tell them you’ll be leaving India to live in Toronto. My college principal actually shivered when I told him where I was moving, although it was a very warm day in Mumbai. Incidentally, very few days in Mumbai are not warm.

Thanks to the peripatetic nature of my parents’ jobs, we moved frequently, but we never crossed the invisible line that divides the north of India from its south. Until now, the coldest place I’d ever lived was Los Angeles, where we lived before the family had migrated to Mumbai. Never did I imagine that I would ever be living this far north of the Equator; so far north that when you speak, you can see your words — puffs of white that dissipate a few seconds later.

Contrary to any prior expectations, though, my experience of the cold in Canada has been rather anticlimactic. Everybody back home expects sob stories, especially my grandmother, who really gets a kick out of tragedy and thinks I’m far too happy for my own damn good. It’s strange, then, for them to hear that not only is the cold not so bad, I actually enjoy it. After all, it isn’t as though I came to Canada in the month of November expecting it to be scorching.

Granted, no number of layers can keep anybody warm after the mercury in the thermometer dips below a certain level, but that isn’t bad weather, not really. Bad weather is a typical day during a typical monsoon in Mumbai. Whether or not you carry an umbrella is immaterial — you will be drenched from the knee down in less than five minutes. If it’s been raining since morning, then you’d better stay home from work or school, and cancel your doctor’s appointment. Not that your doctor would show up anyway, because there is every chance that the roads will flood. The worst part about the roads flooding isn’t wading through knee-deep water. It’s thinking about what’s mixed in the murky water you’re wading through: dog crap, bird crap, and oh, horror of horrors, maybe even the human stuff.

On the other hand, going out for a walk when it’s minus 170 (“feels like minus 25”) can be perfectly enjoyable, provided I am reconciled to a few regrettable truths: one, that it will take me approximately 15 minutes to put on enough layers to go on a 10-minute walk; two, that I will be far too cold to walk for a single minute beyond 10; and three, despite the aforementioned layers, it will still be really, really cold when the wind starts blowing. Never before have I experienced such high-speed winds. It is perfectly glorious, except that my ears sometimes feel like they’re being torn off the sides of my head. That aside, I don’t mind cold weather at all, so long as I’m properly equipped and geared.

It’s true that I only enjoy the cold because I experience it for brief periods of time. Most of my day is spent inside my centrally heated condominium, where the temperature is set permanently at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so that the whole family can indulge in the cosy delusion that we never left India. Never mind the snow coming down outside.

I’d seen snow earlier, also seen it fall. But I’d never lived anywhere where this was a routine occurrence, and that is wildly exciting. After many false starts, in which the sun would come out and melt away all the snow that had fallen, it has finally happened. The ground is covered in several feet — okay, centimetres — of fresh, powdery snow. I’m finally living inside the postcards. And the paintings. And that Robert Frost poem, the one where his little horse thinks it queer that he should stop without a farmhouse near. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can beat this.

Enamoured though I am, I will admit that it isn’t roses all the way. When the snow falls really fast, and the flakes are really small, it feels a lot like you’re being attacked by an army of tiny wizards. And while there are many, many disadvantages to wearing glasses, none of them is as awful as having your vision obscured by rain, or by fast-moving wizard-snowflakes that melt and spread as soon as they hit the plastic lens.

I suppose I’ll get tired of it eventually, and after a while, it will really be too cold to go outside. Maybe, in some time I’ll stop rushing to the window every time it starts snowing, and maybe I won’t want to sit and stare at it either. But that day hasn’t come yet. And I’m enjoying every minute of my first winter.

selvarajmalavika@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 11:41:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-big-snow-story/article27033719.ece

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