If you ask me what my favorite season is, I would always say winter. When I was a kid, my friends would not agree with me saying summers were much better. One, because you have the 2 month long vacations, and two, you get to eat ice-creams. But I always loved winters better. And I still do.
Having spent all of my childhood in northern India, I have seen the coldest of winters. Meerut is situated around 75 Kms to the north of Delhi and gets to see temperatures slightly lower than Delhi, in fact as low as 1 degree Celsius. For us, winters would officially set in the day one of us would want the fans switched off or school announced the changed timings, which would be pushed from the regular 7 am to 8 am, whichever came first. The woolens would be excavated from the interiors of the cupboards. The colourful quilts will be brought down from the trunks in the attic. A tarpaulin sheet would be spread over the open grilled bit in the roof over the aangan or central courtyard. And we would be all set to welcome the season.
Winters also meant Christmas vacations. There would be a mandatory trip to the wool shop to pick the color of the sweaters ma would be knitting this time. Once dad would leave for work, all three of us (ma, sis and I) would pack ourselves in woolens, scarves, socks and at times even gloves and proceed on to the terrace. There would be a big packet of peanuts, along with knitting needles and wool for ma, and books for us. We would spend hours sitting in the sun, chit-chatting as ma would knit, or immersed in the Malory towers and Famous Fives.
And there would be oranges, my favorite fruit, and they somehow always tasted better in the cold weather. The sweet and sour juicy taste of it. And the strong fragrance that appears when you peel one, and which lingers on the fingers, numb from the cold, for quite some time after you are done devouring it. And home-made tomato soup. And once we were allowed to have it, the endless rounds of hot chai.
For New Years Eve, the only day we were allowed to stay up till mid-night, we would make all the arrangements before hand. The mattresses and the quilts would be carried to the living room, where we could sit cozily, munching on snacks and sweets and watching whatever they showed on DD. Daddy would somehow get bored the fastest and would go to bed at around 10:30. We would wait till it was 12, wish each other, wake up dad, wish him, and then get back to watching whatever was remaining before proceeding to bed.
All said and done, winters were always good fun. Even though it also meant frozen fingers and toes, endless sniffles, squabbles with mom who would always ask you to wear a scarf, chapped lips and dry skin. And now that I am at a place where you have none of it, I miss it even more. And I really doubt if I would actually be able to bear the cold anymore, after being away from it for 8 years now. But the memories remain, and every little thing triggers a bout of nostalgia. Whether it is frozen toes because of the air conditioning. Or the rare days when there is a cool breeze and the sun feels warm on the skin rather than scorching it. And sometimes, even the fragrance of oranges.