Win­ter Com­ing…

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

THERE IS some­thing mag­i­cal about this time of year. The morn­ings start off with a mys­te­ri­ous mist, the evenings get a bit nippy, and bask­ing in the sun be­comes a real op­tion rather than an or­deal to be en­dured. As Ge­orge RR Martin would say, “Win­ter is com­ing.” But un­like Sansa Stark, I could not be hap­pier about its ar­rival.

This has al­ways been my favourite part of the year. Grow­ing up in Cal­cutta, we didn’t have much of a win­ter to look for­ward to. Yes, the days turned pleas­ant and a few nights were chilly enough to war­rant the an­nual air­ing of our sweaters and shawls. But we still pre­pared for the sea­son on a war foot­ing.

Trunks of win­ter­wear would be dis­gorged to awaken from their deep hi­ber­na­tion in the af­ter­noon sun. Vel­vet coats, wool sweaters, pash­mina shawls would be piled high on top of satin quilts on a sheet laid out on the ve­ran­dah. And I still have vivid mem­o­ries of rolling around on the pile, in­hal­ing the smell of moth­balls and mar­veling at how soft and sen­su­ous (even though I didn’t know the word yet) the vel­vets and silks felt. up, the thin roof of the barsati wasn’t much of a de­fence against the sear­ing cold. And no mat­ter how many lay­ers I wore to bed or how many quilts I piled up on the bed, I was never re­ally warm de­spite the heater valiantly dis­pens­ing a steady stream of hot air in one cor­ner. And thus be­gan my habit – that per­sists to this day; de­spite the fact that my bed­room is now warm and toasty thanks to an oil-based ra­di­a­tor – of go­ing to bed with a hot-wa­ter bot­tle (which had the added ad­van­tage of mak­ing me feel like a char­ac­ter in an Agatha Christie mur­der mys­tery).

But de­spite all these mi­nor in­con­ve­niences, I loved the Delhi win­ter. And I loved Delhi in the win­ter. The cen­tral round­abouts ablaze with pur­ple petu­nias, red salvia, and chrysan­the­mums that cov­ered the en­tire range of the colour spec­trum. The sub­tle beauty of the flow­er­ing Al­sto­nia tree. The smell of freshly-roasted peanuts be­ing sold at street-side stalls. The sweetly-as­trin­gent taste of the first or­anges of the sea­son. The fes­tive bar­be­ques my friends set up in their back­yards and front lawns. The bon­fires around which we gath­ered as the tem­per­a­tures dropped even fur­ther. I loved it all.

And yes, decades later, my love for the Delhi win­ter re­mains undimmed. In a re­cre­ation of long-gone child­hood rit­u­als, I still tip out all my win­ter­wear to give it a good air­ing in the sun (though I stop my in­ner child from rolling around in it). I change my skincare regime in a nod to the sea­son of chapped lips and cracked heels. I start my an­nual hunt for the tights and stock­ings put away af­ter the last win­ter, be­fore giv­ing up the chase and buy­ing a new lot – which I know I will in­evitably lose by the next win­ter. And I care­fully stag­ger my travel plans so that I don’t miss too many days of Delhi win­ter, be­cause sadly, it is over in the blink of an eye.

How do I make the most of the sea­son, you ask?

Well, let me count the ways. I sched­ule all my lunches – busi­ness and oth­er­wise – in open-air restau­rants so that I can make the most of sunny af­ter­noons. In­stead of stay­ing cooped up in the gym, I go for long walks in Lodi Gar­dens (the flow­er­ing verges are a bonus). And I stock up on all my favourite win­ter treats – peanut chikki is my own Kryp­tonite – squir­relling them away for a chilly day spent in bed.

But most of all, I long for the barsati that was my first home in Delhi. It has long since been pulled down to make way for an in­ter­na­tional bank and a fash­ion de­sign out­let, as part of the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of that part of De­fence Colony. Nev­er­the­less, ev­ery time I drive past, I am re­minded of lazy af­ter­noons past, and boozy din­ner par­ties that made up my mis­spent youth. And that chill that never quite went away from my bones dur­ing that en­tire sea­son.

And I am re­minded once again why I fell in love with the Delhi win­ter. And I fall in love with Delhi in win­ter a lit­tle bit more.

And I, for one, can’t wait to make the most of it

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