I hail from a place called Vijayawada from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, India. The climate there is mostly tropical. The average annual temperature in is 28°C and the annual rainfall is 974 mm | 38.3 inch. Vijayawada is on the shores of river Krishna, which results in humidity all around the year. I lived in Chennai for five years, which also has similar climatic conditions in terms of humidity and temperature. Now I am living in a place called Wadrafnagar in Chhattisgarh as a part of my 18 month fellowship journey. It was always hot and humid in the places I have lived. So I wanted to live somewhere cooler. But the first winter in Wadrafnagar got me rethinking on my wish. Let me explain why.
– When you take a gym membership but are too afraid to go out in the early morning cold, even though you are wasting money, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When your hair and beard turns white during your early morning visit to the field area, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar – Once it happened that I had to go to a village in the morning. I was riding the bike. On closing the helmet lid, the insides of the helmet were filled with dew. That made condensed water accumulate in the beard, eyelids and moustache.
– When you go very slow while riding a bike because of the low visibility due to fog, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When you live with three layers of clothes all the time in a day, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When you buy a helmet for protection from cold, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When the food doesn’t get spoiled even without a refrigerator, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar – Forgetting food outside happened to me more than once. But the temperature saved it from getting spoiled.
– When you find excuses to not shower everyday, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When touching the floor with bare feet makes your feet numb, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar – In movies, they walk over fire to get their wish fulfilled. I had the same feeling when I walked barefoot during winters.
– When your washed clothes take two three days to dry, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When 8 AM feels like 6 AM and 5 PM feels like 7PM, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar – The sun sets early here, and in the mornings, it takes a lot of time for the fog to get cleared.
– When consuming hot stuff feels like heaven, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
– When you write a poem for the first time without any personal inhibition, understand that it is winter in Wadrafnagar.
These were some of my experiences. This region is all covered with forests which aggravates the winter experience. It is not an exaggeration when I say that it has been three months since I have sweated. It’s weird because sweating has been an integral part of me. I feel like I am missing something if I am not sweating. The scorching sun in Vijayawada and Chennai compelled me to use sunblock. Now as it is cold, I’ve forgotten to use sunblock. The thermal inners, socks and gloves have became a part of my body. The idea of removing thermals is a haunting thought in itself.
I saw hailstones here for the first time. The water temperature makes me use it less and less for washing hands. There is phrase in Telugu – “ఎముకలు కొరికే చలి”(yemukalu korike chali) which translates to “bone biting cold”. I can understand its origin now. Earlier, I seldom had to buy separate clothes for winter. This is one of those situations. But the people in villages and communities enjoy these winters too. They focus on simple things.
- Bonfire: You can see bonfires everywhere, with a hot cup of chai (tea) and a group of people gossiping their cold nights away. It looks more like an informal consortium to me, that brings people together.
- Jugaad: I once had to travel in the cold for a long distance, and didn’t have a jacket on me. One of my colleagues who lives in the village suggested me to stuff my shirt with newspapers to lessen the impact of cold. It worked!
I have also seen people keeping a bottle of hot water under his bedding for it to remain warm.
- Schedule: People adapt themselves with winter. All the stores start closing as early as 6.30 PM. If I step out after 8, the marketplace would resemble one of those deserted Midwest American cowboy movie towns only with a CC (Cement Concrete) road in the middle.
The deserted roads here have animals like bears roaming, in human habitation areas. There have been instances of people getting attacked by them. Riding a motorcycle alone when it’s dark is strictly advised against, by people in the community. The fire, groups of people and lights redirect them to a different route. Installation of solar lights in each village under HDFC-HRDP (Holistic Rural Development Project) by Udyogini, the organization I am working with, has provided this safety in human habitation areas.
I would like to think that I am enduring this year’s winter successfully. Hopefully, I will be prepared better for the next year’s winter by learning from these lessons.