One disadvantage of living in Singapore is its unchanging weather. Though the intermittent rains somewhat lower temperatures, they are hardly a consolation from the 23 – 33 degree Celsius temperature range that prevails in this city-state throughout the year. In spite of this, at this time of the year, towards the end of November, I start getting this particular feeling inside me. Well, the feeling is difficult to put in a single word. It is a sense of goodness that fills both the mind and heart. It is characterized by pieces of vague remembrances from the past, the known smells, the excitements felt, the chill of the air….. In short, it is a signal of the advent of winter… and though not physically around me, it is deep-rooted in my senses…
Unlike the west, where people look forward to spring and summers, in tropical countries such as India, winter is the time of year that comes with a freshness unknown in other seasons. It brings smiles to people’s faces with the relief of freedom from the summer heat and the waterlogged monsoons. Quite in keeping with the way Nature functions, winter creeps into our lives noiselessly and suddenly. The first dewdrop, the first morning you wake up to find your surroundings blurred by fog, the first signs of dried leaves, the first feel of wool on the body….one could simply go on about the several happy sensations that winter brings with it.
And with these, comes a flurry of activities. Sweaters and jackets, quilts and blankets are piled out of the cupboards and spread out under the sun. Holidays and picnics are planned to nearby farmhouses, riversides and mountains. The neighborhood parks bustle with children; the new cricket season has just started; the badminton racquets are out of the closets; fathers are running behind bicycles while the children look back at them for assurance while learning how to pedal and maintain balance. Schools are colored with the aura of the festive season; concerts of Christmas carols; fetes where schoolgirls put up stalls of snacks and games and the adolescent long-legged schoolboys come to check out the girls; the school Sports Day and the extensive practice leading to the finale!
Winters are not only about dried leaves. In tropical countries, winter has its own share of beautiful flowers. Reinvigorated by the pleasant weather, people decorate their gardens with guineas, dahlias and crotons. Equally reinvigorating is the food in this season. In my childhood, when there were no supermarkets and cold storages where all kinds of fruits and vegetables are sold throughout the year, we would wait for the seasons to bring along their own blossoms and harvests….and winter was the most prosperous of them all. Fresh, tasty, green vegetables, apples, grapes and of course, round big sweet oranges. Oranges are just about everywhere. A joint family lazing in the mild afternoon sun on the terrace, a dating couple, boys heated up after a cricket match, the early morning newspaper vendor targeting balconies – an orange in everyone’s hand forms a common thread of connection endowed by nature.
The mention of winter cannot be replete without the mention of Christmas, especially for me. Having studied in Catholic missionary schools, Jesus Christ’s birthday was as big an event as was Durga Puja. The Christmas tree decorated with stockings and balloons, the candles lit up prettily every evening, the numerous Christmas carols known by-heart, the skits of the three kings following the star to reach the newly-born Jesus, a beautiful dimpled Mother Mary in a blue gown becoming the next crush of all guys in the class….
I could go on…..but will stop trying to express the past twenty-four winters in a nutshell. Rather, I wish myself many many more such winters. Can already feel the goosebumps! Ma, where’s my favorite sweater?