Winters of childhood



Northern and Eastern parts of India are experiencing unprecedented cold. Delhi recorded a maximum of 9 degrees centigrade, which was lowest in a century. This brought back the fond memories of my childhood spent in Delhi. Though this year might have broken a century old record, Delhi used to experience severe cold, especially during the period between Christmas and Republic Day. Mornings used to be foggy (pure crystal fog and not smog that we see today), days were murky with sun eluding for days altogether and nights freezing cold. Houses were not compact, heating was not very effective (mainly coal fired angeethis or sigris) and geysers were unheard of. Bathing was infrequent and body sponge with change of undergarments helped in keeping one clean. All these memories came alive when I recently read a piece in Urdu titled ” Bachpan ki sardiyan” or “Winters of childhood”. Though translation does not fully capture the finer nuances, I have tried to be as close to original as possible. It reads as under:

In winters in our childhood, geysers were unheard of and our Amma would heat water in a five litre ghee canister emptied after use of its content and give short bath ( munh haath) to all of us brothers and sisters. She would then put mustard oil in our hair, cold cream on our faces ( Neeli sheeshi wali cold cream – I think it’s Afghan Snow) and Vaseline ( he uses the word Pomade) on extremities to prevent dryness. Then she would dress up us in colourful jerseys. To outside world, we would like jokers but to mother, howsoever ugly her children may be, they always look cute and the best in the world. Today, we spent thousands on centralised heating, water heaters and geysers, costly and designer woollens, best of the food and diet, but the charm of the winters of childhood cannot be recreated .

Very simple, but touches the chords of the heart somehow! I hope it gives readers, most of whom are in Mumbai, a flavour what harsh winters of north are all about and how middle class dealt with it in the past.

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