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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

World

Behnji, it's cold outside
Dipankar De Sarkar, Hindustan Times
London, January 04, 2011
First Published: 00:34 IST(4/1/2011)
Last Updated: 01:35 IST(4/1/2011)

A surprise hit of the festive season was a camp gay version of that popular old song, Baby it's cold outside on Glee, the American TV series. By my experience, many immigrants in Britain will need no desperate persuasion ("baby, you'd freeze out there!") to stay indoors in the cold.

Snowfall normally has a calming effect on the Christmas period, hushing the town with its blanket as families step out only rarely. In the run up to Christmas 2010, however, there was hysteria. Caught ill prepared, most airports shut down, causing chaos and frustration among travelers.

One of the worst hit was Heathrow, apparently partly because it didn't have enough snowploughs to clear the runways. The scene at Terminal 3, which serves many Indian cities, was particularly shambolic, with many passengers forced to camp outside in freezing temperatures waiting for news of their flights.

If native Britons are so unprepared to cope with snow, how do new immigrants deal with it? The short answer: badly. There was a surge in immigration from South Asia under Labour's 13 years in power and, for many of the migrants Britain was where they first saw and experienced snow.

Walking up a steep hilly road near to my house on a winter day I saw a traffic jam caused by a Sri Lankan woman who appeared to be frozen in horror. With her car unable to negotiate the hill after a school drop, she had abandoned it in the middle of the road and now stood helplessly on the pavement.

Asked to help I did the only thing possible under the circumstances - reverse the car to the side of the road, which cleared the congestion.

Further up the hill I saw a car - an expensive 4x4 - hurtling down out of control into a house located along a roundabout. The Afghan driving the car was late dropping her two children to school and had possibly stepped on the pedal. Then as she neared the roundabout she would have braked sharply, forgetting the road was icy.

The car swerved down the incline and crashed through the fence but, miraculously, stopped just inches short of the front door of the house. Some of us ran up and helped the three passengers out. All were unharmed and an ambulance arrived in less than 10 minutes.

But in January 2010, two brothers of Indian origin drowned when they inadvertently walked on to a frozen lake in Leicester, trying to feed ducks.


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