Spectator by Seema Goswami: Season in the sun
From the time I was a child, winter has always been my favourite time of year. Growing up in Calcutta (as it was then), I was used to sweltering all through the summer, the monsoon, and even the autumn. But the moment winter announced itself in chilly mornings and cool evenings, my period of suffering was over. Now, it was possible to be out and about, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, without being reduced to a puddle of sweat at the end of the day.
The Calcutta winter barely lasted two months, but boy, did we make those 60 days count! There would be boat rides down the Hooghly, ice-cream on the Strand, picnics in Botanical Gardens, visits to the zoo, and the obligatory round of Victoria Memorial and its surrounds. There would be barbeques hosted by friends, terrace parties where the entire family congregated, and more.
The best part of the Calcutta winter was, of course, Christmas—or Burra Din, as we called it in those parts. Park Street would be lit up like a new bride, there would be a queue for Christmas cake outside Nahoums, and very unlikely-looking Santas would parade through New Market. Memories of that time of year resurface every December even though I moved out of the city of my birth nearly three decades ago.
My love affair with the winter season persisted though, even if it was now conducted amidst the tree-lined avenues of Delhi. In fact, in some ways, winter was even more magical a time in Delhi than it had been in Calcutta. For one thing, it got properly cold—the kind of cold that required radiators at home and overcoats and boots outside. There was something magical about getting kitted out in three warm layers and heading out to have the wind whip some colour on to your cheeks and turn your nose into a freezing icicle. And it was even more special to come home and warm yourself up with a nice cup of hot chocolate as you huddled by the heater.
Not that it’s just about Calcutta and Delhi. Winter is the best time to enjoy the outdoors no matter where you live in India. Take a walk along Marine Drive in Mumbai to watch the sun set in the Arabian sea and enjoy the cool sea breeze. Head out to the mountains of Gulmarg in Kashmir for a spot of skiing. Frolic in the waters of the sea whether you are in Chennai or Goa. Soak up the balmy sunshine in the parks of Bengaluru. Visit monuments in your near-vicinity: the Sun Temple in Konark; Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi; the Taj Mahal; the Charminar in Hyderabad. This is the one time of the year you can do all this without breaking into a sweat.
As for me, I have got my winter plans all sorted. The mornings will be spent in the sun-dappled corner of my living room, drinking coffee and reading the newspapers. Lunch will be al fresco: it could be a sandwich on a park bench or a three-course meal in the outdoor area of a restaurant or even a kathi roll eaten on my
balcony. Afternoons will be spent walking in Sundar Nursery, counting down to the sunset, which is always spectacular in that setting. Evenings will be spent on the terrace, nursing a glass of red wine. And I will end the day on my balcony, taking in the divine scent of the Saptaparani tree that perfumes the entire neighbourhood at this time of year.
How will you be spending your winter days? Picnicking with family and friends at Lodi Gardens? Sitting around a bonfire in your backyard while kebabs sizzle on your outdoor grill? Taking in the crisp mountain air on your annual trip to the hills? Or letting the winter sun lull you into a nap on a beach somewhere along the coastline of India?
Whatever you choose to do, remember to make the most of this season. There is no better time to enjoy the great outdoors in our great country.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, November 14, 2021
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