Having spent all my childhood and adolescent years in the predominantly hot-or-warm climate of South India, I've always been fascinated by extremely cold weather, whether I am actually experiencing it or merely reading or writing about its many-sided manifestations. .
So, talking about snowbound and icebound countries -- real as well as imaginary -- in my preceding articulations (Feb. 17, Stormy Britain, Snowbound America . . .), I recalled some cold-weather scenes which had made forceful impressions on my mind. I didn't always write about them, but luckily some of them are on record, like the following winter vista in New Delhi.
----- ----- ----- -----
Glossary & annotations
Shanthi Path -- Meaning 'Peace Way' in Hindi, this broad and beautiful avenue, with wide lawns and lush trees on both sides, bisects the Diplomatic Enclave where some of the oldest and most spacious Embassies (of countries like USA, USSR/Russia, UK, China, Pakistan, etc.) are situated.
Chanakyapuri -- Diplomatic Enclave, meaning "City of Chanakya' in Hindi -- Chanakya was an ancient Indian philosopher and royal counsellor, whose ideas on statecraft are often compared with those of Machiavelli, the famous Italian historian and philosopher.
Moti Bagh -- Prestigious residential area near the Diplomatic Enclave. mainly housing civil servants.
Russian Embassy -- I made a faux pas here -- I should have said "USSR Embassy' or 'Soviet Embassy'. Or was I being unconsciously prophetic? For, of course, today it certainly is the Russian Embassy!
Foreign cars -- Another faux pas! I should have said ' imported cars' -- for one of the two exclusive brands of cars running on Indian roads those days was the 110o-cc Fiat, made in India. But just as we Indians never think of English as a foreign language, we never used to think of Fiat as a foreign brand!
Kautilya Marg -- A cross road in Chanakyapuri -- Chanakya is also known as Kautilya.
Patel Marg -- Important road named after Sardar Patel, a leading freedom fighter (and very close associate of Mahatma Gandhi), who narrowly missed becoming the first Prime Minister of India in 1947.
Razais -- Quilts, in Hindi.
----- ----- ----- -----
Evening News, New Delhi
17 January 1987
Driving to the office on a very cold day last week, I found the air thick with heavy mist on Shanthi Path.
As I approached Chanakyapuri from the Moti Bagh side, I saw a long banner in bold blue letters at the circular traffic island.
It screamed: "LE CONGRES INDIEN DE LA JEUNESSE FAIT ACCUEIL AUX DELEGUES PARTICIPANT A LA CONFERENCE INTERNATIONALE CONTRE L'APARTHEID."
I'm sure you don't need a translation of that, except perhaps for a couple of words: JEUNESSE means YOUTH, and ACCUEIL means WELCOME.
The winter vista in Chanakyapuri was fascinating. The trees and the Embassy buildings were all wrapped up in the mist, and the wide, lawn-lined avenue stretched in a straight line ahead.
As I read the French banner quickly, I had a wide-angled view of the rose beds on both sides of the road; and for a moment I had the illusion of being in Paris.
As I drove on, I saw many foreign cars parked outside the Russian and other Embassies, and the illusion was renewed, if I ignored the traffic on the road, which had nothing Parisian about it.
A few days ago I had gone to the railway station before sunrise. Along Kautilya Marg and Patel Marg, the bright amber light from the sodium vapor lamps created a strong impression of deserted London thoroughfares in the night.
The whole week has been not just misty, but quite foggy in the mornings, and there has been a biting cold in the air. The silhouettes of heavily-clothed people standing at the frost-bound bus-stops produced intriguing impressions.
The dull and gray sky and the chill in the air has brought typical English weather to Delhi, which was accentuated by the day-long drizzles on Friday.
The evening bulletins on the TV yesterday reported a minimum temperature of 8 degrees Celsius, but we thought it was the coldest day of the season, though the minimum had dropped to 4 degrees earlier this month.
This may appear strange -- but only till we take note of the fact the peak temperature for Friday was only 13 degrees, the lowest maximum of the season.
We are snugly tucked inside our rugs and razais when the minimum is reached, and we never feel the difference between 4 degrees and 8 degrees, unless we have night duty to perform in the open air.
But we are all widely awake and alert when the maximum is touched, especially if we go outdoors during the afternoon instead of remaining inside heated rooms. And that's when a difference of 4 degrees (between 13 and 17, or between 13 and 9, for example) makes a big impression on us.
The criterion for the coldest day, therefore, is not the minimum minimum, but the minimum maximum!