December 29, 2010


Winter was a beautiful season as I grew up. The packaged vegetables were yet not available throughout the year and there were things mom could make only during winter – vegetable stew, soups, koraishutir kochuri and the likes. Nolen gurer sondesh would come into existence only during winter and suddenly mom would be making a lot more cauliflowers at dinner.

The magic of winter perhaps is dead today. You get the peas all through the year, some extra currency notes opens the freezer to bring out frozen veggies, the only saving grace being the sondesh. They still come only in winter. And you have to travel to Calcutta for them. Of course there is this new animal called, nolen gurer ice cream – that’s like Madhubala in modern day mini skirts. Yucks!!! Well, to be honest, they in any other name would perhaps tasted better.

I remember the shawls that used to come out and the monkey caps – the quintessential attire for the Bong ready to take on the winter. Give us our woollen socks, cotswool vests, shawls and monkey caps and we will be ready to race Captain Scott to the Arctic, of course from the confines of our very own “Babluda’s Tea Shop”.

Winter means the official passport to laziness. Missing a class because you just could not pull yourself out of bed seems perfectly logical. In fact not opting for classes that start in the “near freezing Bangalore temperatures” was a common habit. After all, if your future depends on your dreams, should you not sleep some more? And we did.

Mumbai this year has been the coldest I have seen in my four years and it feels nice, nice to be lazy once in a while and sleep those extra 15 minutes. We have grown up, a class can be missed, probably not a telecon. That’s when you realize you perhaps are not the masters of your own destiny.

But winters, harsh as they may be to the families under the flyover outside your office, also lets the fortunate amongst us to feel a bit of relief in this tropical country. We are city rats - having never lived beyond the confines of a “bursting at the seams” metropolis, we seldom understand how peaceful it can be under a spreading Banyan Tree on a hot summer afternoon. So we wait for our winters to show off our fake pashminas and probably original Marco Polo pullovers.

Yes we wore blazers to senior school and somehow for the first time, I had felt the urge to defy the authority. No body forced anyone to wear them but there were the ones who could afford it easily and others who could not. They were the first signs of social difference that crept in our “still very middle class Bengali” missionary school. In summers, post the recess everyone was drenched in sweat. In winter, you could easily show off your new blazer. Well, only 2 students could afford a cell phone.

Winters today are a lot about the coffee shops. You sit there with a warm cappuccino and discuss bonuses and appraisals as the year draws to an end. The bong now is a lot more smart – he knows Babluda’s tea shop is not hep and happening.

And that’s why you will see the Bong slip away from the Shivaji Park CCD to head towards the irani cafĂ© for a cutting chai and a bun maska. He waits and hums – Sondesh e aate hain, hume tarpate hain. His mom is sending nolen gurer sondesh for him with his uncle’s neighbour’s daughter’s classmate. The ones in Sweet Bengal are just too costly.

And then he remembers his favourite quote from school – “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

But Spring? Does that even exist anymore? We are better well off enjoying our winters.

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