The generosity of the weather gods draping my hometown Shimla, drop dead gorgeous in a pristine white blanket of snow, with nearly life crippling situation and a spell of darkness over the last weekend, took me back into time when a similar dose of climate chaos had upset our already mundane lives.
The scene was set against the backdrop of a heavily snow clad small hill town. It was 1992 then. The winters were gearing up for a small mention in the pages of history. The month of January had arrived, the temperatures had dipped remarkably low and the records were in the making. Life in the queen of hills was about to come to a standstill.
At around 10 am on an icy cold lazy morning, when I woke up to untouched, luminescent white surroundings, I knew well, that the weather forecast had been more than true. It hadn’t snowed like this before in the past few years.
The winters had arrived with a bang and life had taken a back seat. The tall and shady devdaars bended helplessly, over burdened with piles of frozen snowflakes, the slanting tin roofs adorned the heavily laden mattresses of snow, and the roads were covered with nature’s immaculately designed white carpet and a few footprints. All mute witnesses to the one time stimulating yet, dreary part of the long school winter holidays.
Everything seemed unappealing and utterly uninspiring; post that initial excitement of the first heavy snowfall of the season. There was snow, snow and only snow as far as my eyes could see. The aftermath soon followed.
Candle light dinners, candle light conversations, candle light games, in fact, life was at the mercy of this cylindrical utility in wax. There was no power supply for over a week.
My working mother was stranded at home, catering to me and my younger sibling’s ‘nothing else to do’ routine, while every single day my father would walk for nearly two hours to cover a distance of about six kilometres to reach his office. With no snow cutters and public transport almost negligible, there was hardly any choice left.
The day’s time table didn’t stretch far beyond eating and sleeping in our two bedroom rented top floor, we called home. Or else we creatively indulged in our favourite outdoor sport of making snow balls of all sizes, in an attempt to hit each other as hard as possible. Although every now and then waiting endlessly in vain, gazing at the tube light to sparkle and surprise us.
To rest was the best. For that matter, taking a regular bath was conveniently avoided. And by the way, heading to the loo was another tough task to handle, so was obtaining water for the same. The water pipes had jammed and a chunk of ice was melted time and again over the gas burner in our dimly lit kitchen, to attend to the nature’s call.
No heaters to warm up, no geysers for hot water, and more importantly no television. Please spare a moment to imagine, how deeply uninteresting life could turn in those months of long winter vacations, when there was nothing more to elevate our bored senses, except a weekly Chitrhaar, and a weekly movie on Doordardarshan- the then sole source of entertainment, and that too was completely out of question, courtesy the state electricity department . The Hindi film video cassettes that we hired occasionally, for a day, were also inaccessible.
How many snowmen could we make? How many books could we read, how many forced afternoon naps could we take or how many dull moments could we embrace? Without any close friends, cousins or an extended family around, I and my younger brother were entertainment starved.
The ‘period of deprivation’ was hard indeed.
And eventually, after more than a week’s torture, when the bulbs and tube lights suddenly dwindled and illuminated our bedroom, I was visibly ecstatic. I had indeed, found God.
Life was back on track and having access to television again, was a blessing, more than anything else.
Well, for a bunch of enthusiastic tourists, it is usually euphoric, whose trip to the hills is successful, once they can jump, play, and revel in the snow. However, for us, the inhabitants of the frozen city, it was a box full of complaints against the wintry discomfort and the administrative set up.
The situation had turned up somewhat similar this time too, however, there was no dearth of pictures, updates, and emotions sailing through the internet in wake of abundance of snow after so long. Sometimes I think what If I was born in this age of life saving gadgets? What if I could escape all the dull moments then? But how would I have learned the lessons in survival. And nonetheless, in all the displeasures and hardships of a life in the hills, I think I have emerged a more accommodating and a more tougher being.