Friday, January 22, 2010

The deathly cold of Delhi

Even as the the warmongers at NASA are touting 2009 as one of the hottest years, the cold in Northern India, as in many parts of the world, has been bitter and long.

The winter in Delhi can be particularly chilling in a chilling way(word play intended). While the temperatures never go down to the freezing –they hover a few degrees above –the cold creeps (‘seep’ is too benign a verb) into bones, into the whole skeletal structure despite being overloaded with woolens and jackets.And this winter has been among the ‘creepiest’ for some time.

Lovat Fraser writing in 1903 had this to say*-
I never dreamed of  this, and I cannot stand it. I should think there is nothing in the world like the cold of  Delhi. It is not that it is severe; it is the quality of  it that knocks you over. Dry cold in other places is invigorating and stimulating. This is a sort of  dead cold, and reduces
you to a clammy corpse
. It creeps in everywhere; the thickest overcoats are not proof  against it. From ten in the morning to five in the afternoon I live; then the climate is delightful. But that is just the time when I want to be out seeing things; and when I start at night to write, my brain is congealed. It will not work, not will my hand hold the pen. Do you know how I wrote my last letter? My servant kept replenishing a basin of  hot water on the table, and I dipped my fingers  into it at the end of  every sentence. How can I write decently under such conditions? And this is your coral strand! Never will I grumble at the English winter again.
Midday(yes!)fog in Delhi

* as quoted in the book Historic Delhi- An anthology, H. K. Kaul(editor).The Fraser citation is from-Lovat Fraser. At Delhi. Bombay: Times of India; London:W.Thacker&Co.,
1903. pp. 55-6.