Monday, January 10, 2011

Chilly in Dilli

January is when winter falls on New Delhi with a clammy chill. The fog - most of which is smoke - blankets the city for much of each day. The temperatures really aren't that bad by western standards - typically 45 - 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But when you don't have central heat and your floors and bathrooms are tiled in marble... an apartment becomes more of a walk-in refrigerator than a home.
We have two rolling space heaters. These are great for keeping the bedrooms a little warmer at night. But our living room never really gets above 60 degrees in January. The warmest place, by far, is under the covers in bed.Outside everyone is bundled up... as if they are living in Oslo, Buffalo or some other cold, dark, northern city. Scarves are used in imaginative ways to cover the body - turned in to turbans, babushkas, face masks, etc. Blankets are worn as part of one's outer-wear.
To be honest, living in Delhi in the winter is a little like camping at home during the off season. Taking a morning shower is a painful experience even with hot, running water. Our food at dinnertime has to be eaten quickly (if you want a warm meal), and of course there is the ever-present smell of campfire smoke. The smell gets on everything - clothing, towels, sheets and bed covers. Lesa and I went on our morning walk this past Sunday and counted 19 campfires in our neighborhood. Workers huddle around small yellow, smokey flames every three or four lots. These cold morning scenes look almost post-apocalyptic to me....
... until we turn a street corner and see scores of stray dogs wearing their quilted, doggy jackets.
The sad animals swelter from April to October in the intense heat, only to find a wool doggy jacket strapped to their backs in November - just when the weather is getting lovely. Worried locals donate the jackets each winter to the street dogs. Afraid the animals might be cold. Sterilization, might be a kinder, more cost effective program. Less puppies, less doggy jackets to buy next winter.
The best thing about this time of year is the food selection. Things like strawberries, apples, broccoli and peas are all plentiful, fresh, cheap and tasty.
We might have to eat fast, and our fingers and toes are usually cold (and the dogs look a little silly), but we still manage to be amused, have fun and enjoy the season. For soon we know the temperature will again rise to 115F.
Ah, winter in Delhi.

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