Published in the Pioneer on January 30th, 2011

There’s something about cold, foggy, wintry days that brings out the worst in us. Very few people have the resolve, the good cheer or the fortitude to keep smiling from within and from without when the chill is felt in the bones and when the sun fails to break through.

Day after day begins and ends with the desire to spend each minute in warm spaces like one’s bed, ensconced in blankets and quilts. Accessories like water bottles, gloves, warmers, hats and mufflers come into their own when these January days come, after spending much of the year forlorn and forgotten in a corner of some trunk.

The only people who manage a few smiles at such times are the weathermen, when they get their predictions right. Doubtless too, manufacturers of woollens and heaters have bells chiming in their heads nowadays. The rest of us view the extreme part of the season as one of agony and angst.

The whole of North India is in the clutches of the God of winter these days and He shows no intention of loosening his grip. The irony is that people who are well equipped are the ones shivering even more than those who cannot afford the gear that keeps them warm.

Despite the severe chill, the man on the road, the rickshaw puller, the cobbler, the labourer and the small time ‘paan’ seller somehow manage to keep themselves warm by crowding around small fires. The society crowd that meets over drinks and dinner, for this is also the party season, clad in thermals and several layers still cribs about nothing but the cold.

The sumptuous eats on offer at this time of year are the only saving grace for us spoilt-types. The extra layers help us to hide the fact that we’ve been gorging on sweets and fries all winter, and we just do not want to think of the time when our extended bellies would be exposed, come March, when the woollies come off.

An old woman and her daughter happen to work at a few houses in our locality and they wash utensils by the hundreds every day. The icy water that taps emit these days is no deterrent to this formidable duo. They arrive on time and exit after doing the needful with amazing regularity. What is most remarkable is the fact that they wear very little warm-clothing but their spirits are never dampened and they bring sunshine-like smiles to our homes when we need them the most!

Indeed the ones who keep their smiles going in the face of adversity, who whistle their way through when the chips are down, are those who survive the really wintry phases that life brings us. Conversely, those who tend to crib about tough times, when none exist, are not doing themselves any favours.

Winter, like everything else, is simply a state of mind after all.