Originally written for: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/change-of-heart-for-the-winter-season-1.1276731
(Late upload :/)
I have always loved winters. I’ve romanticised hot coffee on a cold winter night, and I’ve waxed lyrical on snow. I have a new story to tell, a sort of confession to make. I don’t like the cold at all. Perhaps my recent experience in Karachi had something to do with it.
Karachi is a coastal city in Pakistan and the winters there usually range from pleasant to slightly cold, somewhat like Dubai. A day or two of very cold weather (if the Quetta winds blow) is expected, but it is generally pretty comfortable, and all you need is a good sweater or hoodie to keep you warm. Children in school wear their cardigans in the morning, but they’re discarded carelessly into their backpacks as the day wears on. By late afternoon you start feeling a bit chilly again, but as you sip a cup of piping hot chai (sometimes accompanied with pakoras ( fried snack) – sort of falafel) you’re warm and dandy again. All in all, it sounds like a nice way to spend your winter break. This time round though, things were different. An icy cold spell that lasted more than a week had taken over the city.
I don’t remember the last time furious, freezing winds blew so relentlessly — morning, night and noon, transforming our porch into a waste ground for dirt and stray leaves. It was a case of getting the children to wear multiple layers underneath their sweaters, and then begging them to keep their shoes and socks on even inside the house. My biggest challenge however, was taking, and getting the kids to take showers.
It’s not like you don’t get hot water in the taps, but you have to let the water run for a while before the warm water starts trickling down. Then you hope and pray that the gas heater stays on the entire length of your bath because recently Karachi has been experiencing a gas shortage, and gas water heaters that are commonly used there become useful only if the gas supply is healthy.
Then when you’re finally done (gasping for dear life if the water suddenly went cold half way) you bundle yourself up in towels and come out. The room is extremely cold because no one (understandably) has heating in their homes in Karachi. But this time minimum temperatures hovered around 5 degrees Celsius and your teeth chatter as you locate your warmest-ever clothes — which incidentally, cater to the normal winters of Dubai or Karachi and are not nearly warm enough. The cycle repeats itself in a far more agonising way when you want to get the kids to take a bath, who insist that warm water does not exist.
Too cold for comfort
Homes are open and airy — windows that give the impression of being tightly shut will all too willingly let in the cold draught and you will finally realise the obvious: Karachi and the people who live there, are simply not equipped to handle seriously cold winters.
After all, in New York for instance, temperatures plunge way, way below Karachi and yet life seems to carry on as usual. That’s because homes are heated, the seat that you sit on as you drive is heated, and you’re usually wearing a huge North Face jacket and boots that keep the cold out. But in a place like my hometown, a winter this cold is unexpected. It leaves you scratching your head in confusion as you wonder why you didn’t pack more warm clothes for the kids, who of course end up falling sick. The heater you plug into the socket blows out your fuse because the switch wasn’t designed to handle 2000 watts. Facepalm.
On your final day in the city you notice, (somewhat suspiciously) that the weather is better. One thing however, makes it all worth the while. I’d gladly have stayed much longer (weather notwithstanding) if I could have. “Sweetheart, you’re leaving so soon? I’ll miss you,” Dad says quietly. My eyes are moist, and suddenly things fall in the balance. Being able to see my father has surely been the biggest blessing of all, leaving me to wonder if I do complain a tad bit too much.