A Winter Day of my Spring

A Winter Day of my Spring

AKA

Pieces of a Childhood Winter in Delhi

Morning arrives too soon, breathing arctic breath  down my neck

Inside the quilt is where I belong, my warm womb within my home

But in one practiced motion, the Mother renders me womb-less,

Thrusting a steaming glass of milk at me, as a meager form of solace

 

Then I’m paraded off to a bath, sleep-clothes peeling off goose flesh as reluctantly as sleep itself

A pot-full of water heated on the stove, sizzles in anger as it joins the bucket-full of cold

Between the moments when the last drop of warm water splashes on my skin

And the towel rushes to soak it all in,

Lies agony so sublime that it cannot be told

 

Then after a breakfast hastily inhaled, off to school I must go,

Ushered out into a world that’s neck deep in invisible snow and cloaked in a shawl of patchwork grey

I join the ranks of the suffering, shuffling undead

Androgynous blobs in layers and layers of cloth, all shivering to school, in an unsteady row

 

I lumber through the school day, with my fellow prey,

Hands jammed in bulky coat pockets, numb noses dripping icicles,

Gingerly stepping out in recess, to see if the Sun’s out to play,

And finally hunching back home, not in the usual gay rush, but in labored trickles

 

Back home, after lunch it’s time for the neighborhood communal charpoys in the open

Alongside sprawling lengths of kids, mothers, grandmothers and assorted aunts

Each vying for their own fleeting piece of a coquettish and moody sun

We gorge on endless reserves of moongfali, chikki and steaming mugs of tea,

Even as the ladies gossip, knit complex works of woolen art or just soak in the moment’s ennui

 

The shrinking day means less time playing outdoor games or just building castles in the winter smoke

Watching friends’ words emerge as misty ghosts, when they spoke

It means more time at home slurping Dal ka soup, while Dad warms up to his seasonal pegs

That brief period before dinner when our family of three rinses and dries the frigid day’s dregs

 

An early dinner is followed by heaped helpings of toasty rich gajar ka halwa or golden jalebi

In the company of several neighbors, an obligation born of owning a then-rare color TV

Then as the TV image fades to snow, it’s time for goodbyes and goodnights and off to bed I go

Snuggling deep into the many layers of warm quilts and warmer dreams,

Until the icy claws of morning drag me out again, no sooner then I slept, it seems.

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