– Simon & Garfunkel, I am a rock
It’s been a long, long time since my teeth have chattered in Bangalore. While the reason for that may be partly due to my accumulated reserves of adipose (I always tell anybody who asks that I’m fattening up for the winter), there’s no denying the fact that Bangalore’s winters are anything but cold anymore.
As a child, I loved winter because it was the only time of the year when my breath floated out like fog. This time round, I waited and waited till winter showed itself, then took a break and reappeared looking washed out. Most days don’t even pass my ‘exhale test’.
January was the month that school reopened after the Christmas holidays. I would walk 2 km from what was not yet known as BTM Layout to a bus stop in Jayanagar 9th Block every day at 6:45 AM to catch a bus that left at 7:20. I would chuckle at how the local people wrapped themselves silly in mufflers and monkey-caps instead of enjoying the cold, which was about 14 degrees at its coldest. The fog, in particular, was most enjoyable. I loved fumbling about in it, playing guessing games with the shapes of morning walkers, dogs, newspaperboys and flower-sellers. One day, when I was much older, I was cycling to the gym at 5:30 AM in dense fog. I hit something on the road and toppled over. As I gathered myself, I felt a hot blast of breath on my face and stared into the surprised eyes of a large but benign cow.
There was one morning, in January 1993, when I was out birding near Maddur in southern Karnataka. Our group of 15 spent the night in a farmer’s house. Next door, the farmer’s oversexed ram brayed and bleated gruffly all night while his chickens kept up an insomniac clucking. And I kept thinking I could hear the silkworm caterpillars in their wicker baskets munching away at their mulberry leaves.
Somewhere around 2 AM, I felt like a piddle. I remember climbing out of my sleeping bag and trudging towards the door with stiff limbs and standing there under the stars listening to my water trickle away. Also, most of all, I remember the sudden sensation of penetrating cold invading my body when I had compromised a bladderful of body heat.
I shivered and shuddered for an hour before I was able to get back to sleep. And in the morning, my jaw had frozen stiff and made an embarrassing clicking noise when I opened it. Along with a lancinating pain that made me grimace. We met more birders that morning, and all those who were introduced to me did a double-take at the grimace and sound effects. It was only around 11 AM that the sun thawed me out.
Our high-rises, vacant green lungs and traffic exhaust have taken the chill out of winter. Only 25 years ago, I’d play outside in the afternoon under a gentle hazy sun. Not so, anymore. I worry when my little daughter gets beads of sweat on her brow when I wrap her up.
Will there come a time when Bangalore will have no winter to call its own?