Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

A Foggy Day (in London Town Delhi)

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After nearly a decade, I had the chance to be in Delhi during winters. Delhi’s winters have changed so much over my lifetime – as a child I remember foggy mornings and clear afternoons of the late seventies. On weekdays the mornings used to be a torture – the brick houses would be practically as cold inside as it would be outside, sometimes as cold as 3-5C. I showered and shivered, then huddled in the cold school bus as it careened through the fog, and folded into myself during morning school assembly in the cold open fields. But the afternoons were clear and warm and lunchtime typically meant sitting out in the sun with friends sharing our packed lunches. Weekend afternoons would often be spent eating oranges or roasted peanuts while sunning oneself on the porch or balcony. I remember the nineties winters as a dirtier version of my childhood – the fog became smog, the afternoon sunny sky was grayish brown with sun never quite managing to poke through the smog screen.

This visit, I found the days foggy again but all the way through – heavy in the mornings and never quite clearing up. And my uncles and aunts tell me that the winter this year is what they remember from their youth – morning fog so thick that you could not see your outstretched hand.

Anyone who has to fly into Delhi airport on such a morning has a fair probability of landing at nearby airports – Jaipur, Ahmedabad… – exciting destinations in their own way, though not when you just want to get home to your mother’s aloo parathas. I had kept track of a particularly striking peak of the Himalayan range as my plane went round and round, once, twice, …. waiting to land. When it did land, it plunged through the fog layer in a matter of seconds – one moment it was clear, next it was foggy, and the next we hit the tarmac. Visibility on the landing strip was so poor that the cranes and towers looked like the monster from Bradbury’s Foghorn.

When I stepped out of the airport, the watch read mid day but the foggy city had the feel of early dawn – small groups of people by the side of empty streets, huddled about small fires, wrapped in shawls, smoking bidis and warming their hands. My taxi driver got stopped by traffic police and couldn’t produce a valid driver’s license. Some choice abuses flowed from the police to the driver and some petty cash flowed the other way. That encounter got my circulation going. Amidst that unusual fog, life was only too normal.

Written by Som

March 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Delhi, India

Tagged with ,

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