Monday, March 16, 2009

The Seasons...

It is plus nine degrees today. After a long time there is bright sunshine and I feel that I will survive in Stockholm for some more time.

I never thought that my surroundings and the weather can make such a profound impact on my mood. But then I never lived in a place where the seasons and the environment changed so much, its almost as if it has a life of its own. India has its seasons, but they aren’t half as varied as in Europe. Stockholm for example, is a different planet in summer. Bright, warm, colorful and cheerful. Its inevitable that the spirit of summer will get to you and you will smile, laugh and wear bright colors. People here behave differently in summer. The sound levels in the metro train are a notch higher, more kids are outside playing, the dogs are wagging their tails. Its a shame if you don’t take a boat ride to the islands nearby or go for a grill lunch picnic. Autumn is a different look altogether. It gets slightly darker, the greens turn to yellow and there are leaves all around. The whiff of winter is in the air, almost whispering in your ears about how its going to come and engulf everything around in a few months. The first time I set foot in Stockholm, it was autumn. As I entered my hotel room I noticed a tree in front which had beautiful yellow and maroon leaves. It was a beautiful sight. The next day as I prepared to go to work I looked out and lo behold! There wasn’t a single leaf on the tree!! And I thought.. so this is what autumn is like. I’d read it in all those books growing up, but that day I felt autumn.

Winter is the worst. Not because of the cold. Everyone asks me this all the time. ‘It must be cold in Stockholm’. It is… really cold.. goes down to minus 10, but it doesn’t matter. Every place has central heating… home, workplace, metro trains, metro stations, busses, cars, shops, malls. When you go out you are dressed for the cold. And with time you learn to be fashionable even in 3 layers of clothing. You learn about not being brave and always wearing a scarf and gloves. And with time you also get used to the cold.. till it doesn’t really bother you too much. So the minus temperatures really don’t matter.

It’s the darkness, always the darkness, that matters the most. I had laughed the first time someone had told me this. And had told the person, how does it matter anyway? I like nights, taking long walks in the night, partying at night, or just sitting with my best friend out on the verandah at night. But the phenomenon of having darkness around you 24 by 7.. through weeks and months.. for nearly 4 months is something that cannot be explained. You never even know when it starts getting to you. Until someday when you had a good day at work, a nice evening and still at the end of the day you feel depressed. Like something is missing. Its like when you taste a familiar dish with a missing ingredient and you try to guess what is missing. Its waking up to darkness, going to work in darkness, and then returning home to darkness. Its about having your breakfasts, lunches and dinners in darkness. Its about spending weekends in darkness. Well, as I said its kinda tough explaining it, but believe me somehow it gets to you. There have been so many occasions when I have thought.. if only I could see the sun.. just for an hour. And not surprisingly I am not the only one. People, like birds, migrate during winter to sunnier parts of the world.

It stays dark and gloomy till it snows, and somehow the snow makes you feel better. It lifts up your spirits. And then of course there is Christmas. You do not have to be a Christian to feel the Christmas spirit in the air during December. And then things are less gloomy.

But things are changing. I saw a flower peeping out of the ground today, with a kind of a hesitation, as if it was not sure that it was time for it to come out. It reflects the mood in the air, no ones sure whether winter has ended. I thought it had ended a week back, till 4 days back when I woke up to a white morning, everything covered in snow. And it snowed continuously for 3 days. But today its plus nine degrees, the snow is gone, and the sun was out for 30 minutes in the morning. I am already feeling happy.

From 4 hours of daylight we will soon move to 8 to 9 hours, and in a few months we will have a day when we will have 23 hours of sunlight! And that believe me is enough to cheer up the most depressed person in the world. So my advice is, if you have the equivalent of around 500 EUR (that’s around 35000 INR) saved up for air tickets, pack your bags and come over to Stockholm in May. You can put up at my place and I can show you around and tell you a few more interesting things about Stockholm :)

Picking up from my last blog, you can always look at the life you have in a better perspective if you remove yourself and look at it from afar. If I see the life I had in India, I can see so many things I never bothered thinking about back then. Like the daylight, like the warmth, of the climate and of the people. Like the bhel puri and pani puri. Like those amazing Kolkata egg rolls. Like the Delhi matharis. Like the most amazing Nagpur pav bhajis.. When I go back to India, I promise to appreciate the daylight and the weather everyday and thank God everytime I have panipuri :).

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