Winter. I know exactly what I want from winter in the Dooars. It should be pleasantly cool, with temperatures not lower than 11 degrees C, and no higher than 22 C. It should be just cold enough to justify the lighting of a fire in the place.
The joy of airing and wearing sweaters, snuggling into quilts and being able to knit without feeling suffocated by the warmth of wool.
Clear blue skies, sunlight to sit out in, no dust and no humidity.
My mother has always said that the cold weather in Delhi is wonderful until Christmas, after which what she calls the 'dirty winter' begins. I can't think of a better description of those murky skies or those foggy days and nights with miserably low temperatures.
The Dooars is not as cold as Delhi, but here too, blue skies and sunny days come to an end by the beginning of January. In the morning, the fog gives way to a dust and cloud haze. Everyone seems to fall ill. We long for warmth, for an end to the misery of cold days and nights.
February usually comes with drought, chills, more dust, and an increasing difference in day/night temperatures which adds to the woes of those suffering from coughs and colds.
It's been different this year. In most parts of India, winter began early and seems to be in no hurry to leave.
For the last two days, we've had a replay of the early cold weather. The sky is blue, the sunshine is warm enough for me to lie about in chairs and drowse, and occasional chilly breezes bring the comforting thought that the weather won't hot up and spoil it all too soon.
My cold weather garden has a very few blooms. We moved into this bungalow at a time when it was too late for me to plan or plant the garden. The previous occupant had had no time either, being caught up with packing for retirement.
So I have what the mali (gardener) could manage with his own resources. I never grew poppies after our chhota bungalow days, becoming very picky as I gained seniority - not necessarily wisdom - as a tea memsaab. Poppies were things I looked down upon. They have this tendency to blaze for a day or two in glory before fluttering away their all in a mess on the ground. It's tempting to think of them as wastrels. They are completely out of place among superior species that hold their heads up as the well cultivated should.
Well they hold their own here - however fleetingly - and they have silenced me. I'd forgotten their depth of colour and the richness of texture of each petal. The 'mess' of fallen petals makes the ground come alive with colour. I'm willing to eat my words – and the poppies too - if it will prolong the heady daze of these extended cold weather days.
The sky at noon - from under a favourite tree