Having started a food blog and now a personal finance blog which is really getting all my attention and time I realised that I was just not writing about random stuff which might catch my fancy.
Today while talking to a few colleagues, I realised that hey, I still have a blog – Khyali Pulao – which was made for the essential purpose of putting together my thoughts in written word at one place. It will be my outlet for the real me and either the funny lens of things or something I might have read recently.

Looking at my previous posts, it is possible that you might laugh at my attempts here. Yes, there have been multiple ways in which I have tried to put back life into this poor little blog of mine. However, with the latest blog that I have (Elementum Money) where I am dedicated to post thrice a week, I am also looking at reviving my writing at a much more intensive level. So, here’s to the power of writing!
For those of you who might not know, I am Aparna Aggarwal, a corporate employee in the crazily-paced city of Mumbai. Having now been an import from Delhi, for the last 9 years, I would admit to very few people that I probably know this city better than my beloved home town.
Living a distance of about 11 km from my office, in my two years of working with Axis Bank, I have so far used the regular black and yellow cab service. While it still works for me in the mornings, thanks to a new team member and reportee, I am now beginning to realize that trains are not that bad a commuting option for me in the evenings. While I get to spend a mere 12% of what I would while travelling in s cab, it is also a fantastic opportunity to people watch.
So, yesterday evening, me, the team member and another colleague rushed to make it to the ladies special train. The Virar bound train was completely reserved for women. For the uninitiated, the name Virar when prefixed to the word train generally elicits a horrified expression from people in the know. Virar trains are legendary for their imagery of people overflowing from every door of every bogie as well as horror stories of people not being able to get off at their destination stations.


However, being a ladies special train meant that this was an easier journey and we could actually get in and even get a seat! As soon as the next station came, it was like water overflow of a bursting pipe due to excessive pressure. Women just poured in and tried to fill in any empty space they could find.
Then started the usual practice of seat reservation. Most of the seated people got a tap on the shoulder and the question, “Where are you getting off?”. In case they felt that the station was close enough, there was a nod of the head, an exchange of looks and sometimes a waggling of a finger to seal the deal.
However, one of the unusual instances in my third time on the train in evening traffic was the interaction with a eunuch. In India, eunuchs mostly beg at traffic signals, trains or come to your house at the time of any big event like weddings or a new baby. They are also known to sometimes employ scare tactics to get people to give in money to them.
As a practice, a lot of people prefer standing next to the door in Mumbai locals. When you are to get off, in case the path to the door is crowded the practice is to tap a person on the shoulder and simply put forward the name of the next station in the form of a question. So if I had to get off at Santacruz, it meant tapping on the shoulder of the lady and asking her – “Santacruz?”.
In my innocence I asked a lady and when she turned, just beyond her was this particular eunuch. She was probably 6 feet in height and solidly built. She said in a deep-set voice, “Kid, Santacruz station platform will come on the other side”. I nodded with an awkward smile and turned around towards the other gate. In a minute or so, I get tapped on my shoulder. I turn with a mind to just nod my head to what I thought I was going to be asked (Hint: Santacruz?)
Turns out it was the same eunuch. Up, close and personal, she could really come across as intimidating. And then came her booming voice – “Give me money.” I timidly shook my head.
Then she said, “Hey! I told you that Santacruz station will come this side. Now give me money.”.
I mustered some courage and muttered the words, “Someone else could also have told me”. She glared at me for a scary 30-seconds. Then with a surprisingly graceful flick of her head, she said, “If you don’t want to give, just say that” and she was off. I survived it.
Then I saw her go towards where I had been sitting. A minute later the eunuch is kissing the top of the head of a lady showing off some wedding album of a family member.
While on the road, I used to listen to podcasts to pass the time and also enhance my knowledge. I have realised that trains are more convenient, cheaper and surely a treasure trove of fun people watching. If there is something else that I find of interest in my train journeys, you can be sure you will find it here 🙂


I woke up at 7 am today morning feeling guilty and miserable – miserable that my phone switched off in between to effectively shut the alarm and guilty because there is a pile of things left for me to do.

The number of things that I sometimes feel I am trying to balance would probably challenge the most seasoned jugglers. I have a full-time increasingly demanding job, a husband whom I voluntarily want to spend time with, a commitment to fitness which involves visits to the office gym, social commitments, a blog that I am trying to build an audience with for a career switch in a few years and an examination coming up for the same career switch. This list does not include my other long-pending projects like editing photos of my last trip and writing some awesome posts on my food blog from the same trip.

While life has seemed like a long-drawn marathon being run on a treadmill since graduation from business school, off late I feel like a hamster on his running wheel.

I am unable to focus on a moment because my mind is consistently crowded with things I gotta do and efforts I need to make. Then I also start wondering how would I ever be able to enjoy the time when my parents come visiting if the factor about spending time with them is also thrown into the mix.

I know I know, these are trivial worries. I know people battle far bigger problems and I am definitely grateful that the extent of my worries is limited to this list. But I needed to get it off my chest out into the universe of bloggers where my identity is fairly unknown. I don’t need people to sympathise with me or tell me what’s wrong. Maybe just an empathetic read through this post is all I need. As they say, writing is cathartic. Let’s hope it works to ease some of the stress that I have been feeling.

Have you ever felt that tingling sensation of exploring a new place? Have you ever been so eager to mentally cross off the days on the calendar that it becomes almost frustrating? Have you looked longingly at pictures of a place whenever you got the time between work? Has your brain been completely swamped about thoughts for what you will get to do in just a few days? Have you been planning and over planning each and every minuscule detail trying to cramp up everything in those few days of exhilaration?

Then, you my friend have been bitten by the travel bug which is coming to fruition soon. I know all this because I am going through that sweet agony as I type. In just another 8.5 days I will be flying off to my first ever trip to Europe! Well, it is a small trip by Europe standards (a week) but in some ways it is a sufficient enough sampler with our feet touching down to 3 beautiful countries – England (London), Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Belgium (Brussels and Bruges). Before embarking on this trip, I thought I would list down what gets me most excited about these places:

1. Chocolate sampling in Belgium: I have been a huge fan of chocolate. Many years back a friend of my sister got us a box of Belgian chocolates. That box had such an impact on me that on reading up a bit more, Belgium immediately became a part of my bucket list. While over the years, the humongous quantities of imported exotic chocolates supplied by my pampering sister quenched that craziness to an extent, the itch to try Belgian hand made chocolates in the little shops was always there. Little did I imagine that it would feature on my first visit to the continent.

2. A better appreciation of cheese: While researching about our trip I realised that Netherlands is quite an experience when it comes to cheese. In India, cheese is there pretty much as a tick mark or for the heck of it. Of whatever I have had, I love the stretchy gooey difference that it makes to food. I had heard about Gouda cheese but this was the time when I got to know that Gouda is actually a place in Netherlands from the cheese originates. This is the trip where I am hoping to get a better understanding of the flavour and texture of the different forms that cheese can take.

3. Beer!: I am not a big fan of Beer, preferring the lighter Bacardi Breezer (read about it at ) or harder drinks like Vodka or rum. Going to artisan beer countries like Netherlands and Belgium, it is next to impossible to return without a new found liking for this beverage of choice of millions. What has tickled my fancy is the idea of cherry, chocolate or dessert beer.

Well, yes my top 3 entries are all about food! Quite evidently, food is a big part of my journey. But, there are many other important parts to the trip that I am looking forward to:

4. Walking and chilling in the parks of London:I have spent years reading Enid Blyton books and her idea of picnic hampers and a day out are still etched clearly in my mind. A picnic lunch after years and years in a green leafy area of the park is a must do on my list, if only to get a slightly urban feel of what has featured so often in my favourite author’s writings.

5. Walking across the Red Light District in Amsterdam: In India, sex is still a taboo and paid sex is most often by force and a completely unspoken impossible act, by consent. It is only covert and highly dangerous. Coming from that environment, to be able to walk in a much more open and civilised version of the process is unmissable for me, if only to make my husband uncomfortable! 🙂

6. Walk/cruise along canals in Amsterdam and Bruges: The one city where I have always wanted to experiences canals is Venice. While that will happen later, I know Amsterdam and Bruges are no less of an experience when it comes to canals. An evening candle-lit cruise or just walking around hand-in-hand is going to be truely memorable!

Have I missed out on anything? Do you have any remarkable, memorable, unexpected experience from any of these cities? Please feel free to write in the Comments section. Till then, I am off to my day dreaming again!

Know me!

I have been one of the most sporadic writers I know of. It is definitely not for the lack of people around me telling me that I write decently well or for that matter people telling me to write more often. What often got me stuck was getting inspired enough to write.

For a long time, I thought blogging was for people venting out their thoughts which were better written in a diary. After all, why tell the world what you think? Gradually, as blogging took on more dimensions and more variations, I realised it could be much much more than writing about your feelings. It is more about story-telling and giving a perspective. It is about having a conversation with people flung far and wide. It is about drawing people to your thoughts.

The name for my blog is “Khyali Pulao” which is a hindi phrase. When loosely translated, it means “cooking up thoughts”. To me this is a blank canvas for me to paint with thoughts on seasons, places, travel experiences, photography experiences and maybe life experiences. I have made a start but it has been quite a sputtering start.

Starting this year, I am hoping to have a much better relationship with my blog and develop an audience for my writings as well.


I have always been a winter girl. To me, it is the “Dilli ki sardi” that I love the most and that I crave for here in Mumbai.

However, recently I came across a summer-special issue of Lounge the Saturday supplement of business newspaper Mint. It has beautiful articles on what would really count for Indian Summer and everything related to it. Reading it, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and I decided to pen down all the memories and events I associate with the summers of Delhi.

The first thing that will strike anyone as soon as you mention the two words – Delhi and summers – will be intense heat. Worst of all, it is the heat which ends up taking a few lives every year. The air is hot and the breeze swirling around is hotter still. It is the kind of heat very few people are attuned to take. It is a heat which makes everyone uncomfortable, grouchy and immensely irritable. It is a heat that only the most courageous can take on (without the help of an A.C.) at the peak hours when the sun is at its hottest. It is a heat which sees empty roads in the afternoons even on weekends. It is a heat that brings out the best survival tactics in everybody.

However, there were ways and means to take on this heat. For more than half of my life in Delhi, my interaction with the air conditioner was next to none. Even when the A.C. did make its appearance at home, it was always used only as a lullaby to put us to sleep at night. Apart from that, I have learnt to bear the brunt of Delhi heat without the assistance of the A.C. most of the times. And boy, am I proud of it or what!

One of the earliest signs in my house, of the fact that summer was approaching was the annual search for a good matka to last the whole season. For the uninitiated, matka is a large earthen water pot which keeps water cool without the need for refrigeration. It has been a seasonal fixture in my house for as long as I can remember now.

Being a landlocked city, the summer season in Delhi is a period of extremely dry heat.  Even while writing this piece, I can hear my mum’s voice in my head telling me to drink a glass of Glucon-D before I step out. After school whenever we went home we could be assured of a glass of home-made chhas (buttermilk) waiting for us. If it was not buttermilk, it was sattu which is made of channa (gram) and more popular in the central part of the country. As kids in the evening, we would have Rasna or different types of fruit squashes or aam panna (refreshing drink made of raw mango) or the all-time favourite Rooh-Afza. One special treat used to be to drink cold milk. I wonder how many people have had Rooh-Afza or the even Coca Cola mixed with cold milk. It tastes yum especially if it is sweltering hot around you.

Summer was also the time for the juiciest sweetest fruits. From around April end, our refrigerator would always be full of either musk melon or mangoes. Dinner was never complete without either of these fruits for dessert. The person who would cut the musk melon also had the job of announcing to the family on the sweetness meter of that particular piece. For mangoes, it would start with the bland Safeda variety, moving on to the red-tinged tangy Sindhuri and finally the family favourite of Langda. Most of the Sundays would mean a breakfast of a huge watermelon, having been duly immersed in ice-cold water overnight.

If it is summer time, then it is also pickle-making time. Over the years, the energy and enthusiasm for the humungous task of making an year’s stock of mango pickle might have waned, but the memories remain. My parents going specially to the wholesale market (almost like an Indian version of the farmer’s market) to get the best raw mangoes (or ambis). After that the whole family’s involvement in peeling, dicing and de-seeding the mangoes. The spicing for the pickle and the cooking for the chutney would ensure that pickle-making was a day-long task.

Being a foodie, I think my first attention always zeros in on the season and it’s bounties on the platter. However, one of my favourite parts about summers in Delhi remains the amaltas tree. These are the only things which become more cheerful with the heat. These beautiful trees can be seen all over the city laden with beautiful yellow flowers hanging over the branches. By the peak of the season, you can barely see the leaves and the whole tree looks only yellow. In fact, there’s a road near my house where the trees line both sides of the road and almost make an arch. That road alone makes the heat worth it in summer.

During the years of school, summer was synonymous with the long vacation and the holiday homework that was bound to come. Attending the assemblies were another pain. Classes which were lined up in the sun would always envy the others who got a spot in the shade. And for us girls, the woes of tanning were innumerable. While the suntan lotion was applied for sure, after a month or so, there was a clear pattern and colour difference between the covered and coloured skin. You could see the strap of your sandal on the foot or the level at which the t-shirt sleeve ended on your arm. The numerous power cuts were almost announced in school as a collective groan would go up in all the classes. But the most fun part of summers in school were the water fights at the water cooler.

Along with the intense heat comes the intense relief from anything cold. Be it baraf ka gola (ice lollies), cold showers or the seasonal dust storms. The gust of dust alongwith the high-speed winds and of course the hail storms often cracking many a windshields are all worthy sessions of relief after the heat.

Delhi sure is one city of extreme climate. But, once you learn to enjoy it and bear with it, that is when you become a part of the city.

Rummaging in my old data, I came across an article I wrote for a sports website almost an year ago. While it did not get published there, I thought it was quite a decent attempt.

Spoiler alert: Only people with atleast some interest in Tennis or Sports in general might like it as it tends to go into analysis mode. Comments are welcome as usual.

Men’s tennis is boring while women’s tennis is dynamic. While in men’s tennis, you usually expect the top five or six players to make it to the second week of the grand slams (and most of them do), in women’s tennis, the list remains fluid and has around a dozen members (and even then the finalists never cease to surprise us). The fact that today the upcoming female players come from exotic countries with tongue-twisting names (like Petrova, Ivanovich and Jankovic) makes the scene even more complicated. The men are definitely trying to catch up. Finally Roger Federer has competition and it is not necessarily a five letter name starting with N. But, the men still have a long way to go before they can even think of catching up with the women in this case.

However, jokes apart, it is true that women’s tennis is facing a chronic problem. While Nadal overtaking Federer in the ATP rankings makes headlines all over, very few people would even know who the number one ranked player in women’s tennis is at any given point of time. Are the women players more prone to getting injured? Lack of commitment? Or is the flaw in the WTA ranking system?

Women players are definitely injury-prone but then that is an ailment that troubles the men as well. Nadal has been battling with injury recently and is yet to come back to his former self. This peculiar problem cannot be blamed on a tendency of women getting injured more frequently.

Lack of commitment? While some might argue out this point especially keeping the fact in mind that Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne quit at a peak in their career, there is no dearth of women who have given their life and soul to the game and this can just not be accepted as a valid reason for the volatility in the rankings.

A flaw in the WTA ranking system? I would say yes. The WTA ranking system is 52-week, cumulative system in which the number of Tournament results that comprise a players’ ranking is capped at 17 Tournament results. Within those 17 tournaments, some of the results that have to be included are the grand slam performances and a few mandatory tournaments. When Dinara Safina became the top ranked player (without having won a single grand slam), while she claimed that she would have liked to reach this milestone in a different way  the 2nd rank, Serena Williams (fresh from winning the Wimbledon) had no qualms in announcing her disapproval of the system.

However, this is not the first time that the top rank in women’s tennis is a player who doesn’t have a single grand slam title to her name. In August 2008, Jelena Jankovic had the crown without even being in a major final. In 2003, Clijsters also had the number one rank to her name without a Grand Slam victory to her name. The new rule for the averages to calculate the WTA ranking was brought about in 1997. The flaws were almost immediately visible when Martina Hingis edged past Steffi Graf despite the fact that Graf had three majors under her belt that year while Hingis had just one.

So, what is it about the WTA ranking that such surprising results keep popping up from time to time and no one can ever be sure about who really is on the top? This new One of the reasons is that the more you play, the more are your chances of a better ranking. This just induces greed and a desire to play more and more which is bound to induce more fatigue and more frequent injuries. Also, the cap of 16 Tournaments allows players to disregard bad performances (in the non-mandatory tournaments) and including only their good ones. This is probably the only ranking system in sports where bad performances can be ignored.

One of the aims of this new change in the WTA ranking systems was to reward consistency in the performances of the players. Ironically, that seems to have created inconsistency in the rankings as such.

Punjab Paddy

Finally my company, is venturing into opening retail stores in the agricultural heartland of India. While the upper management is showing all the excitement of finally going into the hinterland of the north, the other employees seem downright scared. These are the same people who think of Delhi-ites as the most arrogant people.

It just made me wonder whether it is a peculiarity particular to people born and brought up in this great megapolis of Mumbai or is it just the fear of the unknown. This is not the first time when I have seen proper Mumbaikars turn up their nose at anything falling outside Mumbai (even Pune for that matter) unless it’s foreign and exotic.

It’s amusing to see how they are not willing to go outside their comfort zone. The idea of anything apart from a plane seems to terrify them. The possibility of travelling in train (irrespective of it being as comfortable as a Shetabdi) seems totally alien to them.

This is a situation that has been going to-and-fro in my presence for the last one week now and I am also made the butt of jokes having originated from that region (though to be fair, I also prefer to refer to myself as a Delhiite more than a true-blue Punju). The final straw was when in my creative team, a colleague actually wondered if the people in Jalandhar and Amritsar would be able to understand some of the icons used by her in the advertisement.

I am guessing there is more amusement in store for me!


This is a blog post that has been brewing in my mind for quite some time. Somehow I was never sure if I have enough matter for the topic to compose a proper blog post.

I have now been in Mumbai for two and a half years. For maybe the first one and a half years I would miss my home town way too much and Mumbai always fell short in comparison. However, there were three things that I embraced in a heartbeat, namely, the sea (however smelly it might be at places), the independence (in other words, the nightlife which I barely tested and the way this city never really sleeps and you can see people, vehicles and lights at any point making you feel secure in its presence) and lastly but still one of the most important things to me – the Mumbai auto-rickshaws.

After coming to Mumbai, the auto-rickshaws were a revelation to me. In Delhi, I would barely travel in the autos as they were neither that frequent, would never go by meter and somehow it became one of the things my mum would warn and scare me about (you get the gist of it). Autos in Delhi meant travelling longer distances (for which I mostly used DTC’s which is a long tale in itself) as within the area it would always be the cycle rickshaw. So, it came as a pleasant surprise to get out of the hostel the first day and see atleast 2-3 autos waiting to actually ferry us to a walkable distance.

As time passed, I realized the amazing convenience offered by the autos in Mumbai and understood why people praise the public transportation in this city. Of course, there are a few blackout times which might be particular to certain areas. I remember we would not get autos from the hostel from around 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm as the school on the opposite of the road would get off at that time and it was a simple matter of demand and supply for longer distances which are always more tempting. Evening is always a problem in most areas as demand again exceeds the supply. In that case, my gung-ho attitude about the Mumbai autos might also be since I have never had the daily need to find an auto in the blackout periods.

Another thing which struck me was the precision related to the fare which is there with most auto-fellas and even the hard-core Mumbaikars. It is such an influence which tends to rub-off on you. By precision, I mean to the rupee. Till some time back, the minimum fare on the auto was Rs. 9 and I was in the habit of not bothering to take back the balance of a rupee. Then came the day when I was travelling with one of my precisionist friends. When I was about to walk off without the rupee, I got a nice lecture which ended with the words, “Tum Dilli wale Mumbai ke auto walon ko bigadoge” (People from Delhi are going to spoil Mumbai auto walas). Somehow, the impact of those words was such that not only have I become somewhat of a precisionist myself, but every time I wait to take a small balance I can just hear her voice ringing in my ears!

Another thing which strikes me is the availability of an auto at any point of the day or night. Get out of a late night show at 1 or 2 am, you will get an auto at the beckon of a hand. Need to catch an early morning flight? No worries! Even at 5 a.m. there is no dearth of autos and the maximum wait for one will be a few minutes.

Some of the auto drivers are great for some amusing experiences or conversations if you show the slightest hint of interest. I was travelling with a friend and were at the Lokhandwala signal one day and it was mildly crowded (by Mumbai traffic standards). We sighted an amazing maroon convertible Mercedes and began contemplating whether it belonged to any celebrity (my friend being celebrity-obssessed). Then the auto driver enlightened us saying it belonged to Shahid Kapur. I responded with a quizzical look wondering at his confidence while my friend responded with a squeal and said, “Bhaiya thoda jaldi chalao aur uss gadi ke paas le kar jao”. Then began my most memorable auto ride. We looked from one angle to the other and squinted to check if Shahid Kapur was even present in the car while the auto weaved in and out crazily among the traffic to get us up, close and personal to the amazing car. In another 5 minutes, we pulled up next to the car and saw Shahid Kapur in his Kaminey look.

Then in another auto ride, the driver started recounting how many stars he has glimpsed and a few T.V. stars that he has even driven around town.

With my work, my travel time in autos has increased substantially as I need to visit stores regularly. While most of the rides are bumpy, as soon as the auto enters the highway, it is the best place to catch two winks. Most of the autos have cushioned interiors which gives a comfortable enough headrest.  The confidence that the auto driver knows his way around definitely helps also helps in giving a lull.

One of the most distinct fact that I have noticed among the autos here is that the drivers move around with religion on their sleeves. Most autos have the image of some deity or the other on their windshield. Else, there is an urdu inscription on the windshield or the auto-driver wears his skull-cap. I have tried to wonder as to why this is more often visible in autos than even the taxis (in all fairness, my experience in taxis is much less) but have been unable to come up with anything substantial.

All in all, the auto remains one of my favourite symbols in this city and I felt a compelling urge to write about it!

What’s the national sport of India? A lot of people are bound to say cricket. Some will still get it right at Hockey. But I, for one believe that the national sport of India should be cribbing.

Oh yeah I am very serious! Now, I am not very sure if it is general human tendency to not be content and vent it out in the form of cribbing or if it’s a particularly Indian trend. But I can say it with some surety that Indians probably excel at it.

From my school days I have this distinct memory of my very good friend (I am sure she knows I am talking about her once she reads the post) whom we called a “perpetual cribber”. However, the pinnacle of her cribbing generally used to be the morning assemblies in summer. The reason: the Indian obsession with tanning. Even though she would wear sunscreen, it gave her yet another reason to crib as that would melt in the sizzling sunshine. Of course, the cribbing was not that loud when it was time to play basketball in an even hotter time of the day.

My roommate cribs about going to office almost everyday (who doesn’t!) though it really reaches a pinnacle on Sunday evening. In some ways, her cribbing made me realize that it can be a highly contagious act. Now, every Sunday evening even if she’s not cribbing, it’s me who has joined the fray.

At times I think the habit of cribbing is in-bred into us. Here I am referring to the uniquely Indian concept of nazar. So, if a neighbor cribs to you, you should not remain silent as that might be seen as a sign of being content with life and might invite the wrath of your depressed (or so he looks) neighbor. You must try and make him feel that his situation is in fact better and there are worse things to be in the middle of. So, begin to crib and you might be able to avoid his nazar on your happiness.

However, it’s not all preventive because at times cribbing has it’s benefits. Take the case of my sister for example. We were out for a shopping trip once to the popular flea market at Janpath in Delhi. As anyone who has shopped at flea markets would know, it depends on your luck on that particular day as to whether you get merchandise of your liking. We had taken a round of one side of the market and somehow nothing seemed right. Then my sister started with her cribbing saga about how I got good stuff when I was there and why she hasn’t got it and the likes (thankfully my brother-in-law bore most of the brunt of it). And on our return path somehow things seemed to fall in place and we found 2 or 3 items that made our visit well worth it. Maybe cribbing does help!

In all this I am in no way saying that I am an innocent bystander who just doesn’t crib but prefers to observe. It is only in rare moments of clear thinking that I realize the passion with which we crib!

As anyone may have guessed, I am someone who is quite passionate about Delhi. And one of the things I love about the city is the amazing winter it experiences. If anyone wants to see the proper manifestation of the four seasons, this is the place to be – If it’s May or June, it has to be sizzling hot though there might be the occasional relief in lashing summer storms and hailstorm; August has to be experienced with overcast days and typical monsoon showers; if it’s October then the heat would still be there but mornings and evening will bring along with it a hint of the upcoming chill; December means extreme chill; in March you can feel that winter is gradually leaving you to welcome(or for most of the people grimace at) the summer.

When I was in Delhi, I used to like all of this. Summers were horribly hot but it still meant less clothing and I knew that I can tolerate it so it was fine. Monsoon was good because overcast days are always fun and in Delhi you can mostly predict if you need an umbrella for the day. It’s not like Mumbai where umbrellas become a necessity for the next four months. The transition months were always interesting as it was mostly a guessing game and a topic of conversation as to when it would become hotter/colder and anyway who doesn’t like change? But now my favourite season is definitely winters. It is a possibility that since I haven’t gotten to experience it for the last three times now, my fondness for it has just magnified.

I have always been able to battle criticism about Delhi or taken it in my stride by letting it bounce of me. My usual train of thought is “Huh, what would they know about the charm of Delhi?” But “Dilli ki sardi” is not something for which I take any criticism lightly. A friend called it a curse from god and I was quick to react. Then another friend (a Delhiite with whom I have had innumerable discussions about why Dilli ki sardi is so good and why we miss it) said “cold is horrible”. I was horrified to see it coming from her and wondered if my liking for the winter season is just because I am viewing it from a distance and not spent the whole season there? But, I doubt it is so as I can just make a very long list of the things that are awesome about “Dilli ki sardi” and I shall proceed to do the same right now.

Let me start with the amazing food that is just appropriate for winters. Having piping hot pakoras with a steaming cup of tea/coffee just makes a cold chilly day a wonderful time to live in. Then the amazing winter-special food distinctive to the north – rewri, gazak, roasted peanuts on almost any roadside corner.  That’s not all. Being a veggie, I can see that even the vegetables love winters – The cauliflower becomes fairer, the carrots redder, the tomatoes juicier, the peas sweeter and the baby corn fresher. Then there is makki ki roti, sarson ka saag, lots of pinnis drenched in ghee or maybe even golden jalebis dripping with sugar syrup.  A hot bowl of soup, a plate of aloo tikki hot off the tawa or a serving of steamed momos with spicy chutney makes you feel like winters are a blessing. Being a foodie I could probably go on and on about this but I shall restrain myself this once.

I love the whoosh of the cold winter breeze. Getting out of the house covered head-to-toe is an experience like no other. Of course, a lot of people hate this part of winter but I love it. The jackets, the mufflers, the stoles, the gloves, the socks and the caps make it worth it. It is always fun discussing the number of layers one is wearing in winter and still end up shivering or the comparative coldness of each other’s hand.  In fact, the best thing to do is pile on the clothes and climb onto a cycle rickshaw. Feel the breeze on your cheeks and you might end up with your eyes watering due to the chill. But just seeing the red semi-frozen cheeks is interesting in itself.

Of course, baths become a trial in winters. Just the idea of removing woolens gives anyone the shivers. But the hot water and foggy mirrors are an experience not to be missed. I love the bed-time winter ritual of taking off the socks, the sweater and then just sneaking into the quilt. The feel of the cold quilt can be intimidating for some time and if your feet are cold too then it is of little help. But the gradual warming up of the quilt with your body heat and waking up all toasted and snuggled up in the quilt would probably be the selling point in any marketing campaign for winters!

Play a ball game in winter and it becomes an entirely different ball game. Be it volleyball, basketball or cricket, the ball hits you hard. Your entire body might even start protesting against the onslaught but  once the body warms up to the fact that you are not going to stop, feeling hot and sweating in winters is actually exhilarating.

In all this, I don’t know how I forgot the amazing phenomenon of fog. Of course, it’s irritating when your flights get cancelled or you have to drive in it. But walking towards it is like unraveling a mystery. Then once the sun begins to shine and the fog disappears things begin to come into clear view again. And fog is not only in the air. Open your mouth and what you get is a cloud of mist.

Another fact is that in winters everyone becomes a sunflower. You just like to drink in the sunlight till the time you are able to get it. While it’s mostly old ladies whom you can see sitting on rooftops, gossiping and shelling peas while letting the sun neutralize the cold breeze, occasionally it’s something everyone likes to indulge in.

In all probability if I rack my brains any further I am bound to come up with lots more things which make winters enjoyable to me. But, seeing the length of the post already, all I can say is may god bless people with the heart to enjoy the season of winters! 🙂