We didn’t expect there to be winter in Delhi. Delhi’s climate surprised us by existing.
The thought that Delhi might be anything other than hot never crossed our minds as we were packing our suitcases back in Brooklyn. Knowing only that there was a monsoon season, we expected eleven months of unbroken heat and one month of unbroken rain.
Midway through our first December, we knew we were wrong — a fact proven by the two electric heaters we’d purchased, along with two thick wool blankets to wrap around our shoulders for the moments we’d have to exit the narrow arc of air that the electric heaters kept warm.
Nighttime winter fog outside our flat. Photo by us.
Even then, the blankets barely compensated for the drafts that radiated through our loose-fitted windows and wrapped their icy grips around our very souls.
The marble floors that promised to echo the air conditioning in the summer were like a barefoot trek across an ice-covered lake, even while wearing three pairs of socks.
Going to the bathroom made us wish we’d moved into a flat with a squat toilet — anything other than sitting on that icy seat.
Photo by Flickr user Mayank Austen Soofi.
The dropping temperature had been a gradual revelation. At first, we’d needed only a comforter for the bed. Then we needed sweaters to wear around the house. Before long, we were buying hats, and then scarves, and then gloves, and then jackets, and then those electric heaters that we’d turn on in the bathroom ten minutes before shower time to blast away the walk-in freezer now attached to our bedroom.
Late night rides in open-air autorickshaws made us regret not leasing our own car; huddled together in the back seat, staring at the driver’s back through our own fogged breath, we’d envy his sweater and his surreptitious warming sips from the small bottle hidden in his breast pocket.
Photo by Flickr user Sunil D
But winter also brought splendor to Delhi, fleeting though these moments were. On the coldest mornings, getting up early to beat the traffic let me appreciate the magnificence of Delhi’s fog; on MG Road, segments of the Metro would disappear into of the vanishing point, majestically suspended in the sky, more massive and beautiful than they ever seemed on a clear day.
Photo by Flickr user Rohit Markande
The air on MG Road was thick and still, broken only by brilliant flashes of blue as kingfishers flitted across the roadway.
Passing through Gurgaon, the skyscrapers were hidden behind grey clouds, an invisible presence somewhere beyond the black silhouette of the electrical towers that abutted the street.
The weather never went below freezing in Delhi, so it never snowed, which meant Delhi had all of the misery of winter but none of the fun. But its winter was relatively short, and by February the nights were comfortable, the days were pleasant, and the winter fog was no longer delaying midnight flights until six AM. And another summer was about to begin.