Monday, February 15, 2010

When it snowed in Mid-Summer

A reluctant school-goer has returned home. The shoes are shoved away and the maroon socks have been irresponsibly thrown to the winds. There is little to create ruckus about, so I am yet to think of something. The friends are away, locked up in their own personal havens and I’m still desperately searching for mine within my tiny head. Having found no such paradise to satisfy my imagination, I decide that it will have to be the outdoors and optimistically reach for the latch. The door opens into the disappointingly familiar street-side. They offer scarce fodder for the imaginative brain, and it is difficult for the dreamer to construct anything fabulous out of it. So, I accept the cruel dismissal and settle down on the porch, falling into the reclusive, purposeless comfort of the genuine idler. The irresponsible lounger has just sat down to think, and everything shall remain undisturbed for a while now.

The heat waves shiver off the tar and travel. The afternoon is still, and the sun is most impolite today. I feel his wrath on my prickly skin. The afternoon is scorching and I squint. I am most unresponsive otherwise, and quietly disregard. Although the coolness of red-oxide would feel much better on my bare feet, I choose not to move. The world inside is dark and shadowy, and has fussing adults walking around. Right here, in the wide open—absorbed in my own sleepy reverie, all is quiet, if not exciting. As the heat tickles my bare feet, and my skin starts to boil, the irritation grows. Inside my head, something else is growing. A gorgeously fantasized winter wonderland. How would it be if a beautiful, snow-covered meadow would replace this dusty street side? Within the blink of an eye, my imagination melds with reality and I perceive the street side covered to an inch thick with fresh snow. Within the next blink, the vision has evaporated, and the irritation has grown even more acute. A south Indian late summer is never the best time to start thinking about snow, but I’m too young to know that. How I wish it would have snowed right here…..

“Snow is nothing but small fluffy pieces of clouds, which are torn apart sprinkled around by playful angels,” had been the most scientific guess of a friend in response to my question of why it snowed up north at all, and it had soon become everybody else’s scientific guess when I was seven. The belief stuck, and soon, I had claimed the hypothesis as my own, confident of proving it right someday. The primary subject for the deep thinker had been things like these—and they provoked further discussions with our group of intellectual young scientists. Well, leaving that apart, the day had proven to be most unfruitful. I had wished for snow, and it hadn’t appeared, and it turned out to be another day systematically wasted in fruitless dreams.

The weekday moved on, and the ritual too, continued, as more and more of my friends shied away from the hot summers, into the curtained comfort of the sweet indoors. To lure them out into the streets became more and more of a difficult task to achieve as the days progressed, and more of the world wilted away into the dust. The frustration grew stronger, and I started wishing that the angels up in the skies would look this way too. There seemed to be a justice to my claim. Why did they always have to exist in the north? Didn’t we deserve some wonderful snow right here too? Maybe if they could tear apart some more clouds and sprinkle it down on Bangalore, I could take a day off and frolic in the fresh snow.

Or maybe if the angels granted me the power, I could be the one tearing up the clouds, or waving the magic wand. The shared yearning for something so improbable became the most central of all my desires, until I learnt to conjure snow out of useless things. I finally got to wave my magic wand. I discovered the secret formula for making it snow, even in mid-summer. And the idea soon became the biggest hit among all my friends, suddenly sky-rocketing me into instant popularity.

No snow? No problem! We could conjure them from thermo coal. Rub the thermo-coal on rough surfaces, and they would fragment so quickly into tiny pieces that floated about. When it was windy out, it would prove most effective to walk down the streets with your thermo-coal and rub it vigorously on all possible rough surfaces. Those were the best days—the days when we had plenty of discarded thermo coal in hand, and endless possibilities in the air. The noisy brood would walk about the streets bare-foot, letting the fake snow invade every nook and corner. And as the scorching summer had turned into gusty august and September days, the habit had persisted in all gusto. The small band of faithful followers would come behind me and the inventor of the fake snow would walk about the roads, announcing my triumphant victory by quick demonstrations if anyone asked.

“Rub, rub, rub,” they would scream encouraging, as the quick hands moved and they would thrill, laugh or allow the fake snow to cover their lashes. And I would grin, and laugh the afternoons off, feeling like I had accomplished something. It had been considered particularly ingenious at that point of time, and I had gleefully enjoyed all the stardom that had accompanied my accidental discovery. Together, we had made it snow like never before in Bangalore. Even though it could never mach up to the standards of experiencing snow for real, this fake snow was enough to satisfy us. If I had continued, they would have probably nicknamed me the “thermo-coal” girl, or something equally loony. Aha, if only life had such wonderful fairytale endings.

Then, the complaints had come, and they had been quite severe. The aunties with the broomsticks were annoyed. The children had created so much of debris that it was impossible to clear it all in a week, if not in a day. If you’ve ever tried to sweep at thermo-coal pieces, you will get at what I mean. The poor souls had slogged to remove all the thermo-coal off their front yards, and just when they had thought that they were done, the wind would blow all the particulate matter back to them. Every morning, they woke up to remove more and more and much more would dirty their yards every single day. It had thoroughly infuriated them, and they had caught us at the act next time, and reprimanded.

And that day, the little band had dispersed quickly and fallen apart, and the ingenious inventor had been seen as a cause of a mess so big. The aunties had suddenly changed my fate---I had gone from being the angel with her magic wand to the annoying brat. The carefully built up stardom had fragmented as fast as the frayed thermo-coal, and much had disappeared down the bend.
Although I later found other means to win back my band of friends and even coffee bites from the very same punishing aunties (courtesy of chubby cheeks), I had been disallowed from conjuring fake snow again. And although I had learnt to adapt to the scorching summers, somewhere in the back of the heart, I had felt a nagging resentment. I would never get to experience snow for real. And I was doomed to face my summers over and over again without any such grand respites. Would there ever come a day when I could walk in my winter wonderland which was very much real and not made up?

All this came back to me as I watched it snow for real this December, through my car window. I saw some very admirable things, and frolicked in the freshly gathered December snow, very much for real. I fulfilled my childhood ambition but it felt like nothing too great. And as I stared at the snow fall—cold, wet and beautiful, I thought back to my fake snow that I had conjured up just to satisfy my yearning, many summers back.

“Rub, rub, rub…..” a faint voice echoed so distantly within the dreamer’s head as I watched it snow.

This snow was beautiful, just like I had always thought it would be. But somewhere, for some inexplicable reason, it had been the Thermo-coal snow that had always been much better.