The world as we see it, we imagine it as green. If we are surrounded by peaceful waters, we see it as blue. The world may be coloured brown by the mighty mountains or the dry grass. Or it may fade to black once darkness descends. But it can only be a special place and time when you are blessed by pure whiteness from the heavens above. This whiteness is what I grew up amongst. Every winter, Shimla has that ability to hide itself underneath the woolly blanket of snow, cozy at sight but frigid at touch. One unsuspecting morning you wake up to find unusual brightness lighting up the world outside, and on peeping out of the window, you realize that the world around you has turned white.
For those who have not had the blessing to experience a snowfall, here’s how it goes. You read the forecast in the newspapers about the expected snowfall, and you ascertain it by the dark and brooding clouds, ominous in their immensity, monstrous in their surliness. They come silently, without the usual pomp and show of their brothers of the plains. The day darkens and the inhabitants of the earth scurry home to save themselves from the seemingly impending doom. The doors and windows are tightly shut (even though there’s hardly any wind), boiling water is poured into rubber bottles for warmth, heaters are turned on, burning coals spread their fangs in the angeethees and people rub their hands and pretend to be warmed. The night does its magic and the morning is a new world. The only time I have experienced ‘deafening silence’ is on these mornings. There is no sound of any vehicular movement, no person can be heard walking about, even the birds go on mute and refuse to sing. There is absolute silence. It’s heavenly.
But as they day breaks and the sun comes up (it’s always sunny after a heavy overnight snowfall), typical sounds step up their play – sounds characteristic of this particular moment. Sounds of thawing snow, of water thus produced dripping drop by drop from the sloping roofs onto the path below, clearing away the snow where it falls, of dogs pawing their way through the soft fresh snow, leaving behind their footprints as if on freshly laid cement, of mynas stepping out gingerly from their corners in the trees, of heavy trudge of the early risers, inadvertently clearing away the snow for the lazier ones to go to work later, of playful shrieks of little children forcing their dads to make a snowman in the backyard. It’s a wonder, is what it is. Growing up in Shimla has given me a world of sweet memories but the experience of a snowfall is one of its kind.