Sunday, January 17, 2010

Home, Warm Home

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

This nursery rhyme kept coming back to me from 22nd of December when it started snowing in Chicago. The tiny flakes of snow floating down fascinated me and from the window of the house, I looked out to see it accumulating by the roadside, topping bare trees and pine trees like icing. People wrapped up in heavy clothes and many booted till the knees moved like automatons determined to brave the cold.

AS I looked out of the window, my fascination for snow-covered land, which had developed in me from childhood from the xmas cards, comic books and Enid Blytons came to my mind. Looking from the window of the house in Chicago the thrill I expected gripped my heart.

And then we went out. Wrapped up in layers of clothes, I still froze – just covering the distance from the house to the car, which was very short! It took a half a minute for the car to get heated. Till then my teeth went takatakatakataka. My nose felt like a piece of ice. I had just begun to literally warm up when we reached the destination, I was dropped off right in front of the restaurant so that I could just rush into it when the car was taken for parking.

There was wind! OH, I thought rather desperately as I negotiated to the 15 short steps into towards the doorway. This is why this place is called the windy city! As the door of the restaurant closed behind me, I remember thinking that it was like someone was shoveling ice on me – ice which penetrated through my clothes and chilled my very bones. Christ’s words describing the end of times came to my mind from out of nowhere. Pray, he said, these things I told you about do not happen in winter!

Ever since that first trip outside the house after it started snowing, my perspective changed. The childhood fascination turned into horror when I looked out of the window; the white snow covered landscape filled me with fear. I comprehensively experienced the full implication of the term BLEAK. And the nursery rhyme kept coming back to me, over and over again.

“What will poor robin do then, poor thing?”

God, what a sensitive little song!

He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
And hide his head under the wing, poor thing.

The poem, I thought, was written with my 2009 - 10 sojourn in Chicago in mind. It was exactly what I did. I kept myself warm in the already centrally heated house in a sweater, jacket and a muffler and refused to step out of the house unless I absolutely had to.

Poor me! The weather is not meant for a tropical creature like me.

I started speaking out loud and longingly about the warm weather of Trivandrum! About the greenery of the land. Of the heart warming view from my apartment, of the tops of the green spread of coconut tree tops from which a house here or a high rise there peeped out apologetically.

I longed for the warm sultry weather of Trivandrum! For the ‘heat and dust’ of India!

I browsed the net and got this explanation of that nursery rhyme:
The purpose of words to 'The North Wind doth blow' is to ensure that a child associates security with home whilst empathizing with the plight of the robin.

I saw myself as the robin with its poor head tucked away under the wing. I empathasised, no experienced, the panic that can seize you when exposed for the briefest moment to that biting windy weather. I comprehensively experienced the full implication of the term WARM. The word acquired a new meaning when I realized that it evolved in the language of a people who battled with this terrible weather most of the year. For them warmth was security.

Am back home and it’s heaven!


  1. I experienced my first and only snowfall till date at the jungfrau hoch in switzerland. Not only was I chilled and horrified and damp, my nerves actually gave way. I felt my facial muscles were no longer in control of me and even when i got indoors it took me a while to open and close my mouth normally. The nose went an ugly red and so did the rest of my face, only later to be turned in flaky white skin..yuk!! I love warmth and a comfortable winter which we have in India, where we can flaunt our shawls and still have our face in control!

  2. I so enjoyed this commentary on the well known nursery rhyme. You did an excellent job bringing in your experiences in the cold weather & tying them neatly together with the rhyme and the meaning of it.

    My tropical background makes me 'run' from the cold- my concept of cold is far warmer than most people would ever think of as cold weather. When others think it is really cold- well, then I am like you- hidden away with heaters, warm coats, mittens, fuzzy socks & blankets :)


    Enid Blyton's books were my companion growing up and painted my mind's picture of what the 'west' was to be like- can you imagine my shock when I arrived in the US and found out it was nothing like the books I had read :)

  3. Welcome back home.....

    there is so much we take for granted in GOC....

    lovely way of describing your experience....

  4. We Indians definitely take our salubrious tropical weather for granted. It is only when we experience the other "fairytale" conditions that we realise it's real value.

  5. I can understand how would you have felt.I had a similar experience few years back in Milan.
    But it is fun.

  6. @ BK Chowla
    Fun sir, if you only need to sit at home -

    you ARE right there!
    btw, cant post comment on your blog. the word verification box does not appear.
    thanks for visiting.

    @happy kitten
    thanks. no place like home.

    @ anjuli
    i think a lot of us are 'victims' of enid blyton.someone should do research on how this lady hijacked out imagination.

    @ sujatha
    yes, i felt foolish with all my nice clothes concealed under heavy warm clothes.
    i took care not to be out long enough to have a temporary facial paralysis :-)

  7. hehehe...wonder if the rhyme actually had so many layers 2 it ;)

    glad u survived the cold...brrrrr! :)

  8. soo understand...have not seen anything plus on the celsius scale for the past 3 weeks and its snowing crazy here..:)

  9. When you want it ,you can't have it,when you have it you dont want it.!
    Thats what most of us do..the earlier we start to appreciate the present the better are our chances to appreciate tomorrow...

  10. Snow is only interesting when you see it for the first time, get a few days of it and you'll be wondering why you loved to experience it so much...

    Speaking for myself ;)

  11. i agree, trivandrum IS heaven. on the other hand, cochin is HELL :(


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