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!