How to Survive Winter.


Layer up, they say. So wear four of them, at least.

A top with lace that makes you feel pretty and reminds you of summer nights you spent lying on a rough terrace watching the moon move through the stars while an old Malayalam song played from someone’s grainy cellphone speaker. Occasionally, there’d be autorickshaws arriving below with patients for the residents sitting up there with you, and as the duty doctor heads downstairs, you’d think of how different life can be even when it’s lived out of similar sorts of textbooks. The world is so big for being so small; you’ll close your eyes and imagine yourself a piece of dust, and accidentally start to tear up for no reason.

A shirt with vertical stripes that you’d always wear in a high school where a boy asked you why you had polka dots on your face three years before he asked you out. You used a so-called “feminism” to defend your reply but really, it was simply an inability to let things go that has haunted your entire life, sewn through every fabric you’ve ever worn.

A sweater that makes you happy because it’s from your sister’s high school days in Ooty and her roll number is still written on the back tag, and thoughts of the misty hills make you smile.

A red coat you bought last year when you went shopping with your dad and in passing, mentioned a red coat. When he saw this, he convinced you to get it though you didn’t even love it. You got it just because you were so surprised to see him want something so badly, just because he thought it was what you wanted.

Leave your hair out. Let it frizz. Let it freeze. Let the wind blow it into your eyes so that you have an excuse for the way they look. Let the cold seperate each strand of your hair and brush by the few inches of your neck that the striped scarf doesn’t cover. Feel alive. Wear dark berry lipstick and vaseline so that they shine brighter than the pink-red your nose turns. Cover your ears and add your own background music in your head; allow the beats to be wild and insanely unrhythmic. Smile when the melody begins.

Walk swiftly, each foot placed purposefully onto the ground. Even when you have nowhere to go, keep walking in the same pace. Let your arms swing back and forth. Take your hands out of your pockets and relax your shoulders. If you see snow on the ground, walk over it. Feel it under the sole of your foot, imagine the tiny particles crushing under your weight. Walk evenly, make patterns on the ground. Let yourself slip and catch yourself before you fall. Laugh at that funny feeling you just got in your stomach. Look at the sky and be in awe at how blindingly bright it is even without the sun.

Breathe out slowly, watch that white cloud emerge from your mouth and consider yourself God. Blow out faster, think of condensation and the pictures the pink-sari teacher drew on your elementary school boards. Think of how you’d need to sharpen pencils and how pencil cuttings get in your eye much the same way as small frizzy hair strands do. Watch how the little clouds you create disappear and how you refill it; create shapes, transient paintings, each as rich as the other. Take the cold air into your lungs and hold it there, warm it well with all the heat in your body before letting it go. Remind yourself of the existence of freedom.

Take off your gloves and touch your face. Make sure it’s still there, that your eyes and nose and lips are not numbed. Make them feel alive. Make yourself alive. Open your eyes wider and face the wind. Don’t continue looking at the ground. Watch the gods and goddesses around you hurrying away, ignoring the white sculptures they’re creating. Listen to how musical the winds are, and how morose too. Their moans tug at your heartstrings. Stand still for a moment and comfort them. Remind yourself of how light you really are; let the winds take you home.

Finally, as central heating wraps around your limbs, take off the fur-lined boots and fleece socks, place your bare hands on the window and touch the cold. Remind yourself of the most beautiful things you’ve seen, and how a winter day is just another proof that summer exists.


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