Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kapkapi - The Shivers

I hate the cold. I’m from the coast originally and have lived in Bombay all my life, and I’ve realized now, through this oddly cold winter, that I like my weather muggy, hot and squelchy. I love the normal Bombay winter because it is merely a state of non-heat; one where the mercury drops to say, 27, and we’re all like, ooh, there’s a nip in the air, do you feel it? Lovely, no? Delhiites and other Northerners look at you, one eyebrow raised, and say, call this a winter? You should see the ball-breakers we have back home.

No thank you, I say, keep your winter snobbery. It’s warm weather for me (regardless of how much I crib in summer). It’s so cold this year that - unusually for this city - you don’t need to turn on the fan ever. And if you do, it’s only to keep away the mosquitoes. It's so cold that you got out in the evening for a walk, the wind blows, and leaves a welter of angry goose pimples on your skin. Forget nippy, it’s like the air has grown a million sharp little teeth with which it bites into you. I’ve seen people shivering and huddling around makeshift fires all over Chembur, fergodssake, and I cannot tell you how unlikely a sight that is.

I do not like the strange sense of stasis that this cold brings: the reluctance to put my feet on the chilly floor, the numbing cold of the water that flows out of taps, the fact that we don’t have the woollies or the mindset needed to take this weather on the chin. I don’t like it being so dry that my skin stretches after a bath simply because it’s too darn cold to cream up before you cover up. I hate the thought that if we find it hard to cope living in our warm flats, how horrendous it must be for street people, and even for the average, very poor Bombay-ite who doesn’t have the money to buy warm clothes.

I wouldn’t want to agree with any of the Thackerays on anything, but when young Raj Thackeray calls Vilasrao Deshmukh Khallas-rao (khallas means the end, destruction), I find myself pausing to think. Apart from selling off all available open spaces to the builder’s lobby, the man has other fine points. One of them is a blind-spot towards the very poor – evident in his cruel, totalitarian slum-demolition drives. You’d think any right-thinking government would start some donation drives of warm things, or maybe give away blankets to the poor. Some way to help people who have always lived in a balmy city to deal with the cold, right? Nothing short of a cold wave and people dying would wake this one up.

The bitter cold puzzles n too. She asked me, “Why this winter not going away, amma?” Why, indeed. It reminded me of my friend Gouri Patwardhan’s film on seasons. It had a small animated traditional story – an Eskimo myth about the rotation of seasons – called Kapkapi. One year, Old Man Winter refuses to leave the earth. People shiver and huddle together, because the trees and plants have shrivelled up and died, and they have run out of food and firewood. There’s frost and ice everywhere.

Finally they pray to the Sun and he comes down. “Go away!” he says to Old Man Winter, which just makes the short, bearded, dark-eyed fellow angrier, more determined to stay. Grim, sullen, he waves a fat palm at the sun dismissively. The sun blows at him, a warm, yellow-orange breath that makes him shrink till he finally sits on a white owl and flies off.

I love this little sequence because Gouri’s rounded figures and lovely colours are so delightful. In the climax, the ice on a pond cracks, the water gleams through and then morphs into colourful birds. It’s breath-taking. Done in pre-comp days, the entirely cel animation has a lovely, uncluttered feel to it. The vo, because it was recorded back in them days, is dire. But watch it a couple of times, and you begin to enjoy the animation and forget the sepulchral narration. Weather like this really makes me think of those shivering people and how they must have longed for the balmy touch of spring. Wish I could find an image and put it here, but hard luck on that one. Might rig up something in the future though, so watch this space.

Any winter food favourites? Mine is the lovely sweet potato snack outside CP in Delhi And of course Sindhi Camp’s artery-hardening fried pakwans.


crazed_mellow said...

hello whoever u are
just stumbled to ur article written abt target magazine the great.
i was a [rety big fan too, though a bit too young to read
i possess the last issue ever published.
its quite safe.
have fun

Banno said...

totally agree. the regular mumbai weather is the BEST, for the skin, hair, overall sense of well-being, never mind the sweat and stickiness.

minubhai said...

the colder the winter the hotter it will be this summer. i feel really scared to imagine what april and may are going to be like. i look fwd to a post repenting your winter-hate

Anonymous said...

gujju masala chai and pakoras or bhajias! You asked about comfort foods in cold weather...