Posts Tagged ‘Weather’

North Tour: Manali: Snow day!

April 19, 2011

Wednesday, 9 March

MANALI: I saw snow today.

That, in itself, made my day, but I didn’t just see it. I walked through it, ran through it, sprinted down a mountain of it, picked it up, brushed it off, stepped knee-deep in it, and had a legitimate snowball fight in a bank of it one-meter deep.

Still in India?

Oh yes, and it’s awesome.

Common perception would lead you to believe India’s thermostat is stuck on one temperature: hot. But while my friends report summer has already begun in Nagpur (just three months after “winter” began), here in Manali the mercury flirts with freezing and the acres of snow capping the nearby Himalayas are just now beginning to melt. Manali lies in the thick of the world’s largest mountain range, which takes up most of Himachal Pradesh. India is 1/3 the size of my native land, but on these two tours, I’ve now seen beaches, rivers, jungles, plains, desert, and now mountains.

Even thigh-deep in snow, there was a peculiar heat, a type that felt uniquely Indian. While the others bemoaned my relative lack of clothing, I removed my gloves, hat and jacket, unable to handle the sweltering winter heat. As long as I kept my body moving, I’d stay warm rather than cold.

Where else in the world can you stand in a snowdrift in short sleeves and feel hot?

(Perhaps the better question: who else could?)

Although skiing and paragliding were on my to-do list for today, I did neither due to the unsafe slopes and outrageous prices, respectively. But enjoying the winter weather proved not to be a problem. With shoes that failed to grip the slippery snow, even acute inclines turned into makeshift skating slopes. Anaïs, Jordan and I trudged 200 meters up a hill and either ran, rolled or came sledding down. (The rest preferred to stay dry at its base and sip chai together.) Unable to resist the temptation of firm but pliable snow, several free-for-all snowball fights ensued, accompanied by far more grin than chagrin. Most of us were drenched in melted snow as we bused back into town.

But this was the only snow day we’d be getting all year. Why complain?

Clouds appeared, and removed the luster of the early-afternoon heat. We traveled to a hot spring wherein the contrast of water and air temperature left steam rising high above. Changing clothes in the open winter air caused my exposed hairs to stand on end, but only temporarily, as the steaming mountain water restored my body to its normal temperature. For half an hour, we sat in contented peace, willingly subjecting ourselves to the bubbling steamy warmth.

For probably the last time in India, we enjoyed the heat.



North Tour: It begins

April 14, 2011

Monday, 28 Feb

NAGPUR TO JAIPUR: It’s 10:47 p.m., and no one on this train is awake but us.

Actually, that’s not true. In Car No. 8 of the Chennai-Jaipur Express, the lights are still on in some compartments. One man is standing idle by an outlet, charging his phone. The Indians in neighboring compartments are covered in blankets and look like they’re sleeping. But every so often someone’s covers will ruffle in a telltale sign of failed sleep. A baby is crying. Someone’s cell phone just rang. A chai-wallah is calling into the silence, his day of sales continuing through the night.

But I think we’re actually the reason everyone is still awake.

Yes, the RYE students’ 26-day tour of North India is underway, and thus far, nothing could be better (save Franzi’s ankle, which has left her on crutches). The internal chemistry – so good during the South Tour and at Christmas – has picked up right where it left off. There was no need for group introductions this time. We’ve been able to jump right into the stories of our two months apart.

Our group is smaller this time. Sebastian and Sabrina have since gone back to their home countries. Aafreen is busy with exams in Yavatmal. Dascha, Jakob and Michelle, for various reasons, are staying back in Nagpur. New to our group is Samantha, a student from the American state of Virginia being hosted in Hyderabad. Having had seven months to get used to each others’ quirks, and more tightly knit than ever, I anticipate we’ll all get along quite well.

For probably the last time this year, I enjoyed nice weather in Nagpur today. While the climates in our homes across various ponds will go from bad to better, that of Nagpur will go from better to worse. But weather is nothing to worry about. In fact, thanks to the people I’ll be spending the next month with, there’s really nothing to worry about.

Will I sleep well tonight? Probably not.

But I could care less. I’m with the right people. All is well.


Zindagi achii hai (Life is good)

April 14, 2011

I don’t know if it’s possible to be happier than I am right now.

Why? See, happiness can usually be attributed to individual events, such as doing well on an exam or seeing your favorite team win a sporting event. These moments of elation always fade away as time goes on – not because we want to forget them, but because life is just too crowded. Even the best movies eventually come to an end, and when you leave the movie theater, life resumes just as it did before. It’s the same way with things that make us happy. The memories fade.

Sometime Tuesday night, I was standing alone with nothing to do, a day of memories complete.

And after some serious thought, I realized I had absolutely no reason to be unhappy.

The best moments of the day had passed. I’d gone with my host family in the early afternoon on a day trip to a farm 20 kilometers outside Nagpur, where a breathtaking panorama greeted us atop a pudgy little yellow hill. I’d spent the evening with friends – not all of them – but enough to make me smile on several occasions. Hindi class, as it so often is, was informative, interesting and fun. I watched as Sachin Tendulkar and the Mumbai Indians won their IPL match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore that evening. Not only was my dinner satisfying and filling, but I had a box of Easter candy from my mom awaiting me upstairs, should the craving arise. (It did.)

Perhaps it’s just because I’ve spent so much of my life procrastinating, but my life has always been filled with a perpetual nagging tension to get things done. During the school year it’s normally an assignment or test for which I’ve yet to prepare. During the breaks, too, there’s always some form to fill out, some place to visit, or some person to talk to. In India, I’ve had no legitimate tests or homework to worry about, but for various reasons, there’s always been some reason to take tension.

About two months after arriving in India, I stopped writing this blog, and the most difficult part of my exchange began. Between mid-September and the beginning of the South Tour, I had little to do, but everyday life was confusing, stressful and filled with uncertainty. Instead of taking tension from the predictable stress of having too much to do, now there was the tension of having too little. Spontaneity was maddening; either everything was happening at once, or nothing was happening at all.

Though I temporarily stopped writing blogs, I didn’t stop writing. In half-complete notes to myself or emails I never sent, I mulled happiness and the means by which it could be achieved. I’d open Microsoft Word or TextEdit and type half a sentence, half a paragraph, half a blog…but never finish.

They were always incomplete, see, because I didn’t know how to finish them.

In retrospect, this was the period of culture shock that every exchange student goes through. My problems, however trivial, weren’t about to go away if I just ignored them. My dirty clothes weren’t going to wash themselves. The broken internet on my computer wasn’t about to fix itself. Hindi and Marathi (one, the other, or both?) weren’t going to sponge into my brain overnight. Leave enough small problems untreated, and they don’t seem nearly as insignificant as they do on their own.

Sometime today, about five months after that period of my life ended, I realized I have precisely zero problems in my life.

I gave it some thought. Navigating everyday life no longer takes the effort it took months ago. The weight on my shoulders, steadily decreasing for months, now felt feather-light. I eat great food every day, and I know how to eat it. I have great people in my life every day, and I get along well with all of them. My bed is comfortable. The music on my laptop sounds great on my new headphones. And heck, just days ago my country won the Cricket World Cup!

At home, too, I know all is well – even without regular internet access. Many of the things that made me worry about my return are taken care of or on the verge of completion. With about a month and a half until returning to Illinois, the anticipation of seeing people I care about finally outweighs the sadness of their absence. And the internet-wallah came yesterday. My computer is back to full health!

Even the weather is cooperating. It’s rained about five times in the last week – almost like springtime in Champaign. The 100 degree (F) temperatures are about ten below normal for Nagpur this time of year. Even without rain, there’s often plenty of cloud cover.

Jojo the dog is quenching his thirst by loudly gulping water from a pot outside. It could be rainwater or tap water, I don’t know. The sound makes me smile.

Really, what reason is there to do anything else?

Life is too good, na?



Much more to come!

What winter is like in India

February 2, 2011

Hey everyone! I thought I’d use this space to share the extended weather forecast for Nagpur.

3 Feb: Sunny, Celsius – High: 32/Low: 16; Fahrenheit – High: 90/Low: 60
4 Feb: Sunny, 33/17; 91/62
5 Feb: Sunny, 34/16; 93/61
6 Feb: Sunny, 34/16; 94/61
7 Feb: Sunny, 34/16; 94/61
8 Feb: Sunny, 34/17; 94/62
9 Feb: Sunny, 34/17; 94/62
10 Feb: Sunny, 36/18; 96/65
11 Feb: Sunny, 35/18; 95/64

I’m sure the readers in the Midwest really appreciate me doing this!


The Nagpur International Marathon: Why I woke up at 5:55 on a Sunday

February 1, 2011

The list of things that can get me out of bed at 5:55 a.m. is a short one.

Were the Chicago Cubs baseball team to play in the World Series 12 time zones away, I’d wake up early for that. Once in a lifetime experiences like sunrises on houseboats are also effective motivators to pull off the covers before dawn. And cats jumping through my window, as I discovered last week, can be very effective alarm clocks.

Add Sunday’s Nagpur International Marathon to that list.

The shade of sky outside matched my still dilated pupils as the alarm on my watch went off just before six a.m. Save Jojo and Diana, our two dobermans, no one in the house was yet awake, and going on the texts I exchanged with Anaïs, no one else was awake in her house either. I walked up to the roof and watched Nagpur wake up as the contrast in the sky slowly increased. The air was unusually still, and the early morning cold was a refreshing contrast to the afternoon heat. It was a time of day I wish my consciousness occupied more often.

Nonetheless, I had very little time to spare as I rode off towards the marathon’s start with only a general idea of my destination in mind. On a normal day, the trip would have taken about 15 minutes, but the detours I was forced to make did little to expedite my journey. By the time the time I spotted Anaïs, Franzi, Jakob, Mr. Khatri and their matching yellow T-shirts an hour after my departure, the marathon had long since begun.

This was the third time in three years a marathon was being held in my city of residence. Champaign-Urbana has hosted the Illinois Marathon the last two years, and my classmates have been active in each as participants and volunteers. I wasn’t able to attend the annual mega-event last year, as the day doubled as National College Decision Day, tripled as the day of an important Rotary conference, and quadrupled as my Senior Prom. But I did bike the 26.2-mile course for fun.

Some things about marathons are just different in India.

I think it’s safe to say the Illinois Marathon will never have race-side performances like those we were a part of Sunday morning. A group of middle-aged men in yellow T-shirts and baseball caps stood in a group by the course and cheered – or, should I say, laughed – the runners on. Somehow the four of us ended up in the middle of the Nagpur Laughter Club, spurred to join them in exorcising, exercising, exhilarating laughter yoga.

Amidst the laughter yogis was a group of sari-clad teenage girls performing a traditional dance of their own, who somehow managed to pull off stunts and dance in rhythm while stealing not-so-covert glances at the four foreigners in front of them. We were forced to join them with stunning suddenness, musically accompanying them with either metal shakers or the clapping of our hands. It was just another one of those moments that exchange students seem to have so often in India – the kind of moment that makes you think: “How did I end up here?”

But while such moments occur with regularity, my reactions to them are no longer the same.

Since arriving in India, unusual events have been occurring unannounced and unexpectedly on a regular basis. While life here crawls along persistently, interesting things continue to pop up on short notice every few days. This pattern of traveling with scant preparation has been a constant throughout the year. At first I was frustrated by India’s unique approach to time – trips to temples, cross-town visits to family members and Rotary events early in the year caught me off-guard, and thus I found it harder to enjoy them.

Until I got used to them.

As we were instructed at July’s Rotary conference, the best answer to give when asked if you want to do something is usually “yes”. Because if the answer is “no,” the next question will just be “Why not?” Arguments against doing something often take more effort than the event itself – causing one’s laziness to backfire. If you say no, the experience is lost, and you can do nothing but ask, “What if?”

That’s why I was awake at 5:55 Sunday morning, despite having slept only three and a half hours that night. That’s why I spent an hour on my bike that morning to see the marathon with my friends. I was only going to say yes.

And why not?


Click to enlarge