Living With Mr Sub-zero - I
|The Mousehole: NH-22 along the Satluj|
|The Golden Peak of Kaza|
And then I felt people had gathered on the street to discuss the very special news of the evening. Delhi becoming that cold…Aha! This was no ordinary piece of news to be left to fade inside the television circuit. Some extra pleasure was to be churned out of this off-screen. It was like the children of the street starting a cricket match on the road while the direct telecast of the match was on and their cricketing icon batted against the visiting cricket team. I went out to see for myself if people actually believed what the weather girl, the news reader on probation so splendiferously said in her bulletin.
|=Spiti Valley: The Sky, The Hills, The Snow and The River=|
And what did I find? Well, people in no mean number had come out of their homes: as though they were trying to feel if it was actually two degree Celsius outside! They probably did not believe it, and many of them pooh-poohed it by marching towards the ice-cream kiosk. And they ordered and licked with vengeance the sweet and cold ball and relished the gift of winter—the butterscotch, the vanilla flavours. Cold could be beaten by cold only, and that was the message. If in the scorching sunshine people could drink hot tea then why not they lick ice-creams in the chill of the winter?
|The Road Less Trodden: On the Way to Hikkim|
That evening I had felt the pang of curiosity: How about living in sub-zero temperature, nay, with Mr Sub-zero for a night? I really longed for an experience like that. It would be like sharing the cage with a ferocious bear for a night and getting up unhurt in the morning to be congratulated for bravery! But I was not lucky to get that, not even in Europe that I visited in the year 2011. The cold of Europe was nothing in November; the coldest I had felt there was when at Berne I watched the peaks of the Alps from the rooftop of UPU!
|The River Spiti|
And my wish came to fruition only recently. The other day I went to Kaza in Spiti Valley. Let me make it clear, it was not December, nor was it November; it was only the concluding week of October. Yet it was cold, or say the cold right enough to give me a sub-zero feeling.
Hold it. I would have nearly missed it had the fellow in the rest house not emphasized the matter in his own way.
‘Do you have any problem in breathing, Sir?’ It was his question.
‘But why? Do others feel like that now?’ was my counter-question.
|The Sandy Hill along the Road|
The fellow replied in negative but I had to ponder over why there should be a question like that for me. I knew it was a cold place; I knew there was smaller quantity of oxygen in the air in the height (3650 meters above masl); I was even told that vehicles lose their efficiency for want of oxygen. But then how cold? My cell phone had the weather application backed by GPS and I began to fiddle it for an answer. Wow! It was zero degrees Celsius! And the night temperature promised to go down even to minus seven.
|The Hills of Many Hues|
So, it was zero and rushing to the sub-zero level soon! I was suddenly reminded of the promise I had made to myself years ago—someday I’d live in a sub-zero place. But now, with the long desired ambience so very palpable, what’s so special in it? The room where I was staying was stinking; it had not been opened in ages. I felt like opening a window to get rid of the stink…and then hesitated. ‘Wait a bit, man, you’re not at an ordinary place. What will happen to the oxygen, your scarce oxygen?’ The fact that I was not feeling breathlessness was proof enough that my room had enough supply of that. And now if I opened the window, would the stock of oxygen in my room not escape along with the stink? Still I tried to open it but with little success. Nobody before me had ever thought of this idea—the crazy idea of opening window to welcome Mr Sub-zero. And I had to refrain from doing that nocturnal indoor adventure.
|The Scary Road|
And there was a happy thing happening in Kaza that evening: the supply of electricity was quite uninterrupted. And there was a room-heater too. But what about the oxygen? I used my science funda. Heated air would be lighter and go up and up, beyond the ceiling through its pores—like water, air would find its own way. I thought I should better conserve it and switched off the room-heater.
Insinuating under the quilt to adopt a perfect wintery canine posture, the fatigue of the day-long journey making sleep an effortless eventuality for me, I was soon on the lap of sleep, my beauty sleep. The night went off with Mr Sub-zero coming and prowling in and around my Rest House. And then the morning came. It was clear; the first chunk of sunshine fell on the peaks of the hillocks around me that had accumulation of fresh snow. It was gleaming white inviting to be clicked. I took random photos as is my habit. There was yet another proof that the night was actually sub-zero, for the bottle of water that remained inside the car that was parked in the open had ice cubes in it. I shook it to be sure that they were actually the ice cubes and now my ears joined me to endorse what my eyes saw. The previous night was really a sub-zero night! I adjusted the hood of my jacket over my head in token of my respect to the footprints of Mr Sub-zero.
|Kaza: Waiting for the Sun|
Huh! I was reminded of a funny statement that I had once heard from a south Indian living in Port Blair.
‘There’re snowfalls in Port Blair.’
‘What? Snowfall in Port Blair? Oh no.’
‘Yes, in every rainy season we have that, this big stones of snow falling from the sky. We do have regular snowfall in Port Blair,’ he had insisted.
The poor fellow from south India had seen only hailstones not the snowfall. But how could I convince such a fellow who would not even agree that the earth is round? And, what is more, he used to brag that he owned the sweater of his great grandfather!