Battling winter in Canada: How I miss Karachi’s winter season!

Pedestrians walk down a snow covered street in Ontario. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pedestrians walk down a snow covered street in Ontario. PHOTO: REUTERS

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, 07th OCTOBER 2013:-

As soon as winter begins to peek in from the corner, daily talks also change from summer and spring to winter and snow. Discussions start revolving around jackets, scarves, cardigans, and sometimes, even hats.

This is Canada.

With each year being a new challenge, every winter day tells a different story.

The early signs of winter here typically are chilled, rapid windy days and cold nights. Normally, people detest this, but some romantics look forward to this weather, after all its the best time to cuddle up and keep warm. The sound of the fallen rust and yellow maple leaves and the changing colours of autumn make October welcoming in a strange way.

While temperatures continue to dip and dive, gradually making way into winter, the warmer days of this month, called the ‘Indian summer’, can make one nostalgic. Canadian highs and lows of the winter life can be quite unpredictable. Confronting them hands on would mean throwing yourself into water without knowing how to swim. A smart person would season through strategy and intelligence, rather than facing it unprepared.

In Canada, it’s all a game of digits and forecasting. Both life and the weather can take a toll on those who don’t pay heed to warnings. It doesn’t take very long for one to figure out that there is an undeniable effect the weather plays on your life; for some, the simple trial and error formula helps while for others planning matters.

My 16th winter in Canada

I will be looked at as a pro and with envy by new arrivals in the country. My life will be that of a typical Canadian; resentful of the snow and cold yet well-prepared – anxious inside but calm and cool in disposition. I will make sure that I don’t let my apprehension and fear get to me; I will plan to work in coherence with the forthcoming winter. And once it arrives, to stay forever (it seems like forever when winter is actually here), I will shovel and dig and shovel and dig and shovel and dig snow away till the last winter blast passes in late March.

So in the coming days, I will look winter in the eye instead of hiding or hibernating and I will emerge a winter winner by the time the squirrels hop on the backyard fence again.

For some, driving daily to work on snowy roads will be the greatest challenge in winter, while for others waiting for a bus ride or a train commute, in -30 degrees centigrade, will be the toughest. But life will not be deterred. Snow on, highways and roads, will be salted to keep cars away from skidding and slipping. Subways and trains will run on time, irrespective of rain, hail or storm.

For cars, winter tires, windshield washer fluid, a blanket, a candle, a flashlight and a huge bag of coarse road salt will be the saviour. At home, however, cranked up heat, slushy entrances, dirty soggy shoes in the halls, jackets and coats hanging sloppily on hooks and stairwell railings will keep the indoor cheer alive.

On snowstorms or blizzard warning days, it will mean I need to leave early for work because of the extra time I would have to spend on the road. Winters would also mean that I become a weather network freak, curtail outdoor activities and adjust to shorter days with longer nights for four entire months.

Karachi winters, 15 years ago

Severe winter and snow, in Pakistan, was either present in the North,  mountain peaks or in the freezer.

Raised purely as an urban girl, my city was warm and humid. Karachi, lapped by the Arabian Sea, will hook Karachiites onto romantic cloudy days with just one prevailing season, summer. The ocean would bring about a pleasant breeze in the evening, giving respite from the heat during the day.

I always felt that nature had been unfair to this city in terms of its weather. All we saw wassummer but no fall, spring or winter. First of all, winters in Karachi are a far-cry and if at all, it would be barely a two-week fling. Before anyone can ever really feel the chill, it’s gone. Woollies hardly ever make it out of the closet and when you try to show off that cashmere coat you bought, the sun will stick its happy face out again.

It was as if the weather cheated on you.

Today, in trying to compare the meaning of the word winter, I find how geography diversifies it. Winter can mean sitting in your Volkswagen in the sun, peeling peanuts and oranges while parked in the hills of Pakistan, ignorant of the need for snow tires. However, when living in North America, winter can become a burdensome word, synonymously introducing terms like parka, jacket, coat, thermals, gloves, scarves, boots, layers, hypothermia and many more.

Thus while the conversations will continue to change around fireplace huddles, at the bus stops and in the snowy streets of Canada, the icy winds from the North will gust in another treacherous message –  a message of yearning and disappointment. No matter how well prepared I am for the winter here I will always miss the winter at home, the winter of Karachi.

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