Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'Winter' in Mumbai

 The other day, I found myself at a class meeting at Ayaan's school. Once the agenda was over and done with, a parent raised her hand to ask a question:

'It is so cold in the mornings. My son's legs are exposed in the shorts. Can we please have the option of sending them to school in long pants or jeans till the winter gets over?"

I wondered whether the mother in question was joking and turned around to find her to be completely in earnest. I looked down at my sleeveless top, cotton capris and flipflops and wondered - what winter?

My mind instantly went back to my school days, spent in the chilly environs of Delhi. When winter rolled around, we went from wearing our summer uniforms to more heavy duty woollen stuff. But even as we braved the fog and temperatures in the low single digits on our way to school, our legs were pretty much exposed to the elements. Girls, irrespective of their class, wore skirts and boys wore shorts till they got to senior school but with our feet encased in thick woolen socks and 2-3 layers of warm clothes on our torsos, we weren't in any danger of hypothermia. And here in positively tropical climes, there was talk of covering up legs in long pants or stockings!

To my mind, Mumbai has only two kinds of weather. Hot and rainy. Cold is simply not on the menu. My wardrobe remains the same through the year in this city. December doesn't see me banishing my shorts and slinky tops to the farthest reaches of my wardrobe. And my limited stock of woollies stay wrapped up with mothballs unless a trip to the North is on the cards. The only concession I make for this so-called winter is to reduce the speed of the fan.

But that's not how most long-time Mumbaikars view the city's seasonal variations. In fact, you can tell a born-and-bred city slicker from the migrants by the way they dress in the 'winter' months. They are the ones with the jackets, scarves, stoles, socks and turtlenecks in full display on their evening walks. They are the ones who carry warm stuff to office in December because the air-conditioning at work makes them shiver. They are the ones who put up Facebook status updates about how they are chilled to the bone. To someone who grew up in the North, it's all very amusing :)

And the media hops on to the winter bandwagon as well. Every city newspaper worth its salt carries at least a weekly article commenting on the drop in mercury. Here's a random sampling from the last month or so:

Temperatures dip in city as winter sets in

2010 ends on coldest note in seven years

City's coldest day

And what do you think this brrrr-inducing annual low temperature they are talking about is? 12.8oC (or 55oF for the American residents amongst us). And that is the minimum temperature, recorded at hours when most respectable people are fast asleep. During the daytime, the temperature continues to be in the tropical late twenties and early thirties.

I shouldn't be too quick to poke fun at the warm-blooded Mumbaikars though. Because my son is one by virtue of being born here and having a father with Goa in his blood. Like the husband, he wants to take his jacket along to air-conditioned movie halls and restaurants and complains bitterly if we deign to forget. And wears a sleeveless sweater to school in December and January. Kids exist to make us eat our words, don't they :)


  1. Ha,Arhaan spent only 8 months of his young life in Melbourne but somehow it has influenced his internal thermostat. He not only throws a tantrum when we try covering him with a blanket at night but he is also mighty displeased if he sees me taking one. There are spot checks at night if the parents have smuggled in one and he reads us the riot act. I wonder what he will make of the Mumbai wallahs?!!

  2. 55 degrees F?

    Anything below 18 is unacceptably cold in my books.

  3. I regularly see the natives of Chennai wrapped in woolies in December when I'm sweating in my cotton salwar kameez. But I also wore sweaters to school in winter as a kid in Bombay:) And maintain my house in London at Bombay temperatures...

  4. Bangalore is no different. Its amazing to see people wear monkey caps in the "so-called-winter-months". This year though, i hear that the story is different.
    In singapore its just hot and humid and then more hot and more humid.

  5. I have stayed in Baroda all my life and it used to be really really cold! this winter is pretty cold in Mumbai by my standards..of course I belong to that peculiar category of people who sit with sweater in the office ALL ROUND THE YEAR!!! so there you go :)

  6. I have Kohima in my blood, or may be Shillong. I find Delhi winters invigorating.

  7. Yes do make eat our words...I am bought up in Up .we live in bangalore now and I always used to wonder what "cold" bangloreans talk about ..but now as Akshaj is prone to "cold" I really have to make him wear layers of clothes while other kids roam around happily in their cute sleaveless.

  8. Oh yes, kids exist to make us eat our words!

  9. oh yeah! Chandigarh cold :). This year Bangalore did show those satndards for three whole days. People went on shopping spree for woollens whereas I just caught up with the feel of it :)

  10. hehe.. I know what you mean, just back from Delhi! Do ppl in Mumbai and Bangalore even know what winters mean? I believe they should all be sent to the north to experience it at least once.. I am willing to pay for that exception-seeking mom's ticket :P

  11. - It really depends on the kind of climate one is used to
    - and how one deals with the climate
    - Its different in every single case :)
    - My lil family contains 7-10 different types of 'dealing' u can imagine :b

  12. Anonymous12:50 pm

    I had the same reaction in blore :) i guess its what one is used to

  13. LOL at Ayaan making you eat your words. B'lore used to have a nice nip in the iar some 10 yrs back. But till this year, we've only wondered at people going around in sweaters and monkey caps. Last year I bought a shawl more for the love of it, than for any warmth. And last month, after feeling the cold a little too much when taking the dog out for her nightly ramblings, decided to invest in a sweater. Bought one, and the cold disappeared!! :-( Its like Sonny boy and the doc. Till he sees a doc, he'll be miserable. The minute he sees one, he gets miraculously better. :-P

    And yeah, some schools in Blr have air conditioned classes. Bah!

  14. Anonymous10:34 pm

    Err..did you mean 55F?

  15. Hi Rohini, good morning!
    I believe my colleague Ceddy has contacted your previously on a sponsored trip for Hong Kong Disneyland?
    However we are unable to track your email. Would be great if you could email me at urgently as the client would like to send you and your family for a trip there :)

  16. Well I am also the cold blooded one.. need to pack myself up in Pune like I was back home in UP... so can empathise with that mom :-).. The kids are packed twice as much. Gosh what battles have been fought on that issue!

  17. well, it depends on what you are used to... if 12 is the lowest in Mumbai, 17 it is in Chennai... but then Pattu suffers severe dryness and cramps during this one month. A lot of my friends laugh when I say it is cold in Chennai but well, for us, it is :D

  18. can you share a post about shoe shop?

  19. [Aneela] That’s so cute. In someone else’s child, of course :p

    [Sue/ Neethi] Thanks for pointing out the typo. Gah! Corrected it now.

    [U] You are like Ayaan. A born and bred Mumbaikar. Exactly the type I mentioned in my post :p

    [Iya] Don’t even get me started on monkey caps. Saw a whole bunch of them in warm and sunny Kolkata in December

    [R’s Mom] Ahem. I was in charge of Gujarat sales for three long years. And never carried a sweater on any of my trips. :)

    [Ritu] I bow to thee. I find Delhi winters tolerable. Definitely not invigorating!

    [Vandana/ Chox] They really do. The minute you make any sweeping generalisations, your kid will turn out to be the exception to the rule!

    [Meenakshy] :)

    [Violet] LOL! That would make for quite some blog giveaway! :D

    [Gayatri/ Monika/ Uma] Totally! Tarana, for example, is also Mumbai-born but she doesn’t seem to feel the cold as much as her brother

    [JLT] Bangalore nights do get a bit chilly. But a sweatshirt is the most I’ve ever needed.

    [OM] Ayaan and I have reverse battles. I have to convince him he doesn’t need a jacket in the restaurant :D

  20. Listen, don't burst my little bubble! I live in Bangalore and I use the slightest excuse to pull out my light cardigans while going out at night or if the AC at office acts up a bit during winter. Yes I am exactly the profile you're poking fun at. Just because we don't get extreme winters here, I can't be denied the right to show off my woolies. :D

  21. Lols, lovely post! Delhi winters are something I can kill for :)

  22. I think it is a very relative thing - nothing to be poked fun at. People feel different levels of 'hotness' or opposite based on their own metabolism levels / body heat. Yes, it is also about what you get used to while growing up, as you said.

  23. Ha ha, remember freezing in the Delhi bus stop at 6:30 in the morning, only to get into a DTC bus with no doors and half the windows broken for the half an hour ride to school! Only luckily we were wearing salwar kameez and not skirts (though i think most people were upset with this at that point of time!)

  24. Hey I call the weather we have here in Chennai as winter weather! And Mumbai is even colder than it is here!

    I remember when we were in Mumbai some time years ago, having to wear a sweater on some days in winter! You must pretty "cold-blooded"!

  25. [blinkandmiss] All's fair in love, war and fashion :D

    [RP] I poke fun at the Mumbaiwallahs but honestly I love it here. I hate 'real' winters :)

    [Ardramaanasam] True. But poking fun is meant to be just that - fun :)

    [MD] We were not only wearing skirts, we were hitching them up to make them shorter once were out of our mom's sights :D

    [Lawyeramma] That's what Jai says ;)

  26. I've shocked myself this winter, didnt wear any warm clothes. You think I'm channelling my Pathan genes?

  27. Hee hee! It's all in what we're used to, right?

    We've had spring finally hit us here--I went to town with bare arms the other day, and I am not sure it was even as warm as 12C! It felt glorious, though!

    My Canadian-born mother, living in the sub-tropical climes of Arkansas for the last thirteen years, has been known, on occasion, to wear ski pants to work to stay warm. I don't know if her circulation is slowing down, or she has just acclimatized that much to her new environment! :-)

  28. Anonymous12:09 pm

    This article is soo bitter! This years minimum temperature in Mumbai was 8 degrees, and that's in central Mumbai at a place called Santa Cruz. Its much colder in the northern n eastern extremes of Mumbai(as you move away from the sea), which is the Mumbai suburban area where majority of the population of the city exists. In comparison the minimum temperature in Delhi this winter was 4 degree. Not much difference, is it ? Yet you put up an article like you've been living in the Arctic Circle all your life. It does get cold here and people wearing woolens in the winter months is totally justifiable. In fact Mumbai is much colder than Bangalore where you see people wrapped up in woolens like it's Moscow!

    1. Anonymous1:02 am

      Every year there is atleast one day where the minimum temperature in atleast one section of Delhi-NCR falls below zero degrees C. So when you say Delhi's winter minimum was 4 degrees C, you're totally wrong. 4 degrees C is a figure that Delhi regularly strikes starting late December and through January. The winter minimum lies quite below that.

  29. Anonymous2:53 am

    Honestly, i used to feel the same time is shifted to delhi in the august of 2012 and faced my first winter post november. I used to feel before i arrived here, that back in bangalore the weather has touched 10 degrees several times
    so a 4-5 degrees should be fine. Its not...its not fine atall..and i ll tell u why.
    Friend.the 8 degrees that you experienced in mumbai is the minimum temperature which might have touched at 8 once late night..the terrible part in delhi is that it will stay in single digit through the night. 4 degrees through thenight.. and this temperature is again of the city central full of polution. Fancy this. Could nt leave for office coz i cant see the road. No sun since three days. Work from home not working out coz not able to open my gloves to use my laptop in the middle of the day. Taps frozen at times coz ot does reach 0 degrees at a lot of places...however hot to cook food...the third bite onwards is cold food. And remember to switch on the geyser to wash ur hands after dinner. Or better just use a spoon. By the time february arrives be happy to see urown hand, first time when outside. Its not the temperture, its how lojg it sticks to that..and how ay weeks.. u woild fancy, europeans dont makr so much fuss.. delhi doesnt use thermostat theories of construction, nor peoole have a central heating system..the local transpprt is just normal so th suffering is odd