Global Tamilian: Inexplicable winter blues in the US for Indian immigrants

Despite being settled overseas, the Tamil diaspora loves to recreate the life they left behind in India. Here’s a glimpse of their lives, celebrations and struggles on foreign shores.
Global Tamilian: Inexplicable winter blues in the US for Indian immigrants

Chennai

If you think your first love is the only treasured memory, here is something to challenge your doctrine -- the first sight of snow. The sea of snow surrounds like magic and spreading the chills of freezing temperatures. What you wear, eat, drink and even think will definitely be a new experience for an immigrant from India. Particularly for those from southern parts of India, snow in the US leaves one awestruck.
Getting up in the morning to see the spread of powdery snow through the patio doors is a pleasant surprise for a first-timer. When the previous night was a perfect one except with the weatherman’s warning of a possible snowstorm, the wintery morning comes as a surprise. ‘Everything around you, including cars, rooftops and trees, would be snow-clad and it is a sight that’s not expected. For an immigrant, witnessing the snowstorm for the first time is truly amazing.
Changing to winter attire, one waits for none to go exploring the snow around. Stretched hands catching the falling snowflakes is a thrill for sure. Quick snowman starts appearing around with children busy dressing him in dad’s scarf and pointed carrots. What is more fun for the kids than to find the schools closed? Cleaning driveways and walkways become the priority. 
The ecstasy lasts for only a few minutes. Soon the numbness in limbs will push one back inside the home. The thought of cold weather for the next three months itself can make one blue. With dropping temperatures and early nightfall, keeping up with routine school, office, college and shopping is a tough challenge.
“Winter makes one cruelly selfish. On getting out of the car the immediate thought will be on how to rush to a warmer shelter. The etiquette of waiting for others is never a winter custom at our homes,” observed Rajan Raj, a resident of New Jersey.
“I go crazy making my two-year-old son wear all the winter clothing and one by one he removes and drops them on the floor on our way to get him inside the car. The number of socks and gloves we lost is countless,” grumbled Revathi Ram.
Power cuts are the worst to expect during storm days. Though it is not a common sight, if it happens, it would be one of the worst experiences -- being cut off from the heat. “The first time when we went out of power, I was in sheer shock. I was not convinced that power cuts happen in the US, too,” vented Senthilnathan, a resident of Connecticut.
The heater running through day and night causes allergies and parched skin for many. Breathing becomes difficult and a variety of humidifiers becomes necessary. Cold, cough and flu are the scary words of the season.
On the positive side, the snowy weather trains you to be organised. You cannot afford to be less prepared, be it milk from the grocery store, planning your dress for the day or starting the car early to preheat the engine -- all need time and planning. Salting and cleaning the walkway is a must.
With no chance of being outside for even a short casual walk, the only best healthy choice is to turn to the gyms.
What a contrast with the life in India, which is blessed with sunshine all through the year. With cold weather, opportunities to play outside are restricted for children. But the fun never ends once you are in the US. 
The chuck e cheese, bounce U, ice skating rinks, indoor swimming pools and basketball courts all operate in full attendance during these months. For immigrant parents, it’s is a new experience to pay for spots and drive their children for physical engagements. Driving isn’t fun either in cold snowy days. The risk of skidding due to black ice and slippery roads is a major deterrent.
Dress in layers is another acquired skill to combat the weather. Even a slight variation in temperature would mean changing the number of layers worn. Matching gloves, jackets, sweaters and shoes to suit the occasion is a big challenge. Stocking winter apparels itself takes time and space in the house. All for only a three-month period. Then the spring asks for a new set of wardrobe.
Most school buses start coming early, around 6.30 am, and so the little children have no choice but to grab a hot cup of morning breakfast and rush into their buses. The only time they get to take benefit from the cold weather is when the schools are closed.
Though the weather warnings come pretty early, the announcements for school closure come only when the snow is seen on the ground. This leaves many anxious students to wake up intermittently during nights to check on the snowfall to make sure there is no school the following day.
Though it is a new experience for Indian immigrants, life never stops. But when talking to kith and kin to share the winter woes, the phone call turns too funny as the voice from India starts saying “it is unbearably cold here this December”.
— The writer is a  journalist based in New York

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