A few months ago, mum and I went to stay with her twin in Pune for a couple of weeks. My aunt had been telling us that we needed a break for years, and we finally closed up the house and took her up on the offer. It was a lovely break over New Year’s, and therefore the weather was cool. Pune is actually known for nippy winters, although nowhere as cold as Delhi, Rajasthan, or Himachal Pradesh.
I have shuttled between various climes in my lifetime, and so my ability to bear changes in weather is quixotic and unpredictable. My mother, however, has only ever lived in Mumbai, Dubai, and Goa. All these places are hot in summers and moderate in winter. Although we had air conditioning in Dubai and Goa, she can’t take the cold. At all.
One evening in Pune, she was feeling dreadfully cold. She was sitting on the bed, shivering, so I wrapped a shawl around her. She was still chilled so I wrapped another shawl around the first one. No dice. She asked for a bedsheet too. After my wrapping, she looked like a samosa. Small, triangular, and wrapped in layers.
I snapped a pic of her, and posted it to Facebook, commenting on how my midget mother was freezing in 24 C temperature.
Of course, this started a train of thought. My father used to see her shivering in perfectly comfortable weather and comment: “How will you ever live in Europe?” He had lived in Germany for 3 years before they met, and I had lived in UK for 2 years. But she hadn’t. But she had been there several times.
Back in 1987 or thereabouts, my mother was the financial comptroller for Dubai Hilton. She was flying to Vienna or Amsterdam for a comptrollers’ meeting, but had stopped in Switzerland to check out the computer systems in Zurich Hilton.
My mother was, at the time, a sari-clad lady. And you cannot wear closed footwear under saris; they just don’t go. So, in the dead of winter, December or so, my clever, clever mother wore chappals under her sari. To Switzerland. SNOW-covered Switzerland.
She was met by a colleague at the airport, who gazed at her feet in disbelief and asked, with what I consider incredible restraint, where her boots were. [I would have flat-out called her nuts.] She scornfully replied that one doesn’t wear closed footwear under saris.
The airport was heated. The city was not. It had snowed the previous week, and the ground was covered in a thin layer of snow. Her feet, shockingly, started to get cold. It started to rain. Her petticoat and sari got wet. And FROZE.
I think it was when her feet started turning blue that my mother turned to her colleague, in what I hope was abject penitence, and asked to be driven straight to Bahnhofstrasse to buy boots.
As I looked my the tiny samosa, I can only imagine the midget freezing for the sake of fashion 30 years ago.