Today was Srishti’s first encounter with snow, on her way to school. She didn’t like it!
We had been warned of the snow in weather reports earlier in the week. The Dutch welcome it, of course, fond as they are of winter sports and disappointed that they have been for the last few years for not being able to ski enough or at all. Skiing comes as naturally to them as cycling and they love to do it on natural ice. Expensive ice-skating rinks don’t suit them, though that is how the present generation are mostly learning it.
Today it was dark and cold and windy. The dark and cold part Srishti has got used to from end-November. She now knows this is how winters are like. That THIS is winter. It has added new words to her vocabulary, which she tries out with me: “It is donker, Mamma”; “It is misty”; “Look, no leaves”.
With her, I’m learning every day: learning new Dutch words, re-inventing English ones. Re-discovering the relationship of the signifier with the signified. ‘Mist’-‘dark’-‘snow’ are now invested with a fresh feeling. It’s as if, with Srishti, I’m also experiencing them for the first time.
Walk to school, and back
We walk to her school every day. It takes me 12 mins from our apartment door to her classroom. With her, it takes around 20. Over the last 4 months, that has reduced to 17. Her favourite route is by a canal; and on a sunny morning, she is usually in a very chatty mood, and loves to not so much saunter to school as savour the walk. She delights in animals, and wants to talk to every specimen she sees on the way: the ducks and birds on the canal, who often fly to the edge, the dogs on leash taken out for their poops, sometimes butterflies. Her attention is so engrossed in her surroundings that I have to constantly egg her on. “Srishti faster, faster. We’ll be late”. 8:25-8:35 is her reporting time, 8:40 is late. There are many days when we make it just on time. And even if we start earlier, the story doesn’t change much.
It is a nice morning exercise, this walk. For both of us. My walk back home is quicker, but it does amount to half-hour of walking altogether – both mornings and afternoons. So, an hour every day.
I allow Srishti a leisurely pace on the way back home from school. Some days she has less energy than others, especially on the day of her after-school club, when she spends an hour more at school. But she dances back home, anyway. I actually like the Bengali way of putting it better: Nachte nachte bari phere – that is what I tell everyone at home.
September through mid-November, the walks were pleasant. But the winter made it different for her.
Winter dressing is a pain in the wrong place: jacket, boots, cap, sjall, gloves, for Srishti. Ditto for her Mamma. Wrapping ourselves up in all that takes a full 5 minutes, especially since her sjall has to be just so. “Mama, it’s tight”, she tells me first; and no sooner have I done her bidding that she screams, “Mamma, it’s loose”.
She has a small neck and insists on keeping it open. As it is, there’s very little space to tuck anything in there – be it sjall-knot, cap-button, or jacket-chain; but whatever little there is, she doesn’t allow me to. With the result that her ears and neck are always exposed a bit. I do keep pulling her cap tight over her ears and her sjaal under her neck, but she keeps loosening them. And now she has developed this most irritating habit of crying for everything. Any tiny-winy thing she dislikes, or is told not to do…. and there goes her Ganga-Jamuna, ready to overflow. Only, I’ve absolutely NO sympathy in the mornings.
Our morning adventure
We went out today with our usual armoury: with her boots-jacket-gloves-sjaal-cap alright. And dark-cold-misty outside. Also, alright. But today, there was snowfall and high wind with an umbrella added to it. Now that was too much for her to handle! But she tried, attempting a precarious balancing act: with her right hand in mine, and her left hand holding an umbrella that was being blown away by the wind, even as there was a snowfall. But the snow falling on her umbrella was harder and louder than rain falling on it. That scared her. And the howling wind only made it worse. I wasn’t doing very well either. I can’t hold the umbrella with one hand when the wind blows in this country. And today, while Srishti (even with all her fears) never slipped and held on to her umbrella, mine flew away; and as I ran after it backwards, she was utterly distressed and started crying. For once, I was not angry on her. But thankfully, things improved after that. We decided to walk slow, much slower than our normal pace – literally one step at a time, as it was very slippery, and we were not wearing spiked boots. I started counting 1-100 (Srishti’s favourite sport these days) to focus her attention on the numbers and divert it from her fear and inconvenience. The 17-minute walk suddenly seemed very long. But the numbers helped. It calmed her down. We went 1-2-3 at the slowest possible pace, and at some point, the school appeared.
The weather was far better after I dropped her off. On my way back, there was more sunlight, and the snowfall had stopped. So had the wind. Poor Srishti! I wish this was the case while going to school. But then, she had an adventure. She will remember her first encounter with snow!