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Shalaka Pai
Urban Urchin

Shalaka Pai is a writer and a photographer.She doesn’t have Instagram (yet)and won’t spam your Facebook feed with badly watermarked photos

Taking stock of winter for the summer bunny

ack when I was mainlining Game of Thrones (both the book and the TV shows), "winter is coming" seemed like one of the best mottos ever. It's so symbolic — Winter Is Coming, and so we must prepare for it. Winter (to me, signifying impending doom) is coming, and there's nothing you can do about it. The house of Stark surrendered to the winter, realising wisely that they were powerless.

Meanwhile, in Prague, temperatures have once again dipped to the lower end of single digits, and I'm having a fair bit of trouble surrendering to that. For starters, it's taking a real toll on my muscles, which are pretty much wood by now in terms of pliability and comfort. I wake up most mornings staring up at a grey sky and my body has a primal need to hibernate under a blanket till February. But alas, work waits for no Indian girl's bodily adjustments.

I'd actually never experienced a real autumn before I came here, so getting out of the house is actually rather fascinating and inexplicable, almost poetic. While we are bathed in a dense grey cloud, underfoot, fallen leaves shine bright yellow. It's the oddest combination of colours and feelings, and even though it confuses you completely (the yellow sparking a little joy, the grey bringing you back down), it kind of works. Well, kind of. Autumn is its own monster, and the little market near my house is filled now with stalls selling hot wine and vegetable vendors selling pumpkins. Sadly, I have no time to stop and buy, I have no time yet to experiment with the joys of actually making pumpkin soup at home, for I have perennial dates with the school's editing stations.

hat also truly annoys me about winter is the lack of spontaneity. You can't simply decide to pop out of your house in whatever you happen to be wearing to go grab some coffee or a muffin, or even go for a walk. No no, venturing out has to be first thought of and then prepared for, adding layers upon layers of clothing, maybe storing a sweater inside your bag (oh yes, there's always a bag) just in case the temperature dips even more. And of course, there's the scarf, and the hat, and the boots that take five minutes to lace up, and woe betide those who forget, for your extremities WILL freeze. It's a good season though to be young and in love, for at least there's someone to share body warmth with on chilly nights. Disclaimer: I am not young and in love, but every day I see at least two couples kissing on the street, and I feel their joy for an infinitesimal moment.

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What also truly annoys me about winter is the lack of spontaneity. You can’t simply decide to pop out of your house in whatever you happen to be wearing to go grab some coffee or a muffin.

Down in the centre of the city, Christmas decorations are going up, a whole month before the day of the festivities, and it sort of does actually add some cheer to my commute, as does the hot wine vendor outside the Tesco. Honestly, one of the absolute best things about the winter is the hot wine. It is the perfect drink. It warms every pore of you from the inside out, and if you drink enough of it, you pretty much forget how cold you were in the first place. It's all very new and occasionally even quite nice, this winter thing. Right up until the point where I realise that my Swiss flatmate and my friend from Chicago are wearing three layers less than me, and that I'm STILL cold.

But since I can't hibernate (no one will let me), there's nothing really to do than to bundle up and forge on, thermos of hot chocolate by my side, and wait for summer to return when I can be in my element again.

 
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