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   I am thinking of the coldest weather I have experienced... (December 17, 1986)

I am thinking of the coldest weather I have experienced.

I once spent a winter in a village in the Taurus mountains in southern Turkey. The icy wind would blow down from the snow peaks and through the cobbled street of the village. I would be sitting in the dispensary of the village doctor, tending a wood fire and trying to keep it going through the day. Every time the door would open to let some body in from the street, the wind would blow in and put out the fire.

The whole village used to gather, in bits and pieces, in the dispensary, though not necessarily for medicines. And Friday, being bazar day, people from little settlements in the mountains would come to the village and the dispensary.

Among these was an ancient man of undetermined age, who had been in the First World War (what was then optimistically called The Great War) and had been captured and imprisoned by the British. It so happened that he had been imprisoned in India and I was his first Indian contact since 1918.

It was an encounter of great excitement for him and his family and every Friday he would come to the dispensary and we would talk in Hindi. Whatever little he may have picked up, age and time had obliterated it. But he had retained a few words, half in English, half in army Hindi, and he brought them out of memory and repeated them. They had to do with opening gates, saluting, the left and right of merching.

So, Friday after Friday, he would come to the village riding a mule and repeat the half-Hindi and half-English words.

There were others who had passed through India, years later, during the Korean war. This time Turkey was on the side of the allies, NATO and CENTO, and they had gone with the allied armies to fight somebody else's war in somebody else's contry.

Actually, they had passed through Sri Lanka and not India, Colombia, they used to say, but it meant one and the same thing to them.

They were my Indian contacts in the village. The rest of the village identified me with Raj Kapoor and Awaara. In fact, in the spring, when the wedding season started and the village had its own wedings, the tune from Awaara was the most frequent tune played by the village band as it escorted the bride's family to the house of the bridegroom.

But spring was still far away and the first storks were still to come and build their nests in the chimneys. The whole village shivered with cold and the water in the pipes froze.

What is amazing is after having gone through that winter, I still feel could in the present mild cold weather of Bombay.

 
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