07 January 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It’s snowing here in Atlanta. Tiny snowflakes are drifting down at a leisurely pace and melt as soon as they hit the ground. My daughter has been waiting for this since the past four days, and she is disappointed that there is no snow accumulation.

I can recall being similarly disappointed, albeit seven years earlier. We had just moved from California. The only visual that we had of snow in California was the sight of snow capped mountains from our living room window in California; we didn’t even know the name of those mountains. Snow had been forecast one gray Atlanta winter day, but there wasn’t a trace of snow through the day. The forecast also had some snow for the night. My wife and I lay awake for the snow to come down; all we got was 15-30 minutes of flurries. We both rushed out to take videos of the flurries, which barely left small little patches on the ground. We were very disappointed and we thought we’d never see real live snow.

Our romance with snow started long ago and continues unbroken. Well actually, only my romance continues, not my wife's. Right after our marriage, we had gone to Sikkim and Darjeeling. We had gone in late October and it was fairly cold by then; Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim, is located at an average elevation of 1640 meters above sea level. But we did not get any rain/ snow throughout our stay. In fact, we did not even get a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga till we were about to leave. From Gangtok, we went on to Darjeeling – once again, there was hardly any snow. Let me clarify that till that time we subscribed to the common misconception that it snows when there is extreme cold. Logical though it may sound to Snow Belt inhabitants, we did not realize that moisture/ rain is required for the snowfall in addition to the cold conditions. And, in India, the monsoons are almost gone by mid October. However, we got excellent views of the Himalayan range when we went to see the famous Darjeeling Sun rise from Tiger Hills.

Back to snow in Atlanta, or back to the lack of snow in Atlanta. We did not stay in Atlanta very long and moved to Knoxville in Tennessee. Now, Knoxville is just 200 miles away from Atlanta but temperatures are generally 4-5 degrees lower, and humidity is quite high. Knoxville generally gets 2-3 snow days a year. We were lucky to get almost 3 inches of snow the first day it snowed in Knoxville that winter. We simply went crazy. My daughter dressed up in her hooded jacket, shoes, mittens and she went out to make her first snowman. We were busy taking pictures of anything that had snow on it, the road, the roof of the apartment building, the trees, the cars, and of course, of our daughter and her snow man. We stayed in Knoxville for approximately four and half years and we got to see snow a number of times. However, it never snowed so much as to deter people from going out – the most snow that we got in Knoxville, barely managed to cover the dead winter grass.

I was still dissatisfied and still wanted to see real snow. I got my chance in late 2006, when I started traveling again. One of my first projects was in Brimfield, a quaint little town close to the Massachusetts/ Connecticut border. My project had started right after Thanksgiving and it was fairly cold by then. All of December went by, the temperature kept dropping and still no sign of snow. I was cursing my luck and thinking that I would miss the snow again. I was wrong. One week, snow had been forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday; the best days from a traveling consultant’s point of view! Mondays and Thursdays are the commute days, you see, and therefore, you wish for nice weather on these days. Monday was nice and snow free and we made it back to the hotel in the evening with hardly a trace of snow. On Tuesday, it was snowing lightly in the morning, and the morning commute was hardly any different from the other days. There were five of us and we generally took turns to get lunch for the entire group. It was the turn of one of the other guys to get lunch that day, so I never really got to see the extent of the snowfall during the day. Around 6:30 in the evening, one of my colleagues decided to leave. There were two us remaining; we had more work to do. About 45 minutes later, the aforementioned colleague walked back in, announcing that he had cleaned our cars in addition to his own! I walked out with him and was astounded to see the snow. My colleague had cleaned the snow off the glass, but the roof of the car still had a eight-inch layer of snow on it. I immediately went back in to get my stuff and get back to the hotel. That was my first attempt at driving in the snow. It was a scary moment when the car suddenly decided to go in a direction that I hadn’t intended it to. However, Massachusetts is well-prepared for snow and the snow was being continuously cleared off the main roads. The ride back to the hotel was a bit tense, but uneventful.

From January to February, we had maybe five more heavy snow days – during the days that I stayed there. I made it a point to go out on those days during the daytime, so that I could actually see the snow falling and settling down on cars, trees, buildings. I really enjoyed all the snow and really liked the place. My family and I were getting ready to move out of Knoxville and were looking at several possibilities. Having spent almost the entire winter in Massachusetts, I was ready to add it to our list of possibilities and I invited my family to join me there for the spring break.

My family came to join me on a March 14, 2007 – it was a Wednesday afternoon. On the drive back from the airport to the hotel, my wife and daughter were really impressed with the beautiful snow clad countryside. That was the last time I've seen my wife liking snow! The next day, we were planning to drive down to a friend’s place close to Boston so that we could explore Boston over the weekend. Boston is approximately 60 miles away from Brimfield and the best way to get there is to take I-90, a 5-lane wide highway for the most part. By the time we left the hotel at 2:00 pm, it was snowing lightly. We had barely made it for 5 miles on the highway before the snow started to fall really heavily. Traffic was heavy; it seemed everybody was in a hurry to get back home before dark. We made heavy weather of the drive, literally, and by 5:00 pm had barely made it Westford, still some 35 miles away from Boston. My daughters were hungry and we decided to take a break. While they were eating, we had a change in plans. Westford is also home to a relative of my wife’s, who we had planned to visit, but later in the weekend. We decided to take advantage of the break and visit them that evening itself.

We made it to our relative’s house just before dark. I had never met them before, and my wife was meeting them after, maybe 15-20 years! They were relative, pun fully intended, unknowns to us! After about an hour or so, we wanted to leave, but they would hear none of it. It had got dark, and it was still snowing heavily. Staying there the night seemed to be the best course of action for us. We woke in the morning to discover that we were snowed in. We had approximately 15 inches of snow through the night. Our car which had been parked in the driveway, was nowhere to be seen; all we could see was a huge mound of snow. The contractor who cleaned the private driveways would come only the next day. We couldn’t go anywhere. We tried to make the best of a bad situation; the children played in the snow and tried all snow activities that they knew. I offered to clear the snow from near the door. I managed to clear only a 5X3 path before I had had enough of that backbreaking work.

I came back inside to discover our relatives trying to convince my wife that this much snow was rare, and not a regular phenomenon. They wanted us to move as soon as our daughter's school session was over. They even offered to host us for the initial couple of months in the time that it took for us to search for a house. My wife’s mind was made up, all that snow had removed Massachusetts from the list of possible locations to move to. In the winter of 2007, we moved back to Atlanta, where there’s hardly any snow.

My romance with snow continues and it may take something like what’s mentioned in this joke(http://www.surfminnesota.net/shoveler.html, or at http://baetzler.de/humor/snow_shoveler.html) to break my love affair with snow.

(Our relative has just released his first Indipop music album titled "My Name Is Ajitabh" - more details at www.ajitabhranjan.com).


  1. Like I said on Twitter, I remember when you came in to the hotel that night .. I think that was the first time that I told you you could go into the kitchen to grab the cookie that was still cooling :)

  2. bevinda collaco08 January, 2010 17:06

    I have travelled widely but have never touched snow. Rain, yes, cold, cold rain in London, but not a single stupid snowflake. It's a plot I tell you!

  3. I recall my initial days in Toronto in year 1998. We had been put up in a motel near the airport and our room was the corner most from where the main roads were quite visible. Initially we were on orientation and it was around early December that I was in office and around 2:30 in the afternoon we saw ground becoming white with cotton like substances. I was later told that they are flurries and many of the words which were only "read" were being realized. Very quickly we learned why people keep asking about weather here. Also, it started making sense to tell how much is the temperature and how much it feels like, when you account for "wind factor". A cab driver turned out to be real wealth of information for us. He ducated us that "you should always cover your head, chest and hands here and when it is windy it takes away heat from your body so your body feels more colder as blood has to circulate faster to keep body temperature normal....and you should always remember that in this country three "Ws" change with pre-information...Work, Woman and Weather.." He probably took liberty to explain all these since our sense of dressing had explained to him enough that we were new in Toronto. Later one morning when I got up, I found mountains of snow on the road and in less than 6 hrs the whole landscape had changed outside our motel! Te cleaning staff later was educating us that we should wear special snow boots and in next 2-3 years we had become so used to that all what we had studied in geography and physics, we could explain to everyone - such as what is a black ice, ow car skids and when it skids one should not apply brakes else it will skid further, how should one shovel like there is an angle to apply effort else back may hurt and likes... Good that we moved to Atlanta now and are away from snow, just a different perspective.."Haves and Havenots?"

  4. well, i have a also wanted to witness snowing but have not really seen any. I went to sikkim in the middle of winter in 2005-06, hoping will see some snow..but in 7 days we stayed there it never snowed. it was very cold but no snow.

    Now staying in Dubai certainly is not going to help. forget snow, we dread for even a glimpse of rain.