Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Protect Yourself from the Cold in North India

North India is known to have a much colder winter than most of South India (from what I understand because I have never been to South India). I've been as far down as Delhi in the winter months and I feel it's only fair to warn you Delhi is warmer than Amritsar but not by much.

Amritsar has the misfortune of getting all the cold, icy chilled air from the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh whenever it snows, but none of the snow to go with it. Luckily it's only a couple of weeks in January in which the cold is almost unbearable before the temperature starts to climb again. It's not standard here for houses to have heating systems and from what I've seen and heard it's also not common for people to purchase small heaters for a room. They do sell them but the selection is often limited to a few varieties because there just aren't enough customers who want them. Most prefer to bundle up the way they are used to. I guess in a way that makes a lot o sense because most people don't sit in one room for too long.

I however, am a pampered American and I purchased a heater. MIL loves it and comes up every night to warm herself up before going down to bed. Sometimes she sits with me during the day as well and warms up when I have it on. Hubby took to it really well also and sometimes he downright dominates all the heat it puts out lol. It was a small heater as I only needed it to heat one room and I didn't want to get it hot in here because then you can't go out in the cold without getting sick.

When we go out - which I do try to limit on the coldest days - we bundle up pretty well. On the coldest days there are the desi equivalent of long johns (thermal underwear). These don't look like our long johns though. They are cotton and look like Cuddl Duds minus the textures. Then of  course you wear your clothes on top of that. Then most women wear a sweater on top of their suit. I don't see women wearing jackets and coats too much but I would say about 5-15% of them do. I often wear a sweater as well and if I'm leaving the house I put a jacket on top of that. Even though the temperature here only gets down to about 0 Celsius (32F) and I grew up in a much colder climate (it's usually -12 Celsius/up to -10F there this time of year), I still find it feels much colder than I'm used to tolerating here.

When a ladies suit comes  with a dupatta (not all winter suits do) they often still wear a shawl in addition to that. There are shawls available in several styles, textures, designs and sizes. Most younger women wear a smaller dupatta and older women wear a large one. (MIL's is large enough I could cover up completely from head to toe so about 6 foot long and 3 1/2 food wide.) They cover their head, neck and shoulders with this and it stays on fairly well while they do their housework. Older women also wear stocking caps but it is rare to see a young woman wearing one. Here is a picture of the dupatta and stocking cap look of an older woman so you can see how I mean.



I'm a rebel of sorts. I go to great lengths to keep as much of the dirt and pollution of the city out of my body as possible. I don't wear stocking caps because they make my hair look horrible when I take it off so I've found a way to wrap my dupatta that works well without messing up my hair. So now I look odd (and it seems other women are doing similar things here so I'm not worried about that) but this is how I look right before I leave the house. I call this the sweater/jacket/gloves/shawl look lol.


If you notice, I've even managed to successfully cover both ears and still be able to wear my sunglasses. That was tricky. I had to learn how to twist the dupatta just right after wrapping my forehead so it holds on fairly well and will still wrap around my nose without gaps to let the wind in. What's funny is less people here stare at me when I'm covered like this than when I go out looking any other way. Occasionally I go for a 2 dupatta look where I wrap my forehead with one in the same style and then wrap the second around my nose and mouth.

While in the house, most people keep covers on their bed and whenever they are free to sit down they cover up. When the sun is out and actually warm (because some days even the sun feels cold) they sit outside on their terrace like the woman pictured above. I've done that as well and I feel I should warn you that once you get warmed up that way you feel twice as cold after getting out of the sun so I don't recommend it for the colder days unless you have some sort of heater you can sit near until your body temperature adjusts. Last year when I first came here I didn't know how about letting your body adjust and I got sick a few times from the extreme temperature changes. (Mostly in the mornings when first getting out of bed after being so warm all night...I had no clue you could vomit from such a thing!)

If you don't have heat in your home, hotel room, etc. while you are staying here you may need to wear several layers of clothing to sleep in or you may need to sleep in the stocking cap or wrap your head with the dupatta. I have even slept with my head under the covers (because it is not safe to leave a space heater on while you're sleeping). I highly recommend you do the same so your nose is not breathing in icy air while your body is warm and cozy under the covers. This can cause you to wake up with sore throats, sinus trouble or an aching feeling in your chest.

I don't recommend that you sleep with a full face stocking cap on. There have been instances of people breathing in the knit fibers (in the US) and those fibers causing sinus infections. Do any of you who have been to or lived in North India have any other tips you would like to share?

12 comments:

  1. Hi Kristy, you look fab in your dupatta, I can hardly recognise you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lol, I know right! This is like the ultimate way to hide from everything.

    ReplyDelete
  3. No one ever thinks about India being this cold . I spent a winter in Delhi a few years ago and it was way too cold for me . You need to get the bil to send you one of those face masks people wear in northern Canada and Alaska they might be a big hit . Or I can bring you one for next year !

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello,
    Your blog is Very useful.I Like Very Much.
    Rajasthan Holiday Tours

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, nice blog & good post. You have beautifully maintained it, you must try this Indian Travel Agency website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!
                                       

    Flexi said...
    Travel Agency in India

    ReplyDelete
  6. Luckily I think the cold is gone now (literally overnight) and I am praying not to be here next winter. Thanks for the offer though, I do appreciate it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Been to Delhi, Manali and Delhi in December-january on occasion, I hate thermals though, so I just use wollen shawls on top of my outfit, I wear jeans and sweater then, no one will have me wear a salwaar suits then, not even in presence of my concervative MIL,  so it isn't too hard coping, my in-laws have one or two space heaters, my MIL has arthritis so cold makes it super painful on her joints so she has one in the bedroom at all time. Inside houses is always colder than outside I found out, so during the day when there is sun in the garden at my in-law's place everybody is out soaking the vitamin D and warmth, we did the same in Manali spending as little time in our room as possible to get natural light and warmth. 

    ReplyDelete
  8. i hv stayed 4 years in kanpur, UP ... which has the dubious record of getting the coldest in some years in all of north india (except kashmir). and one such year happened to fall during my stay. i can tell you just one thing - every day felt like the last day of my life ... i felt, if i cud survive this day i may live 100 years. my mind stopped working ... my arms, legs, hands used to be frozen in the same position for hours ... everywhere there used to be fog even during daytime and so much dew dripped it felt like monsoon ... no kidding ... in the morning you cud see little streams flowing by the road while everything in sight was totally drenched. water was so cold that even thinking of it makes me jittery.

    for the last few years i am comfortable in south india and i certainly do not miss anything about the north. (disclaimer: i am ethnically a northie)

    but my oh my ... i may have to move to delhi in a few months coz of the darned job ... just thinking of it makes me shudder.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well thankfully Delhi is warmer than most of the north! Every time I go there I notice the difference in temperature and you'll miss most of the icy chill from the snow in Shimla and such. Maybe it won't be so bad for you. I know what you mean about feeling so cold you can't move. My circulation is terrible here all through the winter and I frequently lose the use of my legs until I can get the blood moving again. Some days all you can do is hide under the covers and pray no one lifts them to find you because it's so cold lol.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey pls post ur full pics wearing all accecories like this one of ur pic in which u r wearing scarf, sunglasses, coat, gloves etc
    post full pics. I want to see how u look

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey pls post ur full pics wearing all accecories like this one of ur pic
    in which u r wearing scarf, sunglasses, coat, gloves etc
    post full pics. I want to see how u look 

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey pls post ur full pics wearing all accecories like this one of ur pic
    in which u r wearing scarf, sunglasses, coat, gloves etc
    post full pics. I want to see how u look 

    ReplyDelete