The word ‘more’ prefixed to the title of this week’s piece is simply because annually around this time, I am gripped with the urge to welcome my favourite season with a narrative such as this. This year however, the frost, the freezing winds accompanied by soft hail and frozen rain, took their own sweet time to arrive, causing winter lovers like me to suffer a fair amount of concern.

I am crazy about the cold seasons for many reasons (no rhyme intended). First and foremost I can conceal my robust figure under loosely fitting woollies drawing complimentary ‘oohs and aahs’ from friends and family. Then there is the dry fruit – bought from my favorite establishment in one of Islamabad’s commercial areas. I have been patronizing this spot since its launch, but in spite of constantly telling myself to stand firm and not overpay, the sight of so many goodies turns my resolve into jelly and I return home, ‘having lost the cash memo and forgotten how much I paid’ as the only explanation, when interrogated by my better half. This is one shopping spree, where my wife’s anger doesn’t last long, as she loves to munch on salted almonds, pistachios and their ilk, while watching television – I would be more than justified in saying that on every occasion I have been ‘saved not by the bell, but an almond’.

We also welcome the cold season by lighting bonfires and roasting meat over a spit in, what can be described as a genetic impulse dating back to my Central Asian (and Mongol) ancestry. I get so carried away on these occasions that I have to be restrained by my offspring, not to ‘grab the old family swords’ adorning the wall and rush around calling for my nonexistent war steed.

My grandchildren love bonfires and I use them as a means of spending the weekend with us. These wonderful evenings are made possible by a fortnightly trip to the pine forest near my home, where we collect fallen cones that make an excellent and fragrant tinder. I even tried to harvest pinon nuts or ‘chilgoza’ from pines growing inside my compound, but in spite of very clear instructions from one of our domestic staff on how to do so, always managed to botch up the process. This went on for some time before a friend from Quetta told me that I was wasting my time as the cones bearing pinon nuts came from the ‘Chilghoza Pine’, found in the mountainous regions of Balochistan. It is since then that I have begun harvesting this wonderful nut from the dry fruit store.

Another cold weather bonus is the fact that the felines in our menagerie of animals begin to voluntarily snuggle into our laps with a continuous purring (instead of being chased around the house for a hug). Now this vibrating sound emitted by cats when happy, is considered to be very effective in lowering blood pressure - something borne out by the fact that anger levels in our family subside during winters.

Razor sharp winds loaded with sleet can only become enjoyable with an adequately heated home. While this can be done with no great hassle using modern techniques, the rustic spirit within me rebelled at the idea forcing me to have working fireplaces in rooms that I considered ‘mine’. The local wood store or ‘taal’ provided us with an adequate stock of dry firewood for the entire season, but no sooner had I got the first fire place going that the sole ownership of the place was taken away from me by a suitably equipped family force, led by the lady of the house. I now ‘enjoy’ the unenviable status of a ‘back bencher’, while the rest of my clan have a rollicking time before a roaring fireplace.

And last, but not the least, there are the mountain violets that cover spaces amongst the rocks in an indigo coloured velvety carpet. A visiting amateur gardener once asked me as to why I was taking such good care of what she considered as weeds. I was deeply hurt (and even somewhat offended) at the notion, but nature came to my rescue, when our guest caught a severe cold and was offered steaming cups of ‘joshanda’ for three days with the remark that “dried violets was one of the core curative ingredients in the concoction that had provided her with much needed relief”. This lady returned home across the sea “one with the Force”, proving once and for all that winter was indeed a season to be cherished.

 

The writer is a historian.