Battling winter in Canada: How I miss Karachi’s winter season!

Published: October 6, 2013
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Pedestrians walk down a snow covered street in Ontario. PHOTO: REUTERS

As soon as winter begins to peek in from the corner, daily talks also change from summer and spring to winter and snow. Discussions start revolving around jackets, scarves, cardigans, and sometimes, even hats.

This is Canada.

With each year being a new challenge, every winter day tells a different story.

The early signs of winter here typically are chilled, rapid windy days and cold nights. Normally, people detest this, but some romantics look forward to this weather, after all its the best time to cuddle up and keep warm. The sound of the fallen rust and yellow maple leaves and the changing colours of autumn make October welcoming in a strange way.

While temperatures continue to dip and dive, gradually making way into winter, the warmer days of this month, called the ‘Indian summer’, can make one nostalgic. Canadian highs and lows of the winter life can be quite unpredictable. Confronting them hands on would mean throwing yourself into water without knowing how to swim. A smart person would season through strategy and intelligence, rather than facing it unprepared.

In Canada, it’s all a game of digits and forecasting. Both life and the weather can take a toll on those who don’t pay heed to warnings. It doesn’t take very long for one to figure out that there is an undeniable effect the weather plays on your life; for some, the simple trial and error formula helps while for others planning matters.

My 16th winter in Canada

I will be looked at as a pro and with envy by new arrivals in the country. My life will be that of a typical Canadian; resentful of the snow and cold yet well-prepared – anxious inside but calm and cool in disposition. I will make sure that I don’t let my apprehension and fear get to me; I will plan to work in coherence with the forthcoming winter. And once it arrives, to stay forever (it seems like forever when winter is actually here), I will shovel and dig and shovel and dig and shovel and dig snow away till the last winter blast passes in late March.

So in the coming days, I will look winter in the eye instead of hiding or hibernating and I will emerge a winter winner by the time the squirrels hop on the backyard fence again.

For some, driving daily to work on snowy roads will be the greatest challenge in winter, while for others waiting for a bus ride or a train commute, in -30 degrees centigrade, will be the toughest. But life will not be deterred. Snow on, highways and roads, will be salted to keep cars away from skidding and slipping. Subways and trains will run on time, irrespective of rain, hail or storm.

For cars, winter tires, windshield washer fluid, a blanket, a candle, a flashlight and a huge bag of coarse road salt will be the saviour. At home, however, cranked up heat, slushy entrances, dirty soggy shoes in the halls, jackets and coats hanging sloppily on hooks and stairwell railings will keep the indoor cheer alive.

On snowstorms or blizzard warning days, it will mean I need to leave early for work because of the extra time I would have to spend on the road. Winters would also mean that I become a weather network freak, curtail outdoor activities and adjust to shorter days with longer nights for four entire months.

Karachi winters, 15 years ago

Severe winter and snow, in Pakistan, was either present in the North,  mountain peaks or in the freezer.

Raised purely as an urban girl, my city was warm and humid. Karachi, lapped by the Arabian Sea, will hook Karachiites onto romantic cloudy days with just one prevailing season, summer. The ocean would bring about a pleasant breeze in the evening, giving respite from the heat during the day.

I always felt that nature had been unfair to this city in terms of its weather. All we saw was summer but no fall, spring or winter. First of all, winters in Karachi are a far-cry and if at all, it would be barely a two-week fling. Before anyone can ever really feel the chill, it’s gone. Woollies hardly ever make it out of the closet and when you try to show off that cashmere coat you bought, the sun will stick its happy face out again.

It was as if the weather cheated on you.

Today, in trying to compare the meaning of the word winter, I find how geography diversifies it. Winter can mean sitting in your Volkswagen in the sun, peeling peanuts and oranges while parked in the hills of Pakistan, ignorant of the need for snow tires. However, when living in North America, winter can become a burdensome word, synonymously introducing terms like parka, jacket, coat, thermals, gloves, scarves, boots, layers, hypothermia and many more.

Thus while the conversations will continue to change around fireplace huddles, at the bus stops and in the snowy streets of Canada, the icy winds from the North will gust in another treacherous message –  a message of yearning and disappointment. No matter how well prepared I am for the winter here I will always miss the winter at home, the winter of Karachi.

Tazeen Rizvi

Tazeen Rizvi

A Pakistani-Canadian journalist living in Canada for the last 17 years. She tweets @rizvit (twitter.com/rizvit) and blogs at tazeenrizvi.blogspot.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • rponting

    The ability of Canadians to get their cities back on track after a snow storm, by clearing snow, has to be unparalleled. A recent snow storm in UK shut that countries airports down for a few days as they struggled to cope with it. In Canada, they laughed at the UK’s struggles to clear 6 inches of snow.Recommend

  • Indi

    I enjoyed my 17 childhood winters in the snow… As an adult,I don’t think I can take it…completely hate the snow & winter now.
    So moved south,to enjoy sunny days throughout the year.
    My sister hated her residency days in the New York snows…she moved to Miami for her fellowship & is now extremely reluctant to move to anyplace with snow.Recommend

  • Karachi Wala

    Another….ILU ILU with Pakistan from a safe distance…who stops you from enjoying 5 seasons in Karachi……5th seasons lasts 365 days a year and has different names…Hartal, Shutter down, Khauf, Target Killing, Yaum-e- blah blah………Recommend

  • Muhammad Saim

    In the ‘holy land’ of ‘holier than thou’ what is known as Pakistan, people don’t move for seasonal changes. Hunger and Fear takes us around.Recommend

  • Parvez

    …….so you want everything ? Isn’t that what the old fashioned called ungreatful.Recommend

  • salman

    Look at the positive side , Better off alive in freezer than getting shot dead or loosing closed ones in a nice weatherRecommend

  • Dj

    It’s better than the fear of being showered with bullets on the roadRecommend

  • Indi

    I’m very sorry to hear that…
    If the Pakistani Govt.& Army tackle terrorism without unambiguous views (good/bad taliban,strategic assets,territorial expansion,etc)-terrorism will be wiped out systematically & quickly.
    When peace & stability are restored (inside the country & outside),prosperity & economic progress will surely follow.
    Prosperity never comes to a regiin with an unstable & dangerous reputation.That’s where the govt. must start work.Recommend

  • Muhammad Saim

    “if”……this “if” says it all !!Recommend

  • unbelievable

    Move to Florida.Recommend

  • Sane

    This is the dilemma of those who abscond from their native land due to economic, law and order or other reasons. They disown their motherland, but keep remembering privileges they left and preferred to live like aliens and under-graded citizens.Recommend

  • Sane

    You are correct. We are working to eradicate terrorism imposed on us by neighboring countries. Soon they will be killed or sent back into their borders. We are fighting terrorism to save the whole world.Recommend

  • Astounded

    Do you even read non-pakistani newspapers ? Your neighbouring countries weren’t hosting osama bin laden.Taliban aren’t strategic assets of the neighbours army,but of pak army.Pak army has bred these terrorists,to attack neighbours,since the ’70s..now your pets are biting the hands that fed them.Neighbours didn’t recognize Afghan Taliban as a legal Govt.-it was the Pakistani govt.(one of only 3 countries in the whole world to recognize a terrorist organization as a legitimate govt.) Neighbours don’t refer to terrorists as ‘Good taliban’-only pakistanis do that. Neighbours were not called International migraine,by US secretary of state-that glorious term was for pakistan.
    Come out of your madrassah & smell the roses.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Just like your Pm Rajiv Gandhi was blown by your own strategic assets the Tamil tigers. I think sane was referring to the foreign Afghanis,Uzbek,Tajik,Chechen and Arabs living in fata. Don’t take every thing on yourself. As for the other two countries who recognized Taliban Government millions of Indians work in them. Please take them back since you Indians curse Islam non-stop but yet have no qualms in working in Islamic countries.Recommend