Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Everest Calling - The Meaning of Cold
A cup of honey coloured liquid. A spoonful of sugar. If you liked it to be richer, in colour and taste, you could ask for one more of the little one inch porous bags and drop it in your cup, and see smoky strands of colour making the liquid more beautiful.
A characteristic feature of our tour. Every time we stopped at a place for lunch, breakfast or dinner, the first thing given us was black tea.
On the second floor, on the left of the stairway that was at the centre of the building, was the dining area. Carpet and cushion clad wooden benches and tables lining the four sides, nay three sides of the hall. The fourth side was the kitchen.
At the centre of the hall was a Tandoor (fireplace). Another characteristic feature of our tour.
After some scampering, we settled comfortably in the dining area like birds in their warm nest, their cocoon, on a rainy night.
Our luggage had reached sooner than us. The porters, doubled up with 2 or 3 bags on their back had defeated us.
I and another girl had taken a room on the first floor.
I dropped my luggage and sat on my bed to rest for a while. The bed was cold. The blanket was cold. The pillow was cold. I sat on the edge taking a long time to decide whether to sit in the cold room or to go to back the dining area which was on the top floor, received sunlight and was therefore warmer and brighter. Where I could have another cup of tea.
And then having decided to remain in the room, I took a long time to decide whether to remain seated on the edge or to move completely into the bed. I finally moved into my bed, used my pillow for my back, reclining, but not fully, and covered myself with a blanket. It was so cold that my mind was numb.
Within a few minutes, it felt warm. The human body is amazing. It can produce enough heat to warm what was formidably cold just a few minutes ago.
Having remained in that position for some time, I began to think if I should join the rest in the dining area or sit there some more. Again I took a long time to decide.
The kind of decisions one has to make in these coordinates are on very basic matters – as basic as movement of limbs, yet they are very important decisions at that present.
Finally with some effort, I got out of my bed, careful to fold the edges of the blanket inwards hoping innocently to preserve the heat inside. I put on my slippers and climbed up to the dining hall.
We had our dinner – an assortment of different shapes made of the same stuff. We liked the soup though.
It was one day too early but I decided to oil my hair anyway. It was the only way I could protect it. I couldn’t have combed it without pulling it off its roots, dishevelled as the mass was, due to repeated donning and removing of scarf and hat.
I went down to my room and took out the blue shiny coconut oil bottle. It was, as I knew of course, frozen. I took it to the dining area and walked to the Tandoor, but alas the Tandoor was cooling. It was past 9 (or 10?) and they had stopped fuelling it. So I told them I needed to melt it and suggested they use the hot water in the kitchen to melt it for me. They brought it back to me in a few minutes. I went downstairs, took the bottle to my room and closed the door. I squeezed the bottle but no oil came out. It had frozen again. Within seconds.
I took the bottle and upstairs and had it heated. There was a wash basin just outside the dining area with a mirror on the wall. I asked for a mug of hot water, immersed my bottle in it and took it to the wash basin. I applied the oil to my hair, keeping the bottle immersed in the water to prevent it from becoming solidified again.
Having applied oil, I walked downstairs so I could comb it. I entered my room, put the bottle down and started to finger comb my hair. But I couldn’t. The oil on my hair had become solidified and even after rubbing my hair was not greasy.
I ran up and stood before the Tandoor for whatever heat it would give away. After a few minutes of standing before it, turning my head this way and that, I began finger combing my hair as inconspicuously as possible, standing as I was in the middle of the dining area with some of the tables still occupied by guests who were probably watching.
I rushed to the mirror outside and applied the comb. My hair was greasy enough, at last. My scalp was warm but it was beginning to become cold already. I parted my hair, wore my hair into a tight plait and heaved a sigh.
I walked down to my room, tired. Strands of hair, cold now with the cold oil, touched my ear lobes now and then.
When I laid my head on the pillow, it felt as if I had a cold towel wrapped around my head.