Cold, not so cold. Drunk, not so drunk.


"Don't worry about me", I said, "I never feel cold."

Yes, I never do. I always put on a thumb hole hoodie, and take a detour via the ridge to my home, cruising on my bike, just to feel the Delhi cold. I love cold. Except, it wasn't Delhi this time. It was Russia. And that it wasn't just cold, it was biting cold.

It was particularly unbelievably cold near the river in Moscow. Name of the river, highly un-guessable - River Moskva. But yes, I still say I don't feel cold. The temperature was as low as 25 degrees below 0. Really, the cold wasn't cold. It was something strange. I heard a smooth sound of a fine engine, accompanied by a cracking sound. It was a magnificent looking yacht by Radisson, breaking and steering through ice. I saw the yacht posing for me with pride. I took out my DSLR, as if I were a professional, and struck a pose myself with the massive camera. That's when I got a sudden feeling like more than a hundred arrows were piercing through the skin of my hands. No no, feeling like I was being stung by a hundred and twenty seven bees, at the same time. Or whatever's more painful. Didn't take much time to realize that it was because I didn't wear any warm pair of gloves, of course, for the super stud that I thought I were. So it was for the first time that I learnt, that from where the term 'biting cold' came. In fact, 'biting cold' too, sort of, became an understatement. It was more like, 'digging teeth into your soul, and chewing on your guts' kind of cold. Do you get the drift? Or rather, do you get the chill? Hah!

So my hands and my face, both freezing. I could feel my face, every molecule of it, coming together, and then coming to rest. Like water, the surface of my face was freezing. I couldn't speak. I couldn't open my mouth to speak. It was frozen. My lips were like the frozen fish from the Arctic, which much later on in my saga was offered to me by a retired Russian army officer. Wait, offered isn't the appropriate word. Forced to eat, is. He didn't care too much that I don't eat animals. Ugh, so yes, it was excruciatingly cold. I put my hands in the cosy pockets of my jacket, and after 7 minutes, my hands were from ice to molten ice. Oh I mean, I felt better, normal. The Radisson yacht returned, I took out my hands and camera again, and struck the pose again. And so did the agonizing pain. So it took me another 7 minutes to be okay. And then I just put my hands in my pockets, and took them out only when I reached my home in Moscow.

 Photo of Cold, not so cold. Drunk, not so drunk. 1/3 by Mukul Bhandari

The Radisson yatch, on the frozen Moskva river. Crazy!

It was really the first time, and the only time I felt cold this way, or felt cold at all. I loved the weather. And I loved snow. So much that I wanted to bring some of it back home. But sigh! Anyway, my partner in weathering the cold in the initial part stood to be - Mulled Wine and Rum, served hot. Honestly, vodka doesn't top the list for me. Moreover, it was a surprise to see that Russians were not high as fuck on vodka all the time. As a matter of fact, only about 30% of people I met there, drink alcohol. And by the way, I met a lot of them Russians in those good two months. All of them drink tea. All the time. And when I say all of them, I mean all of them. And blah, the same way with "all the time" too.

 Photo of Cold, not so cold. Drunk, not so drunk. 2/3 by Mukul Bhandari

Mulled Wine and Rum, served hot. With lime, and other fruits - free, hah!

Oh, and of course! How can I forget! Thanks to my friend from India - Deeksha. When I had only half a dozen of days left in Russia, she asked me how I found kvass. So two months in Russia, and then finally I had the first drop of kvass on my tongue. And I cried, almost. It was so beautiful. And alcoholic. I had to call Deeksha to tell her that I'm going to kiss her when I get back home. My Po-Russki friends told that making kvass is easy, and that I could make it at home myself. But I don't believe them. These Russians are so good at whatever they do, and they think it'll be easy for everybody else too. This pet phrase runs common across all geographical dimensions of Russia - "eto normalno (pronounced - narmalna)". Meaning, it's normal, it's easy. Bleh, digressing. I think I should not even get started already on this. It'll take me another long session to talk on "normalno", and the kind of things that are normal in Russia. Anyway, so drinking kvass also lead me to trying okroshka, which is basically a cold soup made from salad and well, kvass. Alcoholic salad! God bless Russia :D

And finally! Medovukha! Which is - Honey Beer! Woohoo! I was in love, really. Was this even possible? They mixed my two favorite things - honey! And beer! And now what we have is legendary! I literally drank a gallon that day. Okay, not a gallon, but at least 12 liters in the span of 4 hours. Really! I'll let you know when I'm exaggerating. The smoothest beer I had in the longest time.

Russia made me fall in love with so many things, so many places, people, that now I feel like a whore. An emotional whore. But I'm the whore that doesn't care. It was the first time I witnessed snow fall. I looked at the sky, and I saw her (a snowflake) descending. Sure, she was an angel. With the sun, as her halo, she approached me. I stretched my hand, and she softly rested on my palm. I looked at every part of her, caressed her. Love at first sight. I was planning on what to name the little snow-man that will be born out of us, that's when I noticed another falling snowflake. I ran to rescue her, and caught her before she touched the ground. I looked at her, she looked at me. And I found myself cheating on Merlyn, the previous snowflake. 

 Photo of Cold, not so cold. Drunk, not so drunk. 3/3 by Mukul Bhandari

|Deep beneath the cover of another perfect wonder, and it's so white as snow|

But by this time, snow was okay by me, and I was good with snow. We all were in love with each other. I took my clothes off, and soon snow and I were there, making love. We all together. Cold no more bothered me.

In fact, Russia was no more 'cold' to me. Things started getting better by this time. Another story had started.