In my decade of living in the United States, extreme weather seems to follow me wherever I move. Hurricanes, tornadoes, I have seen it all.
Right now, I’m dealing with the extreme cold.
Today, I am sitting inside my home in South Bend, Ind., watching the local TV forecast. According to the weatherman, we’re seeing record-breaking temperatures in this area, -14 degrees Fahrenheit. With wind chill, it feels like -44.
After so many years in America I still don’t understand Fahrenheit; I converted it to Celsius. My calculator said -42, so I called my mother back home in Lucknow, India to share the news with her.
When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was warming her hands over an angithi — a woodstove.
“It’s very cold and the power is out,” she said. “We are not in America like you. No central heating here.”
The angithi brought to mind my childhood days in India. We always had a woodstove in our home during winter months, and the house smelled like smoke. I would invite my friends over and we would huddle around the stove and roast potatoes in the pit and talk and laugh about silly things. Sometimes I would read comics to entertain myself when the cold and foggy conditions shut down the schools.
I told my mother that it’s going be very cold this week in Indiana — so cold that water pipes freeze, and people could die of hypothermia, even frostbite.
She put it in perspective for me.
“It’s only six degrees Celsius [42 degress Fahrenheit] here in India, and people are already dying of cold. Just wear enough clothes and don't go out,” she said. “You’re in America. You’ll be fine.”