Happy New Year!
The first snowfall of 2014 has dumped more than six inches of beautiful white snow in my Chicagoland. While it looks pristine and the sparkling to begin with, I have not gotten used to the effort to get through the white stuff to get to the places wish to go to. Add to this the falling temperatures, now ranging from 6 to 12degrees, and it really makes life quite hard.
This takes me back to the snowstorm of January 1967.
A storm of the Century
At 2:30 pm on Thursday January 27th, 1967, it was announced in the Pathology department, (where I was a third year Resident) that anyone wishing to leave early can do so. An intense snowstorm had hit the Chicago area. It had snowed non-stop for almost ten hours, and it was not expected to stop snowing for many more hours.
My friends advised me not to drive home, because many of the streets were clogged by abandoned cars already. So, I walked the two blocks to the Lake Street El. I boarded the train going east, and settled down. About fifteen minutes later, when we approached California Ave., I rose from my seat, ready to get out. But the train did not stop. The passenger next to me said I had taken the wrong train. There were A and B trains and I should have taken the other one to reach California Ave. The next stop was Ashland. I got out.
Coming out of the train station, the size of the snowflakes and the speed with which they accumulated scared me to a stop. Stopping there would not be a very good idea, being a commercial and warehouse area for shipping companies, and so I turned south and started walking toward Ogden Avenue. I had a rough idea that it was a long walk, but did not know what else to do. Already cars were stalled and in many a corner the busses were barely making it around the stalled cars. No buses were running to where I wanted to go.
I was already freezing, my boots stuck to my cold feet and I wished for a ray of my southern sun and an ounce of heat from my tropical home to thaw me out. I had never felt so far away from the warmth of my home and the caring hands of my mom and my Ammachi, my maternal aunt. I started to pray. At first my head and my brain felt so frozen that I could not remember the words to my daily prayers. I just kept repeating “Hare Rama, hare Rama, rama rama hare hare.Hare Krishna, hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, hare hare.” That was the simplest and the earliest prayer taught me as a youngster, and I kept repeating the two lines over and over again. After a while I was tromping on the snow piled streets to the rhythm of my chanting. I was sobbing between the words I said, and between my tears and the blinding snow I fell flat on the road. Some kind man helped me get up. I thanked him and trudged on. It was certainly a good thing that I had a good sense of direction, and had a good idea which way my apartment was. As I regained my footing, I also regained memory of words to more of my prayers. I kept chanting pieces of different prayers, and although still cold, I regained my strength to keep trodding along.
Eventually the tall building of our Kling residence was visible, and somehow I made it home. My husband was ready with warm rags to thaw out my toes and fingers, and quickly helped me out of the wet coat and wet clothes. Bundled up in blankets and propped up by pillows I told the story of my ordeal to my curious three year old. She felt my cold limbs and touched my cold face. Then she walked over to the picture window of our apartment, overlooking Ogden avenue, not really a picturesque sight, and banged on the window, saying “bad snow, go away. Don’t make my mummy cold.” Righteous indignation from a sweet daughter.
My firm faith that our lives are part of a great cosmic plan, where all major events are really out of our individual control, helped to make sense of the happenings of the day. While it was very upsetting, I gained insight into the workings of Mother Nature, and built a great strength within me after the experience ended. My walk in the snow in the bitter cold night of January 1967 was a true test of faith.
Hopefully, I won’t have to see another storm of that nature.