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A bone-chilling winter’s tale
Weekend to bring respite

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 10: Brrrrrr… Residents here seem to have forgotten what it feels like to perspire or what a heat wave means.

Snug was the word used to describe the state capital during winters in the past. But this time, the warmth seems to have migrated from the city, with the mercury plummeting to 11°C. Cuttack is even colder.

Cutting winds and a blanket of haze have forced the homeless and stray animals to take cover in dark alleys. The rest of the state is no better, with at least 10 places recording temperatures below 10°C today. Phulbani, the coldest, shivered at 3.2°C.

The weatherman has sounded a “severe cold wave” warning for most parts of the state until this weekend. “North India is reeling from severe cold wave conditions and winds blowing from that direction have brought in the chill. But the biting cold will subside after this weekend,” said met official Suryakant Naik.

He had some more good news. The temperature in Bhubaneswar was unlikely to dip below the 10°C mark, he said.

Everyone seems to be slightly under the weather, from early morning joggers to the waifs and strays who are forced to spend the night under the sky. Their only source of comfort is warming their shivering bodies beside roadside bonfires.

“Till recently, I used to hit the jogging track at 5 in the morning. It’s become so cold, that now, I am at least two hours late. The children have stopped coming with me as they prefer to remain warm tucked in bed,” said Kshirod Rath, a businessman, who is a compulsive jogger.

Schoolchildren are the worst sufferers, reluctant more than ever to slip out from beneath their blankets and step into the shower. “I prefer to take a bath after coming back from school, but even then it is too cold,” complained Samar, a six-year-old.

The plight of parents is no better. Harried moms struggle to get their groggy children out of bed and ready for school, while dads find it even harder to ferry them there and back on their two-wheelers. “In spite of wearing layers of woollens, my son and I can’t seem to stop shivering. The streets are thick with fog and the handle of my motorcycle becomes icy cold, making it difficult to drive,” said V.M. Prasad, a banker.

This winter has caught people off guard. But for the dealers of woollen garments, the chilling weather has come as a blessing in disguise. “Compared to last year, sales have gone up by 30 per cent. Preferences have changed. Old-fashioned cardigans and pullovers have given way to trench coats and hooded jackets,” said Pratibha Nath, a rather happy-looking shopkeeper at a local garments store.

Typical winter ailments such as cold, cough, runny noses and viral fever are on the rise, keeping doctors busy. “Seasonal allergies, respiratory tract infection and flu are common diseases in this weather. People must ensure that they keep their bodies well-covered and keep moisturisers handy to prevent chapped and cracked skin,” said city-based medicine specialist Nihar Ranjan Samal.

Doctors also advised that people take plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables to meet the nutritional requirements during the winter. “Adequate doses of Vitamin C will keep diseases at bay. Citrus fruits such as orange and mosambi (sweet lime) and even guava as well as leafy, green vegetables and nuts are a must,” said Sanjay Kumar Mishra, chief clinical nutritionist at Kalinga Hospital.

“Non-vegetarians must replace mutton with small fish. The key is to avoid fatty and spicy food,” he said.