My First Snow

By on Feb 3, 2013 in Essays

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Man walking through snow, with cars stuck in snow

When I saw snow falling from the sky, for the first time in my life, I was thirty-two years old and was studying in Purdue University. I had lived in the flatlands of Punjab, India, where it never snowed. While growing up, I read about snow in books and wondered how it felt to have flakes of snow falling on your head. We do have snow on the Himalayan Mountains, but they’re far away from where I grew up. When I was twenty and working as an engineer in New Delhi, my friend, Mohan, was posted in Simla Hills, where they had frequent snow falls.This hill station, which served as the summer headquarters for the government of India, was two hundred miles from my place. My friend invited me to visit him in winter and enjoy the snow fall. I agreed.  On December 20, 1954, he told me that the weatherman predicted heavy snow on the evening of the next day, and I should come there. Next morning at six, I drove my car to the hills. I covered one hundred miles across the plane lands in three hours and reached the mountains. Here, the road meandered like a snake around the hills and slowly climbed up. I could have taken the train from the foot of the hills. But the narrow-gauge train was very slow, and I couldn’t afford to waste time. Anyhow, exhausted and tired, I reached my friend’s house. I had hot bath and dinner. Then we sat near the window to watch the snow falling from the sky, which was loaded with black clouds. Soon we saw strings of water pouring from the sky; no snow. We waited for snow until two in the morning. Rain was pouring like a sheet of water, and there was no trace of snow. Disappointed and disgusted, we went to sleep, hoping to see the snow in the morning. After breakfast we again watched and prayed for snow.

In the evening, it was still raining. My friend placed the newspaper cartoon before me and said, “Our weatherman is like the person in this cartoon. This fellow was so sure of snow, and that is why I invited you.”

I studied the cartoon and noticed: The weatherman was announcing on the speaker, “Today we are going to have a nice clear day.” The second sketch showed him turning his head and looking out the window and watching the pouring rain. In the third sketch he was shown changing his prediction: “Violent disturbances in the atmosphere have made sudden changes. So now we are going have a heavy rainfall.”

“Mohan, it was not your fault. God didn’t want me to see the snow. Anyhow, I’m glad in meeting you and your family.”

Next morning, it was a bright clear day, and I drove back home, hoping to try again. Soon I was transferred to the South and never had any chance of seeing the snow.


I immigrated to America and joined Purdue University. Here I was too busy with my books and adjusting to my new life and never noticed snow, which was a nuisance for me. However, I enjoyed the snow for the first time, when I was working as a design engineer with a consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio. Let me narrate that incident.

It started snowing on the afternoon of Jan. 21, 1965. The next morning was Friday, and I had to go to my office. I saw snow piled up like huge white mountains. I put on rubber covers over my shoes, took a long umbrella, and emerged from my apartment. As I stepped on the road, I found snow-plows had partly cleared the road and had heaped up the snow on the sidewalks.

While trudging on the sidewalks, I looked around and enjoyed the sight of the glittering marble palaces and snow-covered trees. The air was clear from smoke and dust. I took a deep breath and filled my lungs. I felt great. The snow was falling like cotton flakes from the cotton-teasers string. I relished its soft touch on my body. I lifted up my face toward the sky. As the snowflakes landed on my face, I felt rejuvenated. I opened my mouth and stretched out my tongue. The snowflakes landed on my tongue, and I enjoyed their taste. I lowered my head and slashed my path on the soft snow. At most of the places, the snow was knee-deep, but at several locations it reached my waist. 

Anyhow, I was whistling with joy and singing: “Snow flurries don’t bother me: I belong to somebody.”

The previous week, I had met a girl in the church. She was teaching in Cleveland High, and she had accepted my invitation to dine with me at Black Angus Restaurant. I was sure the roads would be cleared by the next evening. My office was 30 blocks away from where I lived, and I always walked to it. Today I was the lonely pedestrian on the road. There was complete silence, which was more pleasing to me than the best music I had heard. I looked at the flashing signboard which showed time and temperature: -15 degrees Fahrenheit, but I didn’t feel cold.

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Born in Punjab India, Raghbir Dhillon's father was an English professor and famous writer. He excelled academically, graduating first in his class in college with a B.A. and topping the university when he earned a BSCE in 1947. For 11 years he was a railroad engineer in India before immigrating to America, where he earned his MSCE from Purdue University. He served with several consulting firms in America, retiring in 1987 as chief engineer with Campbell & Associates. Together with his wife, he has written 90 stories and had a few of them published in Indian papers and American magazines. They have also completed four novels.