I live in Delhi. I inevitably start the year feeling low. Not because the new year brings a sharpened awareness of all that’s wrong with the world – journalism ensures that awareness remains steady (or absent) at all times. Nor do I feel assailed with life questions – they strike when they want to, like a hostile army that comes unannounced.

What throws me off at the start of every year – despite having lived through it many times – is the bleakness of the North Indian winter.

I still remember how miserable I felt as a child when my parents would wake me up on winter mornings to get me ready for school. From the shock of the cold toilet seat, to the bite of the wind that hit me as I rode my father’s scooter, standing in front, clutching the cold metal of the handlebars, to the suffocating layers of woollen clothing that I had been made to wear under an oversized blazer – I wondered what purpose was served by subjecting children to this form of cruelty.

The child in me still hasn’t shaken off those winter blues. No amount of warm clothes, hot food, and heating can help me cope with the winter, if one crucial thing is missing: the sun.

Living in India means feeling oppressed by the sun for most times of the year. But in the winter, it is the only thing that can make me smile.

I felt this even more acutely in 2022. The year started with yet another wave of Covid-19 building up and pushing us indoors, away from the warmth of human company, the chatter of the office, the hum of the metro.

Suddenly, the chill felt even more intense. The flip side: the sun felt even more welcoming.

Nearly every afternoon of the winter, I walked to the neighbourhood park, to the meadow where the sun shone on everyone – young and old, rich and poor – in equal measure. In a city of great inequality, it was a reminder that money can’t buy the best things in the world. And that life, at its core, is elemental.

One afternoon, the sun made me so happy that I did what fills me, the Instagram-defier, with bemusement and disdain when I observe others do it: I smiled into my phone camera.