AS a child growing up near the Himalayan mountains in northern India, Digvir Jayas and his classmates used to rush to the foothills whenever they heard it had snowed. But before Jayas came to Winnipeg in June 1980, he had never seen snowflakes fall.
Then, finally, a snowstorm came in October.
"That certainly was exhilarating," Jayas recalled. "I vividly remember how everything looked so white, because no cars had driven yet. Then I learned that after a few days, it doesn't look so nice anymore."
Jayas, who has risen through the ranks of the University of Manitoba to become vice-president of research and international, bought himself a large parka and heavy snow boots that year to prepare for the cold.
"But I went to school one day and I felt so bulky, so I didn't use that parka very much. And even today, I still wear a very light coat -- unless I'm shovelling snow."
It was October 1972 when Sushil Sharma arrived in Winnipeg from India and got himself a job in a machine shop on Notre Dame Avenue. He knew it would be cold and had brought warm woolen shirts with him from India, but soon discovered his mistake.
"You don't need a woolen shirt, you need a heavy jacket!" Sharma said. "I burned my neck with that woolen shirt, wearing it inside. I also had shoes... that didn't work over here. They had leather soles, not made for traction. I tried to keep expenses in line, but eventually I had to buy new shoes."
Sharma came here alone and was joined by his family two years later, including his daughter Devi, who became Winnipeg's first Indo-Canadian city councillor in 2010. Despite being away from his family for that first Christmas here, Sharma felt welcomed by the city during the holiday season.
"Everyone was so lively and looking forward to Christmas and New Year's. Usually you are alone, but it was a good feeling to approach people and exchange greetings."
Bidhu Jha's first experience of Winnipeg was flying into the city on Christmas Eve in 1970, and he still fondly remembers the beautiful overhead view of the city lit up by Christmas lights.
Jha, who today is the NDP MLA for Radisson in northeast Winnipeg, had never seen snow before arriving in Manitoba. "It was a fascinating experience; I was amazed to look at the landscape of a very different background," he said.
Jha also came prepared: When he stepped off the plane, he was already wearing a heavy winter coat thanks to a warning from his brother, who was working as a sociology professor at the University of Winnipeg.
"I was given coaching from my brother, who sent me a letter. He told me, 'Here are the things that you should be wearing.' The only thing I had that did not fit the winter was my shoes."