interview Metroplus

Rain man Ramanan

It’s rather interesting that the overdose of ‘rain holidays’ this year, coincides with the last few months of a certain S.R. Ramanan, at the helm of affairs at the local weather department. No wonder students across the State love him. When he’s on television — and he’s there often this time of the year — they watch with bated breath, anticipating words that could mean the possibility of a holiday the next day.

Officially the Director of Area Cyclone Warning Centre, he’s much loved among the student fraternity, because it is commonly believed that he’s instrumental for schools granting leave due to chances of rain. He also has fan pages on social media, memes created on him and has been referred to in films as well. In a chat with MetroPlus on a sunny afternoon, ironically, he tells us how he got into the weather business, why he isn’t on social media and retirement plans…

Will it rain this week?

There is an upper air circulation in the South-East Bay. It might probably develop into a low pressure and it could bring rains early this week.

You sound just like how you do talk on TV. Tell us about how you got into the weather stream in the first place…

When I completed my post-graduation, the concept of Plus Two came into being. There was a dearth of teachers then, and a lot of my friends entered the teaching profession. But I had a liking for weather, and so I joined the department at the lowest rung and then rose in the ranks.

But why weather?

See, I was good at Geography; it was one of my favourite subjects. But I didn’t take that up in my college days — I took up Physics instead. I enjoyed studying atmospheric physics. I entered as an observer and enjoyed it.

You try to explain science in Tamil and you seem to have an interest in the language. Tell us about it…

I have always been interested in Tamil literature; I used to read the Thevaram regularly. When I joined the weather department, I realised that the only way this subject can reach the common man was in Tamil. I wanted to make the concept and terminology simpler. We even collated a glossary — it’s now part of our website too — of Tamil equivalents of English words.

A meme that was found on social networks:

You work in Chennai, but you coordinate on a global scale on an everyday basis…

If I say there is a system forming in the South Andaman Sea, I have to depend on information from Malaysia and Singapore. If I say there is a development in the Gulf of Mannar, I need Sri Lankan data. We receive pictures from the satellite division and radar division every day. We have video-conferencing discussions every day with colleagues in Delhi. We get information from small observatories too… that only goes into the system. Here, sitting in Tamil Nadu, we don’t work in isolation but with global trends.

If that’s so, why is there so much of ambiguity when you announce the possibility of rain? Some other countries get it more precisely, right?

It differs from area to area. At some places abroad, you can predict accurately by seeing when the cold air mass meets warm air mass. Ours is tropical meteorology — not many know it’s the toughest terrain in the entire world, in terms of weather. We have still managed to get it right on most occasions, but yes, there is scope for improvement.

Over the course of your service you must have seen several technological advancements. How do you view the emergence of weather bloggers and their predictions/forecasts on the Internet?

The Internet alone is not sufficient to predict the weather outside. If you have an illness, will you go to the nearby pharmacy or prefer the doctor? There, you have the answer to your question.

But, do you see them as a threat to you in future?

’m retiring from the department in a few months (laughs)… but someone else will come and give out official information. If other people post contrasting information on the Internet, will it not create confusion?

You’re a cult figure in the social media and online space. There are fan pages for you and a recent meme promoted you as ‘God’, with students bowing to you. How do you react when you see them?

If you delve into such things, you cannot concentrate on your work. I just see them and move on. The only good thing about this attention is that wherever I go, people feel that I’m a part of their family, perhaps because they see me daily on TV.

Why have you abstained from social media? Don’t you feel tempted to look at what people are saying about you?

If I start looking into these things, I feel I will get distracted. I give work my foremost priority.

Do you have work timings?

Weather is a 24/7 job. I have to come in on weekends too — you might have seen me on television. I had to work this Deepavali too.

We see you every day during this time of the year, but what do you do when it’s sunny and all is fine on the weather front?

Apart from my media addresses, there are many other jobs to attend to — like preparing reports. I also have an everyday video-conferencing with my colleagues nationally. Besides, I visit educational institutions to give lectures on weekends.

Stamp and coin collection are hobbies you’ve been indulging in for a while. Tell us where it started…

My uncle gifted me some stamps when I was young and I’ve picked it up since then. The moment you see a stamp, you gain a lot of knowledge. For instance, this stamp I have of Bohemia and Moravia (part of Czechoslovakia) has a picture of Hitler; it was under his rule at one point of time. I’ve another stamp of Mozambique before the Portuguese took over. If you go through any good stamp collection, you will get information about places which might not even exist today.

Don’t you think these are dying hobbies in today’s times, thanks to the advent of the Internet?

You are absolutely right; I see very few students today taking up these hobbies. I wish they take it up. Parents also have a role to get the young interested in hobbies that helps you amass information.

Did these hobbies help you hone your general knowledge, during times when Google was still not invented? You were described by peers as a “walking Encyclopaedia” back in your college days…

See, it depends on your passion. I have no interest in reading fiction; I read up only about facts and countries. Some people have a wonderful knowledge on literature and films; I have no idea about them. My interest lies in places.

Finally, you’re retiring in a few months’ time and that has reportedly upset many school students...

(Laughs) Someone else will be here and give the forecast… it is not man centric, it is system centric. Time alone can tell what I’ll do post retirement; I’m a committee member in a hospital and I may probably take that up seriously. Some farmers have been asking me to guide them with weather forecasts. Some institutions have been asking me to deliver lectures or start a course on meteorology. I don’t know what is in store for me.

A meme that was found on social networks:


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 3:30:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/an-interview-with-weather-forecaster-ramanan/article7927328.ece

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