Allegedly | Delhi

In the heat of climatic terror

It’s 45°C at seven in the morning and the ACs give up, much like the Opposition

This week, dear reader, you must excuse me. It’s the heat. My brain melted into hot fudge about half an hour ago. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to collect it in a non-stick, copper-bottom kadhai and put it in the freezer. But I can no longer remember what I wanted to write about when I began this column.

It’s so hot in Delhi it’s not funny. I get positively enraged when I hear someone trying to joke about it. It’s no laughing matter when it is 45°C at seven in the morning and all your ACs have given up, much like the Opposition, without even trying. No need to visit Twitter or Facebook for your daily fix of outrage. Just lying in bed and breathing in and out is enough to make your blood boil.

And breathing, as you may have noticed, involves air. In case you’ve ever wanted to find out what it’s like to have Daenerys Targaryen’s pets flying around, raining fire upon the city, I suggest you take a flight to Delhi. Delhi air is dragon breath. In June, as a famous poet may have written if he weren’t already in cold storage, the Delhi evening is spread out against the sky like a patient dehydrated upon a table.

Leaves you seething

Last Sunday it was 47°C on my balcony. The clothes I’d put out to dry — including a fire-proof, Pakistan-green silk kurta a friend had got for me from Benaras — burst into flames. When I rushed out with a bucket of water, I burnt my feet so badly the doctor asked me if I’d tried to immolate myself. This is nothing but climatic terrorism. Like traditional terrorism, which makes you angry enough to want to bomb a country — any country —to dust, it leaves you permanently seething. As most of you may have guessed by now, I was born a non-violent person. But if a mob of vigilantes were to call me right now and invite me to a panel discussion followed by lynching, I can’t predict what my response would be. I’m aware that, purely in temperature terms, there are other places in the country that rank above the national capital. Bathinda, I am told, has crossed 48°C. But Delhi is the only place I know where the minimum temperature consistently surpasses the maximum temperature.

This morning, for instance, I woke up from a nightmare in which I was drowning. Only, it wasn’t just a nightmare. I really was drowning — in a two-feet-deep puddle of my own sweat. I couldn’t help but wonder: how did people in these parts manage in the times gone by? How did Indians in the Vedic era beat the heat? Did they wrap their heads in towels soaked in peacock tears? Or drink chilled cow sweat from terracotta goblets? Do cows even sweat? And if they do, why is their skin so dry?

A colleague tells me that summers in Delhi may not have been so hot in the Vedic age since it preceded industrialisation. According to him, global warming is caused by fossil-fuel guzzling, industrial societies. The Earth’s temperature rose by one degree in the last century because that’s when the whole world embraced fossil fuels. I don’t buy this argument because it fails to answer some simple questions: if Vedic Indians weren’t using fossil fuels, what did the Pushpak Viman run on? If ancient Hindu society wasn’t industrialised, how did they build nuclear power plants and do plastic surgery?

In fact, there is now overwhelming evidence, documented in multiple WhatsApp forwards, that even the word ‘industry’ came from the root ‘ind’ of India. So to claim that Vedic India was cooler than modern India because it wasn’t industrialised and didn’t use fossil fuels is nothing but pure cow dung.

I’ll be honest. I confess that on most days of the year I’m too busy leaving carbon footprints all over the floor to worry about climate change. But the extreme rage generated by Delhi’s extreme heat needs a scapegoat, if not an explanation.

So let me try and collect some thoughts before they evaporate. Here’s one: the Paris Climate Agreement. I know it’s got something to do with what an idiot cricketer recently referred to as ‘global warning’. And that an idiot politician has sabotaged it by pulling his continent-size country out of it. Now the stage is set for an idiot species to wreck the planet and commit mass murder on millions of life forms whose only mistake was to not kill off this terroristic species before it began to threaten their and their planet’s existence. And here’s my second and final thought: it better rain, or else…

G. Sampath is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 2:54:36 PM |

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