M.Santhiran, Bernama’s correspondent in New Delhi shares his take on the Indian capital city and its unique social nuances.
NEW DELHI – When I arrived at New Delhi in February, it was cold due to the winter but it never crossed my mind how hot India’s summer could get.
Delhiites welcome the summer with colourful dressing and holidays with colleges and schools closed up to six weeks. Even government offices have been operating with half-strength and courts throughout India were taking a break.
For me, the month of May started well after being in Kathmandu, Nepal for nearly nine days to cover the earthquake in the Himalayan nation.
However, on my return from Kathmandu on May 6, the weather was not all so pleasant. I got the first taste of Indian summer when I stepped out of the Indra Gandhi International Airport.
I was literally welcomed by the heat wave that hit right on my face.
Within minutes I got the hunch that the city’s pleasant weather was over and I had to prepare myself for harsh hot summer.
THE MECURY KEEPS RISING IN INDIA
Initially, the temperature was hovering between 41 and 42 degrees Celsius, good enough to force me to reduce my trips to city center during the afternoons.
The mercury kept rising with the temperature shooting up between 45 and 46 degrees Celsius, confining me indoors. I limited my outings to press conferences and media events.
However, despite of the scorching heat, I made a few trips to look for some pictures and see for myself how the locals were coping with the annual weather phenomenon.
The heat has reduced the crowds on the roads, restaurants and shops in the afternoons.
Later I discovered from media colleagues and few Malaysian friends here that well heeled Indians either take their break at hill stations nationwide or travel overseas during the Indian summer to avoid the heat.
A brief check with local travel companies revealed that all rooms in the resort and hill stations were fully booked up to mid-July.
However, those who cannot afford a break continue with their routine under the merciless heat.
THE POOR MOST EFFECTED
Out of the nearly 2,000 people reported killed in India due to heatstroke, most of them were labourers and homeless people, with much of the deaths recorded in Andra Pradesh and Telengana.
Even though poverty and ignorance are blamed for the fatalities, there appeared to be a lack of willpower among politicians or NGOs in assisting these vulnerable people.
Here in Delhi workers can be seen going about their routine on the roadsides and construction sites under the hot sun. They hardly take any safety precautions to protect themselves from the heat. Homeless people just take shelter under overhead bridges and trees.
Even children, as young as three to four years old, come knocking my windscreen barefoot at the traffic lights or junctions seeking small cash under the unbearable hot sun.
While even I found it unbearable staying indoors over the last few weeks, it was really sad to see these children and other homeless people on the roadside under the unforgiving heat.
Local journalists when approached admitted that their attempts to highlight the plight of homeless rarely received attention from those in power.
HEATER AND AIR-CORN SERVICEMEN
I must thank my landlord who keep reminding me to install the air-conditioner before the summer season. It costs about 4,000 rupees (about RM250) to install and service an air-conditioner, much cheaper than in Malaysia.
I tried to contact the same technician to install another air-conditioner in the living room, but I was told of long waiting list and that the cost had almost doubled.
However, there is no guarantee that the air-conditioner will cool your down as frequent power cuts occur.
This is due to the drastic increase in power consumption during summer and power providers struggle to meet the demand resulting in power cuts in many areas much to the consternation of Delhiites.
My electricity bill almost doubled this month and probably it could have been higher if I had used the water heater. As the hot sun heats up the water tanks, there is no need for a heater.
Now, the cold water is a luxury here.
Shopping complexes here in Delhi and Gurgaon that normally witness moderate crowds during weekdays for last two weeks witnessed a surge in crowd numbers with patrons taking much more longer “shelter” in these air-conditioned premises.
For me, I too have decided to take a two-week break from the harsh weather here with the mercury is anticipated to rise further as the summer stretches up to July.
I’m looking forward to my two-week break back in Malaysia and to enjoy the pleasant weather back home. – BERNAMA