Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heat and dust in Delhi

(Published in Business Standard on June 14, 2014)

Well it’s June in Delhi, and that can mean only one thing: All your friends have left town, and you’re the only loser left in the city. The weather report for the city is 47.8c, feels like the temperature at which the sun has nuclear hissy fits. It’s so hot that you have to beat the heat to exercise outdoors. You wake up earlier and earlier to hit the park before the temperature hits 35c, until one day your alarm is going off at 2am, but when you check your weather app it turns out you have to go back to bed because the mercury never once dipped below that.

The reason you’re the only loser left in town is that you didn’t make like the thrifty ant, you made like the devil-may-care grasshopper, and now the ants are partying in Roma and Brasilia and Sydney, and the grasshopper is having to sweep its melting hind legs along behind itself in Delhi as it drags itself to the nearest mango supplier, where it can only look at the mangoes, because it’s a bit allergic to mangoes, because God clearly hates it.

One friend sends me Whatsapp photos of herself in Spain, arm-in-arm with beautiful Basque families whose social customs include spending evenings kissing Indian visitors and telling them how beautiful they are, over indecent helpings of beer and jamon.

Another friend, who is hands-down the luckiest person I know, is spending her summer housesitting for a lady who lives on a Greek island. The lady in question runs an establishment—which, if I weren’t feeling so resentful, I would more accurately call a mansion—overlooking the Adriatic Sea. There’s a dog and a cat and a turtle to be watered and fed. They more or less walk themselves around the ginormous garden overlooking the sea. That’s it.

This friend sends me Whatsapp photos of her laptop open before the sea view from the garden, with a weather report for Delhi on the screen, because she has an exquisite sense of which buttons to push. Then she sends me photos of the same view four hours later, with the caption that she has managed, in that time, to shift a couple of inches to the left. When she really can’t take all the gorgeousness anymore, she walks down to the local bar and has interesting conversations with strangers over a pint or two or a dozen. She worries about turning into a lotus-eater. I hear her pain. This is the second year running she’s doing this gig.

It is some consolation that as a result of her being away on this demanding assignment, I have been housesitting her place in Delhi, but, as lovely an oasis as that is, it ain’t no Greek island. (I have checked and re-checked thoroughly.) So I, and a couple of other loser friends, have decided to heave ourselves off on a road trip to Himachal Pradesh, or those parts of it that stick out above the miasmic heat. In the spirit of all this musical housing, we’re going to stay with friends in Shimla, a friend in the Tirthan Valley, and then in some homestays in the lovely Lahaul and Spiti valley. We should be back just in time for the monsoon to fail to show up; apparently it has decided that things are nicer down south, so it should maybe just hang out there. That’s what the weatherman says, which probably means that you should get your gumboots out. It’s a sort of cosmic joke that on the eve of our departure, a rainshower in Delhi has brought the mercury plunging down into the high 20s.

Makes you really grumpy about a 6am departure.

1 comment:

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