Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer pangs

In Rajasthan this weekend.
The mercury is soaring above 45 degree C in many parts of Rajasthan and West Bengal too is not lagging behind in this respect. I was in Delhi starting of a week where the rains brought smile back on people's faces.
On Friday morning I got an unusual SMS greeting from a friend of mine in Kolkata “Happy rains, welcome monsoon!” I was a little surprised and couldn't help smiling. During our primary school days we read how millions of farmers across India, since times immemorial, have been celebrating the onset of monsoons like a festival.
But it seems, that the people are gradually becoming weaker and weaker when it comes to braving the harsh Indian summer. On the other hand, the summers are becoming more and more unbearable.
There is a sea change in the way in which parents are bringing up their children. These days even a five-year-old finds it difficult to sleep without air-conditioners. Through too much of nurture, the parents are, unknowingly, distancing their children from the nature. As these `sheltered' children grow up in an artificial environment, they find it difficult to adjust to the changes in the season, especially the summers. Needless to say, they grow up with a weak immune system and are vulnerable to the extremities of the weather.
In the past five years, the Indian newspapers have extensively reported on the vagaries of the weather and the human lives lost. May be, that day is not far off when we would also have 24-hour dedicated weather channels like the ones in other countries.
As per my original plan, I was supposed to drive down from Jodhpur to the 110-kilometer via Merta Road that cuts through the desert tracts. I however, was repeatedly warned by many well wishers about the hot weather and the prevailing heat wave that would surely roast me.
I have spent my few formative years growing up in the desert state of Rajasthan like millions of others. I used to sleep on the roof without any fan or electricity. So I am not intimidated by the the scary picture that people draw about the weather. The Jodhpur trip, however, did not happen due to other reasons.
I read in the papers that the heat wave has this time already killed 150 people in West Bengal alone. I don't recall so many people dying of heat wave in West Bengal in recent memory. I could not help wondering if the weather, over the years, was actually getting severe beyond the people's endurance or is it that the people, who are conditioned by modern luxuries like air conditioners and coolers have less ability or endurance to face the summer heat.
Most of today's work places are air-conditioned. So are many public places like airport, metro rail and the malls. Due to the rising heat, our body gets exposed to extremes of temperatures every time we enter and exit office. According to medical experts these sudden `thermal shocks' and rapid changes of heat and chilled AC environment negatively affect our immune system.
The wanton destruction of trees and the filling up of water bodies are all adding up to our miseries. I read in the papers that nearly five thousand more trees would have to be cut around Kolkata due to the Metro expansion work. I think the natural defence mechanism that shield us from the oppressive summer temperatures is weakening. There are stretches where there are no proper trees to provide shade to the people who fall prey to heat stroke.
Once again, I am reminded of some of the history lessons in school. I had read how Sher Shah Suri, a gifted administrator who took charge of Bihar and Bengal around 1539 AD, had trees planted along the longest high way (Grand Trunk Road) that was being built.
Back to 2012 Kolkata. Another kind of modern highway is being built – the Metro. But there is a major difference. We are not longer planting trees, we are just hacking them off.
Anyway, I wish you all a happy rainy week ahead.
ess bee

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