Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

A `Kolkata summer’ in New York

Millennium Hotel, New York: I am in New York and something makes me feel like I am in Kolkata. Did I bring along the hot and sultry Kolkata weather with me to this city. For it is unbelievably hot and humid as far as New York standard is concern.
After a year, I am back in the same city and the same Millennium Hotel which is my New York address from more then a decade now.
But last year seems like yesterday in Manhattan. Nothing has changed - the same streets, same shops, even the same persons behind the counters with whom I have become familiar. This is rather unusual for a city that continues to grow at a scorching pace. I always feel that everybody seems to be in rush in Manhattan.
Everything is the same, except for the Kolkata-like weather. In fact, I woke up with a feeling that I was in the City of Joy.
After I was through delivering my opening remarks at Youth Convention in United Nations Population Fund building – the reason why I am here - I set out for the city.
After a brief meeting with Hardeep Singh Puri at the Indian Mission, while going around I noticed a display board advertising masala chai, samosas and chat. Soon I found myself inside this restaurant Indian Curry House on 160 East, 44 Street, near Grand Central in midtown Manhattan. I skipped my favourite samosas due to the hot weather and settled for bhel puri with masala chai.
The chai was yuck! I almost threw up before throwing the glass away.
I have visited scores of Indian restaurants in and around Manhattan but never visited this one earlier. This time my luck ran out. Later, I came to know that this was the same joint which the New York health authorities had closed down in April 2011 citing 67 violation points. While closing this joint, the NYC Health Department’s inspection report cited adulterated or contaminated raw, cooked or prepared food, presence of filth flies, evidence of mice or live mice among other things.
But when did we Indians ever bother about hygiene?
It seems not just hygiene, but US is trying to grapple with another issue to which India lost hundreds of lives this year – the killer heat wave.
Just two days back USA Today reported on its front page that July 2012 was the hottest month in the US history. The USA has weather records since 1895 and the 2012 heat wave stands out as the highest or worst.
According to Federal scientists July 2012 had eclipsed “… the record set during the heart of the Dust Bowl in 1936.”  Earlier, July 1936 was the warmest month when average US temperature was 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature for the contiguous United States in July 2012 was 77.6 degrees, which is 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation.
This year, the world’s strongest democracy and the largest democracy faced an unprecedented heat wave. While USA had the hottest weather in recorded history; the biggest power outage in world history caused by grid failure affected 600 million, leaving half of India groping in the dark. In contrast, the USA, despite the record heat wave, has been largely blackout-free.
The surprising fact that the heat has not created corresponding record demands on the power grid in the US, according to power company officials and energy analysts following electrical usage patterns, say years of conservation practices — including utilities giving customers incentives to shut off air conditioning during peak demand — have paid off.
This reminded me of one of the ministers, who, in his recent speech, had said that record purchase of ACs in and around Kolkata was causing power outages.
I wish we too could learn and implement the conservation practices of Americans.
ess bee

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