Hot Bhopal

Bhopal has crossed 40 degrees in April. I know that shouldn’t come as a surprise but I shudder to think how high the mercury will shoot in May and June. With the rains still three months, or more, away, nothing but scorched earth will be left by the time the monsoons get here. Even with the ACs running almost the whole day, the temperature is bordering on barely tolerable. And as soon as you step out, any area of the skin exposed to the sun, stings like a horde of red ants biting at the same time. I have to wrap a handkerchief around my wrist watch because its metal strap gets hot enough to cause blisters.

I don’t know what the scientists are saying but it feels like the earth is moving closer to the sun every year, especially during the summer months.

Despite this, the traffic hasn’t become any lighter even in the middle of the afternoon. The residents of Bhopal, all wrapped up in cotton and linen like mummies, move around in ever greater numbers. As soon as they reach their destination, they take off their outer coverings, wipe the sweat off as best as they can and air out their clothes by tugging up at their collars.

The most common way to beat the heat for those on the road is called a Gamcha in Hindi and its essential to survive the summer months. Its a piece of fine cotton cloth about a meter long and half a meter across for men and longer for women. Its so thin that if you hold it against the light, you can almost see through it. But its super absorbent and if you wet it, it becomes almost like a personal desert cooler as the air passing through it is chilled by the water trapped between its fibers. You can wipe with it, cover your head and face with it, even wrap it around your neck like a muffler and keep the heat from going any farther in.

White is the most common color for it but enterprising Bhopalis have created designs in a myriad of colors and shapes. You even get them shaped like a Poncho covering the head and the upper body in one smooth motion. The main area that needs its protection is the nose and the mouth. The air is so hot outside that you will dehydrate yourself very fast if you’re moving around on a two-wheeler in the afternoon. Most people just wrap it around their face and sprinkle water on it once in a while during their journey. This is the first line of defense against the summer heat.

Gamcha for womenAlso, according to folk-lore, keeping a peeled onion in your pockets as you move around in summer afternoons will prevent heat-strokes and dehydration. Even in this day and age I am surprised how many people actually leave their house with a small onion on their person. Some people keep small slices of lemon in their pocket and suck on a piece when they are outside. I guess the vitamin-c and the generated saliva keeps the mouth and throat wet.

What I do know is that chilled aerated drinks are THE worst way to keep cool. They just end up dehydrating you faster and giving you useless sugar in the process. Carry a small water bottle with some lemon juice and salt mixed with drinking water at room temperature. Just take a small swig every once in a while; it’s a wonderful aid.

Enjoy the summers.

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