Hot and bothered
There is a poem I am very fond of quoting:
As a rule, Man is a fool.
When it is hot he wants it cool;
When it is cool he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not.
Everybody I know is complaining about the heat. Being housebound, I am not sure how hot it really is, though.
We all have our rituals and tricks to keep cool, and it is not always turning the air-conditioners on. At home, we shut windows and draw curtains closed before the day begins to heat up. This darkening helps. By the time we open things up late afternoon, there is already a breeze and things seem bearable. Also, we happen to live on the edge of the Lake. The green cover and the fact that we aren't boxed in by high-rises around us help, too. And the result is that I have no idea how hot it really is outside.
I began taking note of the weather and daily temperature in Delhi. The first winter saw a ritual evolving, reading the weather report, and the 'daily dose of horror' at how low the mercury can dip. Of course, the first summer saw me getting aghast at how high the mercury can rise, too.
Now Calcutta isn't as bad, we have the sea breeze, which Delhi hasn't heard of, and the nor'westers are more cooling than the dust storms of Delhi. But in recent years, I have noticed hot and dry winds blowing here too, and it seems like the temperatures are rising each summer.
But I discovered via this Telegraph report that the temperature readings I follow each day are not quite the gospel truth I thought they were. Those figures represent 'air temperature', a reading taken from a thermometer housed in a Stevenson screen, as unreal as it can get. This ignores earth's low-level radiation, ambient temperature that rises or falls depending on many factors. It is apparently, the 'real' temperature.
For a person waiting in a traffic jam at midday in summer, the heat produced by the high-rises, vehicles, and air-conditioners in offices, homes and shopping complexes all adds up and makes for a very 'real' hot day. Most major thoroughfares have scant tree cover to provide any relief, thanks to KMC's brainless lopping off of branches that might cast shade on the streets. Urban heat islands is a very descriptive phrase, and the effect can be felt as one moves from the business districts to leafy residential areas.
But since all that is ignored, if the papers say the maximum temperature was some thirty-eight degrees Centigrade, we have to add a good three or four degrees to it to arrive at the 'real' temperature in the city. Good grief!
Alipore Meteorological Office happens to be on grounds with abundant tree cover and the Stevenson screen is hardly the right place to measure how hot it seems to real people in the city. Why can't they take readings from five or six different points in the city and tell us how hot the day really was?