In December 2000, on our last day at the company before our transfer to Germany, my wife and I met the directors in their cabin. After the customary greetings and best wishes for the years ahead, one of the directors brought up the weather. He had recently returned from Germany, and he said we were lucky since severe winter hadn’t yet set in.
“It was still around 15 degrees when I left, which is very unusual for this time of the year.”
The other director was surprised to hear this, and something in his expression told me that he had, in that moment, decided on his next trip to Germany.
Once outside, Wife and I looked at each other and smiled.
“I cannot understand the Germans.” I said, shaking my head. “Quite obsessed with the weather, aren’t they.”
Like most urban middle-class Indians, our interest in weather was limited to infrequent conversations about the heat. Until a decade ago the mass media reflected this – all we got at the end of a doordarshan news programme was a listing of maximum and minimum temperatures recorded in the four metropolitan cities.
And before we end, here are the temperatures recorded at the four ….
It was as if these numbers were insignificant statistics, added as a formality just before signing off merely to placate people at the meteorological department, who, back then, were probably not much better at predicting weather than astrologers were at predicting the future.
Some years later viewers were fed with an image – from the Insat 1B, the news-reader emphasised, just to be sure everyone understood we too had a satellite up there – that showed a clear picture of our country in a black background with smears of white here and there, patches that portended rain and instilled hope.
These days things are very different. Weather has turned into a profitable business (not as profitable as astrology, though) and we now have whole bulletins reeling out forecasts from Tokyo to Timbuktu about snowfalls and showers. (The other day, at an informal gathering, someone joked that CNN intended to outsource its weather forecasts to India. I later learnt that an earnest member of that gathering had initiated plans to introduce a course that groomed “weather-consultants”.)
Our perception about weather has changed considerably in the three and half years we have spent in Germany. The day begins with a look at the temperature reading on the car dashboard followed by a quick extrapolation of how cold or warm the day would turn out; on Fridays a look at the weekend forecast is mandatory; travel plans are seldom made without consulting weather channels; and any long occurrence of unfluctuating weather results in frequent checks to see when the pattern would change.
In short, we’ve almost reached the German levels of obsession, thanks mainly to the fluctuations and extremities we experience here. These days the temperature is hovering around 35 degrees Celsius, which is unbearable in offices that have no air-conditioning (and most offices, including ours, don’t). Last year it touched 40 degrees Celsius – a record of sorts, and it did lead to a few alarming occurrences.
Some months ago when North India was reeling under the heat wave, I spent time giggling at the laments of the Delhi-trio – Anita, Rash and Hekate – whose blogs, during those days, resembled journals of souls stuck in the middle of the Sahara, with sentences resembling utterances from a parched throat. It is now time for me to face the heat, and for you to bear with its consequences.