Delhiites battered by heat, poor more than rich

May 20th, 2010 - 4:04 pm ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) Even as his employers disappear into their air-conditioned home or zoom out of the gates in their cool sedans, Shiva Kumar, a 64-year-old guard, has always been satisfied with a table fan to tackle Delhi’s fierce summer. Not this year.

“I came from my hometown in Orissa in 2005 and since then have been working here as a guard. Every year I just have this table fan to deal with Delhi’s heat, but this year is different. It’s so hot that even the usual tactic of wiping oneself with a wet cloth is not helping,” said an exasperated Kumar.

“With no option left, I have requested my employer for an air cooler,” Kumar told IANS.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)- America’s climate agency which monitors global weather using satellites - the first four months in 2010 have been sizzling hot and north India has not been this warm in the last 100 years.

With the mercury level refusing to fall below the 40 degree Celsius mark - zooming well past the average - and breaking records of past many years, it’s mostly the common man and people out on the streets of this city of 16 million people who are literally facing the heat of the matter and devising ways to tackle it.

Ramya, a flower seller who carries her two-month-old baby in her arms while hopping from one vehicle to the next in traffic signals, said: “It is hot, very hot, but what can a poor woman like me do? My aim is to sell the flowers before they wilt in the heat and earn just enough to feed myself and my child.”

“These days, however, I have stopped venturing out on the roads in the afternoon. That time I either sit under a tree on the footpath or go to a park. I also wrap myself in a wet towel and keep wiping my baby with it,” she added.

For those commuting by public transport, the heat has given rise to an entirely different regime before stepping out for work.

Twenty-four-year old Sharmila Ghosh, for instance, said: “Before stepping out in the heat, I wrap myself in a cotton dupatta, covering my head. I wear my sunglasses, take the umbrella and have a bottle of chilled water in the bag.”

“Just a few days back I suffered from heat stroke and since then I have said goodbye to all my sleeveless clothes. I realised that by exposing your body to the heat and hot winds, you are more in danger of dehydration,” she added.

Sakshi Gupta, a student, said she carries a pack of glucose whenever she goes out.

“I usually take an auto to college and it’s literally like a sauna in there! But you can’t stop working because of the heat, so I carry a packet of glucon D with me wherever I go. Whenever I feel drained, I just mix some of it with water and drink it,” Gupta said.

Power cuts and water shortage in various parts of the capital have added to the Delhiites’ woes. Three people are already reported to have died of heat stroke, including a poor woman who was found dead outside a Metro station and the bodyguard of a celebrity who died from exhaustion from the oppressive heat.

Radha Verma, an advertising professional, told IANS: “There has been so much power outage over the past few days that despite having an AC we seem to fail to beat the heat. Last night there was no power for an hour and it became so unbearably hot that I had to take my kids out to the nearby coffee shop to cool ourselves.”

On Thursday, Delhi recorded a minimum temperature of 28.7 degrees Celsius, two degrees above the average. The met department has forecast the maximum temperature will touch 41 degrees Celsius. On Monday the maximum temperature - a sweltering 45.4 degrees Celsius - broke an eight year record.

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