northern lights

northern lights

Friday, 13 April 2012

Delhi Summers.....Then and Now

   Summer is here again. Early morning brightness, peeping through  my bedroom  windows, is indicative of   the onset of Summer.Only a few days back, it was pitch dark with no sign of life even at six in the  morning. Little birdies huddled together in their nest and the love making pigeons , housed in the A/C  cover of  my windowsill  quietly folding themselves in their own feathers , are  now actively fluttering their wings and engrossed in wooing their lady love who responds with equal vigour.The balcony  in front of my bedroom is suddenly alive.Twittering of birds and squirrels  running  up and down the nascent  green  grape vines,which appeared to be deadwood  some days back ,   are making themselves merry.
     Well this is the early entry of Summer which is welcome after the dull and gloomy Winter.  Soon, very soon, this pleasant  experience will  become a memory.Summers in Delhi are  unbearable. Temperature  is slowly and steadily rising  and days are not  far  off when the Mercury will  peak at  45 'centigrade and beyond.   Sample a day in the peak of Summer. It is six 'o clock in the morning and the sun shines  in its full glory.It feels like midday. Sweating and perspiring you find that the electric  current has gone off.Quite often in the middle of the night the current goes  off and the A/C ,which offered some relief, too gives  up.  Somehow the  poor inverter, which bore the brunt the whole night, refuses to move further.This is the scene in  the morning. As the day progresses,the scene  becomes more and more gloomy. Throats are parched and gallons of water gulped down in the stomach  hardly give any succour.You feel lethargic and listless.One does not want to step out from the air conditioned  room. But you have responsibilities... you have to go out for work. A long dreary day is ahead.Evenings are no better. Loads of cool drinks have been pushed inside the body. Even the fridge  appears to be affected by the scorching heat.There is no ice formation. The fridge is also exhausted.Too hot...tooo hot   tooo ho and you are over taken by sleepiness .The cool breeze emanating from the A/C  slowly relaxes your whole being. Modern gadgets have made life much easier.Air conditioned houses, air conditioned cars and air conditioned work place have made summers  enjoyable.
     I am transported  sixty years back.Reverse gear has been applied. I can sense the summer  days of the fifties in Delhi.The gadgets which have made summer months easier and tolerable did not exist  even in dreams.How did they get rid of those hot hot days? People slept in the open, under the sky!! I remember that the area was very well washed with  several buckets of water to  remove the effect of burning heat  from the cemented floor. Driving away the mosquitoes  was  a problem which was solved by using mosquito nets.Picture a family of eight to ten members! Equal number of charpoys were spread with a net in each bed!!They looked like tents for vagabonds!! With no fridge, drinking water was stored in Surahis  and Matkas made of clay.Even ceiling fans were rare.Table fans were in use.If you had a revolving table fan , well, it was termed as a luxury.In  offices and in well to do homes Khas-Tatties were used .These Khas-Tatties performed the role of an air conditioner. The  Khas-Tatties were made  of twigs  woven  like a curtain and hung outside a door or window of a room.Every hour it was sprinkled with water to provide relief to the in-mates.I remember that in our house we had a fridge which worked on kerosene oil! A small container of oil had a wick of cotton, which was lit and  changed every evening.This flame was a substitute for electricity!! How people devised  such  innovations to bring comfort  in their lives!
    All this I remember vividly. We  don't know how our forefathers lived and suffered the travails of weather and nature. !! How life was difficult for them!! how they struggled.How they thought of  various  methods to make life  comfortable.It is their struggle which brought comfort in our lives.We must think of them with gratitude! A small  'thank you' for our fore fathers  will bring solace to their souls. Let us also teach this lesson to our children!!


  1. I would love to sleep on the terrace and look at the stars if only Bala Mama would let me.

    Maybe after my Italian exam?

    I also remember watching the fireworks marking the 150th anniversary of the War of Independence from the terrace in the summer of 2007.