It’s already here upon us. The signs are everywhere, portents of climactic changes to come. Trees, once teeming with leaves, began shedding them, first slowly, then faster, like a burden too heavy to carry now. Some of the smaller ones are already bare, their dried out and gnarled branches sharply silhouetted against the bare blue skies.
And the wind too, fresh and invigorating just a month back, has turned menacing now. It whirls through the city, as if pouring out of a gigantic hot air-blower, raising swirls of dust, carrying the cast-out yellow leaves and dumping them in scattered heaps along the sides of roads. The glazed blacktops of the roads, now swept clean by the rushing wind, are already bouncing off scalding sunrays.
Ribs-jutting wandering cows and panting street dogs are already gravitating to the solace of shades offered by neem trees and compound walls. It’s already getting so there’s too much sunshine for everybody’s comfort.
On the human side too, there are signs. Prudent housewives are already stocking their kitchens with onions and kairees (raw manoges), fruity bulbs that act as antidotes against excessive heat. Mothers are already chiding children everywhere: “Don’t go out on an empty stomach and drink plenty of water and, for heaven’s sake, don’t drink fridge water immediately as you come in.” That’s right, for nothing harms you more.
Flats, houses, bungalows, offices everywhere are already preparing to shield themselves with desert-coolers and air-conditioners. Heat-hassled men and women, and young girls on two-wheelers, particularly, are already moving about with scalps fully wrapped, only their eyes visible or covered in goggles. This is so, because the heat pierces through the tympanic membranes and lodges itself in the bone marrow and there’s no worse affliction now in Nagpur than being struck by the sun.
Roadside water kiosks – pyauus – are already springing up all across the city. The insane searing sun burns up the extra-cellular fluids in the body, drenching you in sweat, and dehydrates you in no time. You need water – plenty of it – to combat the sun’s fury. “Water is life.” Never was this banality truer than now in Nagpur.
The city’s beggars, the homeless and hoboes, whose dwellings are the streets and open grounds, are already shuffling to public parks, gardens and other snug areas during the day. In Ramdaspeth, resting against a shaded wall opposite Dikshabhumi, beggar-woman Munnibai has a worried look on her withered face. In her miserable nomadic life, she hates this time of the year most. “Every year, I thought I’d die during these months,” she says. “But I’m still here.”
In earlier years, sun stroke would claim dozens of lives, shooting the sufferers’ body temperatures way beyond the human limit. And government and other hospitals would be ready with special hyperthermia units where patients were laid, stripped and naked, on slabs of ice and nurses scrambled to bring their body temperatures down with swabs dipped in ice-cold water. “But that doesn’t happen often now,” says Dr Smita Chaturvedi, who runs a clinic in Gokulpeth. “People now know what the heat can do and take proper precautions.”
Like many other places, Nagpur, too, bobs up and down between the two edges of the barometer. But for some strange reason, around this time, Nagpur and its nearby areas, perched above the Equator at 21.09 and 79.06 degrees on the latitudinal-longitudinal cross-cross, somehow seem to nettle that Red Giant in the sky, provoking it to become a fiercer, more ruthless, relentless ball of energy than at anyplace else.
So, in the coming weeks, the sun will go bonkers over Nagpur and its surrounding regions, exploding furiously, raining down torrents of dry, life-sapping, mind-boggling heat – as if it had a personal score to settle with the land. Yes, the summer is here in Nagpur – a simmering time of pure white hell.