Season of Surprise

‘Tis the season to be merry?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But ‘tis certainly looking like the season to be surprised.

Once again.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has set the ball rolling by predicting that large parts of the country will reel under temperatures higher than normal and that the seasonal average temperature is set to be higher than normal by over 1 degree Celsius.

We are surprised.

After years of rapid development, with millions of fossil fuel burning cars added to the roads, agricultural and forest lands being consumed to build wider and wider roads in an effort to get those cars moving and so that the common man feels like he is living anywhere but in India, building shiny new energy-guzzling highrises, putting many water bodies out of the misery of their daily struggle for survival, transporting food and water from greater and greater distances, we are surprised.

We are surprised that this is happening again. Because it had happened just last year in the summer, which was one of the hottest recorded in recent memory. And the previous year in the summer. And the previous year again.

Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, it is recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

It is a surprise that summer is coming back at all. With its many surprises.

We will be surprised to see peak load requirement going up in the summer as more and more people switch on their air-conditioners.

We will be surprised to experience frequent failures in the grid-supplied power as the grid buckles under peak-load demand.

We will be surprised when residential societies as well as commercial developments switch on their diesel-powered generation sets and produce their own power to offset the grid failures. We will also be surprised that noxious fumes emitted by these generators will add to the pollution woes of the city.

We will be surprised when, despite uncontrolled drawing of ground water for industrial and other uses, the water table plunges further.

We were expecting November-like bracing conditions to prevail through most of May and June, but looks like IMD had other ideas. If putting out realistic and reasonable facts and figures is all it can do, does a rapidly developing nation like ours really need an IMD? But that is for our political leaders to answer. Let us enjoy the beauty of life while we can. With its ability to throw up surprises every day and every minute.

Summer will be followed by monsoon. Yet another surprise. Seriously, did anyone know about this?

Come monsoon and we will be surprised to realise that water can flow from higher to lower level of ground. And that constructing in its path without adequate assessment of capacity will lead to impeding the flow of water and cause water-logging.

We will be surprised to know that open ground absorbs rainwater much faster than land that has been constructed over. As a corollary, we will be surprised to realise that slower absorption of rainwater leads to a slower recharging of groundwater resources.

We will be surprised to know that that poor quality material used in building of roads leads to the surface being washed away leaving gaping holes for traffic to navigate. We will be equally surprised to understand that gaping holes in the road surface and water-logging on roads leaves only narrow usable channels for traffic on otherwise wide roads, which leads to massive traffic jams with people leaving office at 6 PM reaching home 15 km away at 5 AM the next morning.

We will be surprised to realise that rainfall does not have a mechanism through which it can stay away from areas prone to water-logging and poor drainage.

We will be surprised to know that random dumping of waste and stagnant water is a toxic combination that leads to breeding of mosquitoes, among other vectors, that leads to the spread of malaria, chikangunya, dengue and other diseases. As a corollary, we are even more surprised to learn that preventing collection of stagnant water and keeping our surroundings clean can prevent vector-borne diseases to a great degree.

It is a surprise that these are happening again. Because they had happened just last year during the monsoon. And the previous year in the monsoon. And the previous year again. Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, they are recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

The beauty of life. Knowledge and learning at every step. The faster one is able to forget past learnings, the more one will keep learning. As long as one is open-minded. And not repeatedly asking “why is this not fixed?” or “who is responsible for this mess?”

And if that is not enough of surprises, winter, which just about got over, will come back. Did you know that?

We will be surprised that the cold winter air, with all noxious fumes and other pollutants emitted into it, will hang low and not get dissipated as easily as in the non-winter months, when it blows the pollutants away to unsuspecting people in other geographies.

We will be surprised that respiratory issues will abound in the winter months and that the masks people wear are not a natural adaptation of the human species to environmental stimuli.

We will be surprised that the days are short and nights long.

We will be surprised that it gets cold.

It is a surprise that these are happening again. Because they had happened just last year in the winter. And the previous year in the winter. And the previous year again. Despite doing nothing to prevent a recurrence, they are recurring. Isn’t it surprising?

And then, surprise of surprises, maybe even a shock, summer will be back. Who could have predicted that?

 

Panic grips Delhi as monsoon rains lower pollution levels

It was a scene straight out of a Hollywood horror movie. But without an American hero on hand to save the world.

The Great Rush

The Great Rush

There was shoving and jostling and pushing to catch the next train leaving town. Those who could afford to, packed their cars and fled.

The reasonably timely and plentiful rains in and around Delhi have washed away the atmospheric pollution, and with it the last vestige of normalcy, leaving hapless residents gasping for breath in an environment they are not familiar with, clean air.

An earthquake of 8+ magnitude on the Richter scale could not have caused such panic. Signs of distress are visible all around.

Too much visibility

Too much visibility

Motorists are in all sorts of trouble. Suddenly able to see far, drivers are having a difficult time keeping their focus on the road immediately ahead, and are bumping into all sorts of objects, including objects off the road. There is just so much visibility that one can handle.

Looks cool

Looks cool

Even man’s best friend has not been spared.

As can be expected, sports and outdoors people are among the first to be affected.

I Give Up

I Give Up

Cycling for health has gained popularity in recent times. But in the situation the city is presently in, cyclists have no option but to hang up their boots. “If there in no pollution about which awareness is to be raised, what is the point of cycling”, is a refrain one is hearing from the cycling community over and over again. And, indeed, from the running community as well.

What's a Doctor To Do?

What’s a Doctor To Do?

“We were trained to handle chest and lung problems caused by a polluted environment, not by a clean one”, this senior medic can be heard complaining. “We will have to go back to school. This puts at risk the years of hard work we put in at medical school.”

…even as queues at respiratory clinics around the city are rapidly increasing and threatening to go out of control.

But nothing like able leaders to show the way during a time of crisis.

PM Modi, as has come to be expected of him, was the first to take responsibility.

'Twas this finger that did it

‘Twas this finger that did it

In this TV grab, the PM can be heard saying “bhaiyon behnon, yeh is ungli ka kamaal hai; main chahta hoon ki desh ka har nagrik aur har bachcha apni ungli ka theek istemaal kare” (brothers sisters, it is the magic of this finger; I want every citizen and every child to make proper use of their finger). The faithful, of course, understand that he was implying that he reached up and punctured the clouds with that finger to let the rains come down.

Being an intelligent man, after taking credit for what he did not do, and knowing that rains were causing distress to the people, he has promised to tackle the problem on a war footing by launching the World Index Finger Day.

Face masks are becoming redundant.

This has let to sharp cutbacks in production in some factories in a country to the North and East, that manufactures everything in the world. This, in turn, has led to labour unrest in some parts of that country.

But, one man’s meat as another’s poison, they say.

Designers are stepping in to fulfil the need of locals to wear masks, which they have become accustomed to, and without which they feel naked. It is the latest fashion accessory to be seen in, in high society.

Here is an image of a socialite seen in a Prada mask at a popular event in Delhi.

Prada mask

Prada mask

Shopping malls, as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) effort, are stepping in to do their bit by inviting people to breathe in their bottled, recirculated air while they shop.

Breathe in deeply

Breathe in deeply

A busy mall in the suburb of Gurgaon, abuzz with people eager for their “fix” of stale air.

Car companies are eagerly awaiting their turn to do a good turn to society.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, as has come to be expected of him, immediately announced relief for the beleaguered population by introducing the Odd-Even scheme. Readers of this blog might know that Mr. Kejriwal solves all issues with the help of his trusted Odd-Even scheme, be it excessive pollution, unmanageable traffic, or, as in this case, too little pollution.

Odd AND Even

The Power Plant in its heyday

Under the new version of the scheme, the decommissioned coal-burning Indraprastha power plant would be restarted to give the Delhi air some of its mojo back.

The new version is called Odd AND Even. The plant, once restarted will work on Odd days. AND on Even days.

Those were the days!

Those were the days!

Being the good man as all politicians are, or become, the Delhi CM is reported to be deeply affected by the developments. In this image, with a wistful look, he is watching a video of the halcyon days of Delhi. Can he bring those days back?

But there is good news. The Met department has forecast that rains will soon taper off and Delhi will return to its salad days of haze and smoke and smog and dust.

If people who have left Delhi are reading this, please plan on coming back soon. We miss you. More than that, we miss our atmospheric pollution.