Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy When It Rains

Talking about the weather represents everything that is most unexciting about being on Urbanite. But it is for some reason; recently I have found myself doing it. A distant great, great grandfather of mine used to top barometers for the British Raj during colonial India. In 25 years, I have never tapped one and didn't intend to start anytime, but during my recent trip to good old Delhi, I got into an autorickshaw and did the chatty equivalent. 

Usually, bound in an auto, I sit in dour silence keeping my resolute and liberal (and not so good) opinions to myself. The other day, however (which incidentally was unusually hot as is common in Delhi), I found myself developing a strange rapport of completely unneeded meteorological detail with the autorickshaw driver - who apparently, was a full-time farmer and part-time driver with a lot to lose if the monsoon rains were going to be late (and he was ranting they were.)

Excluding my enviro-conscious slant and my campaigner role at Green Coalition Network, I really shouldn’t care whether if it would rain or not. I don't run a laundry, I don’t farm nor do I make money frying eggs on the pavement. There is no worldly reason why I should be concerned if whether it will rain or shine but I discussed it all with my auto man as if I were about to accompany Sir Edmund Percival Hillary to Mount Everest.

I told him it all started with the Asian Tsunami. Or may be it started with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Ozone black hole, the Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez disasters or maybe it was my Grandma complaining about her sun dried pickles. Anyway, before that the weather just happened. Although only boring scientific people talked about it, it rained on all of us. Angelina Jolie got as wet as your mother-in-law but when the tsunami came and devastated Asia, things changed (for good in one way). 

Yet for many, the forecast is now just about whether there’ll be the T20 Cricket match tomorrow or if they would be able to board that early morning flight to New York. For some though, if it rains a great deal or when they hear of an approaching storm, such events signal the ‘End of the World’ and that there would possibly be no tomorrow, tomorrow. So, when the weather dame comes on the telly at primetime news, she isn't such reading the weather, she's Lady Nostradamus dishing out our post-apocalypse survival rates. These days, especially in the US and Europe, the TV weather presenter is a celebrity and the weather gets talked and twittered about more than Nicholas Sarkozy and his sizzling wife - Carla Bruni.

In the good old days, use of climate terms like “trough of depression” was about as scientifically technical as we got. But now, we talk about “Global Warming”, “Ozone Layer” and other weather terms as if we are all first class graduates from the International Climate Academy. We all seem to assertively strut with expert knowledge about the environment although most of us know as much as about it as the former US President – George Bush who loathed the environmental movement and did his part helping his Wall Street corporate cronies by propagating the Global Warming “Global Hoax” myth.

Nonetheless, one of the big culprits in this unstable weather scenario is held to be the Aerosol (or technically, CFCs - Chlorofluorocarbons). Until, a dandy scientist figured out their eco-wrecking, ozone-depleting power, we had wreaked so much damage keeping our rooms AC-cool in the 60s and our bodies scent-fresh in the 70s and 80s, that we had not only created perfect conditions for achieving the ideal tan on a beach but had also created a big hole in the Ozone layer - letting in unadulterated, vitriolic sunshine of our bright star play havoc with our climate.

And its not just spray cans or CFC based fridges of the past, there is a verified connection between eating meat and a deeper body tan (and consequently a bigger Ozone hole and a hotter Planet). Every meat based product you eat, lets say, every beef steak you eat pushes the demand for more meat and thus, the number of cows for human consumption. The more cows there are, the more methane they release. In fact, it’s estimated that on an average, a cow releases enough methane everyday to fill over 400 one litre bottles. Methane is one of the gases that destroy the ozone which in turn increases the amount of sunshine or rather Sun’s harmful heat. So, when you tuck into your ‘medium rare’ beef steak or a double-decker Beef burger, a cow somewhere on this planet backfires more methane, the ozone layer further depletes and a pensioner gets sunstroke in sweltering hot Delhi.

Of course, the weather being only slightly pre-Armageddon in its behaviour means it’s pretty complicated to forecast anything. No doubt, inspite of their celebrity status, the handsomely paid weather folks on TV or at the meteorological office never get the weather right. We can’t complain though, the global climate these days seems to be as fickle as the mood swings of a hormonally volatile pregnant woman. One minute it’s all sober and dull and the next day, it all thunder and storm.

Anyway, half an hour later, as our rickety auto made through to my destination, it suddenly started raining – first a stutter, then a drizzle and then, all out waterworks, accompanied by enough thunder and lightning. It was a welcome relief from the scorching heat and it felt so coincidentally nice. My new found driver-farmer friend seemed more than pleased, he felt relieved. He gave me a big smile, the rains temporarily comforting his drought worries. I returned his smile, got down unmindful of my clothes and laptop getting wet, paid the fare and let the rain fall over me. Like the school children on the street who were relishing the showers, I suddenly felt carefree and happy. The Rain Gods should have been smiling too, they had made us both happy.

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