Chennai Journal
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Hot, Hotter, Hottest

Summer has arrived with a vengeance in South India. Temperatures are daily rising above 40 degrees Celcius (104+) and the humidity is pretty high, too. It hits you in funny ways. After being out in it a while, I will find myself sitting, even in a cooled place, and suddenly breaking out in a sweat. There is a Tamil phrase similar to the English "dog days", and the streets aren't as crowded, as people just stay put and try to keep cool however they can as well as drinking fluids--with all the sweating, you can get dehydrated in a hurry. They say that we are in for another two to three weeks of this before the summer monsoon arrives on the west coast of India and begins to generate a cooling effect.

Friday was a big day in Chennai and in fact in all of Tamil Nadu, as there was a huge celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Chief Minister's election to the legislature. People came in buses from all over the state, and Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, and other national figures were here as well. For several days before the event on Friday night, we kept having brownouts and the lights in the apartment seemed continually on low wattage. As in fact, they were. The streets were lined with banners, hordings or billboards, and temporary fluorescent lights which, together with everyone lucky enough to have air conditioning running them at full blast, seriously tasked the power capacity of the city ---which is none too stable even in the best of times. I got caught in the traffic on the way to the city Friday afternoon, and it took me over two hours to get to our city office, which is usually little more than an hour's ride.

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