For as long as people have lived in Delhi–that is to say since at least the 6th century BC–people have also been leaving Delhi every summer.
The thing about Delhi is that for nearly 4-5 months of the year we enjoy brisk-ish mornings and obscenely beautiful sunny afternoons. For another 4 months of the year, we tolerate less than comfortable conditions and then–for the last 3 months–well…
We complain endlessly. Or we leave.
It’s getting hot here and the annual exodus is beginning. Native Delhi-ites escape to hill station homes for days or weeks or months at a time. Expats fly home–or to Europe or really anywhere it is not 110 degrees at noon.
There are warmer places in the world than Delhi. There are also cooler but more humid places that are arguably far less comfortable than this city 9 months of the year.
But I’ve decided that it is the sheer pleasantness of Delhi’s winter that makes wimps out of all of us. It’s one thing to live in a place that is hot and sweaty year round–eventually one adjusts and begins to think nothing of putting on a sweatshirt in 85/30 (F/C) degree weather.
On the other hand, when one enters the summer months with still-fresh memories of near freezing mornings spent wrapped in cozy shawls, drinking steaming cups of chai, well then 105 degrees in the shade feels a bit tougher than really necessary.
The crazy thing is that I distinctly remember spending 100 degree days in Arlington last summer trekking up hills with Will attached to me in his Ergo. Delhi shouldn’t feel that much hotter, but somehow it does. The sun just seems to shine here with a severity I’ve never really experienced before, not even in South India.
We’re adjusting, trying not to be those people with nothing more interesting to say than “it’s really hot out!” But whereas a few months ago I dreaded leaving Delhi for our month-long R&R, now that trip cannot come fast enough. I don’t like malls and Will doesn’t always love the pool–which means I spend far more time than I’d like chasing Will around with a water bottle while he cruises around on his scooter at 2 in the afternoon on a 108 degree day.
On the other hand, at least we have air-conditioning, and the ability to visit air-conditioned places and the means to leave the country for at least a little while. There are people we see, we know, we wave hello to every single day who never experience air-conditioning for longer than it takes to walk through a guard booth at the beginning and end of the day. It’s hard to feel really comfortable shivering in the coolness of my home, knowing that there are kids working living and sleeping on the streets who never get enough to drink or a comfortably cool and mosquito-free place to sleep.
Yes, we are looking forward to getting out–cowardly escaping both the heat and the knowledge of heat-induced misery suffered by so many people here.
And, in the meantime, we are getting creative. Will likes plays outside after dinner now when the temperature drops to a more mangeable 99 degrees and the light is low. Afterwards we come inside and Will and Chris share a bowl of the gorgeous cherries in season right now from Himachel Pradesh (the rest of produce in Delhi may be wilting, but the cherries and peaches are fantastic).
A few days ago, we brought the playgroup to the National Gallery of Modern Art–a place Will and I have enjoyed before not so much for the art (though much of it is quite spectacular) but for the 5 floors of air-conditioning and the network of completely-toddler-proof ramps leading from one floor to the next. While the guards can be a bit gruff and the air smells like mold, the ramps are a hit with the 2-and-under crowd. So much so that my friend from the Aussie High Commission and I enjoyed 30 minutes of nearly uninterrupted conversation as we slowly trailed our boys galloping giddily up and down the ramps.
Next week, another museum, the toilet museum as a matter of fact, and hopefully one that allows cameras and doesn’t mind toddlers so much…