It has been a hell of roasting experience for several days here in Delhi. The power supply breakdowns are one reason. It was for the first time in 7 years that the outage continued from 1030 p.m. to 1130 a.m. Besides damaging electric/electronic gadgets, it is very oppressive for the children, aged and the sick. The loss of valuable hours for the students preparing for their competitive examinations, it causes loss of productive work hours to the professional used to do their night shift. In so far as power is concerned, it is doubtful if any government would ever succeed in ensuring uninterrupted supply in the near future. But the situation impels us to think about the contribution of human efforts to this unintended consequence.
Delhi rests on thousands of kilometers of roads topped with black bitumen. Its tall multi-storeyed buildings laughing on puny trees below.The Earth has no space to breathe for its own survival. Is the Earth not entitled to breathe? Does the Earth not require enough space for a healthy survival? Is it rational, even if we don’t talk ethical, for man to monopolise every inch of space on earth to the exclusion of animals, birds, tress, vegetation, air circulation and free flow of water? But that is the clear result of what we take pride in calling “urbanization”. Do we aim at such urbanization? Man will die of ill effects of such exclusivity. One big reason for Delhi temperature rising above 47C is this urbanization of the city, which has been converted into an unending jungle of concrete where trees and farms used to stand only till about 50 years ago. Those trees suited the geographical needs of the Delhi zone, because they were able to absorb heat and spread cool shades, making the nearby places better than the totally open areas under the sun. The current plantations radiate heat rather than absorbing it. They are not tall. There are no farms around now- only huge Farms of Concrete Structures called Housing Complexes or Malls! They radiate heat adding further to the already high temperatures. Contrast this urban experience with living in a natural valley and then imagine the struggle of us Delhi residents living in this valley of tar and concrete!
The old cities took care to keep the residential areas cool in summers and warm in winters by superior technological skills of manipulating the air and sunlight in the residential areas. Even the construction material was conducive to regulating the temperatures. One can always study the engineering skills in putting up cities like the Old Delhi. Going to the Delhi airport from any part of Delhi today means driving through intense heat wave conditions or extreme high loo. But a walk through the streets of old Delhi still gives the experience of a day well spent as there is no loo or heat wave in these streets. Rather you have all precious traditional beverages and foods suiting the summers (summers are horrible in this part of the world and one really fails to appreciate how someone can even have a Mid Summer Night’s Dream!). These drinks make you feel instant cool and energetic. But only the lucky ones have the opportunity to be treated to such summer luxuries. We are destined to suffer the roasting alive experience of the heat wave of Delhi further augmented by densely tarred roads stretching to thousands of miles and arrogant high rise! Have a glass of Rooh Afza or Thandai, if you like and indulge in dreaming as you wish!