Three Longs & Three Shorts

How people keep their cool during summer in Churu, India’s hottest place

For those who claim climate change is a myth, this summer’s global heatwave should have busted it without doubt. Last week, Kuwait recorded the world’s hottest temperatures with almost 63 degrees Celsius under direct sunlight. There are reports of cars melting in Saudi. In India too, 36 lives have been lost to the heat wave. Here’s a story about India’s hottest place – Churu and how residents here manage to fight the heat.
“The heat wave has claimed 36 lives in India this year. None of these casualties was from Churu, despite its extreme weather. This is partly because of the people’s resilience and partly owing to the measures the administration has taken.
The district administration has directed hospitals to treat patients suffering from heat stroke as a result of loo (the dry, dusty summer wind from the west that blows over North India) as emergency cases. It has advised Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act workers to start early, at 6 am instead of 10 am, and return home by 2 pm. Advisories ask people to stay indoors between noon and 3 pm, and also warn against making beasts of burden toil during these hours.
“People here have raabdi, which aids the enzymes allowing the body to adjust to the weather. Even Border Security Force jawans have it.” Raabdi is prepared by mixing the flour of bajra (pearl millet) and moth beans with chaach, to which water is added. When the temperature soars, the gruel is kept out in the sun. The froth is separated from the fermented mix, which is then cooked and kept overnight. Many, in rural areas especially, start the day with this drink mixed with chaach, cumin seeds and salt. Locals claim it’s the best way to protect oneself from the loo. With its sour flavour, it is similar to an alcoholic drink that can induce sound sleep, they add.
Since the Indira Gandhi Canal closed for repairs from March-end to April, the administration has been monitoring water provisioning for the peak summer months. Nayak says that except for a crisis in some interior areas, there is no shortage of drinking water in Churu. The only infrastructural problem, he adds, is posed to the grid substations where power lines risk catching fire if the mercury shoots to 50 and above, as it has this year. “So every hour, we have a power cut to ease pressure on the substations.””

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