Seeking cooler shades to beat Delhi's unpardonable heat

New Delhi, The unforgiving summer heat of the capital, with day temperatures touching a 62-year high of 47.4 degrees Celsius and even night temperatures touching 30 degrees, is affecting man and animal, rich and poor, with each finding innovative and creative ways to beat the heat.

From the high and the mighty who prefer to travel in air-conditioned sedans and limousines to everyday commuters, rickshaw pullers, labourers and shopkeepers, who don't have the luxury of air-conditioned offices and cars, all are trying different survival tactics to beat the heat.

Nineteen-year-old Kartika Varma has to brave the sun almost everyday as she has to go to the Delhi University for college admissions.

While loads of sunscreen is her basic skin-protection rule, she never forgets to cover her face with a "dupatta" (long scarf), carry an umbrella and a bottle of water.

"I am out during peak hours. All I rely on is my umbrella and loads of water," Varma told IANS.

For Aditya Mohan, a marketing professional, coolants like "lassi" and "sugarcane juice" are the best bet to remain cool.

He also shared how ATM's or an air-conditioned shop are "temporarily" places to settle in.

"One can't stay there forever. But when heat is unbearable, you can just pretend to go inside to withdraw money, or check out some products", he added.

There are however many who can't afford the luxury of cool confines of malls or shops.

These are labourers, vendors and rickshaw-pullers, and even bus conductors. But they have innovative ways of finding respite from the blazing sun.

Fifteen-year-old Uttam, who lives in east Delhi, heads to Hazrat Nizamuddin once in a week to take a dip in a baoli (stepwell).

"There is no other best way to beat the heat than swimming in water," said Uttam.

"It is one of the rare places in Delhi where you can be in water and play with friends," he added.

Ram Kishor, a conductor, uses a mini electric handy fan when there is no heavy rush of commuters in his bus.

"During afternoon it becomes unbearable to open windows of the bus as it is extremely hot. So, I carry this handy fan and use whenever there isn't much rush of commuters," Kishor told IANS.

For Mangu Ram, a labourer, who has been living in Delhi for a decade, flyovers have always offered him shelter from the sun, the rain and the cold.

And Mange Singh, a rickshaw-puller, uses a wet 'ghamcha' (traditional scarf) to beat the heat. He soaks it in water and then covers his head with it.

On some religious days in this season, one can also see many people distributing "sherbet" (a popular Indian drink which has milk, water and sweet rose flavoured syrup) to everyone on the streets. Apart from this, some also keep water in matka (mud pots) to offer water to people or even birds.

While human beings can be vocal about their problems, it is the animals and birds who are "silent victims" of the sun's unleashed fury.

But, they too survive.

The Delhi Zoo authorities have provided desert coolers and water-rich diet of fruits like watermelon to the animals to protect them from searing heat. They have also constructed ponds to give them bath and help them cool at least twice a day.

On the streets, dogs can be found below cars for the shade they provide.

It is also a common sight to find them resting on sand - at a construction site - because of its cooling effect.

Often in summer, dogs get drenched in a filthy gutter not a pleasing site but a sure shot technique to cool the body.

Similarly, during summer, bird-spotting during noon is difficult to achieve.

Somewhere they are resting on a tree or in their cooler nests, and they come out when they have to quench their thirst and take a dip in pool of water. A lot of birds just fall dead as they are unable to find water spots to quench their thirst.

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