So what is it really like to live in Chennai? Unsurprisingly this will be an ongoing theme and will be added to whenever I feel like sharing the latest warming moment.
Apologies for repetitions here as I have been talking about this for some time through e-mails. Now it is time to start to bring it all together. This month (well the period from 4 to 29 May to be precise) is known in Tamil as Kathiri or Fire Star month. That is because it is hot! Hot is in the low to mid 40sC. All I can say is – it is so hot even the AC (which I usually try to do minimise) can only get down to 27 C. If I go from the bedroom (at 27C) to the living room I feel as if I have walked from the fridge to the oven, and even the other side of the door is hot to the touch. When I was moaning recently about the heat, I was reminded me that 27 C is considered heating, not cooling in Scotland!!
To show how I understood about the fire star month, I thought I would show off one of my 7 words of Tamil to a colleague. I said (I thought) – “well it is the fire star month isn’t it”? She looked at me – shocked and aghast – I thought – my goodness I have really astounded her with my amazing linguistic abilities. It transpired that I had told her to “shut up” which is why she was so shocked!
The reality of fire star month is that it is so hot that it is even hard to walk to work. I live a 10 minute walk away from the office, and I usually consider this not enough of a walk. However, I have to lug my work stuff and before I have even got to the gate of the building I live, I have decided it is too hot (again!) to walk. To be fair, I do try anew every new day.
Actually I find hard not being able to walk. I live on the same street (but at the other end) as the office and when I do walk, I take the longer way. It is about 4 minutes longer and I do this for a few reasons:
1. instead of being on the busier road it takes me through leafy pleasant side streets – which are also shaded.
2. the pavements in Chennai are pretty amazing – especially if you are not exactly tall. They are higher than my knees and no sooner than I have clambered up on one pavement than I have to descend again, only to have to climb again a few seconds later. My longer route minimises pavement interaction and saves me from suffering altitude sickness before I reach work
3. the road is easier to cross when I don’t cross at the main junction. This means that I save the extra few minutes on the longer route as I actually spend so long pathetically dithering at the roadside. This dithering is exacerbated by the line of auto drivers who are convinced that I am waiting for their auto to take me the 37 yards to the office.
4. The juice shop. The wonderful, delicious juice shop. If I take the longer route then I can stop at the stall which sells freshly squeezed any fruit for between 10 and 15 rupees (we are talking less than 20 pence and maybe 30 cents) which provides the perfect nutritional boost before I start work. I usually take two! That is also two fruit portions – which for 20 rupees for a Scot is not scarily healthy and represents exceptional value for money!! It is vital that I remember though to ask for no sugar – otherwise a cup full of sugar is tipped into the mixture before my eyes, which must counteract the nutritional benefits. This, however, has been complicated a little by the opening of another juice shop two doors away from my home. And they have a kind of happy hour deal. Buy one (half a litre) get half free. How irresistible is that?? So I can sit with my ¾ litre of watermelon juice for 10 rupees and then take my lovely shaded route to work.
So that is why I take the longer route to work on cooler days……………oh I forgot to mention the squirrels………