Meltdown 2016

‘Hot as hell’: Bengaluru neighbourhoods were 5°C warmer this March

Tracking heat and water stress across India this summer.

Bengaluru has seen warm summers in recent years, but there’s something different this time. Everyone is aghast that the city has seen several days over the past month when daytime temperatures have been higher than sweltering Chennai. Where are the pleasantly cool evenings? Where are the showers that cooled the city down after a few warm days? What happened to the city whose weather would earn it comparisons with hill stations?

Bengaluru had its first spell of pre-monsoon showers in early April, alleviating, but only a little, the brutality of the summer. The heat descended on the city as early as February when the city recorded a temperature of 35.5 degrees Celsius on February 22 – four degrees above normal and the hottest February day in more than 10 years. Night temperatures recorded at that time were three degrees above normal.

In March 2015, private weather forecaster Skymet reported that March temperatures were unusually high by Bengaluru standards. In the last 10 years, Bengaluru’s temperature crossed the 36 degree Celsius mark only three times – in 2005, 2013 and in 2014 – and only at the very end of March. In 2015, temperatures spiked in mid-March. This year, day and night temperatures have been significantly above normal even before March 15.

Graph: Accuweather
Graph: Accuweather

Some Bengaluru neighbourhoods have experienced five degrees more heat than they did last year, according to data gathered by remote environment sensing start-up Yuktix. Yuktix, which makes devices to record weather patterns, has been installing small automatic weather stations across the city to record temperature and other data. Rajeev Jha, the founder of Yuktix, compared temperature trends for Jayanagar and HSR Layout in south Bengaluru for 2015 and 2016 to find a dramatic increase in the maximum and minimum temperatures this year.

Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies
Graph: Yuktix Technologies

“The interesting thing is that for HSR Layout, the spread is more than Jayanagar or Hebbal,” said Jha, while emphasising that he is not a climatologist but a device maker. Jha feels that this difference may be due to more concrete surfaces in HSR Layout.

Last year, Jha compared data between stations located in open areas with little construction, like the grounds of the University of Agricultural Sciences, and a locality called Vidyaranyapura, which is close to the university but populated with buildings. He found that the open spaces didn’t heat up very quickly and maintained a temperature equilibrium, while areas with a lot of concrete showed temperature spikes.

Jha’s findings fit in with the phenomenon of urban heat islands seen around the world – metropolitan areas that are warmer than their surroundings because of human activities. Urban heat islands are created by heat discharge due to energy consumption, larger land surfaces plastered over with artificial materials that have high heat capacities and less cooling when vegetation and water bodies are lost.

Scientists from the Center for Ecological Studies at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru have documented the emergence of the urban heat island in Bengaluru in a 2010 paper. The study showed that the urban areas of the city grew by 632% in the years between 1973 and 2009. That growth, accompanied by a 76% loss of vegetation cover and a 79% decline of the city’s water bodies could have caused the cities temperatures to rise between 2 and 2.5 degrees Celsius in the first decade of the 21st century.

Given the sorry state of Bengaluru's lakes, the unabated and unregulated construction across the city and the continued loss of vegetation, it shouldn't really surprise anyone that the forecast for the coming week shows highs of 38 degree Celsius for the city.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.