Heat wave

Why India may be the world’s hottest region at the moment

Heat wave brought on by an anticyclone build-up is likely to dissipate soon.

April in the Indian subcontinent is usually a sultry month. With the hard, punishing heat of May just around the corner, temperatures across the region tend to soar. But this April might be a special one – an anticyclone building up across the country has resulted in the subcontinent becoming what seems to the hottest region in the world.

As this screengrab of a live temperature map by Earth Nullschool shows, other regions at this latitude, which are exposed to a similar degree of sunlight, are also sweltering, but none as much as India and Pakistan.

Image credit: Earth Nullschool
Image credit: Earth Nullschool

However, this map might actually be somewhat misleading. Since it is a live temperature recording, it is likely that another screengrab taken at night might show a different picture. This map from El Dorado that records all high temperatures of the same day shows that it is not just South Asia, but also large swathes of central and northern Africa that are burning up.

Image credit: El Dorado Weather
Image credit: El Dorado Weather

In terms of numbers, how does this stack up? The hottest recorded temperature in the world on April 20 was not in South Asia or even in Africa. It was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, at Le Mafa in Samoa, which experienced a scorching 54.5 degrees Celsius. Sibi in Pakistan, the next highest after Samoa, was almost six degrees cooler at 48.1 degrees. India’s highest, recorded at Chandrapur in eastern Maharashtra, was 46.2 degrees.

While it is too early for scientists to analyse weather data for April, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Tuesday announced that March 2017 was the second hottest March on record. The hottest was March 2016. Not that we need another reminder, but nine of the 10 warmest years on global record have been after the year 2000.

India burning

Large parts of India, as is evident so far, have borne the brunt of heat waves since the end of March. This particular heat wave began on April 17. Temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius were recorded in most parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Vidarbha and Marathwada. There were also severe heat wave conditions in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and north Rajasthan.

None of this is entirely unexpected. The India Meteorological Department had predicted a hotter than usual summer back in March, before temperatures began to rise. It began to be able to predict heat waves only in 2016. This particular heat wave is likely to dissipate by April 20.

The reason for this heat wave is yet to be established, said AK Sahai, scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune.

“Of course one of the reasons is global warming, but on the seasonal scale, we cannot say,” Sahai said. “On a weather scale, an anticyclone might affect this, but it will develop today and dissipate tomorrow. There may also be other reasons such as wind patterns.”

Few casualties have been reported so far. The Maharashtra government has recorded at least nine deaths due to sunstroke in the last month. These deaths are of those people who managed to reach a government hospital for treatment before succumbing. The government does not seem to have a protocol in place to count those who did not die at government hospitals.

As Scroll.in has repeatedly reported, heat waves are natural disasters, just like earthquakes or cyclones. They cannot be prevented but the hazard to human and animal life can be mitigated. Until all states dedicatedly begin to implement Heat Action Plans, preventable deaths will continue to occur.

Said Sahai, “We cannot prevent high temperature but if we know in advance we can mitigate its effects.”

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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.