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The month of May

The month of May
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K S S Pillai
It is the month of May. Most parts of the country are sizzling in the heat wave. Newspapers and television news channels report the harrowing experience of people in the sweltering heat every day.
With the groundwater level going down, shortage of drinking water is common in many areas. The local administrations supply water in tankers to different parts of cities, where people wait in long queues.
Firefighters face a shortage of water to put out frequent forest fires and those that engulf buildings. People change their dresses to that made of cotton. Some get their hair cut short, believing it might offer some relief.
The price of ice has gone up. The sale of cold drinks and fruits like watermelon is at its peak. So is the sale of air-conditioners, air-coolers and fans. People engaged in the repair of these gadgets are in great demand. The humble lemon has become a luxury, attracting the attention of even thieves. Electricity bills have gone up, and those leaving the room without switching off fans or air-conditioners get scolded.
Roads are deserted in the afternoons. People stand in long queues to get free glasses of cold buttermilk provided by charity organizations. Those doubtful about their entry into heaven after death and those concerned with the plight of birds have started keeping vessels with water on their terrace. People on the roads have begun to use umbrellas. Some even cover their heads with towels to get some respite from the heat, reminding me of those who wanted to conceal their identity entering toddy shops during my childhood.
Has the modern way of life contributed to global warming? Years ago, most of the houses in my village used to have roofs thatched with seasoned coconut leaves. The few with tiled roofs experienced more heat.
One added disadvantage was that thieves would enter these houses after removing tiles. Walls and floors, the latter regularly plastered with cow dung, made living comfortable. Electricity was a new entrant. Electric fans had not yet made their appearance. One used to take bath in the river, spending hours in the cool water.
All are not unhappy on the unbearably hot days. It is their time for enjoying holidays, travelling to different parts of the country and outside. Those studying and teaching in schools and colleges look forward to their annual summer vacation. Offices work with skeletal staff as many go on leave during the period.
Special trains are run during the holidays and the intending holiday revellers are worried about getting reservations in trains, aircraft and hotels. Airlines raise the fare daily as the date of departure nears. Holiday resorts are fully booked. Tourism-related businesses as a whole do brisk business.
Some have pained their terrace white as those with black terraces attract more sun. Trees are being planted on a large scale, vehicle-free zones are announced, and cool building materials that increase the airflow are being used.
Fortunately, the month of May is not hot in all parts of our large country. To escape from the severe heat of north India, I went to my hometown in Kerala recently. I was welcomed by a pleasantly cool climate there. It was raining heavily, accompanied by lightning and thunder. Alerts of various colours were regularly issued by the government.
Fishermen were being prohibited from going to the sea, and those living near the sea coast were warned to be prepared for shifting to higher grounds. Fans and air-conditioners were being switched off. In some cities like Kochi, people had started cursing rains and water-logging in many parts of the city had compelled taxis and auto-rickshaws to refuse to take passengers there.
By the end of the vacation, it will be the middle of June, and when I return to my workplace, the monsoon rains will have started.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to The Kashmir Vision, his articles and short stories have appeared in various national and international publications)

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