By Indu Balachandran Feb. 11, 2019
This is just a rhetorical question, only meant to make us Madrasis feel spasms of guilt, and apologise as if we are somehow responsible for an outsider’s sweaty state of discomfort.
To marketing executives everywhere who are trying desperately to come up with the next viral video, you should just ask me, a native “Madrasi”. Like millions around the world, I too saw that video from snowbound Minnesota last month, where the polar vortex caused boiling water to turn into a sheet of ice, mid-air, as soon as it was thrown into the freezing atmosphere. It left me so inspired.
I plan to throw a bunch of ice cubes in the air, right out of my balcony in sunny Chennai, and film them melting instantly, even turning to steam, before disappearing dramatically within seconds. This video is my new strategy to render speechless all my friends, especially those who stay in Bengaluru and Mumbai. With any luck, they’ll cancel their upcoming trips to my city, and spare me from hearing for the billionth time:
“Why is it SO HOT in Chennai?”
In the past, I have tried answering this question with accurate geographical information (“Chennai lies on the thermal equator, its latitude and longitude are 13.0827°N & 80.2707°E, that’s why”), but no one was interested. I have sent people YouTube videos of Al Gore’s warning on global warming, and articles describing detailed weather patterns from the Bay of Bengal, but to no avail. I conclude that this is just a rhetorical question, only meant to make us Madrasis feel spasms of guilt, and apologise as if we are somehow responsible for their sweaty state of discomfort.
I am particularly perplexed by how my dear friends from Mumbai wail and whine about Chennai weather. Mumbai has always given me a warm welcome, but even I didn’t know that my ears could drip with sweat until I experienced a Mumbai summer — and I’m still not sure it isn’t the wax inside melting.
what excuse can I make for my many NRI relatives, who were born and lived quite happily in this very cauldron of boiling weather?
Nevertheless, the refrain from Mumbaikars as they land here is always “It’s so bloody hot in Chennai!” As one who has lived in this city most of my life, this is supposed to be breaking news for me. Yes, Chennai is hot. Can we please move on to other news, instead of your astounding weather bulletin?
Well, maybe on previous visits, their parlour-straight hair started puffing up like microwaved popcorn the minute their aircraft entered Chennai airspace, or they emerged at the arrival lounge with their all-day waterproof kajal running down their cheeks. But what excuse can I make for my many NRI relatives, who were born and lived quite happily in this very cauldron of boiling weather? They behave as if they were raised in the Arctic by the direwolves from Game of Thrones, and therefore cleverly plan their biennial visits only during Chennai’s cold winters — which, for the uninitiated, last for an entire nine days in early January. That’s the time our shopping haven, Pondy Bazaar, has massive sales of monkey caps and leopard-print ear muffs, which many visiting fashionistas pair with kanjeevaram sarees to make a statement at our famed Madras Music festival.
But for the rest of the year, visitors have to pretty much “konjam-adjust”, and put up with the hotness of our city. Now here are some handy tips from a local to make the most of your visit to Chennai, and cope with our extremes in weather.
1. To hard-boil eggs without any fuss or fuel, simply put them in a bowl of cold water. By the time you’ve finished with your morning shower, breakfast will be ready to serve.
2. Never linger too long at one spot while taking a walk on our roads. Your chappals will melt into the tar, keeping you rooted to one spot, and you’ll never finish your sight-seeing.
3. To equip yourself for our tedious 9-day winter, hang around any event where our Chief Minister is in attendance. Approximately two thousand people will honour him with a ponnadai, or shawl, most of which will then be distributed for free outside the function hall.
4. To really fit in with the locals, men: remove your pants on arrival in Chennai, and get into a cool, white Co-Optex veshti. These can even be easily worn at half-mast with a deft flick-up, and you’ll be in perfect costume to prostrate before the gigantic posters of Jayalalitha that continue to decorate every street corner.
5. Always keep handy a tin of Pond’s Talcum Powder. It’s perfect for the alarming shade of darkness you may acquire in our merciless sun; a furtive dab of powder on your face will keep you looking fair and lovely again in an instant.
So do heed these warnings well ahead, and stop wailing immediately on arrival in the interests of all my city-mates. Or be prepared for our own responses that range in a scale from OMG to WTF.
And don’t forget to hit “Like” on my viral ice-cubes video.
Indu Balachandran turned to a career in Advertising when it became clear that world markets would collapse if she ever became an economist. She now travels and writes for a living and during flight delays, dreams of doing stand-up comedy some day, at staid Tam Brahm weddings.