It seems that sun god is planning to make up for last year's leniency in our part of the world. The famed Tamil Agni Nakshatram or Kathri season begins tomorrow (4th, May) and the past few days have been a glorious preview of what to expect in the next fortnight.
I am a summer person. I can take any amount of heat. Or, I can convince myself that I can take any amount of heat. The moment I feel uncomfortable and irritated with the heat, I automatically remember the few years in Syracuse winter, especially incidents such as this, and I am ready to go dancing in the blazing sun. A friend and I would argue about which is better - hers being, there is no limit to the number of layers of clothes you can wear on yourself to warm up, but there is a definite limit to the number of clothes you can take off to feel cool. My argument was that it is much easier to cool both inside and outside the body with something as simple as water, but no matter how many clothes you wear, your nose and eyes need to be bare, and just that much skin exposed to -30 can even kill you. Of course, this friend was born and bred in upstate New York, while I belong to the tropical paradise of Chennai, so there was nothing unexpected in our viewpoints.
Each region develops its own defense against nature's elements with time. For example, fatty meat and alcohol are staple in cold countries because of the warmth they offer. We have our own traditional defense mechanisms. A few minutes back, we had a dinner of cold dadhyodhanam, a simple curd rice, garnished with cucumber, carrots, mango, cilantro and mustard. As the first mouthful of the rice reached the stomach, the body sighed at a perceptible cooling that resulted.
In the afternoon, the kid and I, not wishing to waste sun god's bounty, chose to check out South Asia's largest library, located a hop, skip and jump away from home. On our way back, we walked and walked for what seems like kilometers, in search of a bus stop. What saved us and a lot of people like us from sure heat stroke were the many vendors lined along the sidewalk, selling ilaneer (tender coconut water) and water melon. When we sipped the refreshing drink, straight from its shell, I realized that while coke and pepsi can hoard the "kewl" factor, they can never come anywhere near a simple ilaneer for true "cool"ness.
The only thing that bugs me about our lifestyle in this hot weather is the clothes we traditionally wear. I suppose "traditionally" is a wrong word to use here, because before the ancient foreign invaders corrupted us with their personal standards of morality, our clothes, as can be seen in the many sculptures in traditional temples, were skimpy. Of course, even if you factor in an element of hyperbole for erotica in art, reality would not have been too far off. As seen in the sculptures, both men and women were bare chested, and wore wispy pieces of cloth at their hips.
Then came the Muslim and British conquest of India. The chest became a bad part of the body that needed to be covered and now, here we are, wearing neck-to-ankle covered salwar kameez or the modern 5 meter saree draped multiple times around the body, with its many layers of blouse/underskirts/underwear underneath.
If the ancient invasions ruined our dress habits that were designed so well to face the tropical weather of the country, the recent invasion by the West has replaced our natural food habits that were designed to suit the weather here. So, now pizza, coke and junk food have replaced dadhyodhanam, neer mor and panagam, and we walk in and out of air conditioned enclosures, thereby muddling the hypothalamus and messing the body's natural response to heat.
At least the ancient invasions were by force. The newer invasions have been by our own choice. There is nothing wrong with adopting alien practices, but when it messes up with our natural proclivity, we need to think and act.
With that highly egotistical statement I conclude, wishing co-Tamil Nadu dwellers a safe Kathri season.