It was refreshing to read our old intern, St. John Barned-Smith, writing in Phawker the other day about his passage to India. He had me at "the air felt like a thick, wet sock."
He was talking about the weather on the islands off Mumbai. Made me think we had it made in Philly where my thermometer quit rising yesterday at 100.
St. John's been on an extended tour since finishing a two-year stint in rural Paraguay with the Peace Corps. He left Katmandu for Delhi. That's where he was met by heat that caused him to summon new words to describe misery.
It was 8 o'clock in the evening. The temperature outside, a brisk 109 degrees.
How do they hang in a country of 1.2 billion where air conditioning is not so common?
I asked St. John to let Blinq's faithful, sweaty readers in on some local tips for staying cool in punishing temperatures when money is tight and you need relief now. He wrote us this:
Indians have had plenty of time to learn to deal with the heat. Earlier today, I checked in with a few of my friends here to find their best strategies. Here they are:
Drinks, drinks, drinks. There’s an abundance of fruit here, and it goes just great in fresh sodas, shakes, and lassis. Specifically, Fresh Lime Soda – Just about every ex-pat I’ve talked to asked me, “Have you had a fresh lime soda?” This is India’s Sprite. Visit any metropolitan center here, and you’ll see food carts covered with glass bottles and mountains of limes. The procedure is pretty simple. A soda maker squeezes limes over a bottle holding a saccharine and soda water mix. After wards, he drops a pinch of salt into the drink, and gives it a little shake. Drink immediately.
I tried one earlier today. The salt offset the sugar and the lime’s tang, and it was a little more viscous than usual. Sort of a homemade, sparkling Gatorade.
In many parts of the country, another go-to favorite is coconut water. Coconut sellers tend to piles and piles of the things, and for the equivalent of 30 cents, they’ll take a sickle, lop off the thick rind, and whack a little hole into the fruit. Plop in a straw, and you’ve got a semi-sweet single serving of water/juice that ends just as you’re getting into the groove.
Lassis and buttermilk are two other staples. Lassis are basically yogurt shakes. If you’ve ever eaten Indian food stateside, you might have gotten a mango version. Here, local flavors tend more to banana lassis or plain lassis, and they often aren’t very sweet.
Buttermilk is another savory, milk-based beverage. Indians mix yogurt with water and salt, and (if they’re looking for a spicy kick,) curry, green chili peppers, and ginger.
There are a few other tricks too. There’s a preponderance of tile in many of the houses here, which allegedly helps houses stay cool longer. (Although I’m not totally sure about this - during my stay in Delhi, I could feel heat radiating off of the walls and floor of my friends’ house.)
Obviously many people here don’t have AC. Instead, I learned, many people here pour water onto their floors at night, or spray their curtains with water. Presto – instant cooling!
Praise the Lord and pass the buttermilk.