Extremes of weather

 By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

‘Rain, glorious rain’ I was tempted exclaim, shortly after having returned from my walk at Trou-O-Cerfs yesterday morning. As I slowed down to enter my yard, a slight drizzle had started and, alighting from the car, I enjoyed the mild tickle of the light, cool rain drops on my face. I met my neighbour who was just coming in from the early morning ritual of going to buy fresh baguettes or pains maisons at the bakery, and almost together both us said the same thing: Let us pray that it rains!

It was the same wish that I and my fellow walkers, who like me were feeling the heaviness of the sultry morning and still air, had repeated to ourselves a few times in the very first round we were about to complete. The reason for the optimism was the heavily overcast sky in all directions, and we were really but really and sincerely hoping that the heavens would open up and rain come pouring down. For Curepipians to make such a prayer is a genuine sign of concern, for usually we are complaining about too much rain in these parts.

Alas, the drizzle lasted but a few minutes, disappointingly, so we will have to take patience and keep hoping that our voices will be heard by the rain gods! Although, as I told some other friends the other morning, I don’t think we have reached desperation stage: in fact, I told them, I distinctly remember that in 1982 — most probably – I and a friend had crossed the caked bed of Mare-aux-Vacoas from one end to the other during our Sunday walk, on our way back home around midday. The sun was beating down on us, and my elder friend who knows these things better than I do pointed out that the low stone wall we were seeing towards the middle of the bed and rising from the considerably shrunken size of the lake that we were seeing was its the old boundary. I do not remember that there had been dire warnings of water shortage despite the spectacle of an almost emptied reservoir that supplies most of the island if I am not mistaken.

In subsequent years, we have been witness a few times to a completely dry Mare Longue, and ditto for La Ferme reservoir too, and we asked ourselves what happens to the fish when this happens, and where do they come from when the reservoir fills up again. The meteorological office has announced rain for after the 15 December, and all of us are pinning our hopes that the guys will be right – and in the same breath not wishing for no cyclone or cyclones though! But this, we know jolly well, is not in our hands.

What is within our control though is to heed the advisories we are getting from the competent authorities about the need to be sparing in our use of water, given the situation. We were pained to comment that there were still people who were getting their cars washed everyday using precious water from the mains, and condemning them for their lack of conscience and irresponsibility. The least we can do is to look around at home and take the simple steps that can help to contain the shortage until better days come around: not opening fully the tap when we are using water at home for routine washing and cleaning, teach the children not to flush every time they use the toilet for the small job (and not forget to pull down the toilet cover); avoid washing the car from the hose and instead use a bucket and sponge/cloth – in any case the car is not getting dirty; not keep the tap running when we are shaving. And so on – this is not rocket science, and we can resort to simple common sense to work out for ourselves ways and means to avoid wasting water for our own and the collective good.

I recall the summer of 1976 in England: it was supposed to be the hottest one for nearly 40 years, and hardly anyone alive had any experience of what it was to be so hot. But for me and my late wife this was most welcome after the hard winter we had spent in Dublin. We had never in our lives till then experienced cold of that extreme, snow, non-stop grey skies and having to go about with what felt like tons of clothes to keep warm.

My boss in Mauritius, Dr Keating who was himself a Dubliner, had warned me about what I was going in for when I set out for the three-months plus course held at the Royal College of Surgeons starting end of January. We were making a detour through India to see the family before going to Dublin, and Dr Keating who was familiar with India for having been posted there during the Second World War, told me to get myself a ‘monkey cap’. You pulled it down over your head down to the neck, leaving only the face exposed. But do better still, he told me, because it gets colder than that in Dublin. When you wake up in the morning, only the tip of your nose must peep out from under the blanket for you to breathe, and leave a slit for your eyes to see – all the rest must be covered up!

I must say that I followed his advice to the word! Just looking at the pictures on TV at snow-bound England and France is enough to send a cold chill down my spine! Gosh I would not like to be there!

To come back to the bright and beautiful summer of 1976, severe warnings were issued by the authorities about car washing and watering private gardens, and I think that in general people followed the advisories. Let’s be responsible and do the same here. OK?

* Published in print edition on 10 December 2010

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