The Weather Rules OK?

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

There isn’t a single person that I have met over the previous week, until Monday last, who has not had something to say about the weather. It made me apprehensive that we might be running the risk of turning into Englishmen, who are proverbially known to greet each other daily with depressing news about the weather.

But we had reason indeed to do so. If I am not mistaken, at the beginning of the winter season when we were pleasantly surprised to have some nice warm days, the Met office had warned that colder days were to come shortly, and to be prepared to face them. I remember talking among friends about this advisory from the Met. We did not dismiss it, but perhaps more wishfully than realistically we secretly hoped that it would not come true.

Alas, it did…

Before the spell of cold, up until last Monday, that had us scurrying home from the open when we were done with the day’s business, we had had a couple of weeks of practically daily rainfall, and it did not seem to have any pattern that we had been used to before. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light, at other times sudden and transient, then again more prolonged, adding humidity to the atmosphere, and mostly cold and windy at the same time too. For example, I was at a wedding in Bramsthan on Sunday afternoon. The doli had left about ten minutes before, a little past one pm. And some of us were still standing on the road outside the gate when suddenly, for no apparent reason – because although the sky was slightly cloudy the sun was about, sort of — there was a massive downpour complete with wind and a sharp drop in temperature! And barely another ten minutes later it had stopped as abruptly, and the sun came shining out brightly. How does one explain this? I won’t even try!

Because of the cold, parents were happy that the children were on school holiday, but keeping them indoors – that’s another story! I guess there’s plenty to do, what with games and TV? And then gramme bouilli, gateaux piments, bhajias, crepe doux/sales… which I know that many a mother would have to keep preparing to entertain the kids. Nowadays one also adds chicken franks and such other modern items in the snack range, many of them proscribed by nutritionists as being harmful, and rightly so because of their high salt and oil content and additives of various kinds. Hope the mothers and fathers are taking note…

The lost art of boredom

But in other climes, things seem to be different, as an article in the British press laments. Rhodri Marsden in The lost art of boredom (Wednesday, 11 August 2010) says that ‘despite the mind-boggling entertainment opportunities available in the 21st century, helping to alleviate their (the children’s) boredom in the summer holidays can be a test of creativity akin to sculpting them in marble. Children still think there’s “nothing to do”. They’re still bored. And despite adults thinking of the phrase “I’m bored” as the whining mantra of the inexplicably dissatisfied child, we adults are bored too. Boredom is endemic. And it’s getting worse.’ The header for the article reads as follows: ‘Children are fed up. Their parents are too. We’re uninspired at work, and listless at home. Perhaps it’s time to embrace being bored – and learn to love it.’

We go on to learn that ‘boredom, that almost indefinable absence of something-or-other, hangs as a backdrop to modern Western civilization… But not only are we living in the worst era for getting bored, we’re also living in the wrong place. No one is as bored as we are in the West. In many Eastern cultures, the state of emptiness that we find so distressing and feel compelled to obliterate with video games and cut-price cocktails is seen as a beautiful, placid liberation…’

Perhaps we should then consider ourselves lucky that we have not reached such an advanced stage of civilization? – and take a fresh look at our own rich cultural and social mores and assets which keep us occupied enough not to feel bored, especially when bad weather forces us to stay indoors. I think that during these times children do find things to do and keep them away from boredom in our little island. As for adults who may get bored, oh dear, there really isn’t much I can say on this, since I have no experience at all of such a state. I for one have never found the time to get bored. On the contrary, I feel that even if days had 48 hours, I would want another 48 added just to be able to keep up!

But I am digressing – which, come to think of it, can be a useful way of not entering into boredom, as long as one knows when to rein in oneself. Guess I am doing that now… Coming back to the particularly harsh past weekend, in spite of Saturday morning’s promising beginning and which lit up several rays of hope for a lovely two days before facing Monday blues. The hopes began to be dashed by late morning. The remainder of the weekend was bitterly cold, and even in places where we of les hauts cannot imagine anything approximating what we could call cold, I met friends and acquaintances who said they were tucking in almost immediately after dinner – too uncomfortable to sit up and be at the computer or read: better to do that in bed, and go on to fall asleep. How delightful, really!

I know, ‘cos I have been doing that too. But the flip side, after a certain age, is that one tends to wake up early! And then take a second nap, best thing to happen. Since Wednesday everybody is a-smile, for sunny days seem to be here again. Before that, at the crater in Curepipe, there had been many morning absentees, myself included on a few days. Some changed their timing to the afternoon, still OK isn’t it, to catch up. So there’s no time, see, to get bored!

Lucky and blessed

Good reason to always consider ourselves lucky and blessed down below. It’s not all that bad, the nasty spells do not last that long, and we are able to go about our occupations practically normally, provided we take all the precautions to ward off the cold blasts. We discussed what was happening around the world, most recently in Pakistan, with the rivers swelling and causing floods estimated to have produced more damage than even the tsunami did in the regions where it struck some years ago. A mind-boggling 14 million-plus people are displaced, and there has been criticism of President Zardari for not having rushed back home from what is referred to in the local media as a non-urgent tour of Britain while the floods were devastating his country. As if this was not misery enough, there was a suicide bombing in Karachi, and the Pakistani daily The Dawn feared that the Taliban might aggravate the situation by scaling up their attacks in this period of weakness.

In India too, the same river system as in Pakistan has caused flooding too in the northern regions, Ladakh notably, although the damage is on a lesser scale, and the number of dead less. Still, both countries will face similar problems of water-borne and other diseases, there will be refugees in large numbers needing crucial assistance which may be delayed because of the difficulties of access – and so on, myriad problems all the result of inclement, unpredictable changes in the weather. Earlier, if we recall, there had been flash floods in China and mudslides in South America with major loss of lives too

Regularly, as international meetings on climate approach – the last one being the Copenhagen Summit a few months ago — there is controversy about whether human activity is responsible for global warning and climate change, and whether the science behind climate change is sound or not. In fact, something called ‘Climategate’ came up, in the wake of leaked emails on the topic from the Climate Research Unit of the University of Anglia. It caused sufficient embarrassment for the authorities to set up two special committees to investigate and clear several points of contention, both about the science of climate itself and about the good faith of researchers in the field.

As laymen in the matter, we cannot enter into an intelligent debate on this issue, and will leave it to those who know better to do so. We can only go by our day-to-day common experience – and it shows that things are not the same as they used to be. Which is but natural, for change is the law of everything. For now, let us therefore enjoy what’s on offer, as lovely dawns followed by cool mornings and warmer days lift up our spirits. Really, no grounds for boredom in this part of the world! Cheers for that.

* Published in print edition on 12 August 2010

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