This week we straightaway begin with a joke: Winter in Chennai.
For long, friends and relatives — we are here referring to those annoying friends and relatives who have this uncanny knack of thinking what is already a cringe-worthy cheesy line to be a freshly-minted joke —- unfailingly came up with this bit during conversations at gatherings, where the talk eventually turns to the weather. ‘Chennai has only three seasons. Hot…’ the teller would begin and pause for some dramatic effect, ‘hotter…’ and an even longer pause, which was exactly the cue for you to dematerialise from the surroundings because the eventual punch line wasn’t great even when you came across it the first time. And this was the 5169478th time you were going to hear it.
You get the point, other places had weather, whereas Chennai had sandpaper for it.
If life were a popular Bollywood film, this is how the dialogue would have panned out:
Chennai: mere paas beach hai, temples hai, CSK hai, Rajnikanth hai…
Bangalore: mere paas weather hai!
(Blare of trumpets, clash of cymbals, drone of drums signifying that a dramatic line has been delivered, because basically in our films, loudness on the screen translates to drama, and silence means it’s interval time, you moron.).
Anyway, rather than blame nature, we resourceful Chennaiites have done our bit to usher in real winter. Have we opened up the weather sector for FDI? No. So what have we done? Read on.
It is not uncommon for Chennai to end one day at a sweltering 95 degrees and wake up the very next at, what in the rest of the world is deemed bone-chilling, 35 degrees. Some of you may see this as a miracle of cryogenics. But we pull this off through the evolved scientific procedure of moving, unannounced, from Fahrenheit to Celsius scale.
To define: Winter, in these parts, is basically the season brought about by the change in temperature brought about by the change in measuring unit.
The simple rule of thumb is: If the temperature that newspapers are reporting is in Celsius, it signifies winter. If Fahrenheit is the operative term, it, of course, signifies that you are reading an article that is trying desperately to drive home the idea that global warming is getting worse. (Here is a trivia that you can use to establish that you are a science whiz: Till the mid or late twentieth century, most of the countries used only the Fahrenheit scale. But they seamlessly shifted to Celsius because it was, in the memorably resonant words of the scientist Daniel Bernoulli, ‘easier to spell’.)
We in Chennai are used to doing things in ways that are remarkably different from that of the rest of the world.
For instance, at a street junction, when the traffic light switches from green to amber, people in other place take it as a signal to slow down and be ready to halt by the time the red arrives. But here in Chennai, when we see amber we take it as an urgent plea to rev up and drive the vehicle headlong and be ready to foulmouth the motorists coming in the opposite direction by the time red arrives.
For those used to reading from bullet points, this is the traffic system we follow in Chennai — Green: Fast. Amber: Faster. Red: Fastest.
In the event, it’s no real surprise that our winter policy too is slightly altered from what it is elsewhere.
In the rest of the world, winter starts to arrive and people reach for their thermal wear so that they can feel warm. Here in Chennai we start wearing winter dresses hoping that the weather takes the cue and the mercury starts dropping so that we can feel less warm.
I think this technique has started to pay dividends if you go by the number of people who have started to sport the earmuff. Earmuffs have emerged to be the signature winter accoutrement in these parts, and deserve a paragraph for themselves: Simple in design, they are, however, mighty efficient, because they snugly cover the ears thereby blocking the chill of laughter all around you. For, make no mistake about it, earmuffs make you look like the Denizen of Planet Dork. There is no way you cannot stop looking silly with that thing over your head.
The only other thing that even comes close to matching the hideousness and uselessness of earmuffs is the tie. Howsoever you may stretch and strain, you cannot think of any practical use that a tie may possibly serve. It is probably the Vice President in the Republic of Dressland. But it is a moot point that most of those who wear a tie look stupid because of the tie or because of the fact most of them are anyway marketing men.
And finally we come to the most popular way by which we Chennaiites feel the winter: Emigration to the US.
America these days is so filled with Tamils that already there is a complaint that the Bay Area is looking like a mini Mambalam. Another complaint is that winter there is no longer as chilly as it used to be.
Global warming? No, I blame the Fahrenheit scale they are still stuck with in the US.