The north-eastern part of the country gets cool breezes and overcast skies in May and June, when the rest of the country is in the middle of summer. So I was cushioned from the blazing oppressive heat. But when the vacations began, and I started to travel, I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I was longing for air-conditioned spaces, my eyes were puffing up and I was feeling fatigued.
And then my parents’ home started to get power cuts. Through the night, and through much of the day. Even though we are protected by some greenery, it was still getting very warm and uncomfortable. I was tempted to leave the air-conditioning through the day – to maximise the short spurts when we got electricity. But that didn’t work at all. I couldn’t really be stuck inside a room all day. I tried to find better ways to stay cool.
1. Water: India has a long tradition of adding herbs to drinking water – sometimes to give it a mild flavour (ex: cardamom water), and sometimes to help the body adapt to the weather or build immunity (light decoctions of dried ginger are recommended to combat respiratory congestion). Every region of the country has local herbs that help.
2. Summer Beverages: Even though it is tempting to reach for ice cold soda, or a sugary fruit juice, it will probably be more effective to choose traditional drinks. People in the northern plains use rose petals and sugar to make delicious and healthy summer juices. Much of the southern peninsula relishes lighter cool drinks like buttermilk. Nearly everyone enjoys fresh squeezed sugarcane juice. (As always, speak to your grandparents. Even if their idea of overcoming the summer is to find friends and play indoor games.)
3. Physical Barriers: Try the exact opposite of sunbathing. Stay indoors when it is hot and use physical barriers to protect your body when you step out. Cover your head with a cloth or cap and wear long sleeved, loose clothes made of breathable fabric like linen and cotton (in cool colours like white and pastels). If your body still feels hot, use a light application of aloe vera to reduce the burning sensation.
4. Protect Your Space: If your home or office becomes hot, consider leaving your glass windows open. Glass heats up the interiors. Instead, you can install opaque screens made from bamboo – they can cool the interiors and also protect privacy.
We often forget, in the face of a convenience (like an air conditioner), that there were older ways of staying cool, and methods that were gentler on the environment. Nothing really beats living in a place where trees provide a natural cooling barrier. But when this is not possible, speak to people who have lived in that weather for a few generations. They may have solutions that can make life more eco-friendly.
Added bonus: Their solutions are often wallet-friendly too!