Surviving UK’s hottest day ever with modern twist to ancient Indian wisdom

Surviving UK’s hottest day ever with modern twist to ancient Indian wisdom
Courtesy: photosindia | photosindia / Getty Images Plus Via Getty Images

It's in human nature to get accustomed to comfort and goodness quickly. The human body acclimatises itself to its new living conditions. And hence, as the country logged the first-ever red alert weather warning, many British Indians found the weather equally unbearable as their English counterparts, even though they have the inborn experience of withstanding a much hotter summer often in India.

Lack of infrastructure

Software Engineer by profession, Indranil Dhar takes an avid interest in the changing climate and global warming issues.

"Infrastructure in the UK is not congenial for temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. We do not have air conditioners or ceiling fans in every room like in India. And because we are away from the equator, the sun rays are more harmful and stinging," Says Dhar.

Ironically, he was vacationing in various parts of India before arriving back in the UK amid the heat waves.

"Because of the monsoon, I found my stay in Kolkata, Rourkela, Ranchi, Delhi and Mumbai very enjoyable. And then I've landed in the hot soup here in London," laughs Dhar.

But then again, as the saying goes, one can take Indians out of India but cannot take India out of the Indians!

So, when the whole country started roasting at record high temperatures, British Indians found ways to cope with the heatwave smartly and help others, blending ancestral wisdom with science and innovations.

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Vouching by Ayurveda

Riddi Viswanathan came to the UK as a student eight years ago from Chennai.

"My mother was extremely concerned about my health, especially during summers, because my body cannot tolerate the heat. She gave me some valuable ayurvedic tips to follow, which helped me immensely even this year," said Viswanathan.

"One is to apply cold pressed pure Castor oil to the big toe of your body and massage it for two mins. This is a speedy and effective remedy to cool down the body.

The second one, of course, is to drink lots of cold water. Keeping water in cold earthen pots is highly beneficial for the body," Viswanathan imparts some proven techniques from London.

Indigenous improvisation

Dr Sonela Basak, is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with the National Health Service (NHS). She informs that she and many of her neighbours in Cambridge have resorted to the 'wet towel technique' to get themselves an indigenously homemade air cooler.

"We're doing what our parents and grandparents have done– dampen a towel and hang it in front of a table fan. As the fan blows the air out, it circulates through the cloth, and the room air feels cooler. This is how we've beaten the 40 degrees here in Cambridge," she said.

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Specialist NHS Doctor and Animal Activist from Manchester, Dr Sharmila Sen drew inspiration from history.

"I've used the age-old Indian methods from the British Raj era to keep my house cool. When the British were in India, they had these massive colonial bungalows in which khus khus curtains used to be doused in water to keep the air blowing through it cool. I had to modify it, obviously, because I don't have khus khus curtains. I have very normal curtains. But I've sprayed them with water mixed with peppermint essential oil. This not only kept the room cool and smelling minty fresh, but also kept the insects away," Sen said.

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Donning her physician's hat, Dr Sen also imparts some valuable advice:

"Stay indoors for as much as possible. This is not a time to get a tan but a sure shot way to get skin cancer and heat stroke. So don't go out unless you absolutely must. And then wear hat, sunscreen and drink plenty of water, nimbu pani. Indoor, turn off all unnecessary appliances, computers and mobile screens and try to consume everything you cook. Don't store foods."

Bolaka Bhattachaya from Blackburn recommended naturally cooling breakfast and lunch dishes like flat rice (Chivda) soaked in water with sugar and salt, to keep the electrolyte balance in the body.

"Soaking freshly cooked rice in water and eating is also a perfect meal option for hot afternoons," she said.

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Luxury of shade and shelter

However, staying indoors might not be an option for many, especially when the country is battling its worst ever homeless and refugee crisis.

Founder of non-profit organisation Go Dharmic, Hanuman Dass, said his organisation doesn't stop a minute from serving, no matter rain or shine.

"A big part of Go Dharmic has been to raise awareness about climate change, and since COP 26 and going through COP 27, we needed this big wake-up call. Global warming must be taken seriously as things will only worsen unless we change lifestyle and actions," he said, drawing our attention to the forest fires that were ablaze this week in London.

"We are serving homeless and vulnerable people across the UK and in this heatwave it's challenging for them because free water supplies are not readily available to help them with meals.

The bigger picture is that we must take these warning signs seriously and lift our heads out of the sand. And seriously think about reducing harm to our planet through limiting animal agriculture and economic impact on the environment and thinking about how we can trade more gently on the earth," appeals Dass.

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