Published in The Tribune
It is an established fact that the world blows hot and cold at us all the time.
In the literal sense, those who live in India learn the meaning of ‘hot’ quite early in life. But it takes a ride on the Shatabdi Express to learn the meaning of ‘cold’!
No journey on the Shatabdi is complete without the inescapable feeling that the North Pole has shifted somewhere in the vicinity of North India. Nowhere on the planet is the yearning for Eskimo-type clothing as intense as on the venerable train that runs from Chandigarh to Delhi.
Try as one might one just cannot escape being frozen to the bone after a ride on this train. One could try to cajole the train officials into increasing the temperature; one could even try to meddle with the air-conditioning machinery when no one is looking. Whatever one does, the chances are that the super-cool treatment would surely continue after the shortest of breaks.
The general excuse that is handed out to one is that people have paid extra money to travel on an air-conditioned train and that they would only get their money’s worth if Icelandic conditions are simulated for them.
The one way in which one can avoid such a severe trial by ice is by wearing woollens and thermals, no matter if summer is at its peak. Thus the sight of experienced Shatabdi-goer clad in layer upon layer, complete with monkey-caps, does not surprise one.
Some hotels and offices follow suit. The Chief Air-Conditioning Officers (CACO) of such establishments insist on keeping the room temperature at 18 Degrees Celsius, thereby not paying any heed to the demands of energy conservation and environment protection. The resultant body aches and colds that AC-sufferers like us develop are of no consequence to them at all. One wonders if the previous experience of such CACOs included a stint aboard the Shatabdi Express.
Even car drivers seem to have ganged up against us mortals these days. They feel extremely proud when the interiors of the car feel more like the insides of a refrigerator. And conversely, they feel extremely annoyed when one asks them to tone down or switch off the bone chilling action of the AC.
Restaurant waiters too look at us askance when we ask them to spare us the extra chill so that we may enjoy our meal.
‘Chilling out’ may well be the mantra for today’s generation but for us old-timers the omnipresence of air-conditioning in the modern era is very off-putting. We would much rather feel the heat like most Indians do anyway.