Heat wave leaves poor and rich with little options

New Delhi, June 3: For Pushpa Rani, 38, a labourer who works a 16-hour day, seven days a week, the blistering heat that keeps most Delhi citizens indoors is no reason to stop working.

“My husband died due to cancer five years ago and I have three kids at home. If I don’t work daily, they will go to bed hungry which is not acceptable to me,” says the sole bread winner.

With much of the nation in the grip of a scorching heat wave, few people are hit as hard as the poor, who have no concrete roofs over their heads and struggle to sleep at night.

“There are frequent power outages and no proper water supply,” Rani, who resides in an east Delhi slum cluster, told IANS.

While some would argue that one should remain indoors during daytime to avoid the heat, for 34-year-old Sheela, a housemaid, and her children, that is not an option.

“We don’t get water supply and our house has tin roofs so it is like a furnace in the afternoon… Hence, both my kids are forced to stay outside,” said the resident of west Delhi’s Todapur area.

“Both of them are ill due to dehydration and this happens almost every year,” added Sheela, who hails from Harayana and came to the capital 12 years ago in search of greener pastures.

Poverty and lack of resources force the not so privileged to tread on despite the rising mercury.

Balraj Yadav, 50-year-old autorickshaw driver and a father of three, would love to rest during a scorching afternoon, but needs the extra money to treat his ailing father.

“My father has not been keeping well for past several months back home in my village in Bihar and I need all the extra cash,” said Yadav.

“On days when the heat is unbearable, many of my friends park their autos under some shade and doze off but I cannot afford that ‘luxury’ now,” added Yadav, as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

While the poor have little or no choice, the situation is not so comforting for the average middle class as well.

Anjana Sharma, a 28-year-old receptionist in a private firm in east Delhi, says she commutes around 30 km daily to her office and back home on her scooty. The heat has tanned her skin.

“My whole face and arms are tanned and there is pigmentation on my skin. The dry wind and the harsh sun rays are unbearable, but what choice do I have,” said the resident of Mayur Vihar.

The power outages is a hassle for the middle-class too.

“It’s impossible to sleep without the air conditioner on and when at 2 a.m. there is a power cut your sleep is obviously broken. And if the power cut is a couple of hours long, it means your next day’s routine will go for a toss,” said Pradeep Manchanda, a salesman from west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh area.

“I roam around the city all day and at night all I ask is for a few hours of peaceful sleep in an air conditioned room. Summer is a torturous time for the average Delhiite,” Manchanda told IANS.

IANS