On April 22, Titlagarh town in western Odisha’s Balangir district sizzled with a peak temperature of 47.5 degrees Celsius! The Indian Metrological Department declared it as the hottest place in the country.
Temperatures in the village continue to rise and, currently, the peak temperatures in the town touch around 48 degrees. But there’s no respite in sight, as this town – which is 450 km from Bhubaneswar – has witnessed temperatures up to a punishing 50.1 degrees in the past. That happened on June 5, 2003.
Deserted streets in Odisha’s Titlagarh where highest temperature of 48.5*C was recorded on Sunday (24th April) pic.twitter.com/CGID5a0vzh— ANI (@ANI_news) April 26, 2016
Here’s a peek into the lives of the nearly 60,000 residents who will bear with this extreme heat till at least June end, after which it begins to cool down:
- By 11 am, the place sees an undeclared curfew of sorts because the roads are deserted. There is no sign of life on the streets
- “We impose a curfew on ourselves in summer. We’re wiser from past experiences, and don’t make plans for weddings or other functions for the summer,” Maneesh Majhi, a resident, told The Times Of India
- To avoid sunstroke, people depend on a local dish called ‘pakhal’, which is semi-fermented stale rice soaked in water.
- “Even Marwari people in our town who eat chapati are subsisting on pakhala now,” Sarat Mishra, a Titlagarh resident, told Hindustan Times
- All work stops after 10 am and the town comes back to life only after 6 pm, say reports
- “As soon as I leave bed at 5am, I sense the heat. By 9am it is unbearable and after 10am anyone out won’t be able to last long. Even when I go out, I tie a wet gamchha (towel) over my head and drink as much buttermilk and soft drinks as possible. The heat is blinding,” a journalist, Dilip Purohit, told HT
- Most people cover their heads with a white cloth and wear white clothes
- Inside homes, people try everything from air-conditioners to aircoolers, but these machines usually give up during peak temperatures
- These days, the town is also facing a water crisis. The groundwater level is falling and people often need water tankers. Recently, a junior engineer of the public health department was almost beaten up by locals because the tanker turned up late
- To make things worse, the town witnesses frequent power outages and low voltage in extreme heat
To being attention to the water and power woes, the locals made a music video in 2007. The video, which also celebrates how they have learnt to live in the heat, became a huge hit locally.