27 September, 2009

Climate change up close and personal

One of my parents old friends visited us last week for about half a day. They used to live close by to our house in Ledo, Assam for about 7 years and have kept in touch ever since. They have since moved to Calcutta. Uncle has worked in tea estates all his life and continues to work as a director for a tea company with estates in northern Bengal.
It is always great fun to meet them. Some of my father's friends are from Telco, Jamshedpur or earlier. I was around 7 when we left Telco, which is why I dont remember any of them. However, with Raghu uncle and Shiela aunty, it is very different. I remember meeting them for the first time as well in Assam and most of the time I have spent in their house. They had a typical tea planter's bungalow. As with many tea bungalows in Assam, all of this had been built long before independence - a time when all the tea managers were British.The bungalow had 2 lawns, each the size of two tennis courts, a vegetable garden the size of a football field, a temple and a swimming pool. There was a separate cooking area and two staircases, one for the sahibs and one from the back for the servants. I was taught how to swim in this pool. Every summer, the pool would be cleaned and filled up. I would reach their house soon after breakfast and swim for a few hours with their son - Akshay. We would break for lunch (heavy) and an afternoon nap(deep). We would be in the pool again in the evening. Uncle and Aunty would also join us later in the evening. At times, even my parents joined. Those were long, happy days.
I asked him if he had seen any changes in the climate in the years in the tea plantations. His job is very close to nature. Tea grows in Assam well because of the climate. It needs a lot of rain (about 100cm a year) in well distributed installments, in a somewhat cool climate and needs great drainage so that the rain water does not settle. Because of this, the entire industry is also a dedicated climate watcher. Tea estates keep detailed daily records for rainfall and temperature. He said that the changes were very, very visible. The temperature regularly crossed into the 40s, where only ten years ago, the yearly maximum used to be around 37 degrees. Rains are now less predictable. He also said that animal habits were changing. Wild elephants and bisons strayed more often into the estates as their forests are getting encroached upon. Entire species of birds were vanishing. Some of the estates used to become a resting place for bees. Every winter, thousands of bees would fly in from Sikkim and make over a hundred hives all through the estate. They have not returned for over two years.
There would be millions of such stories of people who feel a tangible impact of climate change. I cant help but notice that city dwellers like me with oil powered cars and oil powered electricity feel only a negligible impact of climate change.
Speaking of earth-shaking changes, I have a big personal one to add.
I am getting married. The dates are not cast in stone yet, but the person is. She is an absolute delight to be with. I will upload pics when I have some. All my readers (all 5 of you) are invited to the wedding. More details to follow.

1 comment:

Nishant Kapoor said...

congratulations! can't wait to meet her!

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