Sabahat Quadri Works


Six Degrees From Hell

The two pictures above are of my cats, Yoda and Samurai, just after they’ve been bathed. These are two different cats, father and daughter, though they look practically the same when wet. Normally, bathing them is a two-man job—one person holds the cat while the other shampoos and rinses. Today, however, both cats loved the bath, letting me soak them and rinse them without a fuss. That might be because, today, mercury levels were at a miserable high of 42° C (108° F) at two in the afternoon. Today, even the air conditioner could do little more than normalise the temperature of the room. And the water in the overhead tank in our house actually boiled from the heat. All the taps in the house had hot water running through them.

It’s been like this for the past few days. By eight o’clock in the morning, I have to be careful when I turn on the tap, because I am likely to scald myself. It took me a while to realize that the only way to get cold water is to catch the water in the pipes, which means the water that runs out in the first five seconds. After that, well, let’s just say that I’m saving on the gas bill by turning off the water heater. Sigh. I miss cold water in my shower.

This morning, when I went out to open the front gate, I was faced with a blast of hot air. A searing shaft of sunlight hit my skin and I felt like it was slowly roasting off. The metal bolt on the gate was hot to the touch; I had to wrap the end of my shirt around my hand to pull the bolt back (it’s a large bolt). It was just after eight. By the time I walked back into the house, sweat was dripping off my forehead, and my shirt was stuck to my back.

This is possibly hell. It doesn’t help that the heat wave has intensified into the first week of Ramzan. It doesn’t help that, out in the heat, I can’t drink several gallons of water to cool myself down. I can’t do anything, in fact, except rinse out my mouth or wear an ice pack around my neck (I look ridiculous but I’m past caring).

Staying home is only slightly better. The heat wave is intense and there’s no breeze. Without an air conditioner, homes are basically brick ovens, slowly roasting us alive. I guess, with the number of air conditioners running in the city, we were bound to affect the power supply at some point or the other. So the first two Ramzan breakfasts I had were sweat-drenched meals by candlelight. On both occasions, it was too hot to go back to sleep (sehri, or breakfast, has to be eaten before 4:20 am, when the first call for prayer goes out), so I spent the dark mornings on my terrace, searching vainly for that elusive breeze that has always been Karachi’s trademark.

Yes, this is hell, but I have to admit, for every bone-sapping moment that I’ve spent cursing the weather, I’ve also been grateful.

Grateful that I have a car and don’t have to walk in the blinding sun to get to and from work every day. Grateful that I only have to go out for errands, as I work from home. Grateful that I have an air conditioner and can afford to pay the exorbitant power bill that will hit me this month.

Grateful that, at the end of the day, when I break my fast, I can drink gallons of ice-cold water and lemonade to replenish the water I sweated off during the day. Grateful that this is the season of mangos and falsa (a tart, juicy berry that I consume by the kilo) and jamun (like falsa, jamun are only found in the Subcontinent. Jamun are a deep purple fruit that aren’t tart or sweet, but are irresistible. Eating too many stains your mouth blue and dries out your tongue. Needless to say, my mouth is often stained in this season).

Most of all, I’m grateful that I don’t live in Jacobabad or Sukkur, cities in Interior Sindh suffering under soaring temperatures of 48° C/118° F coupled with hours of power outages.

Six degrees separate Karachi from Interior Sindh. This can’t be hell. Maybe just purgatory?

One response to “Six Degrees From Hell”

  1. I heard a report on PRI’s The World about the heat wave in Karachi – http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-06-23/pakistanis-must-deal-heatwave-while-fasting-ramadan – and I thought of you and yours, and hoped you were bearing up. I remember seeing a tweet from you that might have suggested you’ve left the city for somewhere cooler? There’s a heat wave in the UK too, I hear, but it can’t be anything like this.

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