Hot and bothered? Try nimbu-paani, onions

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Naseem Haider laboriously digs at a Metro construction site in the scorching heat day after day. As he swings his arms through the air, the dripping sweat pours down his face and falls on his already drenched shirt. The sun blazes down as the day progresses, but this hardly bothers him as he has learnt to brave the heat.

Haider doesn't really have a choice as he is a daily wager and cannot let a little thing like the heat come in the way of his livelihood.

"I don't have the luxury of relaxing and taking it easy because it is so hot. I have my own ways of braving the heat," Haider told IANS as he took a short lunch break under the shade of a nearby tree.

His lunch consisted of some 'roti-pyaz' (chappatis and onions) followed by loads of water.

"The pyaz is the best antodote. I have been eating it for a long time. I had never had a heat stroke. Water is the next best thing. I survive on just these two things," the 45-year-old said.

Like Haider, who is originally from Bihar, there are many in the national capital who don't have the luxury of staying indoors when the sun is at its peak or when the temperature is hovering around 46 degrees Celsius.

Most of these labourers and vendors brave the heat as they have to earn their living. They have no choice and so have adapted well to the searing heat.

They feel the heat, but they don't complain about the weather. They have their own ways - some rely on 'nimbu-paani' (lemon water), while some others use a wet towel to cover their head.

"Hot or cold, my body has got used to all kinds of weather. It doesn't matter any more. We (labourers) start work at nine and finish at five. During this time, the sun is at its peak. So I wet my gamcha (towel) with water and put it on my head and neck. It helps to cool my head," said Babu Lal, who vends knick-knacks at the Janpath crossing.

Flashing his gutka-stained teeth, he said when the heat becomces unbearable during the afternoons, he sits under one of the trees and ventures out only when the sun is setting.

"I keep on drinking water. Sometimes, I take nimbu-paani also," Babu Lal told IANS.

Ram Avatar, another vendor in east Delhi, who sits on the pavement to sell sunglasses, said for him the shade under the Metro line is the best protection.

"When the sun shines brightly, I usually sit under the Metro line. It is shaded and as people cross the road, I am sometimes able to sell my wares while I am taking rest. Usually, I depend on nimbu-paani," he said.

Ram Kumar, an auto rickshaw driver, curses the heat for making him lazy and drowsy during the afternoons.

He has, on ocassions, turned down passengers in the afternoon for his "beloved siesta".

"This heat is just killing. Afternoon is the worst time. You feel so sluggish after eating lunch that both mind and body just swtich off. But I have to earn a living. It is a blessing that we (men) can remove our shirts. It is nice to feel the air sometimes," he said with a sheepish smile.

For Manish, who sells cold water from a trolley, summer is the best time for business.

"I like the summer. I always stand near a tree or near the bus stand so that when people come for water, they can relax too. Most of the people during the heat need water and they come to people like me. They feel refreshed and rejuvanated," he said.

"I do well during summers," Manish said with a smile when asked how much money he makes in a day. A glass of water costs Rs.2 and if you convert it into a nimbu-pani, it cost you Rs.7.

As he operates in the Delhi University area, he has also started keeping glucose and cold drinks too.

"Lots of students are coming here these days for admission. When they started asking for cold drinks, I thought why not keep them. I am happy that I took the decision. I am doing well," he added.

As he is making good money, Manish occasionally treats himself to a cold drink.

"I indulge myself sometimes and then I take a cold drink. It is good to treat oneself sometimes," he chuckled.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)

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