In a perfect world we would all travel when the weather was horrid back home and fabulous in our destination.
That weather would always be temperate and a little sunny, but not too much, and not too rainy. As a result, we wouldn’t need to schlepp woollies and umbrellas around the globe.
However, as it stands, we all need to travel regardless of weather, and so for travelers heading towards India at this time of the year, there are basic precautions to take against the heat.
Because, make no mistake, hot it is across the whole of India in those baking hot pre-monsoon months.
South India gets the monsoon more than a month ahead of the north of the country, so right now while there is some relief in Kerala, the plains of central India, north India, Bengal, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Delhi are all reeling under extreme heat.
Staying healthy and relatively cool in the summer is not rocket science, just common-sense and a certain amount of pro-active protection.
First rule is not to rush around needlessly.
Unless you have to venture out, stay indoors in the shade. If you have to go out, for a meeting for example, then even so, try and schedule more time than usual. The heat saps everyone’s energy, so the whole pace of life seems to slow down accordingly.
Try and time visits or meetings first thing in the morning or in the evening, when the worst of the day’s heat is over. Change your rhythm and routine to make better use of the cooler parts of the day.
Wear a hat. It never ceases to amaze how few people wear hats against the fierce sun in India. Make sure the nape of your neck is covered, as exposure there is a sure fire way of getting sunstroke.
Wear cool light clothes. Just look at the way Indians dress – loose pajamas, kurtas, flowing saris – nothing tight or constricting. Follow their example. Do not think that by wearing less you will be cooler. You won’t. Wearing skimpy clothing, you will get sunburned and be stared at. Rather, cover up in loose cotton clothes.
If you are indeed sight-seeing in the heat, remember that you have to take your shoes off in temples and mosques. Those marble paving stones will be burning hot, so take a pair of socks to wear once you have removed your shoes.
Drink lots and lots of fluids, and then some.
Tap water is not safe, so stick to bottled water or filtered water. If in doubt, rather drink coconut water – the coconut will be opened in front of you and, by the way, coconut water is always recommended should you be unlucky and get Delhi belly.
A delicious drink in India is nimbu pani – water and lemon juice – or nimbu soda – soda water and lemon juice. Add a little sugar and salt to taste, and it is ideal for the hot weather: the salt replaces the salt lost when you sweat, and the sugar gives you a little energy boost. Once again, should you succumb to the dreaded Delhi belly, nimbu pani with sugar and salt is an absolute must. Bottom line – drinking lots of fluids in the heat is a must.
Avoid any food that has been left lying around in the sun.
Do not, repeat do not, touch those slices of coconut people will try and sell you at traffic lights. Yes, they do look cool and refreshing, but they are to be avoided. Never mind the dust and the dirt, the coconut slices are sprinkled with water to keep them looking fresh.
Do not eat that salad of sliced tomatoes offered with your lunch in a restaurant. Only eat fruit that you can peel or have peeled in front of you – coconuts, bananas, mangoes and lychees (two of the seriously good things about an Indian summer).
Now, having said that, it’s not actually all that bad. There are far fewer visitors in the summer, and if you time your visits to monuments to the coolest parts of the day, you may be lucky enough to have them to yourself, which is an amazing experience.
Last year, in the broiling heat of May in Madhya Pradesh, we visited Orchha. There were just the two of us in the fort.
Two people. In India. Now when does that happen?