English Summer -- Siraj Syed

English Summer -- Siraj Syed
My first and only visit to London was in 2003, during June-July. It was the hottest European summer in decades. One afternoon, the train I was travelling in suddenly stopped between stations, and just would not start after that. Soon, passengers became restless. It was being murmured around since that morning that temperatures had hit 39°Celsius. When I inquired what the problem was, I was told by the conductor that there was a train ahead, and we could only hope to move when it did. For half-an-hour, it just wouldn’t. The heat inside was becoming more and more unbearable. 
 
I asked the conductor why he wasn’t opening the windows. He replied that he couldn’t, because they were sealed. The train was designed for cold weather, and the idea was to keep the cold out. But couldn’t he do something? Sadly, no. The only arrangement was for heating the train, not cooling it! And surely, we did not want him to turn on the heating system? God save us, NO! 
 
By now, mothers with babies, senior citizens and persons with illnesses, began to get extremely restless. Over the next few minutes, some highly disturbing information emerged, to add to our woes. Somebody had died of a heart attack, inside the train ahead. A helicopter was coming around to take the body away. But why was the train ahead not moving, for so long? Due to unprecedented heat, the tracks had expanded, ever so little, but it was extremely dangerous to run the train on expanded tracks. It would move after getting clearance, and would even then, move very, very slowly, as would we, behind it. This was too much for us poor sufferers.
 
It had already been an hour or so in the enclosed, steaming hot compartment, and dehydration was setting in. Naturally, many of us started feeling dizzy, and demanded that we be provided water, somehow, anyhow. The conductor said he had no water on board, but the train was carrying beer and some snacks, not for sale on this route, which, he magnanimously declared, was up for grabs. I was carrying some water, and, in any case, under no condition was I going to be tempted to drink beer, chilled at 39°Celsius. Needless to say, not a can was spared, and the considerable  five minutes after the treat was announced! Where there had been crates were now craters! And only wrappers floated around, in their emptiness.
 
We managed to reach our destinations without any casualty. Still coming to grips with such a freak summer that negated all I knew about London, I called home, and spoke, in turns, to three persons in Mumbai, about my believe-it-or-not experience. They all had some good laughs, doubted my sobriety, and asked me whether, instead of England, I had landed up in a Rajasthan desert! 
 
The next morning, there was a story in the London papers that a local man had won a fortune, by betting that the temperatures would touch a whopping 40°Celsius that day. The British love gambling and betting, on anything,from horses to football to cricket, but imagine what the odds must have been, to favour the lucky punter, who bet on the English Summer! Now, let’s talk about the weather, shall we?
 
 
Siraj Syed is the Consulting Editor of nrizone.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
Views expressed and claims made in the articles on this site are the contributors' own, and nrizone does not necessarily agree with them, or endorse them, in any way.
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