How do Indians manage to keep their cool when it’s so hot over there?


How do people who live in hot climates manage to keep their cool?

No, really, I ask the question in all seriousness. As someone born and bred in a hot climate, I know that one just gets on with things however hot it gets. But I ask the question on behalf of fellow Londoners who don’t have my kind of grounding in the tropics.

From what I see here in London, which has been having a mini heatwave of sorts, hot weather makes everyone hot-tempered. Not only that, the heat is supposed to give people a pass for bad behaviour.

Some Londoners seem to think rudeness and impatience of every sort can be excused by referring to the heat.

Consider this text message from some one who’s been doing some work for me every couple of months for more than a year:

“I was driving earlier. I’m busy and it’s hot. If you want to book a time then please give me a call. Regards.”

That was in response to a simple request from me. Mine went as follows: “If you got my text messages, please let me know so I know they were delivered.”

Surely a fairly anodyne plea, nothing to provoke impatience even from someone who’s driving and busy. But here’s the key point: the man said “it’s hot” to explain his lack of response. Why did he write “it’s hot”? Who knows? Perhaps he meant it’s too hot to bother to reply to my earlier text messages. Perhaps he meant it was too hot to do much of anything.

“It’s hot” has become a common excuse for inaction, inattention to detail and irritability. And yet, it’s not that hot in London. Not as hot as Delhi. Or Abu Dhabi. Or Tunis.

On Tuesday, July 24, which everyone said would be the hottest day of the month, the temperature was 29ºC. That’s one point higher than Mumbai but I’d wager it was still more pleasant in the London shade – all cool and comfortable – than in Mumbai. Thursday, July 26, really was hot and everyone wandered around looking grim and miserable.

Actually, the fact that Londoners are behaving more aggressively because “it’s hot” wouldn’t come as a surprise to some academics. There are all sorts of theories about climate as a driver of culture and that hot climates predispose people to violence.

Two years ago, a paper (PDF) in Behavioral and Brain Sciences proposed the CLASH model for understanding violence. Lead-authored by Paul A. M. Van Lange of Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the paper’s model stood for CLimate, Aggression, and Self-control in Humans. People in a colder climate were more future-oriented and prone to self-control, it said. The reverse is true for hotter climates.

None of this is proven but what is demonstrably true is as follows: too much sun is making Londoners irritable and prone to self-pity. If only the stiff upper lip were in action instead. Yes, it’s been hotter in London than it normally is. And yes, it’s been hotter for longer than it normally is. But that’s no reason for the people to mimic the weather.

If so, Indians in India, for example should be regularly blowing up at each other. They would erupt like individual volcanoes that allow the lava to burst out as satisfyingly violently as possible.