Cold play: Mumbai braces itself

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Mumbai, Feb 10: Mumbaikars are shivering under an unusual, cold weather with the temperature dipping southwards steeply and showing no signs of abatement.

The race seems to be on the negative side between the climate and the capital market, as choppy conditions sent shivers, literally, across people. It all started on January 24, when the city under the influence of northerly chilly wind wafting along the teeming metropolis saw the winter jitters emerging. The Mumbaikars thought that it would be a one or two day phenomena, But it was not so. The cold wave that has enveloped the city seems to have no intention of abating.

Mercury sunk to a new low in 45 years when the barometer read 10.2 degrees Celsius on January 28 at the minimum. As cold winds continued to blow, Mumbaikars could not even enjoy the warm sun in view of the murky conditions. But more was in store for them as the city's temperature nose dived further on February 8 to touch a second all time low temperature of 8.5 degrees Celsius. It was a shade better the next day at 8.6 degrees Celsius.

The previous low in the city was 7.4 degrees Celsius way back in 1962.

Makeshift bonfires with groups of blanketed people huddling around is a common sight as houseless people and taxi, autorickshaw drivers make efforts to keep themselves warm during the night. Pubs and night clubs are reporting increased revenue by over 20 per cent.

Sales of pull over cardigans, sweaters and shawls has gone up predictably in the city.

A shopkeeper said, ''It is very rare in the city, and this kind of chill has been seen after decades. Sweaters, pull-overs, cardigans, monkey-caps and shawls are selling fast, depending on the quality of wool with Kashmiri shawls being the most expensive.'' Adding a twist to the chilly tale, another shopkeeper laments the fact that supply has not kept up with the demand. ''We have sold more shawls than in any other year, but the manufacturers have been unable to meet the demand. Worse, they have increased the prices,'' said Hasmukh, who owns a cloth shop in the town area.

From the man on the street to the CEO in a penthouse, the unusual weather has affected different stratas of the society in different ways. ''The cold has resulted in the need for more firewood, and less customers now as they go to bed early,'' said 12-year-old Altaf Basheer, who mans a paan shop and sleeps on the pavement with his family at Agripada.

''Me and my brothers have been feeling feverish at night for the past two weeks,'' he added.

Altaf's neighbour, Mohammed Arif, who works as an agent for LIC, faces a similar problem. ''We now have to spend extra money on woolens and blankets, and this has upset our household budget.

Customers have also become difficult to track down as they stay at home for a longer time rather then attending office,'' Arif said.

City-based Dr Lalita Bhat, who has seen her patients increasing during the last few days, told UNI, ''Its a tough time for asthmatics as they start wheezing due to the cold. Asthma patients are very sensitive as they react to mild changes in the weather as it pertains to the respiratory tract. Also in extreme cold, very dry skin can lead to eczema in rare cases. Old people, who go for morning walks, sometimes find it hard to inhale such cold air with the moisture being laden with dust particles. Yes, there are patients who come with temperature, cold and cough.'' On the brighter side, homemaker Priti is glad that prices of many vegetables have fallen. ''The prices of vegetables like methi, spinach, carrot, cauliflower, cabbage are very reasonable. They are healthy in winter,'' Priti said.

''Thanks to a chilly winter, some of us can flash a different set of clothes and style which we would have never thought about earlier,'' exclaimed Dhara Mehta, a first year student at JJ School of Architecture.

The weather bureau taking no chances in forecasting the fickle weather, can only provide cold comfort to the city by issuing a generalised ''mainly clear sky with marginal increase in temperatures''. So the days of huddling around a bonfire, strutting with the knee length boots, frying 'pakodas' and sipping tea to warm the cockles may still be played out.

UNI

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