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Delhi climate in India and how to survive it

Back in Nebraska, we joked that there were 5 seasons … Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall and Construction. Delhi seems to have 3 … Summer, Winter and Monsoon.  I’ll share with you some of my tips for getting through each season of Delhi climate and adjusting as best you can! SUMMER :: Adjusting to the summer heat in Delhi can be a chore. With temperatures typically ranging from 35-45 degrees Celsius (100 – 113 degrees Fahrenheit), it can be quite oppressive.  Factor in the humidity and you end up with normal “feels like” temperatures of sometimes 52 Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) !!

The climate in Delhi India High Temperature

The summer months and associated heat begins in April (give or take) and lasts through at least September.  The following are some of my suggestions, based on our experience, for how to handle, survive and actually ENJOY the heat!

  • Get in the habit of placing filtered water bottles in the freezer each night.  When you place those frozen water bottles in your car in the morning, you are left with deliciously chilled water throughout the day!
  • Drink water, drink more water and drink some more water.
  • Pack baby wipes in your car.  Perfect for washing hands, legs and faces AS WELL as providing an instant “bath” if you will.  If you are out and about for several hours, a quick wash down is helpful and often NEEDED!
  • Plan for short trips out.  If you need to go to the market, avoid staying any longer than one hour.  If you are planning a sightseeing trip, be prepared that you might need to cut it short based on your children’s ability to handle the heat.
  • Make friends with someone who lives at a farmhouse (i.e. has a POOL) or consider joining a club that has a pool.  If you keep a bag in your car that contains an extra swimming suit, some towels and goggles, you’ll always be prepared for a quick dip in the water!

WINTER :: On the flip side, winter can be a shock to the system as well … although you won’t find snow and water left out overnight is unlikely to freeze.

  • Wear layers when you leave in the morning.  Having an item or two of clothing you can shed throughout the day is a big help.  Often a very chilly morning gives way to a very pleasant, if not quite warm, afternoon!
  • Purchase radiator or fan heaters for your home – as most homes have chilly marble floors and little (if any) insulation.  Teach your children to wear socks, don sweatshirts and keep blankets in your living spaces.
  • Most markets have sweaters galore and some even offer warm coats.  Purchase some mittens for the coldest of mornings.
  • Know that winter doesn’t last forever and is the coldest only for 4-6 weeks!

MONSOON :: Another component of adjusting to the climate is the monsoon season.

Monsoon Rains in New Delhi India
  • Wear flip flops during monsoon season, or bring your rain boots!
  • Carry a bag/purse that ZIPS shut.  Nothing is more frustrating than a purse full of water!
  • Ziploc your wallet, makeup, anything else you want to protect should it fall out of your car.
  • Keep a stash of towels in your car.  Better to wash towels than have damp/musty seats in the car!
  • Let your children enjoy monsoon season.  We’ve never seen rain puddles quite like this!

Those of you who live (or have lived) in Delhi.  What other tips and tricks can you offer readers on how to acclimate to the climate?  

Bombax Ceiba tree in Delhi India

The Bombax Ceiba, otherwise known as the “cotton tree” (or in our household the P.I.T.A. Tree) has been an obsession during the three years we lived in India.

Bombax Ceiba in New Delhi India
Bombax Ceiba New Delhi India
Bombax Ceiba Delhi India

During the month of May, it somehow magically generates little pods

Bombax Ceiba Delhi India

that in turn produce cotton fibers that SNOW everywhere ::

Such a trippy and funky piece of India that I will never forget!

You’re leaving India?

The dialogue when I tell someone that we are moving goes sometimes like this ::

Them :  You’re moving?  But I thought you guys were here for like, a l-o-n-g time?

Me : We have been here for a long time.  Three years!

Them : But, you’re like the most settled person I know in Delhi.  You can’t leave yet … what about [insert the things I’ve been involved with since moving to Delhi]?

Me : Well, those things existed before I got here, and they sure will continue after I leave!  The couple of things that I created myself or with others will either find new owners or will change a bit with someone else taking over.

Them : But I thought you were here at least until your biggest little graduated from high school?  He’s staying here for Senior Year right?

Me : No, he’s going with us.

Them : That’s so hard.  I can’t imagine doing that.  Are you really ready to go?  I think you’ll get bored.  It’s just so … normal there.  No culture, no vibrancy.  Just normal!!

You're leaving India and other questions about expat life

I’m struggling a bit with the fact that I am allowing myself to feel judged during these conversations.

I’m going to be honest in this post and admit to you that I find myself either feeling :

1.  Guilty.  Guilty, because to those that feel stuck here in Delhi, Singapore is like winning a lottery ticket.

2.  Defensive.  Defensive as I explain to people that the Husb will still be working the majority of the time here in Delhi, while the kids and I relocate.  I don’t owe the details of our situation to anyone, yet I find myself instantly wanting to go on the defensive.

3.  Angry.  I get pretty angry when I feel like I am being judged because we are “already leaving” — as if I owed it to someone or anyone to stay a set period of time.  No one scoffs at the embassy folks who are leaving at the end of their 2 year post.  No one pshaws at the hospitality folks who have finished their 3 year contract and knew they were leaving in May.

4.  Confronted.  I am allowing myself to feel like a traitor when approached with comments like “but you didn’t finish x, y, z” — as if I am abandoning ship before the time is right.

5.  Inadequate.  As if I am not strong enough to eek out another year or two in Delhi.

My catch phrase that I’m beginning to get tired of hearing myself say is “No one is giving me any gold stars for staying in Delhi!”

(I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the subject, but for now will leave this post as is … raw and written on the spot)




Why is there no time change in India?

Facebook status updates scrolled by one by one … everyone complaining in some form or fashion about the time change. 

I haven’t set my clocks back … or forward for that matter in over four years.  A bit strange, right?  It’s not that I’m refusing to run with the pack, it’s just that both India and Singapore do not recognize the time changes. So why is there no time change in India?

Wool Craft by Lis Dingjan

Image credit : Lis Dingjan

Singapore’s reasons are simply because they sit too close to the equator for the extra hour to make any difference.  There are no changes of the seasons (wah), and the beginning of daylight stays the same (virtually) 365 days a year.

As far as India’s logic and reasoning goes, the government created IST after their independence in 1947.  Calcutta and Mumbai kept their original local time (stubborn much?)  until 1955.  The India Standard Time is UTC +5:30 (that extra half hour is such a pain in the butt!).

Because India is such a wide country (1,200 miles – which is just under half of the east-to-west distance of the United States)), the sun rises two hours earlier in the east than it does in the west.  It has been proposed in the past that the country be split into different time zones to conserve energy, but because that would mean a return to the British time zones, the suggestion was not adopted.

The ONLY location in India now who follows a time zone separate from IST is in Assam.  Tea Time in the gardens/fields are one hour ahead of the rest of the country.

I’m happy enough to not have to worry about the time change, but if it meant having the fall chill moving in, I might concede … for just a season.