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Ways Of The Weather – Then & Now



Ways Of The Weather – Then & Now

Mausam ki jaankari, from DD to INSAT. A glimpse into how Indian weather forecasts have changed over time.

Two curious incidents spurred me into writing about weather reports, which are, admittedly, not the most pressing issue at hand in the daily affairs of this vast country. And still, if you stop and think about it, how many times do you need to consider exactly that – the weather – during an average day in your life? You start the morning by picking clothes based on the weather, and you end it by sliding under sheets (or turning up the fan) whose thickness (or speed) depends exclusively on the temperature.

The first incident in my case was a cousin’s messages where she revealed that her daily schedule in London is decided exclusively by BBC forecasts. “We can chat another 20 minutes”, she’d tell me on Skype, “the rain is going to stop at 3:07 pm.” And at 3:07 pm the skies would clear and bring an end to our chat session. How could it be? How come it is so difficult to predict weather here? How come Indian trains run 40 hours late due to fog?

Which brings me to the second incident. It’s my mother who, being an ace typist in her heyday, has taken to the world of technology with superb ease and is now a part of some very active whatsapp groups. Nostalgic whatsapp groups that exchange youtube links to shows such as Mirza Ghalib and Jaspal Bhatti, aired on Doordarshan in an era when Aamir Khan was still wearing diapers. “Salma Sultan!” she exclaimed yesterday. “She’d always wear that flower below her ear. Oh those days…”

Na, it didn’t ring a bell for me either. I had to Google her. Salma Sultan was a news anchor on DD for a good three decades starting in the ’60s. She, and others from her time like Shobhna Jagadish, can be seen looking graceful in their saris. The news hour would usually end with the weather report, which had little to offer except the tapman in the main cities. (Tapman as in temperature, not a simplified plumber.)

In the background used to be an inanimate, double-shaded India map with the cities marked in red dots. We mean a 2D graphic, not even a satellite image. In the foreground would be a handsomely, traditionally dressed anchor with a wooden stick in hand, manually pointing at each red dot and announcing the temperature. Before this, most Indians had to be satisfied with temperature updates exclusively through radio, or else basic tabular data in leading newspapers. Those early updates were borderline poetic, since in the absence of desired technology to feed enough facts, it was left to the forecaster to ‘flesh out details’.

Weather reports on TV channels today are slightly different. For starters, like every single element displayed on the screen, most of the maps that are used as props for these reports are also used as advertising platforms. So you might have a branded tractor taking you from city to city, or there could be a wall paint logo blinking over places expected to be hit with earthquakes, so you remember to pretty up your home before its complete destruction.

In an effort to spare my mother any such sponsored Indias, I dug out 3 interesting apps that are worth sharing for their interface, even if we don’t give a damn about the precipitation outside our living room.

India Satellite Weather:

This will make you feel like a weatherman yourself. Screw the forecast, you can just look at the satellite images and try make your own predictions. Very 3D. Perfect for parents awed with gadgets.

Indian Weather Radars:

Here’s one updated every 10 minutes with radar images from Indian Meteorological Department.

Air Bubbles:

Back in DD days there wasn’t enough pollution to demand daily reports. But the new India could do with more regular updates on how foul the outdoors are. For that, this app with its simplistic interface works wonders.



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Mineli Goswami is a 24-year-old Assamese-East Indian, which usually translates into pretty good weekend feasts. When she’s not at her desk struggling with poetry – more often than she’d like – she’s seen wasting time on an assortment of things such as lugging an antique SLR, breaking nails climbing boulders, and chasing turtles. She’s graduated in history and has an unofficial PhD in Bandra-style jiving.

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