Who takes the chill pill?
Air-conditioning is at the heart of humanity’s great divide. Do you shiver in protest or give it a warm welcome?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that two (or more) people in a romantic relationship cannot share temperature compatibility. I can say from decades of experience that it’s easier for a couple to agree about politics, religion, money, family, leisure and turmeric latte (blech) than about the ideal AC setting in the bedroom (26 degrees Celsius, of course).
Chances are, one of the two in a shared bed will be shivering in her sweats like a tropical bird stranded in the tundra, while the other snores blissfully after hate-watching a celeb reality show.
It’s not just lovers: What ends in the bedroom begins in public spaces. From airports to restaurants, cinema halls to stores, there seems to be one common temperature setting (like one kind of sambar that runs through all the Udipis in Mumbai): The agonisingly uncomfortable. I recently braved three ferry rides in the Andamans, each lasting at least an hour. I don’t know which was tougher to endure – the blaring Punjabi pop videos on swank LED screens featuring unreal cars and the people who own them, or the blustery cold waves wafting out of the countless AC vents. Five out of ten of our travelling party, including your writer, developed fevers and chills. The other five are trying to have Gal Ban Gayi surgically removed from their frontal lobes.
There’s a hierarchy: Somehow – and this is as arbitrary as saying one race is better than another – those who thrive when the temperature is 17 degrees Celsius or lower are considered superior to those who like it toastier. The struggle takes many forms. Mountain zealots will sneer at beach idlers, prodding them about their cold-sensitivity like smouldering wood in a bonfire. Yes, we like it when it’s warm and humid. Maybe we don’t sweat like you do. Or maybe our bones are more brittle. But, as poor Shylock once said on our behalf: “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”
It’s better for the planet: There’s an irrefutable argument against the hegemony of AC fiends – it’s bad for the planet. Of course, individual acts of responsibility and sacrifice pale in comparison with large-scale negligence. But, let’s all agree – because the alternative is chilling – that we can make a difference. If your partner dying of hypothermia or mounting electricity bills aren’t a deterrent, let me Thunberg your conscience into raising the temperature, as well as the spirits of your colleagues and companions, endlessly subjected to your lust for the cold. You break into hives if the ice in the room melts? We’ll get to that crisis when it hits. Right now, it’s all eyes on the melting glaciers in Antarctica, and the little remote in your hand that can avert the disaster. Sorta.
The struggle: Until our trembling voices are heard by this cold-hearted planet, the warm brigade will continue to remain those social outcasts who request that the AC beast is tamed in salons and pubs. Our fate is to draw disapproving glances from strangers and pitying sighs from loved ones smug in the illusion that their skin knows better. But we won’t despair. We’ll open windows with the moral high ground of (accidental) climate warriors whenever we can, signalling the end of yet another ice age. We’ll develop our own shaming tactics, build our own folklore and ultimately, wrest control of the remote forever. Until then, could you please raise the temperature by just one degree?
From HT Brunch, March 4, 2023
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch