Pune witnessing hottest summer in 52 years: Will perish if we wait for perfect weather, say daily wagers toiling in sweltering heat

The scorching summer - the maximum temperature in the city soared to 43 degrees, a first in 52 years - has intensified the day-to-day struggles of the thousands of small vendors and daily wagers in the city.

Written by Megha Roy & Shivangana Chaturvedi

With the summer sun beating down on the city, more and more residents are preferring to stay indoors, but for many, like cane juice seller Sanjay Bhosale, it is time for work.

"No matter how many notches the temperature climbs or how much one despises to come out in the heat, if I choose to stay inside, my family of six won't have anything to eat," says Bhosale.

The cane juice seller, who had lost four of his fingers a few years ago while at work, says, "I have to bring my father, who is suffering from cancer, to work everyday ever since I lost my fingers, as I can no longer operate the machine. It kills me to see him sweat profusely in this heat. Some days I feel like I cannot do this anymore, but I have no choice," he says.

The scorching summer - the maximum temperature in the city soared to 43 degrees, a first in 52 years - has intensified the day-to-day struggles of the thousands of small vendors and daily wagers in the city. Gangadhar, who sells ice candy, colloquially know as gola, says: "You can complain when you have alternatives. When you don't, you learn to live with it."

While wiping off the beads of perspiration on his temple, the middle-aged man says his struggles have begun to pay off. "I have four houses in Bihar, all built with the money I saved by selling ice golas over the years. I have two daughters, both of them study in an English-medium school. Earlier, they used to complain about going to school in the summer heat. Then I told them that this ability to complain was a privilege in itself and they should understand that I have worked relentlessly in scorching sun to provide them this privilege," he says.

Santosh, a roadside tailor on Apte Road, starts early each morning as he can't seen seen properly past sundown.

"My mother wants me to rest. She says, I'll get fever if I work in this heat. But tell me, for how many days should I stay home? It is hot every day. Each day is hotter than the previous one. If I don't work, then what will we do? Die in hunger?" he asks.

The situation is worse for rickshaw pullers and food deliver agents, who have to stay on the road even when the sun is blazing on them.

"I have lived in Pune for 45 years, but never witnessed such heat. Afternoons are especially unbearable. The only solace perhaps is being able to afford a fan and sleep under it at the end of the day," Dhananjay Rajput, rickshaw driver, says.

Rajput, who lives in a small house in Bibwewadi, says he carries a bottle of water to survive the heat while on the road. "I keep sprinkling water on my face on and off."

First-year BCA student from Bharati Vidyapeeth, Manthan Jagnade, who is juggling between college and his work as a part-time food delivery person, says the going was getting tougher each day. "I have to work to support my family and manage my studies. Toiling under the sun will only make the fruits of my labour sweeter," he hopes.

Some have, however, managed their work schedule around the blistering afternoons. Lalit Ghule, an employee of construction group Motilal Dhoot that is supervising a bicycle track and footpath work on FC Road, says, "We slow the pace of the work in the afternoon, doing most of the work before noon and after 3 pm."

Asked how they deal with the high temperature while working, Santosh and Ravi, two youngsters working under Ghule, says: "Drink water. What else?"

Echoing their sentiment, Pappu Waghmare, a fruit seller on FC Road, says, "Nothing works like water. I am here through summer, monsoon and winter, selling seasonal fruits. If I wait for the perfect weather, I will perish," he says.

A little away, Manzar-ul Islam, a teenager from Malda in West Bengal, fans away the files hovering over his juice stall. "Business is usually good in summer, but for the past few days the heat has become very uncomfortable. But like thousand others, I have to bear it to make a living," he says.