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An unexpected English summer: How London is giving Kolkata stiff competition with its heat

Kolkatans may think that they have seen worse than the London heatwave, but a London-based Kolkatan would rather face the heat back home

Shivangi Sen | Published 20.07.22, 11:37 AM
Years of living in Kolkata have turned out to be poor preparation for tackling the ongoing heatwave in London

Years of living in Kolkata have turned out to be poor preparation for tackling the ongoing heatwave in London

Ankit Santra

English summers are all about picnics at Primrose Hill, lemon refreshers from Starbucks, trips to Brighton beach, cycling at Hyde Park and going for walks by the Thames. However, that is not how the English summer is unfolding this year. With record temperatures being reached and breached every single day, Londoners have mostly been confined to their homes. 

The government announced its first-ever Red Extreme heat warning as the UK prepared itself for record temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and above on Monday and Tuesday, almost 10 degrees more than Kolkata. Londoners have been encouraged not to leave home unless absolutely necessary. London's underground and national rail services have been reduced to avoid the rail lines from bursting into flames due to heat and friction. Even airports have been shut down due to the runway melting from the scorching heat. 

'These past couple of days have really challenged my heat tolerance'

For Shivangi Sen, summer plans on Primrose Hill are on indefinite hold due to the London heat

For Shivangi Sen, summer plans on Primrose Hill are on indefinite hold due to the London heat

As a Kolkatan, I am no stranger to high temperatures and heat. I have grown up playing and running around in scorching heat during summers that resulted in chilled Glucon-D or lemon iced tea once I got home. Back home, we have been trained since childhood to deal with high temperatures. So, when I moved to London, a far cooler place, last year, it was a most welcome change. However, these past couple of days have really challenged my heat tolerance, in spite of being a Kolkatan. 

On the outside, it may seem that we should be able to handle the high temperatures pretty well, which in most cases we do, but what most people do not know is that London is built to deal with the cold and not the heat. All houses and offices have been built to retain heat due to the mostly cool weather all year round. Around 90 per cent of houses in London are not equipped with fans or air-conditioning. Consequently, this heatwave has presented itself as a double threat – going out is as painful as staying in. 

Resembling the burning pits of hell

Most of London’s roads were empty on Tuesday, as Londoners opted to stay in to take cover from the heat

Most of London’s roads were empty on Tuesday, as Londoners opted to stay in to take cover from the heat

Being a student who lives within the halls of university accommodation, I have been left with no choice but to go out and buy a small stand fan for my room as it had become dangerously close to resembling the burning pits of hell. The halls have turned off their centralised heating but temperatures inside the room are still reaching close to 30 degrees Celsius. 

“When I first read in the news that temperatures may reach 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, I thought I’d be able to deal with it easily because I’m from India. I’ve never been proved wrong this badly in my life till now. Sitting inside my room feels like I’m inside a burning cauldron and going out feels like I’m going to melt,” says Raina Shah, a fellow university halls' resident.

With temperatures hitting 40 degrees and above in the east of England on Tuesday, this week has witnessed the UK’s hottest day ever, beating the previous  record of 38.7 degrees Celsius in Cambridge in July 2019.  

It seems unreal saying this, but for the first time ever, London feels and actually is hotter than Kolkata. For the record, I would prefer the Kolkata heat to the London heat (read torture) any day. However, since I cannot travel to Kolkata anytime soon, I have made all possible arrangements to mentally transport myself there — the fan in my room is set at the highest possible speed and a glass of lemon iced tea with chunks of ice is placed on the table — while I argue with my friends why the heat in London is so much worse than in Kolkata.

Last updated on 20.07.22, 11:37 AM
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