Nilanjana Roy is a novelist and journalist based in Delhi, India. She is the author of two novels, The Wildings (2012) and The Hundred Names of Darkness (2014), has edited two anthologies and is a contributor to FT Weekend. (July 2019)
This spring in Delhi, the temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the first time in almost fifty years that the city had seen that kind of heat; on June 9, the government issued a red alert, as the mercury reached 118 degrees. At that temperature, your eyes feel sandblasted, your skin feels on fire, the water is hot from the tap, and the leaves on the neem and amaltas trees wither and shrivel. The worst-affected of the city’s 1.98 million population are those in jobs far from the luxuries of air-conditioning or ceiling fans—construction workers, clerks who cycle for miles to their offices, delivery boys, the women who run pavement stalls. At least 100 deaths across the country have been attributed to the heat, and city hospitals have seen a spike in emergency room visits, mostly for heat stroke, severe dehydration, and lung problems—with parts of the country potentially becoming too hot to be inhabitable.