A grin spreads across the sunburnt face of 45-year-old Raju Prajapat as two more men park their motorcycle next to his sugarcane juice shop. “I have made a profit of Rs 1,000 every day for the past five days,” says Prajapat, as he deftly manoeuvres the machine to press the sugarcane and pours the juice in plastic glasses for his customers.
He says that Rajasthan’s Churu district is the place to be if one wants to earn some quick money selling sugarcane juice. On Monday, the district clocked 50.3 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest place in the world that day, as per the weather mapping website eldoradoweather.com.
The roads are deserted as the afternoon sun breathes fire. To cool them, water is splashed on them by water tankers of the local civic body.
“We are used to this weather. It is advisable not to venture out in the afternoon, but who will feed a person if he sits at home? Putting a wet towel on your head when you go out helps, but not much,” says Om Singh, a resident.
The problems increase manifold for those who cannot afford a water purifier. Local residents are wary of the high concentration of fluoride in water in the region.
“At least 50 patients get admitted in hospital every day due to dehydration. Their relatives often come to my shop, and I provide them purified water. Impure water has left many residents ill,” said Sushil Swami, a shop owner near the Churu government hospital. Rajkumar Saini, another resident, adds that water from tankers costs Rs 800-1,000, and families are often unable to afford it.
The doctors, too, have prepared for contingencies, expecting a heavy rush of patients with the first monsoon rains.
“At present we are trying to provide as many air coolers as possible in every ward of the hospital, especially for the newborns and elderly people. We are getting patients due to the heat, but it is after the first rains that more patients will come in,” says Dr Devkaran Gurawa, Deputy Chief Medical and Health Officer, Churu.
According to the meteorological department, Churu sizzled at 48 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, and was again the hottest place in Rajasthan. In this district in the heart of Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region, both summers and winters usher in extreme weather. However, residents say that they have become used to the extreme climate.
“We don’t understand what the big deal is. People coming from other cities always ask us how we survive in Churu. They say this was the hottest place in the world yesterday, but for us it was just another hot day,” says Mahendra Nyol, an advocate from Churu.
He adds that ice-cream, rabri and curd help them brave the heat, and gestures at the glass of rabri he is having.
Ice shops, too, are making profits. “Since the heat wave hit Churu, we are selling more than a hundred slabs of ice, priced at Rs 140 each, every day,” says Pramashwar Lal, owner of an ice shop.
Preparing juice for another batch of customers, sugarcane vendor Prajapat says the extreme weather will ensure he never goes out of business.
“In summer I sell sugarcane juice and in winter I sell roasted peanuts,” he says.