Thiruvananthapuram:For a place that is supposed to witness an important weather event, there is hardly any excitement at the weather office in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram.
This is where the southwest monsoon, which is officially supposed to make landfall on Tuesday, first comes knocking.
Perched on top of a dense green hilltop, the place has the look of a deserted palace. Once, the chief weatherman, Kerala director of India Meteorological Department (IMD), would have been getting calls from the Prime Minister’s office and international media.
But on Monday, the current director K. Santhosh was having to field calls from construction contractors and event organizers, prompting him to switch off his mobile phone.
Like every day, he gave a weather report to his headquarters in Delhi by 10.00am, from the 14 rain gauging stations that he supervises in Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mangaluru. By 10.30am, he had attended a video conference with his superiors in New Delhi that lasted for a few minutes. For the rest of the day, Santhosh said, he didn’t have much work—allowing him to enjoy the view of the dense tropical garden below his spacious office, and sip his black tea.
Indian monsoon is too big a beast to be left alone for a local supervisor to manage, and the operations now are more or less centralized in Delhi, says R.R. Kelkar, who as former director general of IMD handled six monsoons between 1998 and 2003.
The monsoon, often called India’s real finance minister, forms the backbone of India’s farmland, almost half of which remains unirrigated. A good monsoon is crucial for the rain-fed economy, as much as for a peaceful state. A bad monsoon and water shortages can bring down governments and cause riots, making politicians so wary that in Gujarat, the local government was planning 41 yagnas (offerings) to please the rain gods this week. The idea was dropped at the last minute.
The IMD has predicted 97% normal monsoon in 2018.
“The Thiruvananthapuram officer will not have the total picture in front of him, as he does not have the global view. For instance, what is happening in the Indian Ocean now? That is why the final decisions are taken on Delhi," says Kelkar.
Outside in the city, however, the monsoon is finding its way into probably every other conversation. Kerala saw incessant rains in many places on Monday. It frightened politicians, who feared a low voter-turnout in a crucial bypoll, as much as ordinary people whose houses were flooded while roads were blocked with uprooted trees.
In the evening, Santhosh stepped out of his office to watch the skies, like many others across the country.
“Except that it is my job," he said