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Mumbai winter, near sea by Altamash Kadir

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Mumbai winter, near sea: on climate change, an infrequent & indifferent monsoon, & a perpetual humidity

(Photography & Writing by Altamash Kadir)

To me, winter has always been more of a feeling than a season. The reason for this is that I am geographically located rather uniquely. Currently (and as it has been like this for most of my life), I live proximate to Juhu Beach. Situated in the abstraction that is the social, political, geographical epicentre of the city, the Suburban. This area is already known for having wet and dry climate. Additionally, the beach ensures that the humidity levels where I stay are higher than the standard for the region. This means a lot of sweat and very little of the cold that defines winters generally.

Even though it has enjoyed very little seasonal fluctuation historically, Mumbai’s seasons are divided in three theoretically distinct parts, summer, monsoon, & winter. Honestly, it feels like the weather in this area is humid throughout, with an interchangeably harsh sun or rains. With that being said, and with the evident absence of any cold let alone hail or snow, it is amazing that there are a couple of days every year and sometimes, a week or two when my weak legs shiver out of the cold. In this essay, I will expand upon the only such experience I have had all year. Subsequently, I will contextualize the variables that lead to it. Even though climate change is responsible for my days getting hotter and dryer, it is likely also responsible for the December rains and thus, my winter days.

Earlier this December, the rain was rather incessant for a couple of days. However, it was somehow not overbearing. My sweat sensors could identify a lack of humidity from the outset. The air was pleasant. I attribute this abstract sentiment as the exclusive parameter to my limited understanding of winters. The chill I felt during my morning walk shaped my perspective for the entire day in strange ways. After an hour of walking, my body was slightly sore somehow. Furthermore, I did not come even close to sweating. However, to me, the part of this that made me feel like it was winter and not monsoon the most was the evident absence of excessive monsoon’s humid moisture in the air. I could feel my mood being great for the whole day from the moment I came back. This is winter to me. Slightly cold breezes, jackets in the mornings a couple of times and a welcome break from perpetual humidity.

The heavy showers on Wednesday (the 1st) are the highest recorded Mumbai rainfall (91.2 mm rain in 24 hours compared to 2019’s 1.2 mm rain and 2014’s 1.5 mm being the norm) by the India Meteorological Department in the month of December ever. Even though occasional rain in the last two months of the year is not very unusual, not sweating during these showers. An infrequent cyclonic circulation traversing across Asia is the reason for the introduction of this seasonal shift. Such a variation is emblematic of environmental decay and climate change. The temperature of the sea is not constant. It has been on a scarily exponential increase especially recently. Greenhouse gas emission contribute to this significantly. A warmer sea means more heat for such circulation to fuel itself with and more moisture to absorb. Relevantly, at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, India has promised to cut emissions net zero. The commitment assigned for this is set at 2070. However, I hope we do not end up being late.

The set of photographs attached to this essay depict the aftermath of rains to clouds with an implicit theme of barriers co-habitation and coexistence with keeping the responsibility of climate change in mind. This progresses linearly unlike the seasons, and slightly, abstractly much like winter. The condition this curation follows is irony. The size of subjects along with the theming and emotion is instrumental to the condition. The first entry depicts emptiness, while the second and third entries depicts occupation of the sky by birds with the second entry depicting the flock going away. The final entry points to the reason for this. The cost of human development and growth with is compared to the airplane solely occupying the sky. Against the backdrop of climate change, this is allegorical to environmental imperialism.

About the artist:

Altamash Kadir is a self-taught photographer. He is a lawyer by qualification, and is presently learning economics. His interests include archiving urban modernity and ethnographic storytelling. Find him documenting his opus @__kaltoo


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