Opinion: Life hacks from India on how to stay cool (without an air conditioner)

By Gulrez Shah Azhar

In Uttar Pradesh, India, where I grew up, temperatures can soar as high as 120 degrees in May and June. But very few people have access to an air conditioner.

With a per capita income of around a $1,000 a year, many people in this part of the country can’t afford to buy an A/C unit or pay the power bills that come with using one.

So how do people keep cool?

That’s a question that people are asking themselves as the world faces unprecedented heat waves, including in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Europe, where many do not have air conditioners. Severe heat has already killed thousands of people this summer.

Yet people in India and in other countries across the Global South have long figured out ways to deal with the horrible heat. And so, I’d like to share a few tips on how to stay cool that I’ve learned from my upbringing and elders in Uttar Pradesh. Some of the advice is just what you’d think – like drinking lots of liquids and staying out of the sun – but others might surprise you.

This op-Ed was originally posted on NPR on August 2, 2022.