When Covid-19’s delta wave subsided and the sirens stopped wailing, when the hundreds of thousands of funeral pyres burned out and the bodies stopped washing up on the banks of the Ganges, when the desperate pleas for oxygen and hospital beds no longer dominated social media, New Delhi simply hit “erase” on its collective memory and walked away.
It would be inaccurate to say nothing has changed in this mega-city of 33 million people since the pandemic struck. But the big things — the environmental, unemployment and health-care problems that dominate India’s capital — are as present today as they ever were.
Last summer’s heat wave broke records. New Delhi hit a maximum temperature of 42C (107F) and above on at least 26 days, reaching 49C in some areas. That season’s wheat crop was scorched by the heat. It was so hot the rubber seals on the glass jars in my kitchen melted into the lids. Untold numbers of people died, and we all wondered how quickly the city would become unlivable, when the limits of survivability would be reached. India is already forecasting fresh heat waves across the northwest in the next three months, after the hottest February since 1901.