It's just 10.30am but 25-year-old Rohit Jain is lowering the shutters of his ceramics store before an undeclared curfew comes into effect. In Titlagarh, one of the country's hottest places, it's the unrelenting heat that keeps people at home these days.
By 11 am, the roads are deserted and there is no sign of life in this western Odisha town, 450km from Bhubaneswar. "Only a fool will risk facing the burning sun. Even stray animals stay in the shade. Business can be done another day," says Jain before heading home. The Titlagarh market opens at 10.30am during other seasons.
This town of 60,000 people is even named after the climate: Tatla means 'very hot' in the local Sambalpuri dialect. This April, the temperature hovered around 45 degrees Celsius and touched 48.5 on April 24. The hottest day ever in this town was recorded on June 3, 2003 -50.1 degrees Celsius. Though they're used to the heat, residents say the temperature has stayed over 45 for the longest period this year. "Previously, we'd have very high temperatures for a few days, which were followed by hailstorms," said Sudam Behera, a government employee.
The town now functions before 10.30am and after 6pm. "We impose a curfew on ourselves in summer. We're wiser from past experiences, and don't make plans for weddings or other functions for the summer," said Maneesh Majhi, a resident.
To survive the open oven, people eat pakhal (semi-fermented stale rice soaked in water)."Eating pakhal and frequently wiping the skin with wet towels helps," said Kailash Chandra Sahu, sub-collector of Titlagarh. "We avoid outdoor tours after 11am. I always keep oral rehydration salts, even in office," he added.People also keep their heads covered, usually with a white cloth, and wear white clothing.