Surprise breeze chills the city. The sky gets cloudy all of a sudden. It gets darker. And then, this zillion dollar question springs up in your head and pumps up your adrenal gland. “Ippo mazhai varuma? varadha? (Will it rain now or not?) To know the answer, you rush to pick your phone at a lickety-spilt only to check the most wanted Tamil Nadu Weather Man’s update.
Tamil Nadu Weatherman – He is one courteous human who has voluntarily shouldered the responsibility of having open dialogues with the common people through social media to disseminate crucial updates of weather and rains. He not only alerted the people well in advance to take precautions during the December floods and Vardah Cyclone, also, he had the absolute concern to ease the fear and anxiety that prevailed in the city aftermath of such catastrophes by denying the rumors that were creating unnecessary havoc in Whatsapp and Facebook.
Tamil Nadu Weatherman, R.PradeepJohn who passionately translates the language of clouds and rains speaks his heart out while answering my 11 (interesting) questions.
1. People may or may not know Pradeep John, but definitely every smartphone user in our State is hero worshiping Tamil Nadu Weather Man. Can you share the backstory of this man?
I was blogging about weather, rainfall in various other weather blogs for over 10 years. I also had my own blog in the name www.tamilnaduweatherman.blogspot.com . But it was in October 2014 just at the time of onset of North East Monsoon, where I thought that Facebook and Twitter are the social medium where information reaches fast and I can disseminate weather alerts to the public and share my knowledge in the best of my ability. In the initial six months, hardly 5 persons would see my post in a day and some days not even one person. But I love what I do and so I kept on posting and then it all slowly started to change from November 2015 and more than ever, the December 1st flood warnings changed everything and people started to trust my posts and that changed my life forever. So for you, that’s the background of this Tamil Nadu Weatherman.
(Great ! So it is the unwavering passion despite whether supporters brace up or not is the thing that has made you to evolve dynamically over these years. And that’s why today you stand out as stalwart in what you do ! We can’t forget, your updates that came with warnings and safety concerns during December 1st rain which were of high significance and that’s from when even I started following you, Tamil Nadu Weatherman.)
2. What inspired you to be a Weatherman despite being a Finance guy? (not sure if u are in to finance, kindly clarify if it’s any other stream)
I have a BE in Computer Science and a MBA in Finance. But it never played a role in giving up what I loved the most. I love rains than anything. I am a Pluviophile (lover of rain and rain gives me joy). You won’t believe if I say this or may even think that I make up things now. But this is the truth. Not a moment in my life has gone without thinking about rains right from my childhood. I used to stare in admiration at the falling water droplets that pour from the GI sheets in CSI Ewarts School, Anna Nagar during my 4-Std days. I would create deep pot holes in my colony which I can look out from my balcony only to measure the quantum of rainfall and how fast it fills up. Those days, there were no automatic rainguages available and so this was my way to measure rains. Now, with advancement of technology, even school kids buy expensive automatic rainguages. When you truly love something, it never goes out of your heart. It remains there till your death, to me rains are like that.
(Wow ! Measuring the rainfall quantum in 4th standard! I only remember my cravings to munch potato chips and to ingest steamy hot molaga bhajjis when it rains during that age ! (hehe.. I only do that even till now) By the way, I am really fascinated to know how rains have ignited a fire in your soul right from your childhood that even today, you continue to follow your passion. Despite settling in some other profession, pursuing your passion with determination is ain’t easy at all unless you devote yourself to it. Kudos to you!)
3. How do you mange to forecast without being in meteorological department? I mean, they work as a team on different avenues using the technology but how are you doing all this stuff single handed? (I have wondered many a times how you manage to update things from home )
There are a whole lot of guys like me out there and also some who are even better than me but not known to the eyes of public. Even if you take a stat, you will see Tamil Nadu and Chennai having the most active weather blogging community than all of other states in India put together.
I can never be the official weather man. IMD is the official weather forecast provider. The only thing is that I try to provide last mile connectivity to public through the means of social media. My style is to keep it simple. I report all rainfall activity with respect to Chennai and extreme rainfalls in other parts of Tamil Nadu. I try to educate at times so that people understand our weather pattern. A day like the December 1st or Vardah Cyclone is the one that could become a matter of life or death.
People desperately want to know when the rain will start and end and also how heavy it will be or will it create floods or not. That’s all. And I stick to this formula. I don’t hype things for likes or shares. A day like December 1st or Vardah cyclone landfall are the only days I advised people to stay at home just knowing something bad is going to happen.
I love numbers and stats. No one else in this country would have the stats like I have. So with such factual data in my hand, I indicate if any weather record is broken and stuffs like that.
Our meteorological department should encourage guys like us instead of seeing us “Ivanku enna theriyum (what does he know).” We can never become weather forecasters like them. But they can never provide update to people as we do with the last mile connectivity in the social media. I have good friends over there. A pat in my back from them or just one word from them saying “Thambi, super da,” will encourage us a lot and be will push us to be more responsible. People easily identify responsible weather bloggers from the ones who hype or create panic just for the sake of likes. I don’t do it for likes, what am I going to do with that.
With respect to updating things from home, yes it is difficult to manage. Between 2010-2015, I was also compiling daily rainfall across India. Almost on daily basis I used to sleep daily at 3.00 am. There were days that made me to feel I had neglected my loved ones. And now, all these years in front the computer has taken a toll on my neck.
Now things are different, I put posts with a purpose. Also, I have slowly started to balance work, weather and family trying to strike equilibrium. Still, I hardly get any time to breathe as my travel to office takes some good three hours. As long as I live healthy, I will try to do all three (work, family and weather) to the best of my ability. I have a defect, I am a perfectionist, so whatever I do (work or weather) it has to satisfy me and if I can’t sustain that, that will be the day, I will stop putting weather alerts.
(PJ, wishes from chennaittes and TN people are with you always and you’ll be hale and hearty to do all the three for many more years ahead. Talking about the support and encouragement, I agree with you, it will be more empowering if the Government or the Meteorological department comes forward to recognize the talent and unusual potential of people like you. Your voluntary role of taking up responsibility in reaching out common people is tremendously appreciated.
And wait, what? You have gathered the stat of rainfall across India by investing 5 whole years just out of your own interest? I am really amused to know how deep your ardor towards rain is.)
4. While predicting the weather using radar, do you also come out to look above the sky for some clues too? (Just asking, you can feel free to ignore this question if it’s silly!)
Yes sky matters a lot here in Chennai for convective rains to assess how the clouds grow up slowly from cumulus (cu) to cu mediocris to cu congestus to cb calvus and finally to cumulonimbus (cb). This will be the pattern of rains during May to September where chennai gets convective rainfall (locally called in media as Veppa Salanam) associated with thunder, lightning, gusts and sharp spell of rains. By seeing the sky you can see how the clouds towers, can it sustain and stuffs like that, we can say whether the atmosphere is conclusive or not. Now when checking the wind pattern, we can suggest whether the rain clouds will move towards Chennai or not. It’s actually a thrill to track the convective rainfall. There are some bloggers who just love clouds like how i love rains and track even the clouds seen 200 kms away from Chennai.
(Amazing. This is much of technical enlightening to me about the clouds.)
5. How did you learn weather forecasting? Did you take up any course?
First of all, I don’t forecast. Only official agency has the authority to forecast weather. I am just an interpreter. Everything is there in internet for common man to know the weather of his locality. There is also a common knowledge sharing between weather bloggers. I spend more time at keaweather blog than anywhere else. Likewise my guru is Mr.Rajesh Kapadia. He runs the famous weather blog ‘Vagaries’ in the other side of Mumbai.
Just to be sure before I post something to the public, I need more information and also have to see more models. Hence, I have subscribed to some paid weather sites and it costs me Rs.20, 000/- per anum. I am not trying to show off; I have been paying this for last two years. I am willing to spend that amount even during financial distress because of the responsibility people have given to me.
(It’s great to know that you have learnt everything on your own personal effort. And regarding your subscription to the weather sites which you do to augment your facts and data, I must say it’s such a fine gesture from your side and it shows your preciseness in passing on the right information to the public. Had I been representing the Government, I would have declared to sponsor all the expenses to support your research just because you are doing a great job. I hope it will happen someday as a mark of both recognizing your talent as well as enhancing the knowledge base. It’s just my personal opinion.)
6. How do you spend your routine day balancing your work, passion and personal life?
I am struggling to manage everything, but somehow it’s all going well as of now. I have a self rule, not to post any weather updates during office hours. So if you see my posts will be before 9.00 am or after 6.00 pm. Nevertheless, during the extreme events like Vardah Cyclone or December 1st rains, I kept aside my office works and family and I exclusively concentrated only on weather.
December 2nd is our wedding anniversary and in 2015 I barely remembered to thank my wife. I even forgot that it was my wedding day. I was glued to the computer not only the whole night but also the next morning, seeing the devastation of the rains. I was so keen to update only this main thing, “no heavy rains further”, just to remove the fear that started enveloping in people’s mind as many idiots were spreading rumors of further heavy rains. Not to forget, December 1st rains brought a scare in everyone’s heart.
(Yeah I remember how people were in panic and your update denying those scary rumors came as a relief to all of us. As you do all this in your own autonomy just to help people in some way, your sense of social responsibility is one fine quality that today’s youngsters should follow.)
7. How do you feel when people hail you as next Ramanan sir?
Personally, that’s an honor though there are lots of differences with him. People taking ‘selfies’ with me when I walk somewhere, it’s all totally new to me. But I don’t want to get this into my head. I want to be the same person who I was before all this fame. At some point in future, this fame would vanish; this is all a part of the circle of life. Though people hailing me gives some sort of special feel that ‘you have made something useful in life or made some impact in others lives’, I strictly don’t get that into my head.
Most of the times, my phone will be turned off, I always try to avoid most of the TV interviews, and that’s me, I am always into my shell. Unless required, I don’t want my name to be published or my face to be seen in media, just for report sake.
8. In TN which place has the best weather for all the seasons? (Attention: those who crave for a trip but can’t compromise on climate)
Without doubt, it’s the hills stations. Valparai, Ooty, Kodaikanal and also there are some hidden gems such as Manjolai in Tirunelveli, Meghamalai in Theni and few other hill areas in Kanyakumari.
There are some special places inside these hills like Chinnakallar in Valparai which is the Cherrapunji of Tamil Nadu followed by Devala & Avalanche in Nilgiris. Down south the Manjolai hills gets extreme rains even during January. Naturally being a lover of rains, I am attracted to these places. I have visited Chinnakallar and Avalanche and planning to visit Devala and Manjolai soon.
(That’s really some chill information you’ve shared. Thank you!)
9. Do people recognize you at the malls, movies and restaurants? Share an unforgettable memory of such fan-love moment.
Ha ha…, I like keeping beards. Sometimes it becomes so difficult to identify me and I like it that way. Still, some guys identify me. They thank me and say ‘Sir, super… keep it up’. These words give me the much needed encouragement.
10. So now, one serious question. Already summer temperatures are sizzling up. How it will be the effect in future? People talk as they walk that Chennai heat will get intensely worse with years. What’s your view on it?
No. I feel it’s not correct. In May 2003, we got the hottest summer ever. Chennai City temperature touched 45 C which was the highest in 200 years. Tiruttani, which is close to Chennai recorded 49 C. But after that we witnessed May 2004 being the coolest of the last 200 years. It’s all a circle. There is no defined increase or decrease, if so we would have reached 50 C by now. I should not say it but I am a climate change denier. All we say is only with data of last 150 years. But it is calculated that earth’s climate is over billion years. The sample size is too small. No scientist with authority is able to prove Global warming till date. It’s only my personal view. But it brings me pain and sometimes tears on seeing the lakes being encroached one after another for human greed. That’s where we should fight and protect our lakes and rivers with highest priority, not global warming or climate change which is beyond our control even if it is true.
(This is totally a different school of thought. Yes, really it’s agonizing that we have lost many of our lakes and rivers and to add to the distress, Government’s effort to protect our natural resources is not promising)
11. Finally, on a personal note I want to ask you this. As of now, you’re the one treasure we have found. You not only update weather but also strive to shed light of knowledge upon us about the key Weather topics. If passionate youngsters approach you, will you be ready to teach them and create efficient future Weathermen like you? In other words, would you love to pass on the legacy?
Yes Yes. I will be happy to encourage such aspirants, particularly students. But I am also an ordinary working person going for a regular day job and so it may be difficult for me to spare time for sessions. But I can do that on Saturdays. I can keep talking, talking and talking to them. There is so much to share with them.
Legacy? I hope my daughter will manage my page when I leave this world. She loves clouds and rains very much. Meanwhile, if I can crop out somewhere, I may also find some resourceful people who still remain undiscovered. They just need to put up a weather post understanding the degree of sensitivity, with an emotional touch and empathy. It’s not always about the knowledge. It is how you connect to the public defines you.
All the answers by Weatherman were brilliant. There is so much to learn from him apart from the knowledge he possesses about clouds, rains and climate. His unwavering passion that he still keeps alive since childhood, his untiring effort of writing weather posts for over 10 years even though people read it or not, his stretch out of his comfort zone to be awake till 3 am to enhance his expertise, his voluntary adoption of responsibility to reach people in an open forum any time, his humanitarian concern to clarify people’s confusion about the weather/climate and above all, his sheer simplicity in spite of people tagging him as social media celebrity. These are the precious pearls of wisdom that I discovered in him, and without doubt he has been added in to my list of people who inspired me.
– Charvi Joy
(Facebook/Instagram – @wordmerism)