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   The director-general of the meteorological department announced yesterday the department has acquired the latest state-of-the-art weather forecasting equipment and monsoon forecasts this year will be absolutely on the dot. (May 26, 2000)

After the announcement, while the other correspondents were having tea and Marie biscuits, I was talking to an official of the department. "What exactly is this new equipment?"

"Oh, there are several things," the official said with a great deal of enthusiasm. "For instance, this three dimensional map shows exactly where the monsoon is at the moment. There, you can actually see the rain drops falling in Andamans and wetting the map. A child can read it and trace the course of the monsoon current."

"Good," I said. "What's this instrument?"

"This is a computerised digital pressure gauger," he said. "You push this button and you know the pressures over the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Himalayan Snow, Eurasian Snow and the El Nino effect. It is accurate to .0001 degree."

"I see you have got an instrument to measure temperature also," I said, looking at a large thermometer stuck at the end of a complicated instrument.

"It is a universal temperature reader. It not only tells you what the temperature in London is at the moment, but also, if you require, what is the temperature of Queen Elizabeth. By getting a reading of the amount of cold, our scientists can deduce the chill factor in the approaching monsoon."

"Amazing," I said.

The official pointed at another instrument. "If you were a farmer, you would be interested in this. With readings from this we can advise farmers in different parts of the country whether to grow potatoes this monsoon or paddy. For you, the same machine will tell on what date Tansa and Vaitarna will overflow. Also, what date water will either start flowing or stop in your kitchen tap."

"The miracles of modern science," I said. "Does all this mean you can tell the exact day when the monsoon will arrive in Mumbai."

"Not only that, this row of instruments all have their individual functions. For instance, this one tells you the day you should go and buy your umbrella, and this one the day when the first rains will come, and this one the day when the rains will increase, and this one the day when there will be a downpour and you could stay at home."

"What's this little gadget?"

"That's the weekend weather forecaster," the official said. "It works like this, supposing for the weekend of September 15 you are planning a picnic, you can e-mail the meteorological department now and find out whether it will be raining on the September 15 weekend."

"What is in this little room here," I asked, standing at the closed door of a room at the end of the corridor.

"Oh, that's where the MRF man stays. We consult him when our new monsoon forecasting instruments fail," the official said.

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