The anonymous 'Weatherman of Mumbai' is a banker by day and a weather enthusiast whenever time permits. His tweets and accurate localised weather updates, one argues, help thousands of Mumbaikars better than the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Kabhi Kabhi Lagta Hai Tueech hi Bhagwan Hai (Sometimes, it feels like you are God) — this paraphrased Nawazuddin Siddiqui dialogue from the thriller web series Sacred Games is a frequent greeting the ‘Weatherman of Mumbai’ receives in his Twitter direct messages (DMs).
The reason why some of his over 9,700 Twitter followers think he has a hotline to the rain gods is perhaps because of his accurate weather updates that are more precise than the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Going by the handle @RamzPuj, who wishes to stay anonymous, he deciphers wind patterns and monsoon showers while providing localised weather updates to Mumbaikars as a ‘hobby’.
The latest IMD Doppler radar image shows that the heavy rains have moved north westwards and only the most northern suburbs are getting heavy rains. South & central suburbs rains has almost completely stopped. Northern suburbs like Vasai Virar and Gorai max 2 hrs #mumbairains pic.twitter.com/pjRWrRjm0J
— Weatherman of Mumbai (@RamzPuj) July 16, 2021
His Twitter bio urges people to refer to official updates and reads: “Not a weather expert or climatologist. A common man who goes to office daily.”
But one wonders how this banker by profession finds time in the rat race to tend to his unique hobby.
“Who would’ve thought that the Mascarene Islands off the coast of India would be so important for the South-West Monsoon winds,” the 41-year-old rhetorically asks The Better India over a Zoom interview. “High-pressure areas (HPA) are like a wind production factory for us [in Mumbai], and this island is in a constant HPA zone.”
Living in Mumbai’s Wadala area, this part-time weatherman glances out his balcony at the grey thunder clouds rolling in for four months of the year for this hobby.
His daily routine involves waking up as early as 5.30 am and referring to several weather applications and websites to tweet out what the weather would be like for residents of Maximum City before he starts work at 9 am.
“I work a Monday to Friday job. It gets very hectic a lot of the time, but during the monsoons, I try to wake up early and study the weather for a couple of hours or try to find what the weather has in store before sleeping the previous night. Sometimes, there’s no big change in the weather, so I don’t have to dedicate this much time,” he says.
However, it was a calamity that gave a further impetus to this weather enthusiast’s hobby.
A ‘Mist’ Opportunity
“I was in Chennai when the terrible floods of 2015 took place. At that time, I remember thinking that so much of this could have been avoided if people were given proper updates,” says the amateur weatherman who moved to Mumbai in 2017.
He studied the different weather websites for a couple of monsoons and took inspiration from Pradeep John, who gives similar weather updates for Tamil Nadu.
In August 2018, he started tweeting updates, referring primarily to IMD. “IMD has a lot of information but to study each piece of information takes a good amount of time. One radar graph, for instance, takes two to three hours to decipher because there’s so much information—wind speeds, direction, knots—to consider.”
Since then, he has graduated from IMD to refer to more apps and websites for synoptic weather charts, some of which have paid subscriptions.
“Some agencies use the GFS [Global Forecast System] model while others use three to four internationally-approved models. Sometimes, these have drastic variations in each of the predictions. These are all macro, long-term predictions to give us what’s in store for the next 15 days,” he says, adding that the government agency could do with updating their weather models.
Speaking of long-term predictions, @RamzPuj rattles off a host of technical jargon — IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole) working, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) factor and movement of pressure areas, which is enough to make one dizzy.
Taking screenshots of the various apps’ colourful weather charts, the weatherman then draws lines and arrows to predict cloud or wind movement in the city.
While the macro weather indicators may not change every day, for localised weather predictions of the city, the amateur weatherman says, “If the clouds are approaching from a certain direction, I jot down which part of Mumbai will it impact first on a regular basis.”
“Short-term predictions are just your diligence to how frequently you check the weather forecast. But long-term predictions require a lot of work,” he adds, stating that Geography was his favourite subject in school.
Though one has to spend a lot of time understanding what goes beyond South-West Monsoon winds in India, he explains, “If the Arabian sea doesn’t heat up as much as the Bay of Bengal, it means the wind direction and currents are different and won’t favour the South-West Monsoons. On the other hand, a ‘positive IOD’ results in flooding of cities.”
He also looks at the heating up of larger oceans to study monsoon wind patterns that have an impact on the IOD. However, he refrains from providing weather updates to other cities simply for the lack of time.
“Every city has different weather dynamics. Mumbai, being a port city, is a little easier to predict, but a land-locked city like Pune, Ahmedabad or for North India will require a lot more time,” he says.
‘I Do This For The Small Joys’
As the weather patterns are shifting, @RamzPuj doesn’t consider the monsoons to be the traditional June to September period anymore. “Every year, I notice that the monsoons are now from the July to October period.”
During the recent Cyclone Tauktae that hit Mumbai, the weatherman was up the entire night tracking the storm and putting out timely updates so that people didn’t venture out, kept their potted plants inside and tied down any loose structures in their balconies.
“IMD had predicted a path away from Mumbai that would hit the outer coast of Gujarat. I was referring to multiple models and charted out three paths the cyclone could take, which were much closer to Mumbai,” he says, adding, “The cyclone hit not far from the path that I had predicted. I also gave timely updates about the wind speeds and the rains.”
He adds, “It is very easy to blame IMD for not being accurate, but they have the public interest at heart and many times they end up being conservative because of this. One suggestion I have for them is to refer to multiple weather models. They should also be a little bit flexible in updating their forecasts and providing more localised weather updates. Central agencies abroad collaborate with weather enthusiasts, like me, for local updates and the news. This could be a possibility for us in India as well.”
Today, the weatherman’s DMs are full of grateful messages of people who live in low-lying areas that could save themselves from floods and cyclones.
He admits that at times he feels “burdened” that people are relying on him for such important things as scheduling someone’s mother’s operation for a less rainy day or checking the weather before setting a date for one’s wedding.
He says, “Some message saying — ‘I am in the construction biz. Could you help tell us less windy days for safer days at work,’ or ‘My exams are on this date. Will, there be waterlogging in the city?’” He urges people to refer to his tweets for updates but also finds time to reply to a few DMs.
He says updates are available on IMD for other weather enthusiasts, which are updated every half an hour, and Accuweather is another website one can look at for more information. “Not every app is accurate,” he warns.
He adds, “I wish I could do some professional courses to better my knowledge of the weather.”
So, when we Mumbaikars wake up and find it pouring, while our initial thoughts are to thank the rain gods, our next move should be to check what the Weatherman of Mumbai has to say.
“I do go wrong sometimes, but the satisfaction comes from correctly predicting the weather. I never knew that so many would benefit from my tweets. With just a little bit of effort from my side, I can help some get to their exam on time and others leave work a little later to avoid heavy showers,” he says with a smile.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)