Sonam Lotus is a much sought-after man in Kashmir, deluged with calls from people across the Valley seeking his advice on drawing up travel plans to hosting parties.
“Should I book air ticket next Monday? Will the flight take off? ” asks one caller. Another asks whether it would be prudent to invite guests home for an open-air dinner a fortnight later.
In the Valley where the vagaries of weather are most pronounced, Lotus – the director of the state meteorological department – does not normally disappoint.
“Aap uss din ka ticket mat karaiye. Flight cancel hoga (don’t buy ticket for that day. Your flight will be cancelled),” Lotus can be heard advising on the phone many times a day, sitting in front of his computer at his office in the Rambagh locality of Srinagar.
In a region where inclement weather causes untold hardships, financial loss and even accidents, Lotus’ forecasts have a special meaning. He has acquired a cult status, cemented last week after a prominent Kashmir daily depicted him as “Peer (saint) Lotus”.
Even other officials are fulsome in their praise of Lotus. “Sonam Lotus, celebrated weatherman of Kashmir has been instrumental in helping save many lives. Common man’s hero,” tweeted the state director of information Shahid Choudhary.
As accolades pile up, Lotus betrays humility.
“People call me because they have faith in me. I just have to speak a few words on the phone. And those words might save him much trouble,” he says. But he credits his achievements to the advanced technology available with the meteorology department and the entire team. “I am just the face,” he explains.
Sonam Lotus, celebrated weatherman of Kashmir has been instrumental in helping save many lives over the years. Common man's hero. pic.twitter.com/ulQZWlkBeS— Shahid Choudhary (@listenshahid) January 28, 2017
“The weather app on your smart phone will give you just an idea. Can it say whether or not your flight will take off? Can it say if the Jammu-Srinagar highway if be closed because of the snowfall? No.”
“But we at the MeT department, with our advanced technological apparatus and analysis can predict how much strength the developing weather system has and what it can cause,” he continues.
“If someone asks me how the weather will change in the next hour, I can tell him. Our technology is so advanced,” he points out.
Hailing from Ladakh with a master’s degree in physics from Jammu University, Lotus logs very long hours at work. When the weather is bad, he is at office by 5.30am. And when it rains hard or snows heavily, he forgoes weekly offs.
“The technology gives you the data and the graphical information. Then we need a human intervention - data analysis by a very dedicated staff,” Lotus explains.
His dedication makes him believe that every death because of bad weather is his failure. His commitment has earned him people’s confidence. “He is the best weather app for us,” social media posts in the Valley are unanimous in the view.