The Sweaty Traveller
You want to know what is the ultimate facepalm moment? Realizing that since so many decades — we have had black cabs and rickshaws all over this nation ferrying billions of passengers! Perhaps the only consoling factor from such an insight is that at least the ill-effects are being somewhat negated by the latter of the two by utilizing an insulating material above the humans..
..speaking of which, I really beg to know why we do not have jute padding on the roofs of non-air-conditioned government buses. Okay seriously, ever been inside a typical city or state transport plying on the asphalt?! Great, then you know exactly what I am saying. It is not like summer days are a very pleasant feeling in Gujarat, Bihar, Rajasthan, Mumbai and pretty much anywhere else. In fact, even on artificially ventilated vehicles, a fifth-grader can tell you that this would drastically reduce the time and energy required to cool — a blue Shivneri down?
A bald farmer is stupid if he doesn’t wear a hat or turban. There exists a damn good reason thatched mud houses have worked nicely for millennia (replaced by millions of unelectrified tin shacks), or why we still have hair on top of our scalps after millions of years of evolution. I could be stating the obvious here, but insulating layers achieve the opposite effect during wintry nights — they prevent heat from escaping. That is why you will find huskies, polar bears, sabre-toothed tigers and wooly mammoths sporting a fluffy and thick fur! Thermal mass always works in an additive manner, just look at fort walls. Your mom would insist you wear two sweaters instead of one during Christmas season. So no harm in having some extra just in case.
Yet we have hunks of metal motoring around on wheels without a fabric top, in the entire world?! Oh wait, I forgot to mention about all the truck drivers and citizens commuting ‘cattle-class’ in our innumerous trains..
If one wishes to improve public transport, the tax of a servant lady is being used in it. Even when talking of a privately-owned company, an investor’s money and a fair bit of your soul has been wagered on it. So thinking of solutions such as this is well and truly the only ethical, economical and environmental way to go about it. Reuse before recycle. Retrofit before replace. We can’t rebuild cities, nor throw away our fleets of commute.
The whole tropical belt of our planet is mostly living in poverty—be it Central & South America, Africa, Middle-East, Indian Subcontinent, China, Southeast Asia or the island nations. What I suggested above can be easily implemented by them all in a fortnight at practically zero cost should they so decide to go ahead with it.
Imagine if there was a design challenge given by some ministry to improve the comfort of maximum numbers of vehicle passengers in the minimum amount of time and money. Increasingly these days, people would suggest one ‘smart city’ solution after another but I firmly believe that the hallmark of a true (to oneself) problem-solver is when he / she can muster up the courage to give a middle finger to those temptations when it does make sense. For we all know Google or Tesla ain’t gonna bother themselves with this.
People in designer circles have an aversion to what they think of as ‘scrappy’ — their minds are filled with notions of propriety. But hey, our spacecraft to Mars was done at a price you would call jugaad-like (less than the budget of the movie ‘Gravity’) making India the only country to be successful with such a grand endeavor in its very first attempt. Today — it is being featured on our highest denomination currency note. A symbol of identity and pride. Beside that image gently smiles the watermark of a bespectacled man who wore a loincloth to the Buckingham palace.
There is of course philosophy involved here. Never a sound practice to throw away old things unless it is really no longer possible to improve them. Folks want to release a dozen of costly machines heavily armed with sensors, but then how is it really going to impact the masses? And then what happens when (given the rate of progress) tomorrow another technology comes along, say a new ‘smart’ tyre or windshield? Again an upheaval of the upholstery? This is evidently not a very ‘sustainable’ way to go about doing things.
Attempt some biomimicry.