It’s been a whirlwind last few days for Rain Man Ramanan, who will be hanging up his boots on the 31st of March.

Farewell Ramanan Tamil Nadus resident weatherman retires
news Weather-man Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 11:03

On a sleepy afternoon at the weather section of the Indian Meterological Department, a door opposite the elevator remains slightly ajar. Through the gap, a man sifts through papers, his spectacles barely balanced at the bridge. His fingers nimbly move across the table while listening to his colleague and duly reminding himself of the ticking clock. “Very little time. Parties after parties.” 

At 6:50 am in monsoon months every year, students anxious about an impending exam, unfinished homework, a particular teacher or just school or college itself, would convene in front of television sets.

Fidgeting in anticipation and anguish, waiting with bated breath until the sight of the resident weather man comforted. Words of consolation would be offered in the form of “Inniku Ramanan enna solranga paakalam” (Let’s see what Ramanan says today). In his smooth, almost poetic Tamil, he would announce the day’s weather forecast.

And it would all be okay. Across the neighbourhood, reactions would vary in degree between sighs of relief and yelps of excitement. But, if the weatherman says the day must go on, then back to packing lunches and strapping on backpacks– the day shall. In Ramanan, we trusted.

“I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, you know. I don’t see what the fuss is about. But my colleagues show me all these memes, we have a good laugh, and that’s that. No use carrying all this,” Ramanan says in dismissal, but a surreptitous smile appears. The glamour behind communicating the weather began with Ramanan, whose cult status eludes him. “I’m just a face. Screen Ramanan is a culmination of many people’s hard work.” 

Christened the “Student’s God”, dedicated Facebook pages followed. Between them, two pages have more than 50,000 likes. Other nicknames bestowed on him included “Rain Ramanan” and “Cyclone King”.

Memes have hailed him the patron saint of “Varuna Bhagwan” (Rain God). His forecasts, as some of the memes will tell you, can sometimes go completely wrong – the sun shows up on days when the department declares rains for the next 48 hours. “Weather, you must know, is unpredictable.  But here, we have tropical meteorology, which is different from other countries. So we get it right on most ocassions, but there is scope for improvement,” he says. 

He obtained his Masters and Ph.D degrees from Annamalai University and Madras University before joining the Indian Meteorological Department in 1980. Atmospheric Physics, he says is a passion.

Working his way up at the Northern Hemisphere Analysis Centre, Delhi and at the Aviation Meteorological Office, Ramanan found his calling as the Director of Area Cyclone Warning Centre at Chennai. 

In ten minutes of conversation, there are at least three phone calls and two visitors. It’s been a whirlwind last few days for Rain Man Ramanan, who will be hanging up his boots on the 31st of March. But the past week’s schedule definitely doesn’t usurp the hectic rush during the Chennai floods. After retirement, he plans on catching up on his stamp and coin collecting.

“And friends, I have so many of them to meet.” His eyes widen at the prospect of more time to travel with family. The hills are calling to him, and he says he’ll probably think about teaching and lectures later. “Home and the hills” are where he gets to breathe, he says, away from the constant media attention. 

Tamil literature, is another love. Ramanan is an enthusiast of Thevaram, the first seven volumes of a 12-volume collection of Tamil devotional poetry - and the inspiration is stark in his weather announcements. “I enjoy infusing folklore when I talk about weather. Chithiram um kai pazhakkam, sentamizh um naaku pazhakkam” (Like drawing comes naturally to an adept hand, chaste Tamil comes to a sharp tongue ) that has been my motto when I speak. 

In 2002, Ramanan interviewed for a position in the department, his prowess in clear communication making him an obvious choice. “RR Khelkar, my boss, said – I have a place in mind for you. And here I am.” His first time facing the camera was unsurprisingly, effortless, and he delivers his first forecast with the same enthusiasm.

"May, it was a torrid time and the land breeze was high. I had to assure people that the levels would come down. It flows better in Tamil.” 14 years have passed, and to this day, the weatherman’s charm still pulls.

The maps and press releases on his table have yellowed, dog ears peeking through the folders. With precision, he tears an old release into smaller chits, arranging the pieces at the corner of the desk almost ritualistically. The fragrance of moth balls concentrated in the air, the office has just gotten a thorough cleaning. “I want to hand over a clean slate to the person taking over.” And like the art of communicating weather, Ramanan says, there is an art of leaving. 

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