“Fame is but a slow decay, and this too shall pass away”

Meet Weather Ramanan Tamil Nadus resident rain deity and media celebrity
news Media Tuesday, December 01, 2015 - 15:01

In 2010, Nivedita Ramanan was having what many would consider the best day of her life – she was getting married. Outside the kalyana mandapam in Chennai, a huge posse of media had assembled with cameras and mikes, desperately waiting for one person to come out and address them. The media had not assembled for her or for the groom, or for any other film star or politician attending the wedding. They were there for a sound-byte from Nivedita’s father, Tamil Nadu’s star weatherman SR Ramanan, to ask him for the latest weather forecast.

Journalists in Chennai insisted him to give his forecast on camera, so he ceded to their demand and invited them to the wedding venue. He even asked them to step in for a meal!

When the skies open up and pour in Chennai, SR Ramanan, Director of Regional Metereological Centre in Chennai, is the man of the moment. He is too familiar a figure for those in Tamil Nadu, thanks to the widespread media coverage that he gets. But those who have not lived in Chennai will be stumped at the popularity, fame and adoration he gained from the people in the state – especially school kids. It is when Ramanan uncle sounds an alarm, warning of inclement weather that schools are declared shut, and they jump with joy when a news-anchor cuts to his press conference.

The man is so famous that one of the most popular film comedians of Tamil Nadu cracked a joke about him in one of his films, eliciting a rousing response from audiences. His job is of a weather forecaster, but he has given special hour-long interviews to popular television anchors. He appears on prime time discussions and is a TV celebrity. And the gods have made him perfect for TV. He narrates the forecast using poetic words, making sure that the exact nature of his forecast is not lost in semantics.

His popularity and fame is not new-found though, he has been popular for several years. Every monsoon, Ramanan uncle is a TV favourite. But during this year’s rains, there was yet another phenomenon which propelled him to the next level of celebrityhood – social media. This season, SR Ramanan was the most meme-d person on Tamil cyberspace.

Check out some of the most hilarious ones (sorry, you’ve got to have that Tamil sense of humour and know the language to appreciate some of them).

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Ramanan himself, however, does not make much of his celeb status, in fact he does not appreciate it. “See I am just doing my job. As a team, we forecast the weather and we have to announce it to the people so they are aware. There is no need to make me a big person,” he says.

Has he seen the memes about him? “I am not on Facebook or WhatsApp or anything else. I am very tired now. We have had to make non-stop forecasts, so I do not have the time for this,” he says. But is he happy about all the jokes he is part of? “What can I say? Let people do what they want to,” he says laughing it off.

It is not easy to handle the pressure. Weather forecasting is tricky business, and if it goes wrong – which it can indeed– then people are quick to blame the Met department. Moreover, there is media pressure to contend with. He gets calls nonstop, even late in the night asking for the forecast. And yet, he answers them patiently. “It is not easy, but somehow I manage it. It will be easier if journalists also keep in mind the difficulties of the job,” he says cautiously, not wanting to upset the group of people who seek him the most.

 He is very thankful to his family. “They don’t watch me on TV always, but they are of great support,” he says, “They also laugh at the jokes.”

The past month has been really hectic for the Met department. He has had to multi-task between forecasts, media interviews and government briefings. “Without gap we had to work, all we need is a break no?” he asks, “I am really tired now.”

As he speaks to TNM on the phone, people can be heard coming inside his cabin to meet him. Every time, he asks to hold on, and says “Great work, congratulations. We did a good job!” and gets back to the call.

SR Ramanan is now nearing 60 years of age and is set to retire in March 2016. After that, the state of Tamil Nadu will have to weather the withdrawal symptoms arising from the terrible break-up of an enduring love affair. How is he going to handle it? His answer is as poetic as his forecasts, and reminds us why we simply love him, “Fame is but a slow decay, and this too shall pass away.” 

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